Doctor Holding Cannabis Leaves and Tincture

Extreme Effects of the Opioid Epidemic

The opioid epidemic has ravaged communities across the United States, causing disproportionate damage to communities facing high levels of poverty, economic depression and limited social mobility. These issues exacerbate barriers to quality healthcare, increasing the reliance of citizens on prescription painkillers to alleviate their maladies. Many of those prescribed opioid painkillers to alleviate chronic symptoms ultimately become addicted, and rely on the pills for extended periods of time, whether or not their original symptoms persist.

Data from a statewide monitoring program has helped the general public to fully grasp the ubiquity and impact of prescription opioid use in our community. In 2017, the data shows that 3.7 million prescriptions were written for opioid painkillers in the state of Colorado. Opioid overdoses and related complications took the lives of 578 Colorado residents that same year. In 2016, opioids claimed the lives of 42,249 individuals nationwide. Meanwhile, a shocking 2.1 million Americans met the criteria for an opioid use disorder. These numbers are heart-wrenching – yet over 17,000 of these deaths resulted from medications that are frequently prescribed today.

Cannabinoids, Not Opioids

Proponents of medical marijuana, cannabidiol, and phytocannabinoid-rich hemp extract have spoken out for decades in support of these substances as a safer alternative to opiates. A growing number of studies support the efficacy of broad spectrum hemp and CBD in the alleviation of the same difficult symptoms targeted by opiates, without the life-threatening risks of the legally prescribed narcotics. Colorado patients have been allowed to seek out medical marijuana individually. However, Doctors have not been permitted to officially recommend or prescribe this course of treatment for many common ailments in which opiate recommendations are permitted.

The parents of Charlotte Figi have adamantly advocated for increased awareness of cannabidiol in the medical community. The bliss they felt after welcoming twin daughters into the world turned to despair when Charlotte developed debilitating seizures in her infancy. Charlotte was diagnosed with Dravet Syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy. While her sister developed normally, young Charlotte incurred chronic developmental delays, and her condition progressively worsened – ultimately causing 300 grand mal seizures a week. Her parents tried everything, incurring crushing medical debt and dozens of hospital stays, while they helplessly watched their daughter slip away. Charlotte was unable to speak, walk, or eat normally, largely due to severe cranial swelling.

By age five, Charlotte’s medical team stated that there was nowhere else to turn beyond a medically induced coma. Charlotte was placed on a do-not-resuscitate list while her parents frantically sought outside options – anything to save or even lengthen their daughters short life, and save her from her constant pain. Mrs. Figi then learned about cannabidiol and sought medical approval for Charlotte to try medicinal marijuana or CBD. As a conservative military wife, she’d long maintained a strong social stance against marijuana, which she’d never tried herself. After dozens of denials, she finally acquired a Doctor’s signature to add Charlotte to the state MMJ registry, making her the youngest license-holder in history. Extraordinarily, with the regimented use of CBD oil, Charlotte’s symptoms all-but-vanished. She went from dozens of severe daily seizures to no more than one a week. To everyone’s astonishment, Charlotte regained the ability to walk, talk, and even laugh again. Charlotte’s family has since expressed their amazement at providers’ inability to officially recommend cannabis and derivatives when no other options remain – fighting for public awareness that could save other children severe symptoms, and even their lives.

New Legislation Fits the Bill

The Senate floor recently reviewed two new pieces of legislation, both of which aim to combat this widespread crisis. A few short weeks ago, State Governor Jared Polis signed off on Senate Bill 19-013, which is scheduled to take effect this August. The bill has a few important implications for state residents. The measure enables medical providers to recommend medical cannabis as a viable alternative to opiate medications. In other words, any disorder qualifying for an opioid recommendation will soon qualify for the recommendation of medicinal cannabis. This is a crucial step in overturning the startling rates of opiate misuse and addiction, as many with opiate use disorder report that their first use of addictive painkillers followed a Doctor’s prescription for their ongoing ailments. Granting healthcare providers the ability to provide effective substances, without the capacity for intoxicating and addictive effects, is a step that could save the lives of uncounted residents.

The Senate also approved a similar but distinct measure, SB19-224. Once it takes effect, SB19-224 will further regulate the process of obtaining MMJ, with the intent of streamlining the process of licensing for citizens seeking this course of treatment. For example, in the past few years, many MMJ recipients faced delays in medication access, as backlogged applications awaiting approval prevented the timely processing of their renewals by the powers at be. For those relying on medical cannabinoids, indefinite medication delays have been a painful reality – quite literally. SB19-224 allows patients to legally receive their scheduled prescription refills while renewal requests are pending – removing the guesswork and impact of bureaucracy on the daily functioning of afflicted residents. The bill will also enforce the testing of industrial hemp and hemp extract, to ensure that all hemp marketed to the public meets regulatory standards for the substance. We’ve long upheld this standard with our hemp and cbd beverages, and we’re happy to hear that all companies will soon be mandated to do the same, so consumers statewide can always know exactly what they’re purchasing.

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