A new Gallup Poll shows that a whopping 58% of Americans support the legalization of marijuana. If the U.S. held a national referendum on the subject today, there’s a pretty good chance it would be legalized. Unfortunately, the U.S. government isn’t structured like that and “legalization” is really three things, decriminalization, legalization for medical use, and taxation and regulation. That brings us to our first point.
Know Your Laws- In the U.S. especially, inconsistencies between federal, state, and local laws can create sprawling bureaucratic messes. Washington’s taxation and regulation plan seems to be causing conflict with its current medical law, while Massachusetts appears to have coexisting decriminalization and medical use standards. In Maryland, it’s legal for a person to possess under one ounce of Cannabis with a doctor’s letter, but until the hospital-run clinical trials start, the only way to buy it is on the black market.
Trust Your Sources-If you’re lucky enough to live in a state where medical Cannabis is legal, and in some cases, has been for a decade or two, you’re mostly in the clear. For the rest of us, obtaining medicine can be a risky situation. The medicine we get could be overpriced, ineffective, or even laced with deadly chemicals. Communications between growers, dealers, caregivers, and patients should be open, honest, and direct. If you’re unsure about the quantity or quality of what you’re getting, say so. Always smell the product before using it. If it doesn’t smell right, it probably isn’t safe to consume. Pay attention to the color and size as well as the scent of the buds.
Seek Out Your Strains-The color, size, and smell of certain buds can be indicators as to what kind of medicine you’re getting. Strain names like Maui Wowie, Blue Dream, and White Widow aren’t going to mean much to the inexperienced patient, but you don’t need to be a Cannabis grower or an expert in organic chemistry to know that the two main strain families are Indica and Sativa and the two major active components are THC and CBD. Indica buds are dark, dense, odorous clusters, which produce more full-body relaxation due to high CBD content, while Sativa buds are light in both color and weight and bring on a feelings that can range from cerebral to psychedelic due to high THC content.
Choose Your Method-Smoking isn’t the only way to take your medicine. There’s vaporizing, which cooks the crystals without burning the buds and doesn’t produce much of a smell. This isn’t the most affordable method, with vaporizers ranging from $60 into the upper hundreds. Infusions, which can take up to half a day to make, are the most versatile form of Cannabis medicine. Recipes for brownies, teas, tinctures, ice creams, hand creams, butter, and just about any meal you can think of can be found with a quick Google search. Ingesting cannabis turns THC into Delta-9 THC, an incredibly potent psychedelic, so it’s important to moderate your use. While it’s virtually impossible to overdose, ingesting too much of anything doesn’t feel very good. When making infusions, use lower-grade buds to ensure a more mild medication.
Connect with Your Fellow Patients-If your curiosity about medical Cannabis has led you to the internet, you’re on the right track. There are thousands of people like you out there. Maybe you’ve never tried it before, maybe you used to be a recreational user and got injured, or maybe you’re a “recreational” user who’s just now seeing the health benefits of a more than occasional toke. Any way you slice it, we’ve all been where you are at one point or another. Talk to your friends and family about how Cannabis could benefit you or someone you love, find forums, listservs, and activist organizations, and keep the conversation rolling.
Fight for Your Rights-Once you’ve poked around the internet enough and discerned what’s useful information to you and what isn’t, it’s time to put your knowledge and network to good use. Americans for Safe Access, Marijuana Policy Project, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Drug Policy Alliance, U.S. Marijuana Party, and National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws may already have chapters and initiatives set up in your area. If they don’t, don’t hesitate to get in contact with any of these organizations. Keep in mind that these organizations, while all focused on ending prohibition, can have disparate and sometimes conflicting goals. They can all provide resources and support, but it’s your responsibility as a patient and an advocate to stay informed, make your voice heard, and ensure a safer future for all patients.
Links and Further Reading:
Marijuana: The Gateway to Health by Clint Werner
The Emperor Wears No Clothes by Jack Herer
“In Pot We Trust” by Star Price
“The Union” by Brett Harvey