What is the difference between a recreational and medical cannabis user? It’s a question asked frequently in and outside of the cannabis space. Some will assert there isn’t one, the plant remains the same. Others take advantage of official documentation for tax purposes, workplace protections, and the medical guidance an authorization provides. I have spent a large part of the last year feeling like a fraud. I educate and advocate for medical cannabis patients but technically I wasn’t one anymore.
A patient since 2015, I let my license lapse in early 2019 after becoming exhausted with the declining care at my cannabis clinic. As a society, we treat medical cannabis like a punchline instead of a legitimate treatment option. As a disabled human with multiple chronic conditions, I am often left in charge of my own health, diagnosis, and treatment. Paired with a bad clinic experience, I convinced myself I could manage my cannabis medication alone.
I decided to renew my authorization last month for financial reasons. I am so privileged to be able to work with my health issues. Unfortunately, I don’t work as much as I would like; healthcare has been a full-time job in itself. As a result, I live very close to the poverty line and am not ashamed of that. Hands down, buying through the recreational market is more expensive. Sure the products are mostly the same, but between compassionate care programs, discounts, and tax deductions, there is a big difference in costs. I decided to grin and bear the consultation so I could once again access the medical market.
Flabbergasted by this positive and affirming experience I spoke with a dear friend who said “you know, like a real doctor?” in jest as I gushed about my appointment
The most refreshing and unexpected thing happened when I spoke with a doctor – I became a patient again. We talked about dosing, methods of consumption, and changes I needed to make in my routine. Sure, I know cannabis. I work in the industry and I have been a patient for years but I am not a doctor. The physician immediately brought attention to how I was medicating as a reaction to pain. I had been ignoring all the preventative cannabinoid therapies that had saved me years ago.
Flabbergasted by this positive and affirming experience I spoke with a dear friend who said “you know, like a real doctor?” in jest as I gushed about my appointment. For me, this is the root of the distinction between self-medicating and being a patient. The small changes the doctor recommended are already making a difference in my quality of life. In four months I will talk to her again and continue on my patient path towards healing.
If I can impart any wisdom about this experience it would be to not let a bad experience get you down. Just like with any other specialist, it won’t always be the right fit. There is a level of betrayal and distrust when a patient is mistreated by a physician but one bad apple doesn’t spoil the bunch. There are physicians out there passionate about cannabis and patients. Having an authorization—and all the resources that come with it—feels like coming home again.