Medical Cannabis Enrollment Quadruples in Five Years

Would you be surprised to learn that the number of people enrolled in medical cannabis programs quadrupled between 2016 and 2020? It’s true. According to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in June 2022, the soaring number of medical cannabis users was approaching three million at the end of the study period.

As of February 2022, thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia had legal medical cannabis programs in place. Four U.S. territories did as well. And now, some eighteen states have crossed the line into recreational territory. The net effect is tens of millions of people using cannabis around the country despite the fact that it is still a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law.

Different State Laws

With the states being left to administer cannabis regulations, it is no surprise that they differ in their medical programs. Some states allow medical cannabis consumption for a long list of qualifying conditions. Others have only given the green light for a few. Interestingly enough, all thirty-seven allow medical cannabis for treating chronic pain. Lo and behold, chronic pain is the number one cited reason, being claimed by 61% of all legally enrolled patients.

Exactly how patients go about getting medical cannabis differs from state to state. Deseret Wellness in Park City, UT says the Beehive State is one of the more restrictive. There, patients must first visit with a qualified medical professional and get a recommendation for a medical cannabis card. If the card is approved, it can be used to purchase cannabis products at a licensed pharmacy, of which there are slightly more than a dozen to serve the entire state.

In Florida, things are somewhat different. Patients still must obtain medical cannabis cards through state certified doctors. However, they are not allowed to randomly walk into a pharmacy, present a card, and make a purchase. Their doctors must order cannabis for them. Patients merely go and pick up their orders.

A Lot of People on Weed

Public sentiment about marijuana has changed considerably over the last decade. Public education and marketing campaigns have seen to that. In the end, successful legalization efforts have created a situation in which tens of millions of people now use marijuana. That is a lot of people on weed.

You listen to why people use it and, to some degree, you get it. But our society has long wondered aloud why so many people have a need to casually drink. We are all made uneasy by people who cannot seem to relax without alcohol in their systems. And of course, we are never happy to hear about drunk driving.

Hasn’t our national problem with alcohol taught us anything about psychoactive drugs? We can rationalize that cannabis isn’t nearly as addictive or dangerous as booze, but that doesn’t change the fact that people use the drug because they need a way to escape. What does that say about society as a whole?

Reality Is Too Much

It says to some of us that we have reached a point at which reality is too much. We don’t know how to make a good life without altering our minds, so we grab a green plant, roll it up, and light it. It is as sad as it is frustrating.

This is not to say that cannabis has no value as a medicine. It certainly does. It’s not unlike a lot of other plants that we use to create pharmaceuticals. But using cannabis to treat a medical condition is a far cry from consuming it just to get high. And unfortunately, most users are in the latter camp.