Cannabis and healthcare – is the drug here to stay?
For decades, advocates for the medicinal use of marijuana have espoused the benefits of its use in the treatment of many chronic illnesses. The web is full of stories and examples of how cannabis is offering relief to those who suffer from depression, cancer, ADHD and a host of other illnesses. The news cycles are full of the recent approval of the sale of medical marijuana in Colorado, Massachusetts, Washington and 17 other states across the US. But serious questions remain as to the impact and effectiveness of this “old miracle drug”.
The use of cannabis in healthcare dates back thousands of years. Ancient civilizations in China, Egypt and Greece all used cannabis in the treatment of various ailments and afflictions. While certain providers and organizations in the U.S. have advocated the health benefits of the drug, the U.S. medical community has only recently embraced the possible benefits of medical marijuana. A lag in the approval by federal regulatory agencies for cannabis’ use in medical care is largely responsible for the fact that the actual use of marijuana is only gaining traction with the general public now. However, this acceptance has also raised questions for others. A recent story on NPR’s website demonstrates the concern some have with cannabis’ use on a larger scale. According to one article, the long-term effects of cannabis’ use are largely unknown, with some researchers acknowledging the need for further investigation into the drug’s effect on the brain. Others express real concern that increased access to the drug and lower prices could lead to habitual use. This would seemingly replace one medical condition for another.
Even so, with approval from so many state governments (and another 13 with pending legislation on the issue), it is likely that acceptance and use of cannabis for certain medical conditions is here to stay. Debate about the use, monitoring and regulation of cannabis is sure to ensue throughout the healthcare community.
WGA will continue to post updates on the various components on this issue, looking at the regulatory risk, tax treatment and solutions for this topic in today’s marketplace.
About the Author
Pete Reilly is the Healthcare Practice Leader at WGA with extensive knowledge in healthcare systems, including hospitals, long-term care facilities, and medical practice groups of all sizes.