Opinion: Dispelling your medical cannabis myths


So, it’s 4/20, and while many people will be out there using cannabis for less-than-medicinal purposes, I know that a lot of other people will also suddenly become “advocates” for medical cannabis, which is also referred to medical marijuana or MMJ. Please don’t become a champion for something that you do not know enough about, or you think is just an opportunity for you to get high.

I’m here as a Canisius student and a medical cannabis patient to tell you that, no, my dispensary is nothing like the one out of Disjointed, no, you can’t fake an injury to get high, and no, this is not a way around the system to get high.

Let’s get over these myths about my MMJ.

First off – MMJ is medication.

Honestly, a lot of people in the MMJ community even debate the use of the word “marijuana.” A lot of people prefer to call it cannabis because while it’s not only the scientific term, marijuana carries a lot of prejudices and stereotypes. Cannabis is a plant, it’s a medication, and it’s something that has made a grave difference in my own life with my illness. It doesn’t treat my illness, but it treats the chronic pain my illness causes. Rather than being on pain relievers or harsher medications, using MMJ provides me an option that doesn’t have terrible side effects or that has a known risk of addiction.

Let’s get into the “can I say my shoulder hurts” idea.

No, you can not fake an illness to get MMJ. It took me years to get a referral to a prescriber. When I finally did, it had been three years with chronic pain that my doctor couldn’t really argue with, especially because the illness that causes my chronic pain… is known to cause chronic pain. In New York State, you really cannot have a prescription for MMJ without a severe, chronic debilitating illness, such as seizures, cancer, or HIV.

Getting a prescription is in no way simple.

Only some doctors can prescribe MMJ. You usually have to already be in treatment for one of the illnesses that qualify under NYS law. So, usually your specialist will decide if you fit that criteria, and if you might be a good fit. Then, you get referred to a doctor who can prescribe it. They review your file and decide if they also think you’re a good fit. You’ll pay usually whatever your co-pay is for a specialist if you have insurance to see them, if they think you’re a good fit. Then, they’ll see you, discuss your options, and give you a prescription. Not so fast though, you have to register for your card, which is basically like a license you use to carry and obtain your medication. Sometimes, that carries a fee, and you’ll wait two weeks. Once you finally have your card and your prescription, you’ll go to the dispensary.

No, the walls are not lined with bud at my dispensary.

If you’re lucky, there is one close by. But, for most people, they drive an hour or two to find a dispensary. There is only two in the City of Buffalo, and one in Rochester as far as ones close to Canisius. You don’t just walk in and buy your medication. You have to prove who you are, show your card and prescription, and bring cash or a debit card, then talk to the pharmacist. The only products you’ll see are yours once you buy them. And buying them isn’t cheap, sometimes I’ll pay $400 in a month for my prescriptions, for a month’s worth of medication. Right now NYS really only offers a vape, oil, or capsules. Try working for afford rent, school, and on top of that medications you need.

And to everyone who thinks this is a way around the system — it’s not.

MMJ in New York State does have THC. However, this is because it treats pain. It’s a common misconception that MMJ is just CBD with the THC removed, but THC and CBD work to do two different things – with THC, at least in my case, treating pain, and CBD treating inflammation. None of my medication is enough THC though to get high. You’d probably have to use a really, really high dose, and at that point you’re wasting medication that you’re paying a terribly high amount of money for. No one gets MMJ to get high. You only get to have this option if you’re usually at the end of your ropes with your illness.

Here’s my final thought, though: cannabis isn’t evil. I really think that it’s just been illegal for so long, we think it’s a bad thing. The MMJ community will tell you though, that this is a game changer for anyone with illnesses like ours. It sounds odd, but when I found out I would finally get my medical card, I was emotional. I’ve tried medications to treat my illness directly, but they never really fully change the amount of pain I’m in. I can’t get pain relievers and often they won’t work. I suffered for three years with a pain that was disabling.

This is the first time, the first chance, I’ve had at real relief. For that, I’m so thankful. But this needs to be more affordable, more accessible, more available to anyone who could benefit from this. We’re not abusing any system, and we’re not here to get high. We are here to live a bit better quality of life.


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