New Study Finds That Legal States Have Lower Rates of Cannabis-Impaired Driving
by Chane Leigh
As a cannabis coach, I speak with people all around the country who are seeking additional information about cannabis and considering whether or not cannabis is a good option for them. Frequently, I find myself working with a client who has been curious about cannabis for years – maybe even decades – but has only recently decided to take the “cannabis plunge”.
When I ask them about what has got them interested in cannabis, I usually hear something along the following lines: “I’ve wanted to do this for a while. I know it will be good for me. And now it’s finally legal where I live.”
These types of conversations make me really excited. Because, now that they finally have legal access to cannabis, these patients will be able to use cannabis to treat their pain, anxiety, sleep disruption, and more. But these conversations also make me melancholy. And, if I’m being honest, they light a fire in my belly. Why? Because clearly, the remaining vestiges of cannabis prohibition continue to get in the way of people taking the steps they want to take in order to get healthy.
Put simply, many people aren’t willing to take a medicine if that medicine is deemed illegal in the eyes of their government. Following every cannabis policy change that broadens cannabis access, thousands more prospective patients gain the right to use cannabis. But what about the millions of people who still risk persecution for using cannabis to treat their symptoms?
It’s time to break down the legal barriers that prevent people from accessing cannabis. Because the law is a huge factor when it comes to whether or not people are open to trying cannabis for themselves.
Most of us were raised with the worldview that we should strive to be good, “law-abiding” citizens. But, what does this look like when we have to adhere to laws that do not reflect the needs of the people, much like the prohibition of cannabis?
Well, it gets complicated. Throughout the era of cannabis prohibition, many cannabis patients have decided – oftentimes out of medical necessity – to find and use cannabis anyway.
But for most people, the illegality of cannabis places a big barrier between them and their ability to treat their symptoms with cannabis. In regions where cannabis use is not legal, people face the risk of job loss, social stigma, the possibility of being deemed “medically non-compliant”, and even jail time if they are found to be using cannabis. And these marks on someone’s record could follow them for the rest of their life.
In this way, the prohibition of cannabis continues to have lasting impacts on people’s right to choose cannabis. The current policies put many patients in the position of choosing either health or lawfulness.
As time goes on, the policy of prohibition becomes less aligned with public opinion. In 2019, the Pew Research Center reported that two-thirds of Americans say the use of marijuana should be legal. The study also reported that only 8% of surveyed Americans prefer to keep cannabis illegal in all circumstances.
And yet, continued policies of cannabis prohibition impede cannabis access to a public that overwhelmingly supports it. Last year, Green Entrepreneur reported that medical cannabis is still inaccessible in 34% of US states. Also, as you likely know, cannabis use is still not accepted on the federal level.
All this to say that alongside impeding patients from accessing the cannabis medicine they may need, the current code of cannabis law also goes against the will of the people. There are just so many reasons why we need to turn the tide of cannabis policy. And while we are seeing positive traction as cannabis liberalization continues to take hold, this policy change simply comes too late for many patients.
From my experience working with cannabis patients, I can tell you that there are many patients within these prohibition states who want to use cannabis to treat their symptoms, and are suffering right now. But they aren’t able to step forward and try cannabis because they don’t want to break the law.
I recently spoke with an elderly man in Alabama who was near tears when he explained his situation to me. Although Alabama’s governor signed the state’s first medical marijuana bill in May 2021, the state cannabis system is not expected to become operational for another 18 months. He explained to me that he’s not sure he can wait that long, because he lives with chronic pain every single day. He mourns for his friends and colleagues who are in the same situation; collectively, he said, they’re losing hope.
This is one of the many reasons that I advocate for open access to cannabis. Because the current laws and regulations prevent good, honest people from using a medicine they are interested in and would likely help them.
Humans have been interacting with, and benefiting from, the cannabis plant for millennia; it’s only in the last 80+ years that we lost our ability to access this plant. It’s time to remove the existing legal barriers to open cannabis access and let people take charge of their health once again.
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