Critics Say Mississippi's New Medical Marijuana Law Unfairly Excludes Mental Health Conditions
Mississippi’s shiny new medical marijuana market isn’t even open yet, but naysayers are already complaining about the law’s qualifying conditions.
Of course, naysayers are sometimes correct.
Mississippi’s medical marijuana laws recognize several qualifying conditions making patients eligible to get Mississippi Marijuana Cards. However, there are many conditions not included in the state’s list that medical marijuana can treat.
One of the overlooked areas that’s drawing criticism is the little recognition the law affords to medical marijuana’s ability to safely and effectively treat mental health issues, “like depression, anxiety, and insomnia.”
Patients and Doctors Want Medical Marijuana for Mental Health
WATN, Memphis’ ABC affiliate, recently spotlighted the lack of attention to mental health that some are saying is a major flaw in Mississippi’s medical marijuana law.
Mississippian Megan Fortune told WATN that she has been battling mental health issues “my entire adult life.”
“It's not fair for the state to say you have a physical disability, therefore you can use medical marijuana. You have a mental disability, therefore you can't,” Fortune told WATN. “It makes me angry but it is also so familiar,” she said.
Some doctors agree that the decision to exclude conditions like anxiety and depression was a mistake by the Mississippi legislature. Cannabis specialist, Dr. Peter Greenspoon, who teaches at Harvard Medical School, told WATN that medical marijuana “is a lot safer than antidepressants or benzodiazepine.”
“Is cannabis less dangerous than whatever we would be using for sleep? Or is cannabis less dangerous than whatever else we would be used for anxiety? I think that's important to ask,” Grinspoon said.
Medical Marijuana and Anxiety
“Anxiety is one of the most common reasons why we use medical cannabis,” Greenspoon told WATN. “It helps people relax. It helps them calm down.”
Having access to a safe and effective treatment is vital for patients suffering from anxiety, because anxiety is more than just a feeling of nervousness. In fact, anxiety can be impair your physical and mental wellbeing in a number of ways. From muscle aches to hypertension to digestion issues, anxiety can throw your entire physical and mental wellbeing into disarray.
According to an article published by the American Psychological Association, studies have shown that patients “who used cannabis to treat a range of medical problems including anxiety, had largely improved cognitive performance, reduced clinical symptoms and anxiety-related symptoms as well as a reduced use of conventional medications, including opioids, benzodiazepines, and other mood stabilizers and antidepressants.”
For Fortune, medical marijuana is a superior treatment to the existing pharmaceutical options for alleviating anxiety. “It induces a calm that is more natural than something like a benzodiazepine would,” she told WATN.
Medical Marijuana and Depression
Research has repeatedly found that medical marijuana can effectively treat depression. One especially encouraging study published in a peer-reviewed journal in 2021 found that, in the words of the study’s lead researcher, “Medicinal cannabis products, especially products high in CBD, may help to treat symptoms of depression, improve sleep, and increase quality of life.”
That’s an especially encouraging finding when considering how common depression is. According to the Hope for Depression Research Foundation, there are more than thirty million people worldwide dealing with depression. And here at home, as many as nine million Americans suffer from generalized anxiety disorder.
Unfortunately, for those millions of people, antidepressants can take months to show positive results and they often cause significant adverse side effects. Not only can medical marijuana show antidepressant effects within moments of being taken, but most patients find its limited side effects to be highly tolerable.
Medical Marijuana and Insomnia
Insomnia is rarely considered to be a mental health issue if it occurs in isolation, but it often occurs as a consequence of mental health issues such as anxiety or depression. Patients who struggle with the latter disorders often deal with insomnia as well.
Fortunately, this is another condition that medical marijuana can safely and effectively treat. In one study, patients reported having slept better than the month before after being on a month-long medical marijuana regimen. And during the pandemic, nearly half of all cannabis consumers reported they were drinking less because they’d begun using medical marijuana to help them sleep.
Mississippi’s Medical Marijuana Law Should Extend to Include Mental Health Issues
Fortunately, we aren’t stuck with the current list of qualifying conditions that the state’s medical marijuana law recognizes.
When reached for comment by WATN, Senator Kevin Blackwell, one of the architects of Mississippi’s medical marijuana law, pointed out that Mississippians themselves can help change the law. State residents may petition the Department of Health to add qualifying conditions.
For now, however, the details are up in the air. But, according to the text, “Any resident of Mississippi may petition the MDOH to add serious medical conditions or their treatments to the list of debilitating medical conditions” and “The MDOH shall consider petitions in accordance with its rules and regulations, including public notices and hearings.”
When one petitions the department to add a condition, how the department decides to rule is unanswered in both the text of the law and on the department website.
Contact the Health Department, Your Elected Representatives, and Us
If you’d like to see mental health conditions added to the list of qualifying conditions, you can wait for the Mississippi Department of Health and state lawmakers to clarify the petition process or you can tell them to hurry up and get on with it.
And while you’re contacting people about medical marijuana, don’t forget about us! If you reserve an evaluation online today, we’ll book an appointment for you with one of our compassionate cannabis doctors just as soon as we’re cleared to.
You’ll meet with your new doctor virtually, using your smartphone or computer, for a telemedicine appointment. You will discuss your conditions, what medical marijuana might be able to do for you, and whether you qualify for a Mississippi Marijuana Card, all without even leaving your home. You’ll even save $25 off the cost of the evaluation!
Doctors Who Care.
Relief You Can Trust.
Helping everyone achieve wellness safely and conveniently through increased access to medical marijuana. Our focus on education, inclusion, and acceptance will reduce the stigma for our patients by providing equal access to timely information and compassionate care.
If you have any questions, call us at (833) 781-6635, or simply book a medical marijuana evaluation to start getting relief you can trust today!