Why I Support Legalizing Recreational Marijuana: A Chronic Illness Perspective

Posted: July 25, 2015 in Disability
Tags: , , , ,

In Michigan, where I live, at the state level we have legalized medical marijuana but not recreational marijuana (of course it is all still illegal at the federal level). That means that if a doctor fills out some paperwork saying that you would benefit from medical marijuana (and typically requires stating that other medications have not been effective) and you file that with the state, you can get a medical marijuana card making it legal (state level) to be in possession of marijuana, grow small amounts, and purchase it from medical marijuana providers.

This has been something I’ve been meaning for awhile to try, I haven’t yet simply because it costs a fair bit of money for all this. Even if you have a real medical need, most people have to find a doctor who specifically does this- they charge around $70-100 from what I’ve seen to look at your medical records and meet with you to decide if they think you have a medical need for it. I believe there are also costs after this for filing with the state. I’m too broke to afford that at the moment, so I haven’t done this yet. The reason I’ve been looking into this is because I’ve read about marijuana being effective in treating migraines and I know other people with chronic migraines who were finally able to find relief with medical marijuana. Given how the medication I have for migraines are only partially effective, it seems worth it to give this a try if I can ever come up with the costs.

But this post is actually about legalizing recreational marijuana use. So as someone who might benefit from medical uses of marijuana, why do I car about legalizing recreational use?

Short version, because I think it hurts people with real chronic illnesses when other people lie about them for drugs.

Last weekend I worked at a local festival and was chatting with someone else working it. There was someone nearby trying to get people to sign a petition to get legalizing recreational marijuana on the upcoming ballot, and the other guy I was working with mentions how glad he is to have a medical marijuana card. So I start asking him about it and where he went- because if anyone knows a cheaper option than those I’ve found, I’d like to hear it!  So he tells me how where he went he actually had to pay more for the card because he doesn’t actually have any medical issues and you have to pay more to find someone to claim you do. He just uses it recreationally, and having a card makes it easier to get and prevents him getting arrested for it.

Obviously inherent in this is that I don’t think recreational use of marijuana is harmful, and I think people should be able to make that choice. In combination with that, I would really like to see recreational use legalized so people stop lying about illnesses, most commonly chronic pain, in order to get high. Doing this makes it easier for people to dismiss those of us who actually suffer from chronic pain issues, because everyone knows that “chronic pain” is a simple catch all term that anyone can claim to have. Whether it be related to marijuana use or not, the more people lie about it, the more others are inclined to see anyone talking about chronic pain- especially when we don’t look like we suffer from chronic pain- as lying.

I’ve actually seen the opposite argument made before, interestingly not by someone with a chronic illness. The argument that just leave it at medical use, because people who use it recreationally can still easily lie to get a card, and that way people who really do need it for medical use won’t be branded druggies. Except that when people lie about needing it for medical use, in order to use recreationally, those who use it for medical use are still already going to be assumed to just be recreational users.

I’d much rather it just be legal and let the reasons be personal. No one needs to know if I’m drinking green tea because I just really enjoy the taste of it, or if I’m actually drinking it for some medical reason. While I certainly don’t think the stigma of marijuana use would go away overnight if legalized, it’s not going away with it being illegal either, and hopefully overtime the stigma would reduce and that’s going to help recreational and medical users. And those of us with chronic illnesses will have fewer people lying about being ill increasing the impression that we are also lying.

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