Man Suffering from knee pain, leg pain and injury concept.

I admit to being skeptical about the wisdom of legalizing recreational marijuana. But when it comes to medical cannabis, I am solidly in the pro camp. Modern society makes use of all sorts of psychoactive medications to treat a variety of illnesses and conditions. It is getting harder and harder for me to accept that cannabis (THC) should not be one of them.

Utahmarijuana.org explains that chronic pain is the number one condition for which medical cannabis is recommended. I get it. Although I don’t experience chronic pain myself, numerous members of my family do. I have seen firsthand how debilitating chronic pain can be. So if medical cannabis can help them, why not recommend it?

Social Norms Play a Role

Social norms play a role in all sorts of medical decisions. We saw that clearly enough during the COVID pandemic, when debates over masking and vaccine efficacy were a daily occurrence. It is fair to say that social norms should not be ignored. But they should also not be the sole determining factor in medical decisions.

Where medical cannabis is concerned, it is my personal opinion that social norms are given too much weight in certain segments of the culture. I don’t deny that marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law. I don’t deny that some people have a very difficult time accepting cannabis consumption due to the plant’s psychotropic effects. But when you are talking a medical treatment for chronic pain, how is cannabis any different than fentanyl?

There is little difference from a pain relief standpoint. We accept the fact that patients find pain relief with fentanyl. But millions of chronic pain patients swear they get significant relief from medical cannabis. So why is fentanyl okay while medical cannabis is still questioned?

The Rules Need to Change

It is clear to me and so many others that the rules need to change. Right now, states are forced to decriminalize medical cannabis – meaning they will not prosecute cultivation, sale, and possession – because federal law remains unchanged. That pits the states against Washington unnecessarily. The solution is to reschedule cannabis so that it can be prescribed like any other medication.

The rules regarding who can cultivate and distribute cannabis also need to change. Why? Because current regulations are stifling research. As things stand right now, the federal government controls all access to cannabis for research purposes. Conducting legitimate medical research is rather difficult thanks to so much bureaucratic red tape.

What We’ve Been Doing Hasn’t Worked

Social norms and regulatory restrictions have hindered medical cannabis’ advancement for far too long. But the other side of the coin is this: what we have been doing for chronic pain thus far hasn’t worked. All the opioid medications in the world have not changed the fact that chronic pain persists across the globe.

If things will not change out of compassion, maybe economics would do the trick. Chronic pain costs the U.S. economy upwards of $635 billion annually in both treatment costs and lost productivity. That is a lot of money to flush down the drain while we debate the merits of medical cannabis as a pain therapy.

While politicians argue ethics and medical professionals debate efficacy, millions of people from coast-to-coast are successfully self-treating chronic pain with medical cannabis. It really doesn’t matter why cannabis works for them. It just does. And that being the case, why not make the most of it?

Chronic pain sucks. I have seen it firsthand myself. If someone I loved wanted to treat chronic pain with medical cannabis, I would be all for it.

By Johnson