letter to the editor
As a physician, I see patients suffering from debilitating medical conditions every day. Some patients are able to find relief by taking prescription medications, yet other patients don’t respond well to these drugs and need another option. Physicians in 33 other states are able to recommend medical marijuana as an alternative treatment option for their patients who suffer from chronic and debilitating medical conditions, which has medically benefitted more than 2.8 million Americans.
Medical marijuana is a safe and effective treatment option for a broad range of serious medical conditions and their symptoms, such as chronic pain and cancer. Mississippians with these types of medical conditions and diseases are denied access to the relief that could be provided by medical marijuana, often resulting in dependency and addiction to opioids. It is time to bring the option of this much safer alternative to Mississippians who are suffering from their symptoms.
A group of patients, parents, and supporters are currently working to make medical marijuana available in Mississippi for patients who are diagnosed with severe medical conditions. The campaign, called Medical Marijuana 2020, is gathering more than 86,000 verified signatures across Mississippi to get a proposed constitutional amendment on the November 2020 ballot and give Mississippians the chance to vote on legalizing medical marijuana in our state. If approved, this ballot initiative will create a safe and legal process for patients to obtain medical marijuana from licensed and regulated treatment centers.
Mississippi’s medical marijuana initiative lists the conditions for which patients will be able to qualify, and that list relies on the experiences of other states and the available medical research. Included on this list are such diseases as epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder, HIV, Crohn’s disease, ALS, and sickle-cell anemia. In particular, medical marijuana has been found effective for treating opioid addiction and preventing the thousands of deaths due to accidental opioid overdoses.
The ability of patients to obtain medical marijuana is built around an examination by a Mississippi physician, a diagnosis of a debilitating medical condition, and a certification by the physician that medical marijuana may be used. Medical marijuana is then obtained from a licensed and regulated treatment center that is both limited by amount and by time period. Additionally, the initiative creates the position of caregivers who can assist disabled or home-bound patients.
The Mississippi Department of Health is charged with regulating and enforcing the provisions of the initiative. A total of 33 states, including our neighboring states of Arkansas, Louisiana, and Florida, allow for the use of medical marijuana. Every state regulates the businesses that grow, produce, transport, and dispense medical marijuana, and every state imposes some limit on the purchase, possession, or distribution of medical marijuana.
Patients will have access to medical marijuana in multiple delivery methods, including oils, edibles, tinctures, topical creams, patches, ointments, smokable flower and vaporizers. Offering medical marijuana in multiple forms allows patients to utilize their treatment in the way that works best for them. As a physician, I look forward to being able to explore this option with my patients to help them obtain relief from their suffering. I think it’s time Mississippi makes medical marijuana available to our afflicted population. You can learn more about the ballot initiative and how to get involved by going to their website at www.medicalmarijuana2020.com.
Dr. Philip Levin, M.D., is president of the Mississippi Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians.