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Medical Marijuana: An Insight Into a Patient’s Journey

BACKGROUND

To date, medical marijuana is legalized in the United States in 30 states including the following:

Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connectiut, Delaware, DC, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusets, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hamshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and West Virgina.

Each of these states have their own regulations and guidelines regarding use and qualifications.

Here in Florida, the Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative, also known as Amendment 2, passed on November 8, 2016 for qualified patients under the supervision of a qualified and licensed marijuana doctor. Furthermore, this amendment passed with a total of 6,518,919 (71.32%) YES votes and 2,621,845 (28.68%) NO votes.

The federal government has classified Marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug making it illegal for doctors to prescribe marijuana to their patients. These marijuana doctors can only make recommendations for medical cannabis in compliance with the state law which can be valid up to 1 year. Patients cannot go to a pharmacy to fill a prescription for medical marijuana.

Under strict regulations, medical marijuana doctors are prohibited to be affiliated with any medical cannabis distributors or dispensaries.

Only certain patients with “debilitating ailments” are afforded legal protection under this amendment. Ailments classified under its provision include PTSD (Post Traumatic 居家安老 Stress Disorder), Chronic muscle spasms, Multiple Sclerosis, Seizures, Epilepsy, Glaucoma, Crohn’s Disease, Cancer, HIV/Aids, ALS (Amyotrophic lateral Sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and Parkinson’s Disease.

Although the above ailments were indicated as “primary debilitating conditions”, under this provision, Amendment 2 also indicated: “or any other ailment/condition of similar severity/symptoms, as determined by a physician’s opinion that the medical use of marijuana would outweigh any potential health risks”.

There are currently about 56 known and listed marijuana doctors on Florida.

More information and specifics regarding this topic can also be obtained from the website of the Florida Department of Health) on how to become a medical marijuana patient in Florida. More in-depth information about Amendment 2 can also be found here.

PARKINSON’S DISEASE

A few months ago, I came across a video on Facebook about a man with Parkinson’s disease who was given a shot of medical cannabis. The before and after videos were quite impressive. Before the treatment, you can see this man’s significant tremors, stuttering and abnormal posturing. The after video showed a very different person. His speech was intelligible and audible. He had no stuttering, tremors and he showed very controlled movements. This man was walking and talking as any normal person would. He also shared how it has improved his quality of life.

As a physical therapist with exposure to various cultural backgrounds, I personally have mixed feelings about medical cannabis. As a healthcare professional however, it is quite an epiphany to witness one of my patient’s significant change with medical cannabis use.

Mr. J.L. with Parkinson’s Disease

For over five years, Mr. J.L. has been coming to me for physical therapy treatment off and on for problems brought on by his Parkinson’s disease. Knowing the progressive nature of the disease, I watched this gentle soul deal with the effects of this debilitating affliction. His primary physician would refer him for treatment when he starts to develop weakness, rigidity, tremors and most of all, balance problems where he reported falls at home.

We would see him for a period of about six to eight weeks each time. We worked on improving his coordination, strength, flexibility and balance for the primary purpose of keeping him safe and self sufficient at home as he lives alone. It is also to keep from falling which predisposes him to more severe injuries and complications.