The cannabis industry is rising, especially as more states are legalizing marijuana in some capacity, be that for recreational or medicinal use. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 37 states currently allow for medical use and 17
states allow non-medical or recreational use. Loosening the hard grip that was associated with cannabis in the past makes headway for other forms, including products that contain THC but in much lower doses.
The pros of medical treatment with marijuana for multiple types of disabilities are argued constantly, such as for autism. Studies have determined certain medical ailments do benefit from cannabis use, which is why the disabled community is pushing for more transparency and acceptance with cannabis and disabilities.
Medical marijuana use and legality is designated by each state. Each State varies in what conditions qualify for the medical marijuana programs. Cancer is a common condition many states recognize. However, other conditions that specifically affect disabled people are approved sporadically from state to state otherwise. For example, Ohio and Rhode Island do not include depression or anxiety as a qualifying condition to grant cannabis use, while Oklahoma does.
Some types of disabilities treated with medical marijuana are:
• multiple sclerosis
• ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis)
Mental illness has started to take a front seat over the last few years as more and more individuals share their struggles. Addressing and treating it has become a priority for many medical professionals. Self medicating with drugs and alcohol are common among mental health issues. That’s where the discussion of cannabis enters into the conversation.
Marijuana users hail about the benefits it provides to help them deal with their mental issues. However, the CDC says the cannabis use may be the reason the mental problems to begin with. The CDC says daily consumption of cannabis in large amounts can contribute to psychotic episodes or symptoms, some parlaying into mental disorders.
“Marijuana use, especially frequently (daily or nearly daily) and in high doses, can cause disorientation and sometimes unpleasant thoughts or feelings of anxiety and paranoia.
“People who use marijuana are more likely to develop temporary psychosis (not knowing what is real, hallucinations, and paranoia) and long-lasting mental disorders, including schizophrenia (a type of mental illness where people might see or hear things that are not really there). The association between marijuana and schizophrenia is stronger in people who start using marijuana at an earlier age and use marijuana more frequently. Marijuana use has also been linked to depression; social anxiety; and thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts, and suicide,” the CDC stated on their website.
It doesn’t state whether this would help or further hinder an already existing mental disorder.
PTSD, depression, and anxiety has already been recognized as a qualifying condition for cannabis use in several states where medical marijuana is legal. Getting other states on board could be a challenge since there are few studies showing mental illness improvements as a result from the use of cannabis.
After the 2018 Farm Bill became a law, it allowed more accessibility to CBD and other hemp-derived products. It is no longer considered as a schedule one drug. Currently the FDA has only approved one medication for treating epilepsy disorders Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet Syndrome. Doctors have been allowed to prescribe an oil base that includes marijuana called Epidiolex.
The Epilepsy Foundation says this type of seizure treatment should only be utilized when the other prescribed and recommended treatments have failed.
“The Epilepsy Foundation urges anyone exploring any treatment for their epilepsy, as permitted under their state law, to work with their treating physician to make the best decisions for their own care.”
In 2014, MAMMA, Mothers Advocating Medical Marijuana for Autism, a group founded on the hope of bringing more awareness to cannabis and its benefits to individuals with autism, was born. On their website, their mission statement says:
Currently, 14 states have included autism as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana use, including Texas, which the group is originally founded in. MAMMA explains on their website that the process of getting autism added as a qualifying condition to use marijuana is not easy. It involves a lot changing ideations of strong minded political leaders to get laws modified.
As more qualifying conditions are added constantly in each state and legalization becomes more widespread, the debate on how employers should handle the issue of cannabis use on the job arises. Marijuana is still a substance that many companies have on their drug tests, which becomes a problem for disabled individuals when cannabis is the only thing that aids them in coping.
“For employers that work with a disability, they must make allowances or suspend certain rules when a disabled person must use marijuana to function. When taken at the appropriate times, the employee may bypass any complications the substance may cause to cognitive skills or clear thinking,” HG.org Legal Resources said.
Making accommodations without prejudice at work for those with disabilities is the reason why the Americans with Disabilities Act was created. The Americans with Disabilities Act was implemented in 1990 to protect individuals with disabilities from discrimination in the workforce. Since that enactment, provisions were made to improve and add more rights for disabled workers.
However, in the past, that did not include the use of cannabis while at a job and has even resulted in termination. Now, with current legalization of medical cannabis, it could be considered a violation of the ADA if a disabled person is not given the accommodation of using marijuana at work, as is expected with any other accommodation request the employer would receive.
Murdoch Children’s Research Institute conducted a study in 2020 on children who have severe behavioral issues to see if there was any changes when using medical cannabis type cannabidiol. It also studied how it will affect intellectual disabilities in teens. Children in the trial showed drastic changes in how they acted, reducing aggressive, self-harming, irritable demeanors.
Researchers are trying to fund a bigger clinical trial because of the success of this first one. Over the eight weeks the smaller study lasted, none of the children reported having serious side effects but most, if not all, showed an improvement of their intellectual disabilities of some kind. The next step is to research developmental disorders and cannabis treatment for children who have disorders like autism and Tourette Syndrome, according to the study.
“Parents of children with an intellectual disability and severe behavioral problems are increasingly asking pediatricians whether they can access medicinal cannabis for their child and some parents have reported giving unregulated cannabis products to their children,” Associate Professor Daryl Efron, a clinician-scientist at MCRI who led the study, said.
Australian doctors are treating intellectual disabilities with anti-depressants and other medications for mental illness. Parents are searching for other ways that could be less risk to help treat the symptoms that associate with intellectual disabilities and behavial issues on their own.
“Current medications carry a high risk of side-effects, with vulnerable people with intellectual disability being less able to report side-effects,” Professor Efron said. “Common side-effects of antipsychotics, such as weight gain and metabolic syndrome, have huge health effects for a patient group already at increased risk of chronic illness.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, medical marijuana falls into two categories: THC, which is commonly known as delta 9, and CBD, or cannabidiol. It’s available in several forms for patients to consume including:
• gummies and pills
• Liquid and drinks
• Oil and rubs
• Dried leaves
Considering which form is the right one to use could be determined by looking at the risks of each one. For example, smoking or vaping cannabis holds potential threats to lungs and respiratory issues. Edibles such as candies and gummies take longer to feel the effects from and can affect the user with a deeper, stronger feeling.
Cannabis comes in different strains. Healthline said the industry is trying to disassociate itself from the word strain to defer from a negative cognitive. Instead, they are using the term chemovars. Three types of chemovars are commonly known as Sativa, Indica, and Hybrid. These terms are also changing the way each type is referred, according to Healthline:
• Type I: high THC
• Type II: THC/CBD combined
• Type III: high CBD
In this article, we will refer to the chemovars as the more common terms. Sativa produces high energy as opposed to indica which is said to provide relaxed and calming effects. Breaking it down even further, patients can truly decide which type is better suited for the ailment. The plant in which the chemovars came from and how it is grown matter. Some cannabis will contain higher amounts of cannabinols and terpenes than others, which the company should list so it can be determined which plant would be better.
Below is a table describing the three strains, or chemovars, broken down from each of it’s plants. It shows the percentage that the chemovar has of THC and CBD and the potential conditions and symptoms that it would benefit.
Fatigue, stress, nausea, pain
Pain, cramps, inflammation, insomnia, mental fog, PTSD
Chronic pain, muscle spasms, insomnia
Fatigue, stress, acute pain, mental fog, anxiety, PTSD
Insomnia, acute pain, nausea, low appetite, PTSD
Low appetite, restless leg syndrome, insomnia
Acute pain, insomnia, low appetite
Inflammation, pain, stress
Depression, anxiety, mental fog, low energy
Pain, mood disorders, insomnia, low appetite
Low mood, mental fog, social anxiety
Super Silver Haze
Stress, anxiety, mental fog, low energy
Mental fog, acute pain, social anxiety
Migraine, glaucoma, headaches, low moods
More research is in the works to prove how cannabis interjects and helps individuals with disabilities. Though still a Schedule I drug on the federal level, meaning it has a high chance of being abused, no medical treatment and safety found acceptable, states have legalized its use. With medical marijuana, qualifying conditions have implemented disabled individuals with physical and mental disorders to receive what many advocates say as necessary treatment.
The 2018 Farm Bill made headway for cannabis use on a lower level to become more commonplace medically and recreationally. The hope is to get more conditions accepted for treatment with cannabis and to potentially legalize it for recreational use federally. This can only be done if the classified level is lowered, which will mean changes in employment, medical, and criminal classifications.