On April 17, 2016, Pennsylvania Senate Bill 3 was signed into law by governor Tom Wolf. With a quick pen stroke, Wolf finalized the legislation that made Pennsylvania the 25th state to fully legalize medical cannabis.
After months of debate from both sides of the issue, the state now has a law that allows patient access to the fabled psychoactive cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD), as well as hundreds of other phytochemicals in the herb. Non-psychoactive CBD, often called the “miracle medical molecule”, is widely associated with many of the astounding physiological benefits of cannabis.
With “recreational” cannabis still prohibited in the Keystone State, the new law focuses on medical applications. The newly conceived Pennsylvania State Board of Medical Cannabis will be staffed by the Secretary of Health, the Commissioner of Professional and Occupational Affairs, the Secretary of Human Services, the Physician General, three medical doctors, two registered nurses, a licensed pharmacist, and two members of the public.
Their purpose will be to oversee the licensing of growers, processors, dispensaries, and primary caregivers who will prescribe medical cannabis. The board also is empowered to grant the certifications required for conducting laboratory studies with medical cannabis. Physicians and nurse practitioners wanting to prescribe medical cannabis will need to register with the State Department of Health and undergo training. Of course, the law limits who will have access to the herb, based on their medical conditions.
Who gets it
As the law currently stands, only patients diagnosed with the following conditions will be qualified to receive an access card from their medical practitioner:
- Epilepsy and other seizure disorders
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease)
- Cachexia (wasting syndrome)
- Parkinson’s disease
- Traumatic brain injury and post-concussion syndrome
- Multiple sclerosis
- Spinocerebellar ataxia
- Post-traumatic stress injury (PTSI), a.k.a. “PTSD”
- Severe fibromyalgia
- Crohn’s disease
Additionally, and of critical importance, physicians who believe their patients are suffering from chronic or intractable pain where other methods of treatment no longer have therapeutic or palliative benefit may also prescribe cannabis.
Even more important, because it will positively impact more patients’ lives, the Board of Medical Cannabis has the authority to expand this list of approved conditions. Many within the medical community as well as the general public have already expressed their desire for the board to add more conditions for which cannabis has proven effective. Specifically, studies have demonstrated that several mental illnesses, e.g., anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia can be successfully relieved with cannabis therapy.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses in the United States, affecting approximately 40 million Americans, according to Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Currently, about one third of these people seek treatment, usually in the form of pharmaceuticals. Xanax and Klonopin, among the most common, carry the risk of addiction and overdosing—particularly when combined with other medications and substances such as alcohol.
Cannabis, in stark contrast, carries virtually no risk of physical addiction, and zero risk of death due to overdose. Further, recent studies have demonstrated that the relationship between ingested cannabis and increased levels of endocannabinoids (the human body’s own natural cannabis molecules that impact a multitude of bodily functions) can be an effective treatment for both anxiety and depression.
Although a link exists between excessive THC and the exacerbation of schizophrenia, or the onset of the disease in those who have a predisposed condition, medical cannabis treatments containing only CBD may prevent or lessen the severity of psychotic episodes. This effect is likely due to the proven link between CBD and anandamide, a neurotransmitter mediated by the CB1 cannabinoid receptor and critical part the body’s mechanism to prevent psychosis from occurring.
In 2012 a double-blind, randomized clinical trial of CBD vs. amisulpride, a potent antipsychotic, determined the efficacy of the two treatments for acute schizophrenia. Although both molecules proved viable treatments to alleviate psychosis, CBD is remarkable for having very mild or nonexistent side effects; those of amisulpride include insomnia, nausea, and headaches. Interestingly, these three deleterious side effects of amisulpride can often be effectively treated with…medical cannabis.
Prescribing cannabis for schizophrenia (or any other condition, for that matter) will require careful consideration from medical professionals regarding dosage and route of administration. Many options exist, including vaping, tincture, and edibles, as healthier alternatives to smoking. Particularly, cannabis in the form of medicated edibles (“medibles”) is a highly effective method due to a much longer duration of effects and the transformation of THC in the liver into 11-hydroxy-THC, a more potent version of the molecule.
While making medibles usually demands patience, technical know-how, and a love of cleaning the kitchen, a MagicalButter machine makes creating medical edibles a far simpler process for patients and caregivers. The botanical extractor produces top-quality infused cooking oil, butter, and tincture, thanks to the integrated digital thermostat and temperature control mechanism. These are vital for efficient extraction of cannabinoids, terpenoids, and other phytonutrients.
What remains to be seen is if and when the State Board of Medical Cannabis will recommend accepting conditions like anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and more. The herb is likely destined to become a critical tool in the fight against mental illness, an epidemic that is imperative to combat for the sake of our nation’s health.
At this point in time, there is no indication that we have discovered all the benefits that cannabis can provide to those in need. Expanding legislation that allows access to medical cannabis will move our medical capabilities forward and improve the lives of countless numbers of people.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Garyn Angel is an inventor, award-winning financial consultant, and CEO of MagicalButter.com, maker of the botanical extractor he invented for infusing cannabis into foods. Firmly committed to needed legal reform, Angel was named to the exclusive CNBC NEXT List of visionary global business leaders for his work on legal marijuana. He is also founder of the Cheers to Goodness Foundation, a charity that helps “medical refugees”—mainly veterans and children—who need herbal therapy when traditional treatment options have failed.