Local Utah grassroots organization UtahCARE announced they are partnering with a Colorado organization, The Cannabis Patient Network (CPN), in their effort to legalize medicinal cannabis throughout Utah.
The CPN is focused on eliminating the stigma that comes with medicinal cannabis use. According to their website, “Stigmatization affects individuals with a variety of medical conditions (HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD], chronic pain conditions, cancer, among others)” as cannabis patients with these conditions are often stigmatized as “marijuana users”, stoners, pot-heads or worse.
Compassionate care policies, according to the CPN, require patients demonstrate that conventional treatments have failed to provide relief before they can apply for consideration as a potential cannabis patient under their state’s program and require patients also obtain a physician recommendation.
The decision to become a cannabis patient is not about “getting high” or intoxication, as the media and other uninformed sources might have one believe. Rather, for cannabis patients, it is about the chance of living a better quality of life and being able to function.
Regardless, experiencing, witnessing, or fearing potential stigmatization causes many such patients to conceal their use of cannabis and many are unable or unwilling to defend their choice when confronted by others armed with a narrative that cannabis patients just want to “smoke pot” or that “all illicit drugs are bad.”
The CPN hopes to change the stigma by education through sharing actual patient testimonials in an effort to help others understand who cannabis patients really are.
The chronically ill, (who from quick observation may appear physically healthy), have been the target of cannabis detractors and are the most affected by the criminalization of cannabis.
Skeptics, politicians and medical professionals frequently stand on the premise that the Schedule 1 classification of cannabis “affirms” there is no medical benefit provided by its use, mimicking the dominant narrative that “all illegal drugs are bad” and labeling those who use cannabis as criminals or addicts.
Medical cannabis patients find it is often more productive to access other patients or cannabis providers (dispensary personnel) than to seek advice from one’s primary care physician or even a specialist (oncologist, endocrinologist, etc.) because knowledge is often not exchanged between those who know (cannabis patients and providers) and those who need to know (conventional medical practitioners).
At the Seventh National Patients Out of Time (POT) conference in 2012, it was noted that most physicians who graduated from medical school before 2007 had not been formally educated about the endocannabinoid system.
They noted that this lack of knowledge deepens the stigmatization potential that current medical cannabis patients experience as it relates to their ability to interact with their primary or specialty medical providers.
The CPN indicates some medical professionals express a fear of committing “career suicide” by engaging with medical cannabis and medical marijuana patients or becoming known as a “pot doctor,” but these beliefs seem to be based on fear of stigmatization and not knowledge of the endocannabinoid system, cannabis, or cannabis patients.
It is the goal UtahCARE to make medicinal cannabis available throughout Utah without fear of reprisal and they will be working closely with the CPN to learn how to educate Utah voters, lawmakers and physicians about the true benefits of medicinal cannabis.
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