Can marijuana be medical if you’re smoking it?

What is the best practice for doctors is sometimes a different question than what is the best treatment for patients

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If you’ve been to a cannabis clinic to have cannabis prescribed, you’ll notice one big difference from your family doctor’s office. You’re liable to be asked if you need papers and a lighter at the end of your visit.

Some see this as helpful. Others view it as evidence that all cannabis clinics really want to do is sell you weed.

Rahim Dhalla, who runs Hybrid Pharms cannabis clinics, is in the latter camp.

“PSA: if you claim to be a ‘medical cannabis clinic’ and you sell papers that encourage inhalation via combustion… then you are not medical. You’re a turn and churn,” he tweeted recently.

There are plenty of people who believe that medical cannabis ceases to be medical once it is smoked since smoking anything carries an inherent risk.

Others argue that the instantaneous effects of smoking weed outweigh the risks.

There are many reasons why someone would choose to smoke. Cost is a big one.

In Canada, the costs of medical marijuana are sky-high. And vaporizers are an added expense (albeit one that some folks are able to claim on their taxes).

The other suggestion patients hear often is to use edibles or oils. But rarely is it acknowledged that the body is then processing medicine in an entirely different way. And that the relief offered is not the same.

Then there’s the question of time. Patients with more acute ailments who use medical pot to treat flare-ups, gastro issues, or anxiety, don’t have the time to let the vaporizer heat up and power on.

Finally, some people find that smoking works better.

In fact, Florida signed a bill into law this past March to enshrine patients’ right to smoke their medicine.

After the state legalized medical cannabis in a ballot initiative in 2016, Republican lawmakers responded by outlawing the smoking of medical cannabis. Long-time medpot activist Cathy Jordan challenged the ban.

Jordan, who has Lou Gehrig’s disease, convinced lawmakers that smoking is a right that can’t be taken away.

For someone with fluid in their lungs like her, the cough-inducing effect of hitting a joint helps her cough up some of that fluid. It dries her mouth, too, which helps keep her from choking on her own saliva.

So while smoking is harmful, it’s sometimes essential on the road to other benefits. What is the best practice for doctors is a different question than what is the best treatment for the patient.

How actively doctors should promote smoking as an option, however, is still a difficult question.

And it’s a question that’s made more complicated by the fact that researchers are no closer to figuring out whether weed smoke is worse than tobacco smoke.

So what’s a medical pot patient to do?