Thirty-three states plus Washington, D.C., now allow medical marijuana. At least 2 million Americans are registered medical marijuana users, according to data from 26 states, meaning the nationwide number is likely higher. Millions more use hemp-derived CBD, which is now legal in some forms and omnipresent, and does not have the “high” of marijuana.
State dispensary rules vary enormously, according to numerous interviews with state medical marijuana programs, experts and advocates. More than half the states with medical cannabis allow budtenders to help patients choose products to address anything from back pain to chemotherapy side effects. Other states require the dispensaries have pharmacists, doctors or a nurse practitioner on site, or on call — but those health professionals may not have a full picture of the patient’s medical history, medications and treatments.
And unless a patient brings it up, or their regular doctor asks, a patient’s care team may not know about their marijuana use, or whether a patient is using it in addition to, or as a substitute for, a prescribed treatment. The internet is full of unproven claims about marijuana being nature’s magical treatment for everything from cancer to diabetes.
All this is unfolding amid rapidly growing public acceptance of marijuana. Americans now view cannabis as much less harmful than alcohol, tobacco or e-cigarettes, according to a recent poll from POLITICO and Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. That survey was done amid the outbreak of vaping-related illnesses, which has been linked to an additive in marijuana, mostly from the black market.