Until 2014, I felt uncomfortable about marijuana. I didn’t yet realize there are many formulations that minimize or eliminate the “high” that can negatively affect some people’s lives. But my patients had a lot of questions about marijuana, so I had to start learning. Here are the BIG take-away points from my  journey into medical cannabis:

1. Isn’t it legal now?

Yes, for recreational use. The Oregon Medical Marijuana program, which has existed since 1998, still exists and some people wish to still belong to this program for various reasons: medical marijuana is untaxed, medical patients are allowed to grow more plants at home than the general public, and certain potencies are available only to medical marijauana patients.  See the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program website for details.

2. Is it addictive?

The federal government considers it to have high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use. It appears that cannabis will be downgraded on the federal schedule in the next few years to “high potential for abuse and some accepted medical use.” In practice, there are definitely people who get high/stoned daily, to disconnect from their mental or physical distress. They feel terrible when they don’t smoke–they indeed are addicted to cannabis. But others who have made it into their 30s and beyond without becoming daily users are unlikely to develop a cannabis addiction if they start to use it medicinally.

Most importantly, I see many patients who use cannabis to replace a long list of potentially dangerous pharmaceutical drugs for their medical conditions – narcotics like vicodin, other strong painkillers, and certain mood-altering drugs or sedatives. Most doctors, including me, approve of replacing drugs that can potentially kill a patient with one that cannot.

3. Medical cannabis is safe and excellent for many types of pain. But inhaling it doesn’t get enough of the beneficial compounds into your bloodstream for medicinal effect. In most cases, I consider only edible oils to be truly medicinal. I respect, however, than many people use cannabis in their own way.

4. For most painful conditions, I recommend using a CO2-extracted edible oil concentrate from plants that are high in CBD (cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive compound that affects pain and mood) and low in THC (the psychoactive compound that alters the mind). However, certain people need high-THC oils to treat their pain. Other people use oils with no THC (extracted from industrial hemp) to treat their pain. The CO2 extraction method avoids the use of chemical solvents like hexane and butane. I am wary of “edibles,” because cannabis oil is potent and hard to measure how much you’ve taken in a food. “Edibles” are how most people end up in the hospital for cannabis.

Life is that calm force sent forth by Deity to vivify all of nature  – A. T. Still MD DO