Discuss medical cannabis with Utah legislators and you will hear terms like ‘medicine’, ‘pharmacy’ and ‘prescription’. Utah lawmakers are very careful to use specific terms when referencing their medical cannabis program. But truth be known, marijuana isn’t a true prescription medication anywhere in the country. In order for it to be so, three things are required.
For the record, the people behind Salt Lake City Medical Marijuana Dispensary Beehive Farmacy say that Utah lawmakers are very particular about the terms they use because they do not want to give the impression that they favor recreational marijuana use. With that said, here are the three things necessary to have true prescription marijuana:
1. Changes at the Federal Level
The biggest impediment to true prescription marijuana is federal law. Marijuana was placed on the DEA’s list of Class I schedule substances back in the 1970s. Other drugs on this list include heroin and cocaine. All Class I drugs are considered highly addictive and with no known medicinal value.
Practically speaking, this prevents doctors from writing genuine prescriptions for marijuana products. It prevents standard pharmacies from filling what amount to recommendations rather than prescriptions. None of that changes unless Washington either reschedules marijuana or completely decriminalizes it.
Complete decriminalization could eventually lead to the entire medical segment being phased out. But in states that still chose to distinguish between recreational and medical marijuana, prescriptions would still be possible.
2. More Thorough Research
Before marijuana could become a true prescription medicine, plenty more research would have to be done. Scientists would have to figure out how marijuana helps certain conditions. They would have to figure out cannabinoid formulas, delivery methods, doses, etc.
Extensive research would ultimately lead to FDA regulation of all cannabis-based medicines. Prescription marijuana regulation would be no different than the regulation of any other prescription medicine.
One of the main goals of research, in addition to figuring out how marijuana can be used in medicine, would be to establish concrete guidelines for dosage and delivery method. After all, that’s how prescriptions work. No true prescription medication is left to patients in terms of deciding dosage, frequency, and delivery.
3. Better Professional Education
Finally, marijuana will not become a true prescription medication until we improve professional education for both medical providers and pharmacists. Right now, the vast majority of America’s doctors, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners know very little about marijuana as a medicine. They know next to nothing about the human endocannabinoid system.
Pharmacists generally possess more knowledge than their medical provider counterparts, but even they don’t know as much about marijuana as they should. That will have to change before the drug can be considered a true prescription medication.
Words Mean Things
Discussing medical cannabis in terms of pharmacists and prescriptions is both inaccurate and somewhat misleading. States like Utah discuss cannabis from a strictly medical angle for a very good reason: they don’t want to end up with uncontrolled recreational consumption. Still, words mean things.
A medical marijuana prescription is nothing more than a medical provider’s recommendation, at least in terms of the law. A medical cannabis pharmacy is really just a marijuana dispensary serving customers with valid medical cannabis cards. Using terms like ‘prescription’ and ‘pharmacy’ doesn’t change things.
If marijuana is ever to become a true prescription medication, a lot has to change. Washington has to either decriminalize or reschedule marijuana. Researchers have to dig deep into marijuana’s medical benefits and show how to avail ourselves of them. Finally, both medical providers and pharmacists need better education in order to properly prescribe and manage medical marijuana products.