A review of recent headlines pertaining to cannabis legalization in a number of states, and even within some of the biggest national cannabis advocacy groups, reveals an emphasis on huge financial gain. There is a conspicuous absence: the voice of medical patients within the cannabis community are missing or underrepresented.
Recent coverage highlights the discussion surrounding legalization, regulation and the combined interests of everyone from big pharma and big AG, to recreational users, growers and the government. Without prioritizing the interests of medical cannabis patients, we all run the great risk of establishing a future framework that is setup to take away patient cultivation rights, fails to protect the medical patient, and will require further modification.
The pharmaceutical industry has much to gain and much to lose from legalization of the cannabis plant in its various natural forms. What that industry does not want is to be competing with a natural plant that anyone can grow in their backyard.
The absence of proper patient representation is furthered silenced by groups who have strayed from their original mission such as Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) and Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). George Soros’ Open Society Foundation is listed as a major financial supporter of DPA, as found in the society’s 2013 annual report. The vast majority of medical cannabis patients want nothing to do with the financial influence of such interests. In May of this year, Bayer AG –the giant German chemical and pharmaceutical company, made a bid to buy Monsanto. According the Wall Street Journal these merger talks have picked back up, with Bayer increasing its purchase offer as of July, 19th 2016.
Both companies are said to be working on a synthetic cannabis-based extract. In 2003, Bayer AG then signed an agreement with GW Pharmaceuticals for joint research on a cannabis-based extract. In 2007, Bayer AG agreed to an exchange of technology with . . . Monsanto . . . . Thus Monsanto has discreet access to the work of the cannabis plant and its genetic modification. In 2009, GW Pharmaceuticals announced that it had succeeded in genetically altering a cannabis plant and patented a new breed of cannabis according to the Cannabinoid Research Institute division of GW Pharmaceuticals.
Billionaires George Soros and the late Peter Lewis have bankrolled much of the cannabis legalization movement since 2012, providing DPA and MPP the bulk of their funding.
Look what happened in Washington state on July 1st, 2016 when patients lost safe access to medical cannabis — that new approach to their program was funded by Soros and his influence on DPA as revealed by the Seattle Times on September 22, 2012. Soros is one of the biggest and most important shareholders of Monsanto Agrochemical Company and Halliburton, while Lewis got his source of great wealth from Progressive Insurance. The following chart, from The Washington Times, shows how this funding was provided in further detail.
The debate about cannabis legalization is complex and encompasses many different aspects including dispensary/producer models, the rights of medical cannabis patients, and freedom of choice, to large-scale big pharma and big AG commercialization. These fears of large corporate ownership of the emerging cannabis industry are upon cannabis community. Arizona, California, and Nevada are some of the states heading to the voting booth this fall to vote on legalization and regulation of cannabis. Now is the time to put forth efforts to make sure the legacy growers in California’s legendary Emerald Triangle remain a core part of the market. The time to ensure medical cannabis patient grow rights are protected from bad laws like the 25 mile no grow law in Arizona, where as medical cannabis patients can not grow if they live within 25 miles of a dispensary.
In New Mexico there are more headlines currently of the medical cannabis producers profits than of the law breaking administrative delays by the state of New Mexico’s Department of Health Medical Cannabis Office, beginning in late February 2016. This violation of New Mexico law in the Lynn & Erin Compassionate Use Act, 2007 (LECUA), requires the state Department of Health to process and issue a medical cannabis patient ID card in 30 days, while patients are waiting 60 days or more and this continues to disrupt safe access to medicine. Anita Briscoe (MS, APRN-BC), of Heal My Mind, said in April 2016 and May 2016 that 84 of her patients alone had experienced these delay exceeding 50 days.
Fundamental to this discussion are the interests of the more than 25,000 New Mexicans who effectively use medical cannabis to treat themselves. In the U.S., as of a March 2016 study on ProCog.org, there were more than 1,246,170 million legal medical cannabis patients. That’s an average of 8.6 patients per 1,000 state residents in each state; Arizona 13.1 per 1000, California 19.4 per 1000, Colorado 19.8 per 1000, New Mexico 12.5 per 1000*, Oregon 19.2 per 1000, Nevada 5.0 per 1000 and Washington 19.2 per 1000 state residents.
To understand medical cannabis, it helps to understand the path to choosing it. Medical cannabis can be a last line of treatment for those who have unsuccessfully tried pharmaceuticals. When pharmaceuticals are successful, the side effects of treatments — for 21 health conditions classified by Department Of Health in New Mexico eligible for medical cannabis — can be especially unbearable, causing patients to either seek other options, or incorporate cannabis into their regimen to ease symptoms.
KOAT Albuquerque-May 6, 2016
For example, a person living with multiple sclerosis (MS) may change treatments three or more times because the side effects are excruciating. On the other hand, patients may avoid pharmaceutical treatments altogether, opting for a more “natural” option — as is their choice.
The medical industry works hard to ensure treatments are safe and effective, but sometimes the results are not optimal and another option is examined and prescribed. Throughout this process, physicians need to be able to look after patients’ best interests without fear of recommending medical cannabis. The lack of understanding by doctors of cannabis as a medicine must become non-existent. You, the patient, will always be your best advocate for your health.
We need to define a model for cannabis legalization that put patient’s needs first. Prohibition of cannabis in the U.S. has largely denied the medical community the chance to study the effects this plant has on the human body. So, we have quite a bit of catch up to do. Patients need more trained nurses and health professionals with the ability to guide patients on their journey to wellness with medical cannabis.
Understanding where your medication comes from and what exactly is in it is critical. While understandable that the current legal landscape discourages dispensaries from disclosing their sources, this is one thing that must change in order for us to progress toward medical standardization. If we are to treat medical cannabis as a true medicine, then we must adhere to the golden rule in medicine, “first, do no harm” or “primum non nocere.”
Patients are critical to the success of future legalization and regulation of cannabis in the United States, and specifically medical cannabis. The needs of 1,246,170 million medical cannabis patients, as reported by ProCon.org in March 2016, who rely on medical cannabis as their primary medicine are the fundamental to guiding and shaping a positive framework for legalization. This should be the real true focus, not big pharma and big AG throwing money at advocacy groups to influence policy to favor profits over the medical cannabis patient community.