There are some in the cannabis advocacy community willing to promote marijuana as largely harmless. It is one thing to make such claims involving recreational marijuana. It’s another thing to apply them to medical cannabis. Just as with any other drug, there are risks that come with using cannabis as a medicine.

    Ignoring the risks doesn’t change anything. Ignoring them does not alter the fact that some people experience uncomfortable consequences from long term cannabis consumption. It is extremely important that anyone thinking of applying for a medical cannabis card consult with an experienced physician beforehand.

    Cannabinoids for Medicinal Purposes

    The whole point behind medical cannabis is to take advantage of a variety of cannabinoids for medical purposes. Here’s the deal: the human endocannabinoid system is designed to work with cannabinoids to control a variety of bodily functions. Introducing cannabinoids like THC and CBD influences that system.

    Both THC and CBD are believed to be effective at relieving pain. Exactly how they work remains a mystery. Therein lies the biggest issue with medical cannabis. We have plenty of evidence to show it can be effective in treating pain, nausea, certain types of seizures, and more. But because we do not know exactly how it works, we cannot even begin to understand the long-term implications of using medical cannabis year after year.

    This is why states like Utah, according to the operators of the Beehive Farmacy in Brigham City, require medical cannabis cards that can only be obtained after consulting with a medical provider. It is why Utah requires that pharmacists approve every order before it goes out the pharmacy door. Potential risks are behind Utah’s recommendation to every patient to consult regularly with a pharmacist.

    Known Side Effects

    In terms of the risks associated with medical cannabis use, they can be divided into two categories: known side effects and potential long term health effects. The side effects are pretty common and well publicized. They certainly are not obscure by any means. They include:

    • Altered perceptions.
    • Altered sense of space and time.
    • Confusion and disorientation.
    • Cognitive impairment and memory loss.
    • Dizziness and loss of coordination.
    • Drowsiness and lethargy.
    • Increased heart rate.
    • Increased appetite.

    Although not as common, some people can experience vivid hallucinations while high on marijuana. There is also the concern of negative interactions with other drugs. Both have the capability of sending a person to the emergency room.

    Potential Long Term Health Effects

    Although the short-term side effects of consuming cannabis are well known, potential long term health effects are still largely unknown. Research is ongoing in this regard. From what we know at this point however, there are some potential long term problems cannabis users need to consider. They include:

    • Long term cognitive impairment (especially in young people).
    • A higher risk of developing schizophrenia.
    • A higher risk of cannabis use disorder (especially among young people).

    Although medical cannabis generally is not smoked, there is an added danger when it is: the normal harms linked to smoking. Burning marijuana releases toxins and carcinogens just like burning tobacco. The long-term consequences of smoking marijuana could be just as serious.

    No Drug Is Harmless

    Although medical cannabis is considered less harmful than other types of drugs, like prescription opioids for example, it isn’t a harmless drug. And in fact, there is no such thing as a completely harmless medication. Everything we put into our bodies has an impact. Therefore, it’s advised that people looking to begin using medical cannabis don’t take it lightly. It should only be used under the supervision of an experienced medical provider.

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