On November 3, all five states that had cannabis legislation on the ballot passed. Arizona, South Dakota, New Jersey, and Montana approved adult-use, and South Dakota and Mississippi passed medical cannabis use. We now have 35 states plus the District of Columbia with medical cannabis laws and 15 states plus the District of Columbia that allow adult-use cannabis. We have surpassed our previous record with 34 states approving medical cannabis in the early ’80s. These historic numbers clearly demonstrate that the majority of Americans support cannabis.
With growing interest and access to cannabis, many people are surprised when simple things like banking, health care, and education are potentially off-limits for the medical cannabis industry and even some medical cannabis patients. Despite 2/3rd of the country passing medical cannabis laws, cannabis remains a Schedule I drug. The Schedule I status allows entities to deny cannabis users and businesses the right to banking, health care coverage for cannabis use, employment, workplace protections, housing protections, and educational opportunities. These challenges will persist as long as cannabis is classified as a Schedule I drug.
Many people are using cannabis to replace other allopathic approaches, and yet these patients do not have the same safeguards offered to them that come with allopathic treatments. In some cases, cannabis users are forced to either give up their medicine or risk losing their jobs, their homes, and even educational opportunities. In one recent case, a nursing student in Pennsylvania was told she could continue taking her cannabis, but if she took a drug test and failed, she would be kicked out of the nursing program.
The decision that the nursing student must make is not an easy one: even though her treatment has been authorized by her physician, she was not afforded the same protections that come with other allopathic treatments. In times of adversity and stress, some will adapt, build resilience, and change the game. The student did not accept that she needed to choose one over the other, and instead, she filed a discrimination complaint. Unfortunately, the court panel decided that her cannabis use was not acceptable and dismissed her case. While not surprising, the fight is far from over.
Scenarios like this are stressful, discriminatory, and unfair. However, the difficulty that cannabis users face can help them build resilience. Being a warrior comes with the territory as a medical cannabis user. In the process of fighting for equal access and rights, many will find a sense of purpose, community, and new meaningful relationships. Developing and maintaining resilience won’t eliminate the difficulty one will face; however, it will lead to empowerment and both professional and personal growth.