The medical cannabis industry has long known that chronic pain is the number one complaint cited by patients looking to obtain medical cannabis cards in their respective states. That fact is underscored by a brand-new University of Michigan and John Hopkins study showing that one-third of all chronic pain patients manage their pain with cannabis. But that begs a very important question: is chronic pain just an excuse to use marijuana?
In other words, do patients complain of chronic pain just so they can get a medical cannabis card? Is it possible that some of them do not really suffer from chronic pain at all? It is a possibility, but not very likely – especially in states with legal recreational marijuana.
No Card Required
California, New York, Colorado, and Oregon are all states with legal medical cannabis and recreational marijuana. Patients in those states who want access to higher quality medical cannabis are likely to deal with the hassles of obtaining valid cannabis cards in order to do so.
On the other hand, imagine someone who only wants access to recreational marijuana. Why would they falsely report chronic pain to get a medical cannabis card when they can legally buy recreational marijuana without one? No card is required to get high. Complaining of chronic pain doesn’t make sense if the pain isn’t real.
Quite frankly, the opposite scenario is probably more likely. Patients often need to jump through hoops to obtain and renew medical cannabis cards. They also need to pay annual fees. It is easier and less costly for them to let their cards expire and simply buy marijuana from the recreational market. That probably happens far more frequently than state regulators are willing to admit.
Where Recreational Pot Is Illegal
Not all states with medical cannabis programs also allow recreational marijuana. It is about 50-50 at the time of this writing. In the more restrictive states, like Utah, patients wishing to treat chronic pain with cannabis must obtain their cards.
Utah requires visiting with a medical provider who can recommend medical cannabis after diagnosing a qualifying condition. A doctor’s recommendation virtually assures the patient of getting their card. With a card in hand, the patient can visit one of more than a dozen cannabis dispensaries in Utah to purchase product.
Pure Utah is one such dispensary located in Payson. Pure Utah’s operators acknowledge that they see their fair share of chronic pain patients. Could it be that some of those patients are just using chronic pain as an excuse to use marijuana legally? Anything is possible. But again, the likelihood is not very high.
The Illicit Market Is Still There
People purchased illicit marijuana for decades before states began their efforts to legalize pot. The illicit market has not gone away since. It is still there. So even in states with medical-only programs, it is safe to say that illicit operators continue doing a healthy business among recreational users.
Even in Utah, it doesn’t make sense for patients to fake chronic pain complaints just for the privilege of going through the cannabis card application process and buying more expensive products from licensed pharmacies. It is easier and cheaper to buy marijuana off the street. And because enforcement is such a low priory, the chances of being caught and prosecuted are relatively low as well.
It is possible that some chronic pain patients are not really experiencing pain at all. They are using chronic pain as an excuse to use marijuana. But if any such marijuana users do exist, their numbers are going to be very low. Common sense dictates as much.