Medical cannabis might not be legal in all 50 states yet, but mark my words: it is the future.
It's less addictive and destructive than prescription meds, alcohol, or hard drugs. Meanwhile, more and more scientists and doctors are discovering and acknowledging its medicinal benefits.
Still, there's a stigma around that delicate little flower. So, let's talk about it, shall we?
1. Federal laws still limit legal use of marijuana
Though several states have approved the use of marijuana for medical and/or recreation use, veterans should know that federal law classifies marijuana — including all derivative products — as a Schedule One controlled substance. This makes it illegal in the eyes of the federal government.
That being said, the VA is actually more progressive here than one might have expected. According to their website, veterans will not be denied VA benefits because of marijuana use and they are encouraged to discuss marijuana use with their VA providers.
Maybe there's hope in this cruel world...
2. Medical cannabis can help treat PTSD, anxiety, and pain
And there are clinical studies in the works to prove it, specifically in the case of combat veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan — but because cannabis remains a federally controlled substance, widely recognized research is hard to come by.
A recent report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine gives a comprehensive look at the science of cannabis — and its benefits for the treatment of chronic pain.
Meanwhile, a study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence explored the use of marijuana to relieve anxiety, and found that a low dose of THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, a main active ingredient of cannabis) produces subjective stress-relieving effects, but that higher doses could actually increase negative mood. This means the user needs to find the right dose.
3. There are more ways to imbibe than just smoking
Security cam footage of me in a dispensary.
You've heard of edibles (magic brownies... mmmm), but there are so many sophisticated ways to enjoy marijuana without smoking it. Infused food and beverages are just one way (one easy and delicious — but super potent way. Again, educate yourself about doses — more on that later).
I personally still categorize vape pens and vaporizers in the "smoking" category but, technically, they do not involve smoke inhalation. Vaporization methods raise the temperature of the product just enough to create a light vapor.
Topicals are some of my favorites for pain relief. Oils, lotions, or balms infused with cannabis (and quite often essential oils like lavender, mint, or citrus — they don't teach you about these things in boot camp, but dammit, they should) to soothe aches in the body.
Because of the way the body absorbs marijuana, skin care products provide the therapeutic benefits without any of the euphoria.
4.20 There are potential side effects — so use with caution
The munchies are real, my friend.Giphy
Look, marijuana contains chemicals called cannabinoids that affect the central nervous system. Scientists are still exploring its impact over short- and long-term use. Tread lightly.
WebMD lists some of the possible side effects (as well as a more comprehensive list of "other marijuana names" than I would have expected, which I found very amusing: Anashca, Banji, Bhang, Blunt, Bud, Cannabis, Cannabis sativa, Charas, Dope, Esrar, Gaga, Ganga, Grass, Haschisch, Hash, Hashish, Herbe, Huo Ma Ren, Joint, Kif, Mariguana, Marihuana, Mary Jane, Pot, Sawi, Sinsemilla, Weed).
As with any substance, marijuana should be explored carefully and with proper research. There are so many strains and so many ways to imbibe and so many ways for the body to absorb the chemicals, which is why it's recommended that you start slowly and consult your physician.
The first time I tried an edible, I thought I was supposed to eat the whole thing. Next thing I knew, I was time traveling and I was convinced there was a rabbit in the closet that wanted to bite my ankle. I spent the night perched on my dresser like a cartoon character that just saw a mouse. My mom thought it was hilarious, but I wasn't thrilled about the experience.
I now know that the edible I ate contained 100mg of THC — today, I take about 2mg at a time to treat anxiety. So, yeah, you could say I had too much.
The bottom line is to educate yourself and enjoy safely.
Legally, if possible.