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Pitfalls of Medical Marijuana and How to Avoid Them

Updated: Mar 21, 2022

Pitfalls of Medical Marijuana and How to Avoid Them

"How do I love thee? Let me count the ways." Call me weird, but that's exactly what came to mind when I started writing. I love medical marijuana and all I see it doing for patients. Is it the magic bullet? The wonder drug? The cure-all? It's not, but it definitely has a vast array of benefits we are only beginning to learn about again.

Again, you ask? We've known and understood the cannabis plant for centuries, but for the last 80-plus years it has had so much negative propaganda and stigma attached to it – including the fact that it's federally illegal – that we are now having to learn all over what its potentials are as well as learning more science about it.

When you're first learning about medical marijuana, you can run into some common pitfalls and misconceptions. What we hear can often be confusing or misleading. I'm here to begin sorting it out for you.

Here are some common medical marijuana myths I hear and see all too often.

  1. People working behind the counter in a medical marijuana dispensary are experts. It's true that they are experts on the products they sell, but they are not medical experts in most cases. Most states don't require them to be healthcare professionals. In fact, many states have bare minimum standards for budtenders. If you have a medical condition and are looking for medical marijuana to help, you need to do your research and work with an experienced cannabis nurse or other healthcare professional before you go to a dispensary.

  2. The "weed" or "pot" you smoked in the '80s or earlier is the same thing being sold in dispensaries today. This is not true, and the lack of understanding may easily find you higher than a kite or stuck in couch lock. If you understand these terms, you know what I am talking about. Cannabis has evolved over time through genetics, cloning, and changes in growing techniques to name a few. There are also many other options besides smoking that should be considered to help with symptom control.

  3. One little gummy/cookie/brownie cannot possibly hurt. Again, not true. These products are called "edibles" and can contain anywhere from 5mg to 20mg of THC. Edibles are known to be the biggest culprit in patients getting waaayyyyy too much too fast. Effects from these products take one to two hours to begin, and those effects can last four to 12 hours! When someone says start with ¼ of that 5mg gummy, they probably know what they are talking about. We always say, "start low and go slow," and this is the reason. If you take that entire 5mg gummy and have never experienced cannabis before, you could be in for a surprise. It won't hurt you, but you might not like the way you feel. Don't eat the whole cookie. Less is best.

  4. I got a Certificate of Analysis with my flower so it must be safe. This might be true, as long as that Certificate of Analysis is current, applies to that batch of flower, and includes testing for pesticides, mycotoxins, and heavy metals. Not all states require this, and not all cultivators are honest. The cannabis plant by nature draws from the soil. In fact, farmers once used cannabis in crop rotation to draw out pesticides and heavy metals between crop plantings. If a cannabis plant grows in soil that contains pesticides, fertilizers, and/or heavy metals, the plant absorbs them. Testing is meant to reveal this to keep the consumer safe. Learn the details of a Certificate of Analysis and require one before you purchase the product. You should find a QR code, a lot number, and an expiration date on any product. If not, beware.

  5. If I have a qualifying condition, then medical marijuana is a good option for me. Not always. Cancer is often listed as a qualifying condition for many reasons. However, just because it is listed does not mean that some of the cannabinoids or compounds in the plant play nice with all aspects of cancer or the treatment. Some chemotherapy agents do not play nice with marijuana. Sometimes a hemp product with more CBD is a better option. Remember, if you go into a medical marijuana dispensary, the employees likely will not be able to help you sort out medical issues. They can only help you decide on a product. This is one of my biggest areas of concern. Meet with an experienced cannabis nurse or other cannabis healthcare provider who can work with you and your healthcare provider to determine what the safest and most successful options are for you.

I cannot say it enough: I love medical marijuana and what I see it doing for patients. It can be such a safe, therapeutic, and successful adjunct or alternative therapy for so many issues patients have. I literally cannot count all the ways it is wonderful, but I know that when people experience one of the above pitfalls they walk away from cannabis and that breaks my heart. Medical cannabis education is what I love providing, and I want you to avoid these pitfalls and have a safe and successful experience with medical marijuana.

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