Medical Marijuana for MS

The Unspeakable Bits; From a Life with MS

4/20 was long counterculture code for the use of marijuana. So on April 20, I put out a broad question about the medical use of marijuana (MMJ) for multiple sclerosis to the Life with MS Facebook page. I was surprised by the overwhelming response and support for the legal use of the substance.

Legal history

It is important to remember that while MMJ (Cannabis Sativa) has been used as medicine in many of the world’s cultures for thousands of years, it is federally illegal in the United States, even for medical use. Though several states (18 and the District of Columbia at this writing) have medical use laws on the books, a 2005 Supreme Court ruling upheld the federal government’s right to prosecute patients who possess marijuana no matter how their state stands on the issue or whether the patient holds a prescription to use MMJ for medical purposes.

The U.S. government deems MMJ and its active chemical compounds a Schedule 1 Narcotic and Congress, in doing so, has determined the following to be true:
  1. The drug has a high potential for abuse.
  2. The drug has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.
  3. There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug under medical supervision.   
Even if you live in one of the 18 states that allow patients access to marijuana, you are still breaking federal law and subject to arrest and prosecution if you use it as medication the way your doctor prescribes.

The inability and/or unwillingness to try MMJ for symptoms due to the legal status of the drug was one I read over and over in the comments on my post. Some posted that they would really like to try MMJ as many of their MS-related symptoms (particularly pain, spasticity and sleep issues) aren’t responsive to many prescription meds. Some people went so far as to say they were considering moving to another state (as some have done to be closer to MS Centers and MS specialists).

Speaking from experience

The most common MS symptoms named in conjunction with the medical use of cannabis include spasticity, pain, sleep quality, bladder issues, tremor and depression/anxiety.

As a person who formerly lived in one of the states allowing for medical use of cannabis, I availed myself of a prescription and found relief of one particular, medication-resistant symptom. Now, living away from that state, it is illegal for me to treat the MS spasticity in my neck with MMJ, so I am forced to experience that symptom without relief.

My MS doc – seen here, along with me, in a news video about a recent study on MS symptoms and MMJ – feels like the research is just now beginning to catch up with what people living with MS have been saying about MMJ for a while now: that for many of us it works.

I know from comments on my blog that some people with MS wouldn’t consider using MMJ even if it were made legal. Others use the drug for MS symptom management in spite of serious legal ramifications. Most of us, I suspect, simply abide by our state laws and wonder “what if?” as we wait for new treatments and an eventual cure.

These things only move forward with open discussion. Open discussion is something I would suggest with great caution when commenting about your personal use of MMJ. In fact, I think it’s a really bad idea to publicly reveal regular usage online given the current state of things. I do, however, believe that an exchange of ideas on the topic is possible without need to incriminate oneself. Keep it impersonal and don’t disclose what you’re doing in actuality. Whether you are of the “live and let live” side of the conversation or you see medical use of marijuana as a step down a slippery, moral slope, or possibly you find yourself somewhere in between, I look forward to hearing what you have to say about the use of MMJ for MS symptoms.

Wishing you and your family the best of health.


*Tune in tomorrow for a follow-up post from behavioral scientist and professor of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto, Anthony Feinstein, PhD.
Tags Activism & Advocacy, Research, Symptoms, Treatment      7 Appreciate this

Trevis Gleason, Blogger

You can follow Trevis via, his Life With MS Facebook Page on Twitter and on the “Life With MS” Blog. And also, check out his bi-monthly blog for the UK.