By Richard Shrubb
Over this blog I will contend that due to economics the US is more likely to legalise and regulate weed than the UK due to our differing health systems. It comes down to how we get our medicine – Americans pay for it but we pay a small fee (if at all) for our NHS prescriptions.
Cannabis is attributed to treat many illnesses. In cancer care, the jury is firmly out as to whether it can cure cancer – but it has been proven to treat a number of conditions associated with the illness. For example, it can certainly alleviate the pain associated with cancer and gives the patient appetite – cancer can take your hunger away and make you waste away. Weed is well known to give you the munchies, and is a very good pain relief medication.
In the UK this will mean you will get two medications for £7.50 or so per prescription, or the equivalent of 1/16th an ounce of cheap street weed. In the US you will have to pay full price for each licensed drug you need.
Americans will try to go for a generic drug – not patented which cost more to claw back the cost of clinical research. For pain relief, Oxycontin is an artificial opiate and can cost upwards of USD $400 a month. It is highly addictive too. Megestrol acetate is a clinically approved drug that increases appetite in cancer patients. That will set you back a minimum of USD $80 a month. In short you will be typically spending USD $500 a month for two symptoms associated with cancer, never mind the issues of tumours growing and killing you which will cost hundreds a month more.
Many US health insurers will rebate you for your expenses. This will mean that you have to find, for argument’s sake $500 a month to pay for your medication and then have it rebated. In England? For two drugs, you’d pay £15 – about 1/8th ounce of weed! I should state that if you are disabled or on a low income in England, medication is free too – you don’t have to pay for your scripts in Scotland or Wales either for any reason.
At Strawberry Fields medical marijuana dispensary in Colorado Springs, CO, an ounce of medical weed will set you back USD $170 an ounce. Thanks to Federal law and cosy relationships with Big Pharma, insurance companies won’t repay you for this but you don’t have to find the outlay in the first place. Cannabis doesn’t treat two symptoms associated with cancer – the same $170 will treat as many as five symptoms. As the costs of medical drugs mount up, so the economics of smoking weed increase. You pay $340 for two ounces over a month or $1000 for pharmacy drugs?
Things are changing somewhat in the UK but in a controversial way. Medical cannabis Sativex has now been deemed “of low risk of abuse” by the UK government, so there are fewer obstacles to fighting for a prescription. Up to now, a bureaucrat at a health authority has been forced to ask whether you are a stoner or genuinely someone after a drug to help with your symptoms? Given the costs associated with Sativex – still extremely expensive, health authorities still have a major excuse to deny it to people but they cannot now accuse you of being a stoner if you know weed will help you.
However, on a purely economic level it still makes sense to take your medicine given you by your doctor in the UK rather than try cheaper alternatives. Weed is far more expensive unless you risk prison by growing at home. What does this mean for the UK movement as a whole? More research and publicity is needed from you and me as to the safety of weed over commonly prescribed drugs.
I have spoken to a US psychiatrist who knows her patients smoke weed to alleviate their schizophrenia. You know it is relatively safe. I have schizophrenia and take a pharmaceutical drug which sedates me and reduced my paranoia yet is close to wrecking my liver. Weed doesn’t wreck my liver! This is largely the thread by which we need to campaign – the safety benefits of the drug rather than the cost benefit.
In the US? Money talks. Their fight is much easier than ours!
Richard Shrubb is a freelance journalist with a specific interest in medical science and sailing, for more info about Richard, see his web site www.richardshrubb.co.uk and you can follow Richard on Twitter #Shrubberz