Medical Cannabis questions answered as Vicksburg dispensaries open
Published 12:34 pm Thursday, February 2, 2023
With five medical cannabis dispensaries set to open in Vicksburg and cultivation and microcultivation facilities in the city, there are still lingering questions about the use, oversight and procurement of the drug.
Kris Jones, who serves as the Mississippi State Department of Health’s Assistant Senior Deputy clarified some questions posed to her by The Vicksburg Post. Jones, who previously served as director of MSDH’s Medical Cannabis Program and the Office Against Interpersonal Violence, now works alongside Vicksburg physician and state health officer Dr. Dan Edney.
In response to being asked about medical cannabis and how it compares to marijuana purchased illegally, Jones said:
Email newsletter signup
The key difference between medical cannabis and marijuana that can be bought on the street is that medical cannabis has undergone testing to ensure that the product is safe for people to utilize. This includes testing for toxins, like pesticides, and things like heavy metals. Additionally, the cannabinoid (THC) potency of medical cannabis is tested.
Does medical cannabis have to pass clinical trials like other medications?
Since cannabis has been classified at the federal level as an illegal drug, there have not been clinical trials like you would see with traditional medications. There have been recent changes at the federal level that may allow appropriate research. I am confident there will be more information coming about additional research opportunities.
What about oversight? Will there be standards doctors must meet before prescribing medical cannabis and if so, can you explain how the process will be implemented?
There are multiple levels of oversight for practitioners participating in the medical cannabis program. Practitioners apply through the Medical Cannabis Program to participate. The application and registration process ensures that practitioners are licensed by their professional licensing boards to practice in Mississippi and have completed eight hours of continuing education related to medical cannabis. On an annual basis, an additional five hours of continuing education is required for practitioners to participate in the medical cannabis program. These requirements are in addition to the standards of practice that are already set by the professional licensing boards for physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and optometrists.
Will insurance cover medical cannabis?
State law prohibits insurance coverage for medical cannabis. However, the visit with the registered practitioner to assess and treat the potentially qualifying medical condition may or may not be covered.
Listed on the MSDH’s website are the medical conditions one must exhibit before being treated with medical cannabis; do you see this list expanding to address other illnesses?
The list of qualifying medical conditions is included in the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act. The agency will be developing processes to handle requests that additional conditions be allowed. Since we are just beginning to see the availability of medical cannabis to patients in our state, we have held off on changes to the qualifying conditions until we have data around the conditions currently being treated with medical cannabis.
Do you consider medical cannabis/marijuana a gateway drug even when used for medicinal purposes?
In my experience providing services to individuals who struggle with addiction, nicotine is actually the gateway drug. Nicotine kills more people per year than all other drugs combined. I do believe that medical cannabis can be safely used after a risk/benefit analysis by a practitioner with the patient’s understanding of the risks involved in using medical cannabis, including the potential for dependency and addiction.
What is the difference between Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD)?
Both THC and CBD are considered cannabinoids. However, THC is the cannabinoid that is believed to cause the psychoactive effects that people refer to as feeling “high.”
For those who have been prescribed medical cannabis, will they be allowed to use it on public property?
The Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act prohibits smoking medical cannabis in a public place or in a motor vehicle.
Marijuana has a very distinct smell; some have compared the scent to a skunk. Will medical cannabis have the same odor and if not, will there be any recognizable smell?
Medical cannabis is likely to have the same smell as illegal cannabis.
In conclusion, Jones said, there were several points about medical cannabis that MSDH would like to emphasize, particularly as it relates to patient education and product safety.
- A person who is interested in participating in the program as a patient should make their wishes known to their healthcare provider to seek guidance and see if the provider is participating in the program. The relationship between the patient and healthcare provider should be one that has been established, is ongoing and is based on clinical care rather than existing for the sole purpose of accessing a “medical cannabis card.”
- As with other medications and treatment protocols, a person using medical cannabis should start with the lowest dosage possible that has a positive impact on their medical condition.
- Medical cannabis should be locked up and stored safely away from children.