The use of medical cannabis is rapidly rising in the United States. Of the 50 states, 37 have legalized medical marijuana and 19 have legalized recreational use. This has resulted in a total of $3.7 billion in cannabis tax revenue and increasingly widespread awareness of the plant’s pain-relieving qualities and potential to treat other illnesses and conditions.
According to a study published in Annals of Internal Medicine, the number of registered U.S. medical cannabis patients quadrupled between 2016 and 2020 to nearly 3 million total. This supports statistics from cannabis health technology company Veriheal, which reported 170,000 newly enrolled Florida patients in 2020 alone.
Medicinal Marijuana as an Alternative to Pills
The cannabis plant can assist in alleviating various conditions, from insomnia and Crohn’s disease to PTSD and depression. Considering that over 20% of Americans suffer from chronic pain—historically the most common reason people opt for medical cannabis—researchers have homed in on the potential of cannabis as a safer alternative to addictive opioid-based painkilling medications. Opioids have claimed hundreds of thousands of U.S. lives since the 1990s.
A study published in 2015 found that the use of medical cannabis “was associated with improvements in pain, function, quality of life and cognitive function.” The efficacy of cannabis as pain treatment has led to significant decreases in opioid use. According to a study, opioid overdose deaths were reduced by 25% in states that enacted medical cannabis programs.
Millennials were the biggest demographic of medical marijuana cardholders in 2020, followed by Generations X and Z. Statistics indicate that the COVID-19 pandemic combined with heavy political tension in 2020 caused these groups to experience depressive episodes, stress, and anxiety. Instead of seeking out traditional medications that often come with severe side effects, these groups chose cannabis as a tool for improving their mental health.
The Legalization of Marijuana
The last decade has seen more cannabis legalization than ever before. Because cannabis remains federally illegal in the U.S., cannabis policies vary from state to state. Florida is among the leading states in implementing cannabis policies and regulations—it has the most extensive recorded data on medical marijuana use as well as over 2,300 trained cannabis doctors and around 730,000 patients who have qualified for the treatment. The most recent state to legalize medical marijuana was Mississippi.
Each state has its own medical cannabis program guidelines, including whether patients can grow their own cannabis, how medical cannabis products are taxed, and which conditions qualify for access to medical cannabis. Because it can be confusing for patients to navigate the different rules and requirements, medical cannabis platforms like Veriheal help simplify the process.
What Are the Benefits of Medical Marijuana?
Medical cannabis can aid in the treatment of all kinds of conditions and symptoms, including pain, inflammation, nausea, and seizures. In addition, it can be used to help with mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.
According to Veriheal’s Annual Medical Cannabis Preference Report, 72% of women use medical marijuana to feel relaxed, and 69% use it to relieve pain. Conversely, 67% of men use marijuana products to alleviate pain, while 69% use them to relax. Some of the less popular uses of medical cannabis are enhanced creativity (38%), sleep (28%), and excitement (17%).
Other conditions and symptoms that can benefit from medical cannabis include:
Multiple sclerosis/muscle spasms
HIV and AIDS
How Is Cannabis Consumed?
Smoking cannabis flower has traditionally been the most common consumption method, but many patients are turning to other methods that impose fewer risks on the respiratory system. Oral administration of cannabinoids via edibles, capsules, and tinctures is the most user-friendly method and is often easier for patients who are used to taking pharmaceutical drugs. Orally consumed products also prevent issues associated with cannabis smoke, such as the smell.
The negative social stigma surrounding cannabis has made it difficult for patients to comfortably consume cannabis products. As a result, women and young adults who are more susceptible to judgment tend to opt for more discreet methods like edibles. Edible cannabis products also produce longer-lasting highs that are ideal for relieving chronic symptoms.
Preferred methods of medical cannabis administration also vary by gender. Veriheal reported that 71% of women prefer edible cannabis products, with most women opting for tinctures. On the other hand, 80% of male consumers like to consume cannabis flower. Other methods of cannabis consumption include vaping and dabbing concentrates, skin topicals, and transdermal patches.
How to Get Started With Medical Cannabis
Do you believe you have a condition that could benefit from medical cannabis? If you live in a state with a legal medical cannabis program, you will need to secure a recommendation from a licensed medical marijuana doctor. Thanks to accessible platforms like Veriheal, it’s now easier than ever to meet with a physician in your state and see if medical cannabis is right for you. Once you have your medical marijuana card, you can visit a dispensary near you to purchase your plant medicine.
This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or management of EconoTimes.