Four New Medical Marijuana Programs Demonstrate a Shift in American Attitudes

November 14, 2016
First Harvest Financial

The presidential race wasn’t the only monumental decision faced by Americans on Election Day; many voted on legalizing marijuana in their states. Majority votes in six states changed the American legal marijuana landscape, with two states establishing legal recreational use and four widening their medical use programs.

California and Massachusetts now join the likes of Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska, with legalized adult marijuana use. Florida, North Dakota, and Arkansas voters passed expansions of medical use programs; in each of these three states, similar acts have failed in recent years. In Montana, medical marijuana was made legal for the very first time.

The timing of Americans civic display of support for marijuana legalization is not coincidental. Over the last year, marijuana-related and pharmaceutical companies have made strides in providing reliable, science-based research that shows the medical benefits of the plant. Early in 2016, GW Pharmaceuticals announced its success in reducing seizures in patients with Dravets Syndrome with its marijuana-based drug. Medical professionals have also begun openly advocating for marijuana as a replacement for addictive pain management options, like opioids.

As the number of opioid-related deaths rise and the “heroin epidemic” lands in more and more states, many Americans believe that an alternative, more natural option for managing chronic pain should be brought to the forefront of medicine. A study from Bradford & Bradford Health Affairs conducted in July 2016 found that in states where medical marijuana is legalized, the number of prescriptions written has decreased significantly for a variety of conditions, including: pain, anxiety, nausea, psychosis, sleep disorders, depression, spasticity, and glaucoma.

This decrease in prescribed medications will continue to decrease with the addition of four new medical programs as of November.

In Florida, voters approved amending the state’s constitution to expand its medical marijuana program. In 2014, a very similar measure failed by a narrow margin. Under the new amendment, patients with conditions of the “same kind or class as or comparable to” cancer, HIV, PTSD, Parkinson’s, and epilepsy will be eligible to use physician prescribed medical marijuana. An estimated 450,000 Floridians now qualify for medical use.

North Dakota’s measure will allow patients with close to 12 serious medical conditions to possess up to three ounces of medical marijuana. Distribution of medical marijuana will be overseen by the state’s Health Department.

Montana’s previous program limited the number of patients that providers could prescribe medical marijuana to. That restriction was lifted by November’s vote. The new measure also adds PTSD to the list of qualifying medical conditions.

In Arkansas, patients with 18 conditions, including cancer, glaucoma, Tourette’s, Alzheimer’s, and hepatitis C, may access medical marijuana dispensaries. For more information regarding new medical marijuana programs, [Click Here].