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Medical Marijuana Mistakes You Could Make, Warns Doctor

Even if it's now legal in your state, be on the safe side.

Two more states were added to the list of states that allows for at least medical use of cannabis after the most recent election. The legalization of marijuana has been actively increasing since the mid-1990s with California leading, but as of the 2020 election, even Mississippi and South Dakota have updated their laws. The difficulty with the relaxation of the laws is that the Food and Drug Administration has kept marijuana a schedule 1 drug. This means that as of right now the FDA does not believe that there are any medicinal uses of marijuana. Although accepted by many people to be safe, there are obvious problems with marijuana usage that I see as an Emergency Physician on a regular basis. Read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.


THC and CBD are Not the Same Things

cbd oil bottle next to marijuana leaf

Although the difference between THC and CBD are well known to those who have used marijuana, it must be stated that these are not the same compound. CBD or cannabidiol is anecdotally known to be helpful for seizures, pain, depression, and anxiety where THC or tetrahydrocannabinol is usually believed to help with appetite issues, glaucoma, as well as pain in some patients. This is important because THC is a much more psychoactive drug and can lead to some patients feeling "high" rather than just treating the underlying condition.


Assume It Will Have a Beneficial Effect

woman hold head in hands suffer from grief problem, depressed lonely upset african girl crying alone on sofa at home

Some patients will use marijuana for anxiety and depression with reported success. There is a very important issue with this that some patients find unexpectedly. There are some patients that have severe anxiety when using THC. Some patients actually experiencing visual hallucinations as well as psychosis that can mimic mental health disorders such as schizophrenia.


Do Not Assume Your Employer Will Accept It

Man worker forklift driver with protective mask working in industrial factory or warehouse.

There is a very important aspect to the fact that the FDA continues to call marijuana a schedule 1 drug, is that technically by federal standards marijuana is illegal. Although the state in which you reside may have loosened the regulations, it can still cause difficulty if your employer is national. Especially for patients who use heavy machinery or drive large vehicles, there are still going to be questions about the legality of cannabis use while on the job. Any patient who is using medical cannabis should consult their physician and their employer to ensure compliance with regulations.


Smoking Is Not the Same as Edibles

Cannabis infused gummy candy on a rustic table top with marijuana leaves.

One of the major issues with the usage of cannabis is dosing. If you use it by smoking, there is very little knowledge of how much CBD or THC you consume from each inhalation. Similarly, each patient will metabolize cannabis that has been ingested differently. This will make the timeframe of onset, as well as maximum effect different. The effects of inhaled cannabis occur much faster than the edible formulations but the dose more difficult to control.


Smoke Is Still Smoke

We consulted doctor and medical resources to discover what happens if you smoke marijuana every day. (Note: do not use marijuana without consulting a medical professional first.)

Although patients are very quick to differentiate themselves as either a tobacco or a marijuana smoker, there are health implications of both. Smoking involves burning a substance and then inhaling it into the lungs. There has been a great amount of research into the negative health effects of tobacco, such as high blood pressure, increasing stroke risk, and heart attack risk. Although marijuana is thought to be a safer substance, there is no data at present to suggest that marijuana smoke is not harmful to the lungs. The act of burning a substance can create chemicals that are very dangerous to your health no matter what it is that is burning. 

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Leave Your Edibles Unattended

Edible medical marijuana cookies.

Many people are becoming comfortable with the use of cannabis, both recreationally and medicinally which is evident by the votes taken by many different states. That being said, it is still not a substance that should be handled without caution. Just as an open container of alcohol or an open pack of cigarettes must be kept from children, cannabis should be as well. There is, unfortunately, an ever-increasing number of Emergency Department visits due of cannabis in the pediatric population.  Many of these are due to the inadvertent ingestion of an edible that appears to be a child-friendly candy or treat.

Although the medicinal benefits of cannabis is touted by believers, there is a paucity of research on this very important topic. There are both health implications for the patient as well as for those who may come in contact with the drug itself. The benefits and risks will be better understood as research progresses, but for now, it is important to remember some of the mistakes that can be made with medical marijuana. Be sure to consult your physician to determine if you are a candidate for any new treatment including cannabis. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Kenneth Perry, MD FACEP
Dr. Perry is an active practicing physician and Medical Director of an Emergency Department in Charleston, South Carolina. Read more