Will Medical Marijuana Avoid the Failures of Pharmaceutical Companies?

Fair Pricing may not Stand a Chance Against Biased Regulation.

Beating Around The Bush

The results are in; using Cannabis for its medicinal properties is a valid treatment of disease and various physical ailments. The challenge is in federally classifying cannabis as medicine, and a general aversion to the sociocultural effects of legal and medical marijuana. By being a controlled substance, clinical trials are harder to perform. Marijuana has the longer history of being used medicinally compared to pharmaceutical treatments, but is not currently approved by the  FDA as a treatment. In fact, the FDA has only approved one cannabis-derived drug; Epidiolex (cannabidiol). Those who lobby for Medical Marijuana sell it as a wonder drug. Those against, point to it being an illegal drug in the eyes of the federal government. Both sides find it ironic that their opposition could be so cavalier about the drugs we treat ourselves with, whether that’s by consuming cannabis or prescription drugs. We hear horror stories about addiction from both sides. There’s no use getting entangled in this war of definitions. The real evidence lies in how the drugs are respectively priced and how available they are to those in need of treatment. Now, we are in no way advocating against prescription drugs, and many of them can be used responsibly with or without marijuana. However, when considering the pros and cons of both treatments, the most responsible option is to understand who is making the drug, who regulates it, and who is affected by the drug.

Waiting at the pharmacy

Business as Usual

By being a taxed substance in states where it’s legalized, the recreational sales raise revenue that would otherwise go to a pharma company, and in medical marijuana sales an upcharge is negligible due to the tax being roughly the same as the state sales tax. The public at large is familiar with price hikes that have become standard in pharmaceutical practice, and the price-gouging leading to monopolies making obscene amounts of money off of drugs they had no hand in creating. Compare this with marijuana, a controlled substance that anyone could grow given they had the right tools. Local economies benefit from dispensaries who act as cornerstone businesses in the community, and this poses a serious threat to the way pharmaceutical companies do business. In states where recreational use is legal, the post-legalization boom of dispensaries led to oversaturation where only a few businesses succeeded in the first wave. This created a divide between the wise old dispensaries and the hotshot newbie dispensaries. The competitive market these local dispensaries operate in still offers consumers a more transparent process and a consistent product with room to explore, compared to the anonymity of a pharmaceutical company, whose practices are shady and whose products’ side-effects are numerous. While this echoes the failing of pharma, the key difference lies in the legal distinction between curative and palliative treatments. Curative medicine is concerned with curing the affliction. Palliative medicine treats the symptoms of the affliction. Cannabis can only be one of these things, the lobbyists argue.

The Debate Over Definition

At the heart of the evolution of what cannabis means (first a medicinal plant, then a demonized drug, and now a medicine again) lies the crusade of the government and their effort to destroy the heritage surrounding the medicinal and cultural history of cannabis. The reputation of marijuana is that of a drug that saps health, despite a long world history of medical use that is deliberately ignored in favor of the image of a degenerate stoner (for more world history of cannabis, check out our “What is Marijuana” column). The failure here is almost exclusively in the mindset of the United States, where the pharmaceutical companies do the most lobbying to affect what drugs they produce and sell to the American people. As different countries have different regulations, different drugs can be obtained. Meanwhile, the standards and practices of cannabis treatment remain stagnant in the United States. The implication of this is that there being no one definition means that the ongoing debate is surrounding the definition, and not the simple question of whether or not the United States as a whole should legalize the drug. As it stands now, 33 out of 50 states have legalized medical marijuana use. Those with chronic pain, who require treatment for the foreseeable future are saving much more money, and simply put, have at least one more option to consider when treating an ailment.

So what do you think? Is marijuana curative or palliative, or it is even worth having this debate when one could imagine a United States where medical marijuana is legal everywhere?

-Spork Forkinson

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