Very soon, sooner than we all might think, our state will determine our relationship with marijuana. So many buzzwords are flying around: legalization, medical marijuana, decriminalization, edibles, concentrates, CBD oil, addictive, non-addictive. I could go on, but you get the point.
What it all boils down to is this: What is the best decision for our state and our citizens?
Marijuana seems to hold a mystique in our society: Is it a magical herb that cures all ills, or a harmful drug that should be stopped at all costs? As a behavioral health professional for more than 30 years, I have seen my share of marijuana and its effects on the people I have known and treated. The advisory question on the recent Democratic primary voting sheet put a fine point on the question: What is best for us?
I found the question in and of itself interesting. The wording was clever: “Do you support passing a state law allowing doctors to prescribe medical marijuana to patients?” Who wouldn’t want physicians to prescribe any medication that they thought would help their patient? I certainly would. However, I think it is important to look carefully at the question and what it is asking.
Considering the question posed, let’s unpack what is meant by “doctors to prescribe.” Look at any prescription you have on hand. What do you see? Usually there are detailed descriptions of dosage, when to take and how often, name brand vs. generic, etc. In the case of “medical marijuana,” it is not really a prescription in the same sense but a written recommendation or medical “approval.” Furthermore, it is not filled at a pharmacy but rather at dispensaries (more on that a little later).
Next, let’s look at the term “medical marijuana.” This is more a euphemism than accurate description. Over-the-counter and prescription medications are FDA approved and regulated. There is accountability for the prescribing, manufacture and sales of the medication.
In the case of “medical marijuana,” this would not be the case. Per the S.C. Blunt Truth Task Force, “medical marijuana” would be under the regulation of the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), which currently does not regulate medications for the state and has no experience doing so.
Let’s get back to the question of where these “approvals” would be filled. Rather than pharmacies in the traditional sense, “medical marijuana” would be handed out at a dispensary. These shops would come to our communities and sell marijuana in leaf form or as edibles to include laced gummy bears, brownies, drinks, etc., and our county would not be able to disallow their presence. Dosages would be “iffy” due to concentrates that have high levels of THC. Pipes, bongs and other paraphernalia would also be displayed and sold.
As of now, the S.C. Legislature has approved the additional research of marijuana as it relates to helping relieve symptoms of those with health issues. Moreover, interestingly, there are already marijuana-related medications available for prescription and the approved use of CBD oils.
As the county authority on substance use disorders, our position on this is straightforward and includes balanced recommendations:
Whatever you decide is best for you, your family and our community, make sure you are fully educated on all aspects — pro and con. An educated constituency is a wise constituency.
For more information, contact the Forrester Center, visit our website or take a look at the S.C. Blunt Truth Task Force website.
Sue O’Brien is executive director of the Forrester Center for Behavioral Health in Spartanburg.