In this article Global Market Insights discusses the impact of the medical cannabis market on the US healthcare industry.
Since the introduction of medical cannabis in America, the cannabis market has had an unprecedented impact on the US healthcare industry. Medical cannabis refers to the use of the cannabis sativa or cannabis indica plant, or its extracts, to relieve the symptoms of or treat various diseases and health conditions.
Numerous studies and preliminary evidence reveal that the medical use of cannabis can help alleviate chronic pain and muscle spasms, treat severe forms of epilepsy, reduce vomiting and nausea during chemotherapy, and improve appetite in patients with HIV/AIDS.
Cannabis contains numerous identified cannabinoids including cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the psychoactive compound in cannabis which is responsible for the high that people experience. CBD is the non-psychoactive cousin of THC which is responsible for majority of the health benefits. The use of CBD in myriad medical applications is rapidly gaining momentum worldwide.
Legal status of medical cannabis in the US
As of 2020, medical cannabis is legal in more than 20 US states since it was first legalised in Nevada in 2001. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has classified it as a Schedule I substance, making it illegal at the federal level. In majority of these states, an authorisation, prescription, or medical recommendation is required, following which a license or card is issued. Consumers can use it to purchase medical cannabis products.
In states with legal medical cannabis, shops, generally known as dispensaries, sell cannabis products in a wide variety of forms. These include oils and extracts, edible forms such as cookies and candies, and the plant which can be smoked or inhaled. Dispensaries need a medical cannabis card or license before they will sell products. The procedure for consumers to obtain a medical cannabis card varies according to the state. It generally requires a prescription from an authorised healthcare professional.
In recent news, Tennessee lawmakers have disclosed plans to legalise medical cannabis throughout the state. The legislation is also aimed to build a legal infrastructure to grow and sell cannabis products at licensed outlets. Further, it would legalise the production and sale of cannabis-based oils, pills, tinctures, and lotions. If enacted into law, the legislation would allow the sale of these products to commence by the end of 2020.
Meanwhile, Utah’s first medical cannabis dispensary called Dragonfly Wellness very recently opened in the state’s capital Salt Lake City. The state recently had also started rolling out a new program that will allow consumers with various health conditions to use the substance for medical purposes.
The online application procedure for residents to obtain medical cannabis cards reportedly started on Sunday, March 1, 2020. To obtain these cards, residents first need to get a recommendation from one of 60 authorised medical professionals.
A second dispensary is anticipated to open in March, followed by seven more by June. The last five dispensaries, which will be called pharmacies, are expected to open after July.
Impact of medical cannabis on American healthcare industry
People with chronic health conditions are usually limited to a very few treatment options. Medical cannabis is rapidly gaining prominence as an effective option for the treatment of numerous chronic conditions. Over the years, it has been used with effect in treating everything from chronic pain and cancer to ulcerative colitis and multiple sclerosis.
According to the report by GMI, the US medical cannabis market demand will witness more than 13% growth through 2024 and will exceed US $8bn by end of the same year.
People suffering from chronic pain are likely to use opioid or other prescription painkillers. Opioid is a group of chemically similar compounds containing heroin and prescription pain medications. While these medications are effective when used correctly, they can lead to addiction and have dangerous side-effects. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) states that nearly 10.3 million people aged 12 or more misused opioids during 2018.
Medical cannabis could potentially solve the ongoing opioid crisis. A recent study, in which 19 states with legal medical cannabis were selected, revealed that 15 states witnessed a drop in opioid prescription rate one year following the legalisation of medical cannabis. It has proven to be an effective alternative to both prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers, while still allowing the consumers to function normally during their daily life.
Pain medications aren’t the only ones experiencing a decline in states where the substance is legal. Healthcare professionals in these states are also prescribing fewer doses of mental health medications such as antidepressants and anxiety medication compared to other states.
Further, cannabis can also be used as an exit medication for people attempting to quit tobacco, alcohol, and opioids. The use of medical cannabis can help alleviate withdrawal symptoms, which is essential for alcohol and opioid recovery, since withdrawal can be as devastating as the addiction itself.
One of the major problems with modern medicines is the side-effects. For instance, patients diagnosed with cancer have to undergo weeks or even months of harsh chemotherapy as well as radiation treatment. Both of these are extremely uncomfortable and have various side-effects such as hair loss, appetite loss, and a compromised immune system.
Medical cannabis might not exactly a cure for cancer, but it can help enhance the quality of life for cancer patients during their treatment. Additionally, patients diagnosed with cancer, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and countless other diseases, have reported improvements in quality of life with regular use of medical cannabis.
The presence of large number of companies and ongoing research and development programs to explore the scope of medical cannabis in novel therapeutic applications will significantly augment medical cannabis market share in the forthcoming years.