The (ab)use of opioids and other drugs that relieve, in some grade, the symptoms in patients with certain pathologies with chronic pain such as fibromyalgia, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, has taken the life of at least 47600 people in 2017 in the United States according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, turning it into one of the five main causes of death in all ages, surpassing fatalities involved in car accidents according to National Safety Council “Injury Facts”. In the state of Colorado, where cannabis has been included as an alternative for conventional treatments for pain, specifically, the death rate for said drugs has decreased 6.5% (M. Livingston, “Recreational Cannabis Legalization and Opioid-Related Deaths in Colorado, 2000–2015”; 2017), which could represent a positive change for public health as we know it.
Medical cannabis industry has been stigmatized since its prohibition in the 1930s. Despite the constant fight of the patients to get quality medical cannabis products, the acceptance of this represents a challenge for experienced health professionals due to the limitations to perform clinical trials and collect conclusive research to estimate the necessary doses to treat their patients, in order to obtain repeatable results through the use of a standardized and stable product.
Although there is a controversial debate in Panama about the risk/benefit balance of this plant, the lack of knowledge of both medical professionals and the general population, in addition to the prejudices, has eliminated the possibility for the public to form a criterion based on scientific evidence and with an educational background.
In most first world countries, medical cannabis is now regulated and dosed and presents quantitative and qualitative improvements in both health and life quality of those who consume it. Inevitably, the plant still drags a social stigma that questions its benefits, creating an unfair propaganda or, at least, misinformation. As any other substance, cannabis is associated to side effects that the industry is looking to reduce; by integrating grow, processing and extraction technologies that allow to keep chemical profiles in each one of the medical grade products, offering repeatability and security to the patients.
Legalization and regulation of this product promises to offer pain relief to people that have not found any other solution, in addition, it would represent benefits for the country’s economy (“The Latin America Regional Cannabis Report”, New Frontier Data).
Would the youth be really in danger if a regulation law to treat patients is approved, a law that allows patients the freedom to make decisions about their own health? Or do we resign ourselves to limit the growth of young minds by perpetuating false stigmas?
Maybe cannabis is not the miraculous remedy -or evil substance- that many claim it to be. Is Panama able to open its doors to the population to rationally propose and create its own opinions regarding medical cannabis? Or, once again, will Panama disagree and accept any imposition without coherent bases? Education is imperative to initiate research that will take us to definitive conclusions regarding this new and quickly evolving industry.
By Pauline Garcerán Camargo – Plant Science Technician, TheraCann International