A Legal Update on Medical Marijuana

Attorney General & Congress Battle Over Medical Marijuana

Being able to adequately manage the short-term, long-term, and late-term side effects of cancer treatment is crucial for patients and survivors. One method of side effect management that is on the rise, is the use of medical marijuana, which has been shown to alleviate side effects such as pain, nausea, decreased appetite, and seizures.

We have discussed medical marijuana in previous blog posts, including the conflict between federal and state laws.  While the use of medical marijuana is still illegal under federal law, an increasing number of states have passed laws that not only legalize the use of medical marijuana, but the recreational use as well.

Despite this legal conflict, the federal government previously opted to let states pass laws in this area and not to prosecute individuals who are following those state laws. However, in January, the Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, who has historically opposed the use of medical marijuana, announced that he was removing the barrier that prevented the federal government with interfering in state medical marijuana laws. There was a concern that this would allow federal prosecutors to go over individuals using medical marijuana.

In response, on March 23, 2018, Congress added language to the omnibus budget bill that forbids the Department of Justice to use any funds to prevent states from implementing their own medical marijuana laws.

While we wait to see how these legal battles may impact the cancer community specifically, it is important to note that there are still some critical issues to consider when deciding whether to use medical marijuana, such as:

  1. Poor regulation of the quality, dosage, and potential contamination of medical marijuana products
  2. Limited current research on the short and long-term effects of the use of medical marijuana and how it might interact with cancer treatments
  3. Employment rights related to the use of medical marijuana

To help you navigate the use of medical marijuana, Triage Cancer has released a new Quick Guide to Medical Marijuana.

Triage Cancer will continue to share information about medical marijuana as the legal and medical landscape changes, so stay tuned.


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Monica Bryant