How to Talk to a Loved one about Medical Cannabis


Medical cannabis has become nearly mainstream. Millions of people around the world use cannabis to alleviate uncomfortable symptoms. Twenty-nine states in the US recognize the therapeutic value of cannabis and are willing to defy the federal government to ensure their citizens have access. Both public opinion and the scientific community recognize that cannabis is a safe and effective medicine. Despite the massive progress that has been made on this issue, some of those nearest and dearest to us have not yet been persuaded.


Americans have been inundated with unscientific propaganda opposed to cannabis for several generations. It is understandable that a significant number of us have negative opinions about the plant. Many of us rely on cannabis and want our loved ones to understand the importance of the therapeutic benefit it gives us. Some of us have a friend or family member who might benefit from cannabis medicine but have dated understandings of its effects. The following facts should make even the most ardent cannabis skeptics reconsider.




It’s Safe


The first thing they should know is that cannabis is safe. It’s surprisingly nontoxic. Even at very high doses it does not cause damage to organs or tissue. There has never been a recorded overdose attributed to cannabis. Cannabis use does not correlate with higher rates of disease. Even when it causes strong intoxication, cannabis use is far less likely to induce the kinds of risky behaviors associated with alcohol intoxication


It Doesn’t Cause Dependency


Drug dependency occurs when a person begins taking a drug regularly, and due to the persistent use their body becomes reliant on the chemical. When that occurs if the person stops taking the drug they experience painful medical symptoms. Drugs that have the potential to cause the most powerful dependencies are well known and widely available; opioids, benzodiazepines, alcohol, and tobacco. Other kinds of drugs that cause dependency but are not generally thought of as dependency causing drugs include anti-seizure, anti-depressant, and anti-psychosis medication.


Cannabis does not cause users to experience painful symptoms of withdrawal, even if used long-term. People who stop using cannabis only risk the resumption of the symptoms that drew them to cannabis in the first place. Further, cannabis is an effective alternative to many dependency causing drugs like many of the classes of drugs listed above.


It’s Effective


Millions rely on cannabis for effective relief. The American Academy of Sciences has done a thorough review of medical cannabis research and found that cannabis has extensive therapeutic potential. Veterans attest to its ability to banish PTSD induced nightmares. Parents of epileptic children move their families across the country to get legal access. Sufferers of HIV and cancer swear that cannabis is the only medicine that allows them to keep food down and maintain their weight. Both the clinical and anecdotal evidence is conclusive: cannabis works!


Why We Use the Term Cannabis


There are many terms in use for the plants in the cannabis genus. Marijuana, ganja, weed, and hemp are some of the more familiar synonyms. Some of the nomenclature reflects a quality about the cannabis. For instance hemp is often used to signify cannabis of an industrial variety, while sensimilla describes female cannabis plants that have been prevented from breeding. Otherwise it’s mostly local slang. In common usage, whichever terminology suits the speaker’s purpose is totally acceptable. However, doctors, scientists, government officials should be precise and proper. Making conscious decisions about the language we use is more than just an exercise in pretension, it has important implications for history, the present, and the future of cannabis medicine.





First and foremost, the reason we use the term cannabis is because that is, and has been, the accepted scientific name of the plant since the classical Greeks were introduced to the plant by the ancient Scythians. Since our mission at CITIVA is to provide the public with safe, effective, and dependable medicines we want our language to reflect the seriousness of our commitment to our customers. Most patients and doctors would probably prefer if the healthcare industry avoids the use of slang


The use of slang has also been used to marginalize and demonize cannabis, often with racist undertones. Cannabis was a widely used plant, for both industrial and medicinal purposes, in the United States from the colonial era to the 1930’s. In fact, cannabis was the active ingredient in a variety of patent medicines available in pharmacies across the country. Doctors and patients would have probably recognized the substance as cannabis or “indian hemp”.


Despite the fact that the plant already had a familiar scientific name that was internationally recognized, in the 1930’s the US government began referring to cannabis in official reports using an obscure northern Mexican slang term favored by migrant workers “marijuana”. In propaganda, cannabis was “reefer” a term tied to African American jazz musicians. This change in nomenclature coincided with a concerted effort by federal law enforcement agencies and private interests to ban the plant.


By exploiting racial animus, prohibitionists tied cannabis to ethnic minorities and sensational crimes in order to turn popular opinion against a plant that many were using for medical benefit. They went so far as to rename a familiar plant with obscure slang. It may seem absurd but the tactic was wildly successful and we continue to fight federal prohibition to this day.


Words have meaning besides simple identification. They evoke images and inspire emotion. In medicine we must not only be specific, though specificity is crucial, we must be comforting and inclusive. Always seeking to elevate our field.


Treat Cannabis Like Other Medicines To Reduce Burden on Patients

Millions of Americans currently rely on cannabis, in some form or another, for symptom relief. If current trends hold, millions more will join their ranks in the coming years. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine has published a comprehensive review of medical cannabis research and found that cannabis is safe and has extensive therapeutic value. Recent research even suggests that in some circumstances cannabis may be the most effective treatment for certain conditions that are particularly treatment resistant such as neuropathy, epilepsy, and IBS. Further, in the midst of a nationwide opioid addiction epidemic that continues to spiral out of control, one public policy that appears to ease some of the associated problems is legalized medical cannabis.



Because of the federal government’s classification of cannabis as a drug of abuse with no accepted medical applications, patients and providers face important hurdles.  From banking to insurance subsidies, federal interference means that medical cannabis is more expensive and inaccessible than other medicines.


Many of those currently enjoying the benefits of medical cannabis do so even though prescribed or over-the-counter medication for their conditions are often cheaper and easier to obtain. Getting medical cannabis entails a visit to a doctor that is often not the patient’s primary care provider and and often the visit requires a large out of pocket payment. Once approved, the patient must then go to a dispensary which may or may not be near their home, choose from a variety of strains and products advised by someone without medical training, and pay completely out of pocket for their medicine. Prescription medication, on the other hand, only requires a visit to one’s primary care provider and a trip to the local pharmacy, both of which are generally covered by one’s health insurance.


The current system makes cannabis less available to the people who could benefit the most. Seniors on a fixed income and a myriad of health problems often cannot afford the extra inconvenience and out of pocket expenses. The same goes for the disabled and children on medicaid. Medical understanding and public opinion have long moved away from the federal government’s classification of cannabis. The debate on whether cannabis should be legalized is nearly settled. The next important conversation is how we integrate cannabis into the established medical system and make it accessible and affordable for all.


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