17 states across the country have decided, either through voter initiative or through state legislature, to make medical cannabis legal for citizens in their state that need it. This means that they've created criminal exemptions for possessing cannabis and sometimes for cultivating it. But for many patients who can't cultivate, there has been this question about how they're supposed to find medical cannabis and so communities across the country came up with a solution that has many names now, were originally called "cannabis clubs" in the Bay area of California, but now are more commonly referred to as "medical cannabis dispensaries".
And the reason these communities decided to create these centers was that they didn't want their most vulnerable citizens looking for substance in an illicit market. They wanted to create a safe space where medical cannabis patients could find the medicine that they need and be able to get it on a regular consistent basis. Now, some of the other side-effects of creating these community-based access models was that it meant that people weren't cultivating in apartments or houses that maybe they shouldn't, and it also meant for communities that they knew that they could send someone to one of these centers. One of the frustrating things that we've heard from doctors but also policy-makers is "How can you make something legal for someone to use and possess, but not have any way for them to get it?" And so across this country, as we're passing new legislation, you'll see that most of the legislation has provisions for these access centers, and the result for the community is that the patients, as soon as they have the legal authorization to use medical cannabis, they have somewhere to get it.
Unfortunately some of these new laws have created a space where medical cannabis patients can go to these access centers, but they've taken away the legal rights from them to be able to cultivate it. And one of the biggest issues around restricting cultivation for individual patients is that this is still legal federally and if the federal government decides to shut down one of those centers, if the community of patients are relying one hundred percent on that center for access, if the federal government shuts it down access will be shut down for the entire community. Another issue around getting rid of patient cultivation for a community is that medical cannabis is not covered by insurance yet and this means that every time a patient uses it that money comes straight out of their pocket and patients have definitely found that it's much cheaper for them to be able to cultivate themselves than go these centers. The impact of medical cannabis on various communities mean that some areas are seeing less crime, it means that they have found treatment for some of their citizens that didn't have treatments before. They've also found that doctors report that the patients using medical cannabis are more likely to stay on anti-viral medications, they're more likely to continue Hep C treatments, and both of those treatments mean that there's gonna be less infection in society.
We've also found that people who are using medical cannabis are more likely to finish their chemotherapy treatments and so there is a greater impact beyond just the individual patient being able to access their medication.