The Medical Marijuana of Hawaii community is now a couple of thousands members strong. That is about how many patients I have interviewed and found to be honest and legitimate in their use of medical cannabis. I was a skeptic at first as I had been trained in conventional medicine which teaches that marijuana is a drug of abuse. Now I understand its therapeutic importance. It fills many gaps that presently exist in pain medicine as well as other areas. We are just beginning to understand the basics of its medicinal and therapeutic value.
WHY ARE THE DRUG COMPANIES TRYING TO MAKE IT INTO A MEDICINE? BECAUSE IT IS!!
The cannabinoid system is an important bodily system. There are cannabinoid receptors all over the body, in the brain and spinal cord as well as the periphery. Our bodies make endo-cannabinoids, or natural cannabinoids, in the same fashion that we have natural opioids or endorphans for pain. There is a complex interaction between the opioid system and the cannabinoid systems that is poorly understood. We have more cannabinoid receptors than opioid receptors in our brain and spinal cord as well as peripheral nerves. We do not understand a lot of what is going on, but we will in time, after much effort and research.
Ignorance Prevents Solutions
Unfortunately, this effort in the United States is being hampered by politics and ignorance. Politicians either purposefully or ignorantly mix the issues of recreational use with medical use. I am not for the recreational use of cannabis, solely because the issue gets in the way of my patient's needs for its medicinal use. I feel bad that many people have suffered for years, who otherwise might have been helped if correct knowledge and policies had been in place. How can an important bodily system be ignored? It should be understood and mastered so that human suffering can be reduced. Yet, there are still more than two thirds of the states that do not have any medical marijuana laws. Just think of all the people who suffer because it has not been made legal for their legitimate medical use. You would be amazed at the number of people, including those in their 60s and 70s, and above, who are unhappy with their present care, have never tried medical cannabis, and at least want to try to see if it will help their condition.
Recently, I have been involved with two people with the same deadly disease, pancreatic cancer. One lived in a state back in the eastern US where medical marijuana was not allowed. The other is a patient of mine from Waianae. The first was made to suffer from pain, nausea, lack of sleep, wasting, and the anxiety of cancer and dying because the governor of that state vetoed a medical marijuana law. The second is only thirty years old and is still alive despite being told he should have been dead six months ago. He has a young wife and two small children. Time is precious for him as well. But he is able to eat and stay strong and fight his disease because he has access to medical cannabis. He is able to tolerate the chemotherapy and not waste away, thereby prolonging his life. His small children will now perhaps have a few more memories of their father before he succumbs to the cancer. His wife will have a few more precious memories before being made a widow. It reminds me of Dan Folgelberg's popular song "Longer", when I think of them.
It is also a reason that dispensaries should exist in Hawaii as too many people do not have the means or the time to grow their own marijuana for medicinal use. It is time for the legislature to show some courage and write laws that are people oriented and practical. And to not give in to the political fear-mongering of the past session. Hawaii does not need to give up sovereignty to do it right. We do not have to be like California. The legislature should find a Hawaiian solution to the present defects and problems in the program.
So why are thousands of Hawaiian right? Because they are honest legitimate patients that use medical marijuana in a truly medicinal fashion in order to relieve their suffering. They understand that they have a right to be properly informed and choose what their care will be. They understand that medical cannabis is an effective and safe medication that can be better than a whole bunch of other medications that carry all sorts of potentially dangerous side effects. There is a saying in pain medicine that "drug addicts live to take drugs, and pain patients take drugs so that they can live" and enjoy life to the fullest. Medical marijuana is one such way of improving your function and health. Medical marijuana patients use it to function better and to be able to enjoy life. They are NOT just being "stoned" and into escapism. They want to enjoy life just like everyone else who is healthy. It is what my patients are looking for.