MY son Haiden is 6 years old. For him, access to medical cannabis is a matter of life-and-death.
Haiden has Dravet syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy. Haiden used to suffer from frequent seizures of all varieties — sometimes more than 100 a day, despite taking five prescription medications, all at the maximum dose our neurologist would allow.
Today, Haiden receives two daily doses of medical cannabis with 100 milligrams of cannabidiol, also called CBD. His medicine has almost no THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis. It has dramatically transformed my son, and by extension our entire family.
In November 2013, Haiden lost the ability to use language. Today, he has gained it all back and is learning new words. We used to go to the ER at least once a month for the seizures his rescue medication could not stop. Since he started using CBD, we have not had to use any rescue medications for Haiden and he has not been to the ER once.
Most important, before medical cannabis Haiden was confined to spaces we could control — mostly dark rooms and low levels of stimulation. In the past month, he has been spending some beautiful days outside digging, climbing and making a mess wherever he could, just like a little boy should.
Haiden, and thousands like him, must continue to have reliable access to safe and consistent medical cannabis.
As state lawmakers refine our state’s marijuana laws, I ask them not to lose sight of medical cannabis patients like Haiden.
It’s fair to wonder whether there is a need at all for medical dispensaries in a state where recreational marijuana is now legal. But recreational stores are prohibited from discussing therapeutic qualities of cannabis. They don’t carry cannabis high in CBD and low in THC because there is no recreational value. Their business model isn’t designed to help patients like Haiden live a more normal life.
However, there are also many medical dispensaries that operate much like a doctor’s office, meeting the health needs of patients like Haiden.
They provide patients with formal, one-on-one consultations in a private setting and develop individualized treatment plans that reflect a wide range of variables, including a patient’s specific type of ailment, weight, dietary restrictions, potency, dosage and more.
They also ensure that patients have access to appropriate medications, in medically specific forms like creams, tinctures and suppositories.
Simply put, patients have unique needs that require a unique channel for accessing their medicine beyond what recreational stores can offer.
Our state needs a system that recognizes and regulates separate access channels for recreational users and for medical patients.
As a patient caregiver, I believe a sound regulatory framework for medical cannabis should include:
• Standards for medical-grade cannabis: Cannabis is considered a last-line treatment. By the time patients turn to medical cannabis, many have compromised immune systems. All medical cannabis should meet the highest quality standards and it should all be tested for safety.
• Licensing: We license pharmacies to ensure that they are properly equipped and following the standards necessary to care for patients; cannabis should be no different. Legitimate providers should have an opportunity to move into the new system to continue serving patients.
• Patient registry: Every state with legal medical cannabis has a patient registry except Washington. A database of patients would improve the quality of care for patients and can ensure that patients don’t pay taxes on medicine. This is a reasonable requirement to prevent fraud and abuse.
These are three ways lawmakers can ensure that medical cannabis remains safe, available and consistent for patients who rely on it to survive, like my son Haiden.