Medical vs Recreational Marijuana: Please Don’t Forget the Patients

A hot topic in the cannabis space, particularly in our home state of Pennsylvania currently, is the progression to recreational, or adult use, marijuana reform.

Author: Dr. Bryan Doner, Chief Medical Officer & Co-Founder of Compassionate Certification Centers

With these types of regulations, marijuana goes from being available only to qualifying patients, to being available to adults as a whole (regardless of medical status) for recreational use. We have seen this progression in many states already, including California and Colorado to name a few, and many others, such as Pennsylvania, are considering this regulatory step.

My hope in this short article is not to address personal feelings about recreational marijuana use. Rather, I hope to help provide a thought process that will help to always keep patients first, and maintain their access to these medications that often times have proven to be life altering.

A perfect example of the potential negative consequences of rapid expansion of a state-based marijuana program can be seen in my home state of Pennsylvania. Recently, PA was fortunate enough to have additional qualifying conditions added to their medical marijuana program. In particular, Anxiety was added as a qualifying condition, which resulted in a large influx of new patients into the state program at one time.

The results of this large influx of patients were increased demand for medications at the dispensary level. This wave then had further downstream results on the growers/processors. The ultimate consequence was a lack of medical cannabis products available, something that directly affected thousands of patients. As I write this article today, this problem still has not been completely rectified. We still have a shortage of medical marijuana medications in PA because the growers/processors have not yet been able to catch up to the demand.

We see and here about these types of situations daily at our clinics. Patient’s not having access to the medications they need, irregularities and discrepancies in product availability, limited supply of flower products, etc. In essence in PA, it has become a supply and demand issue, where the patient demand has outpaced the supply as it currently stands.

I point this all out not in an effort to either support or stand against recreational marijuana use, that is not my intent. Rather, I hope that everyone will use logic and good decision making when it comes time for instituting regulatory changes involving recreational marijuana use. Please, when that time comes, do not forget about all of our patients that need access to these medications for their health and well-being. We must make sure that patients always come first, no matter what, and that their access to medical marijuana is never compromised.