In 2013, the majority of Americans gained the right to legally use marijuana. Since then, many more states have legalized marijuana both recreationally and medically. In the U.S. the majority of states have laws legalizing marijuana use as shown on the map below in both green and blue. The states in black are those that do not have laws legalizing marijuana use.
Medical marijuana has become popular in recent times, taking the place of prescription medication. Some choose to use medical marijuana instead of a prescription medication because it is a more natural, holistic option. Medical marijuana is being used to treat many ailments such as alzheimer’s and arthritis, as well as aches and pains.
For Blake Sutherland, a senior at Michigan State University, he has received a medical card in order for him to receive medical marijuana for his pain. Here is what he has to say in a Q&A about his experience using medical marijuana.
- How long have you been using marijuana for medical purposes?
I’ve been using marijuana for medical purposes since last spring, around April 2016.
- What reason do you use medical marijuana?
I have torn labrums in my hip but I do not want to get surgery until after I graduate. Without it I have pretty bad inflammation, but I do not want to take anti-inflammatories or painkillers because of their side effects. It is also good for sleep and anxiety.
- Do you think using medical marijuana has helped your cause? If so, how?
I think it definitely helps me tolerate my hip pain and sleep better, so in that regard it does exactly what I want it to, especially with access to less psychoactive strains that are more for pain in the peripheral nervous system rather than an extreme head high.
- What differences have you noticed since starting?
Better sleep than I had before, less tight muscles as well. I have noticed it can be de- motivational depending on the time of day one smokes and what strain they are smoking, but I normally do not have problems with separating smoking time and work time.
- What was the process like in getting your medical marijuana card?
Very easy, very helpful and fairly inexpensive.
First is a $100 doctor visit to essentially any clinic you can find, where you must be seen by an actual doctor to be issued a referral for medical marijuana. You must provide relevant medical history to be approved by the doctor. In my case, I brought in my hip arthrogram MRI. There is a list of health issues that qualifies one for marijuana, but in Michigan it is broad. Then you just mail in the paperwork received at the doctor’s office to the License and Registration Association (LARA) of Michigan. It came in the mail about 25 days later.
- Where do you go to receive your medical marijuana?
So far, two different dispensaries in East Lansing. Grand ReLeaf and I also visited the Compassion Club in Flint, which is essentially a farmers market of growers.
- Do your parents know you use marijuana for medical purpose? If so, what do they think of it?
Yes they know. They approve of it. My parents are supportive of my decisions and nothing has helped me as much as pot has. They only required me to be legal. I actually got my parents to eat little brownie pieces, which they were surprised by. They slept well that night.
- Did you use marijuana for recreational reasons before getting your medical marijuana card?
Absolutely, sometimes I still do. But I’ve found it’s less of a question of why you’re using it once you’re a medical patient and realize weed can help you in many ways, but also can be distracting in many ways. It takes time to learn balance and to have an ability to function high if required. I frequently lift weights high just because I find it helps me get into a focused zone when I exercise, and boosts my mood. That may be considered recreational, but to me I find ways to turn smoking productive as well. That’s just one example. However, I will rarely go to class or do homework high. One exception to my rule is if the homework involves creative reading or writing, in which case marijuana has actually benefited my writing greatly. I find math and science do not mix as well with pot, but I find memorizing information is minimally diminished, although studies show one should get high again to better recall information learned while high.
- Do you think medical marijuana is better or healthier than prescription medication?
Depending on ingestion. I vaporize frequently which removes 99 percent of the carcinogens, and I bake edibles as well. But it goes without saying that smoking joints will inevitably cause lung damage. It is most certainly safer than most if not all anti-anxiety and painkiller drugs, just based on side effects.
- Would you encourage others to try medical marijuana for their health ailments?
Depending on their addictive behaviors and actual need, yes absolutely. For example some studies have shown certain strains of marijuana are hands down the best aid for seizure disorders or glaucoma.
- What would you say to people who may not believe that medical marijuana works?
I would tell them not to be so quick to justify one drug over the other, especially one that is nontoxic and has grown naturally for hundreds of years. I would also tell them to do their research because they would find interesting facts, like the fact that humans actually have specific cannabinoid receptors in their nervous system.
- How do people perceive you now that you use marijuana openly?
I don’t know, I hope they don’t see me that differently. I don’t see pot as some huge lifestyle change, I would say I’m pretty much the same as before.
- Are people more or less accepting of it as time goes on?
I think my family was surprisingly accepting of it, but I know my good friend’s parents are very against it. His parents know he smokes pot, and they are now very against it, so he lies about it. I remember those days, and I hated them; it’s nice not having to lie.
- How do you feel about your self-image as a marijuana user?
This is kind of a tough question, I haven’t given it much thought before. Maybe subconsciously, but not serious thought. I think maybe we’ve been shamed by society a little as druggies and lazy people, and yet I feel my self image has changed very little. Rather than search for approval, I look inward to see I still have the same goals, priorities, aspirations and beliefs as before, only now with an enjoyable medication to assists with sleep, pain and anxiety. I do not know how long I will use marijuana for, most likely I will taper off use with age and post-hip surgery recovery, but I take my life day by day, we will see! I think your mindset and attitude is a choice pot cannot alter unless you allow it to do so, it is also important to approach pot with the most responsible mindset possible. I do not look at pot as something that makes me cool, I look at it as something that helps me; in this sense I do not feel much has or will change about me regardless of continued marijuana use.
Sutherland is not alone when it comes to using medical marijuana for pain relief and other ailments. Since the legalization of medical marijuana, more people are using it. Surprisingly more older people are using marijuana than younger generations. Marijuana is usually associated with juvenile kids. However, more and more adults have been using marijuana due to its benefits to health problems. The majority of medical marijuana users are in the 40-55 age range.
Marijuana has become more and more popular as time has gone on and more states have legalized it. It has become a part of many people’s lifestyle routines, like Sutherland and have become a way for them deal and cope with pain and other symptoms of diseases. Marijuana is no longer looked at as a juvenile activity, but a beneficial medicine.