Feb. 7, 2013 11:01

Understanding Pain

If you’re human, you’ve experienced pain. Everyone does. Chances are, you might be in pain right now—which is likely the reason why you turned to God’s green plant for relief. And pain can take many forms. It can range from the soul-killing pain you undergo battling cancer, chemo and radiation treatments. There’s the excruciating, down-to-the-last-white-hot-nerve pain of a broken back or a cluster headache. There’s the profound pain and discomfort of diabetes, multiple sclerosis and muscle spasms.

And there’s the crippling psychological pain of stress and anxiety. To paraphrase country music and cannabis icon Willie Nelson, stress “is the biggest killer on the planet, and the best medicine for stress is marijuana.”

So, there are all types of pain, and, thank goodness, we can use cannabis to tackle it.

Unfortunately, the fact that we experience pain and some of us opt to legally use a plant instead of an opioid to treat it doesn’t sit well with some people. Exhibit A: Arizona lawmaker John Kavanagh. The state legislator recently proposed a measure for the 2014 ballot that would rescind that state’s Medical Marijuana Act, which passed in 2010. What’s Kavanagh’s problem? Well, several things, but he’s upset over the fact that MMJ cardholders in Arizona say they use cannabis for, among other things (and those “other things” include cancer, hepatitis, glaucoma, Alzheimer’s disease, HIV/AIDS, Crohn’s disease and nausea)—pain! Yes, pain. More than 30,000 patients list cannabis as their med of choice for chronic pain.

Ah-ha, Kavanagh (a former cop) must have thought, since, in his mind, “vague, ill-defined, impossible-to-disprove” pain complaints suggest abuse.

“This is what critics feared: that [Arizona’s MMJ program] would be abused by people saying they had a bad back, and that’s apparently what we’ve gotten,” he told media outlets.

So—let me follow the argument here—because lots of people decide to treat their pain with a plant instead of a pill, that’s bad and grounds for potentially shutting down an entire state’s voter-approved MMJ system?!?!?!

Kavanagh’s so wrongheaded he won’t even allow an exception for cancer patients to use cannabis if his measure was successful. Wow.

What do the “real” experts say about chronic pain? According to the American Academy of Pain Medicine, 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. Such pain affects more people than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined. Pain costs our country anywhere from $560 billion to $635 billion in health care costs each year, according to 2010 data. Besides the terminal conditions, lower back pain, headaches/migraines and neck pain are the most commonly reported types of pain.

Pain is real. Your pain is your own. Only you and your doctor can make a decision about how to treat it. And if you’re lucky to live in an MMJ state, you have the right to use cannabis for the health benefits it provides—don’t let others take that choice away.

Never mind what John Kavanagh—and other wrongheaded prohibitionists—say. He’s just being a pain.

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