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Stop Attacking My Cannabis-Based Therapy

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In Colorado alone, over 85,000 registered patients rely on cannabis-based therapy — many of whom are pediatric patients. Our children especially rely on access to therapeutically concentrated cannabis. I personally use dabbing and therapeutic concentrates to combat nausea from pharmaceutical catalyzed wasting syndrome.

In 2020, I went to a cancer clinic hematologist to rule out cancer. During that visit, the hematologist ignored my request to check for lymphoma and decided to focus on my slightly low ferratin. (This delayed my treatment for my rheumatoid arthritis for months.) I was prescribed liquid iron and within two weeks my entire digestive tract felt like it was on fire. All of a sudden, I couldn’t eat. Food didn’t smell good and felt like a fire every time I ate. I quickly lost 50 pounds, most of which was muscle.

Access to cannabis concentrates saved my life and allowed me to eat what little I could while my gut slowly healed. Without these highly concentrated THC products, I’m sure I’d have come much closer to death than I ever wanted to be at 46. Yet this therapy is under attack again.

Full Extract Cannabis Oil

Colorado doctors are reporting a spike in youth with mental health issues and are pinpointing therapeutically concentrated cannabis as the cause. Critics are citing medical looping, THC potency and lack of regulation as sources for the growing number of teens experiencing severe mental health issues. However, there is little data to suggest cannabis concentrates are responsible for the spikes which are being seen throughout the United States and Colorado’s cannabis industry is already heavily regulated to prevent youth access.

Across the U.S., states are reporting rises in adolescent mental health issues.  South Carolina, a state with no high THC access reports this, “More than one in five children age 15 or younger seriously considered attempting suicide last year, according to a report, highlighting what experts say is a concerning trend of rising attempts by 10 to 15-year-olds.” These alarming trends are happening in every state. Experts say the biggest contributors could be isolation, poor family situations and lack of mental health services. Stigma often plays a role in a family’s decision to seek mental health care and many teens are worried about their parent’s reaction.

Often, these children turn to risk taking behaviors including substance
abuse. The Kaiser Family Foundation has been analyzing mental health trends and concluded, “Mental health and substance use disorders remain a key policy issue at the state level, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. A recent analysis found that by 2029, there may be 75,000 more deaths due to suicide and alcohol or drug misuse as result of the pandemic and economic recession. The need for mental health care is continuing to increase even as many people have lost health insurance as a result of increased unemployment during the pandemic. This will likely exacerbate longstanding access to care issues for mental health and substance use treatment services. As policymakers address the many issues that the pandemic and economic crisis have created or highlighted, data will be pivotal to underpin policy action directed at addressing longstanding and developing issues in mental health care.” Nowhere is access to cannabis concentrates cited as a cause, however the lack of mental health services is showing to be a real public health crisis.

Looping is a term used in the cannabis industry to define when a person visits multiple dispensaries and purchases maximum amounts of cannabis. Several articles have hinted that patients registered with Colorado’s medical cannabis program are looping and providing access to our high school students. This is blatantly false, as medical use is tracked and monitored for potential abuse. It has been for years. Each time a patient makes a purchase using their medical cannabis card, the information is tracked from seed-to-sale and put into a database kept by the Marijuana Enforcement Division.  Adult-use markets aren’t tracked, but there is no access for anyone under 21 leaving illegal access still being – illegal. Compliance is strictly watched and tested by the Marijuana Enforcement Division and has a 97 percent compliance rate – a far cry from crisis levels touted by those seeking to cap THC potency.

We are in a public health crisis, but not one caused by the availability of cannabis concentrates as the data clearly shows. A more impactful solution would be a focus on improving access to youth mental health services, family counseling and better education programs. Placing an arbitrary potency cap on concentrates does nothing to stem the tide of mental health issues plaguing our adolescents. In fact, it would do nothing except force adulterated concentrates into the market. As we learned in 2019, adulterated concentrates are dangerous and a public health hazard.

It is time to learn and grow from our past mistakes. Let’s focus on the real reasons our youth are experiencing severe mental health issues and not promote symbolic solutions to a very serious and growing issue.

Photo by Alexander Ramsey on Unsplash

Originally published: April 20, 2021
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