In Texas, Patients Deserve Access to Medical Marijuana

While medical marijuana legalization is sweeping the country, Texas is
digging its heels in. In the fight to legalize the drug across the
nation, Texas has historically demonstrated an extreme unwillingness,
while the majority of the other 49 states have been much more open. In
the past, Texas has been known for flexing its conservative views enough
to throw young people found possessing marijuana in prison for lengthy
sentences. Fortunately, the tides there have begun to turn recently.

While the changes have come in the form of baby steps (legalized
cannabis oil to treat people suffering from epilepsy, for example),
today’s Texans overwhelmingly support the legalization of medical
marijuana. 71% of
Texans

state that they would vote to expand cannabis treatments. This does not
hold true for recreational marijuana, however, which only 41% of voters
are willing to support. So what does the future of medical marijuana
look like in one of the country’s most conservative states? Here’s what
you need to know:

The Benefits of Medical Marijuana

The benefits of medical marijuana are well-known and far-reaching. From
helping to alleviate nausea resulting from cancer
treatments

to soothing
anxiety
and
depression,
marijuana has long been known for its ability to treat a large
assortment of medical disorders. In January of 2016, my organization,
HelloMD, conducted a patient
survey

that made the many benefits of medical marijuana even more evident. The
study surveyed more than 17,000 patients and received a response from
1,400 over the course of seven days. I currently believe that this is
the largest and most wide-reaching medical marijuana patient survey
published to date.

While the benefits of medical marijuana have never been any secret to
us, the survey proved just how important it is to consumers, and
provided a wealth of information that Texas could do well to take note
of. The results? 84% of survey respondents state that cannabis relieves
their symptoms. 66% of consumers are using medical marijuana as the
primary treatment for their medical problems. 64% of respondents rely on
the daily use of cannabis for the treatment of their symptoms, and 28%
use cannabis on a weekly basis.

Despite this high number of consumers and regular pattern of medical
use, there were no reports within the survey of negative consequences
brought about by cannabis use, and 96% of consumers reported being
highly likely to recommend the use of medical cannabis to others seeking
improved health and wellbeing.

Providing Access: The Importance of Telehealth

The users in our HelloMD survey live around the country and some utilize
medical marijuana treatment through the Telehealth system. Unfortunately
only patients living in California can utilize the Telehealth system for
medical evaluations. Other all others states restrict access and force
patients to travel in person to see a physician. In Telehealth medicine,
patients can meet with a doctor via a virtual consulting platform like
Skype. After the meeting, the patient receives a medical marijuana card
in the mail. Telehealth care is rising to
prominence

around the country as a way to make quality doctors and care available
to patients in rural or restricted areas, but it is especially important
in the fight to bring medical marijuana access to all patients.

In states like Texas, which is large and mostly rural, access to
Telehealth medicine is critically important if marijuana is legalized
for medical purposes. Because Texas is a very conservative state, it’s
likely that the stigma surrounding medical marijuana use would
discourage many patients from getting in their cars and visiting a
physical clinic located in a major city. Additionally, Texas is such a
large state that the mere mechanics of access would be prohibitive for
many patients, specifically those who are elderly or physically disabled
(200 counties in the
state

are vastly medically underserved, and 12 more only have one primary care
doctor).

Finally, it’s likely that, even if medical marijuana was fully legalized
in the state, the traditional medical community wouldn’t warm up to the
prospect immediately. These things would make it incredibly difficult
for patients to access the medical marijuana care they needed.

Despite the importance of Telehealth for improving patient access,
however, Texas has not supported innovations in Telehealth medicine in
the past. The state is currently embroiled in a battle over the legality
of access to Telehealth medicine. While lawmakers aren’t outlawing it
entirely, they are placing severe limitations on it that can make it
harder for rural patients to access the care they need.

What Texas can Learn from California

As Texas continues to face the issue of medical marijuana legalization,
it stands to learn a great deal from states like California, where
Telehealth laws dating to 2011 provide full patient access. As it stands
now, thousands of patients throughout the
state

have access to high-quality medical care from the comfort of their
homes. In addition to having significant impacts on patient access, this
also provides numerous benefits, such as relief from anxiety and
chronic
stress
.
In addition to making access to quality care easier for disabled, rural,
or elderly patients, comprehensive Telehealth laws also allow patients
who may be struggling with stigma or embarrassment to get the care they
need. While the future of medical marijuana in Texas is facing a rocky
and lengthy road, it’s clear that the expansion of elehealth medicine in
the state is one of the few reliable ways to provide medical marijuana
care to all Texans who need it.

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