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Why medical marijuana is needed in Mississippi
1. Why do people in Mississippi need access to medical marijuana?
Medical marijuana is a safe and effective treatment option for a broad range of serious medical conditions and their symptoms, such as chronic pain. More than 2.8 million Americans are using medical marijuana in 33 states, and there is no reason to deny that same option for relief to Mississippians who are in chronic pain or suffer from other symptoms from debilitating medical conditions. These laws are working well and helping patients in other states. Mississippians with these types of medical conditions and diseases have little choice but to suffer with little or no relief, or to turn to opioids and heavy pharmaceutical drugs, which can cause dependence.
2. Is medical marijuana something that could actually be beneficial to me or my family?
In states with medical marijuana programs, medical marijuana helps many patients who suffer from chronic pain or other symptoms associated with a variety of debilitating conditions. Mississippi’s medical marijuana initiative lists the conditions for which patients will be able to qualify, and that list relies on the experiences of other states and the available medical research. The list includes epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder, HIV, Crohn’s disease, ALC, and sickle-cell anemia. To see a comprehensive list of debilitating medical conditions included in the proposal, see question 53.
3. Aren’t prescription drugs just as effective?
Patients suffering from debilitating illnesses and the treatments associated with those illnesses find that medical marijuana provides relief. Available prescription drugs, like opioids, often come with far more serious side effects than medical marijuana, which are modest compared to the risks associated with many prescription drugs. Moreover, there have been no reported deaths from a marijuana overdose — unlike opioids and other dangerous medications that are prescribed every day. Also, many patients who find relief from marijuana simply do not respond to prescription medications.
4. Are there any prescription drugs that are made from marijuana?
Yes, the FDA recently approved a drug called Epidiolex for the treatment of seizures associated with two rare and severe forms of epilepsy called Lennox-Gestault syndrome and Dravet syndrome. This is the first FDA-approved drug that contains a purified substance derived from marijuana called CBD which is a non-psychoactive component of marijuana. The FDA classifies this drug as a Schedule 5 controlled substance which is given to drugs with a proven medical use and low potential for abuse.
The FDA has previously approved 3 drugs that are made from synthetic cannabinoids, which means they are man-made and not naturally derived from the marijuana plant. Marinol and Syndros are used to treat anorexia associated with weight loss in patients with AIDS, and nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy treatment of cancer. Cesamet is used to prevent or treat chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. Both Marinol and Cesamet have been legally available since 1985 and Syndros was approved in 2016.
5. I thought Mississippi had some type of medical marijuana program?
In 2014, Governor Phil Bryant signed a bill into law that would legalize the use of CBD oil, which is an extract of the marijuana plant, for certain kinds of medical conditions. The law was named “Harper Grace’s Law,” after a young girl who has a rare type of epilepsy that causes violent seizures. In other states, children like Harper Grace have used medical marijuana to fight the seizures. However, Harper Grace has yet to receive her first dose of CBD oil from Mississippi. The problem is that the Harper Grace Law restricted the production of CBD oil to the University of Mississippi Medical Center and, due to a number of federal regulatory restrictions particular to the medical center, the hospital has yet to produce any CBD oil. Consequently, since the passage of the law, Harper Grace, and patients like her, have yet to receive any relief in Mississippi.
6. What about the CBD that is available in some of the stores in Mississippi?
In 2014, Congress approved legislation, known as the Farm Bill, that allows states that have legalized hemp cultivation to cultivate and study industrial hemp, either through institutions of higher education or the state department of agriculture, to determine if hemp farming would be beneficial to American farmers. Hemp can be used for thousands of products, including rope, textiles, clothing, shoes, food, and paper, to name a few.
CBD hemp oil can also be extracted from the hemp plant. Therefore, some producers outside of Mississippi are manufacturing CBD products from hemp and not from marijuana. These hemp-derived CBD products can be found in some stores throughout Mississippi. However, Mississippi has not legalized hemp cultivation per the Farm Bill and, therefore, CBD products in Mississippi are technically not allowed per state law. The only law in place in Mississippi regarding CBD is Harper Grace’s Law, which requires that CBD can only be dispensed from UMMC. See question 5 to read more about Harper Grace’s Law.
The hemp plant and the marijuana plant are two separate and different plants, although both are part of the cannabis plant family. For example, just as there are different varieties of the legume family (i.e. beans, peas, etc.), there are also different varieties of the cannabis plant family (i.e. hemp and marijuana). While the hemp plant is cultivated primarily for its long list of industrial uses, the marijuana plant is widely used for medicinal purposes through state medical marijuana programs.
The marijuana plant has many different cannabinoids that work in concert with one another to provide the “entourage effect,” which benefits many patients who suffer from debilitating medical conditions. State medical marijuana programs provide patients with debilitating medical conditions safe and legal access to regulated whole-plant medicine instead of only CBD derived from agricultural hemp that is unregulated, which is what can be found in some stores in Mississippi.
7. So why do we need a medical marijuana program?
A medical marijuana program will allow patients access to whole plant medicine instead of only CBD, which is just one of many helpful cannabinoids in the plant. The many different cannabinoid chemical compounds found within whole plant medical marijuana were created to work in concert with one another in order to interact with the endocannabinoid system in our bodies. Many patients, including those who suffer from seizure disorders, find their symptoms are treated most effectively when they are allowed to use the full plant to medicate instead of only the CBD component. In addition, the use of private businesses to grow and dispense the medical marijuana will avoid the problems of using a federally regulated medical center like the University of Mississippi.
8. Has the Mississippi Legislature ever considered legalizing medical marijuana?
Over the last several years, several legislators have introduced bills to make medical marijuana legal in Mississippi. Unfortunately, none of those bills have been given a hearing or even a vote at the State Capitol.