The real experiment was prohibition, and it failed miserably.

Cannabis has been used by humans for medical purposes for centuries. The ancient Chinese emperor, Shen-Nung (c.2700 B.C.), listed cannabis in his medical encyclopedia (Pen Ts'ao).

Treating conditions with cannabis was commonplace in America up until federal prohibition in 1937. Cannabis still had its medical value, but political opinions and racist motivations resulted in the plant being demonized and outlawed.

The pendulum started to swing back the other way in 1996 when California became the first state to legalize cannabis for medical purposes. Since that time over two dozen more states have followed suit, with more on the way.

Yet, despite all of the victories, patients still struggle to get safe access to medical cannabis, even in states that have legalized cannabis for medical purposes.

Medical cannabis advocacy is more important than ever

Medical cannabis laws are never final. They still need a lot of work.

Some people falsely assume that just because a state has voted to legalize medical cannabis, that the need for advocacy diminishes. That could not be farther from the truth. Legalization is the first step, but the fight goes on.

Patients can still get fired from their job for consuming medical cannabis, patients can still get evicted for medical cannabis, and many patients are not allowed to grow their own medicine. Those are struggles that have been around for decades and still need to be addressed.

The need for advocacy doesn't go away after an election day victory or favorable legislative action takes place. The implementation period is an entirely different battle, as is fighting local bans and regulations.

It is safe to say that the medical cannabis advocacy world has never been as dynamic and complex as it is today.

Medical cannabis supporters need to do their research and arm themselves with the facts in order to change the hearts and minds of people that can ensure medical cannabis patients' needs are properly addressed.

Learn from experts

Why not learn from the people who have been working closely with this plant for so long?

Americans for Safe Access (ASA) was founded in 2002, and was created to ensure safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research.

ASA has always done an amazing job at advocating for patients, and providing quality, credible information about medical cannabis and advocacy, which every patient advocate can benefit from.

We highly recommend checking out ASA's website and following them on Facebook and Twitter to participate in their action alerts.

Americans for Safe Access recently held their annual Unity Conference, which featured a panel on advocacy, and how to effectively advocate for medical cannabis policy. The panel included:

  • Eben Britton, retired NFL player, Gridiron Cannabis Coalition and Athletes for Care
  • Ellen Lenox Smith, Board member, U.S. Pain Foundation
  • John Wylam, Government Relations manager, National Multiple Sclerosis Society
  • Jenn Mathis, Governmental Relations Manager, Epilepsy Foundation
  • Michael Krawitz, Executive Director, Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access

Each speaker on the panel provided a unique perspective on cannabis reform and the hurdles that come with advocating for cannabis.

The panel covered areas of advocacy that most people don't think of, such as healthcare policy.

Healthcare policy is a complex subject, and multiple speakers on the panel really dived into the hurdles that medical cannabis patients will inevitably face once medical cannabis is covered by healthcare insurers.

Much like the political battle over safe access points, the battle for basic financial coverage for medical cannabis treatments is going to be one that is going to take continued effort.

Find your passion and give it all you have

Cannabis reform involves all of us.

The cannabis advocacy effort presents a broad array of opportunities to find what you are most passionate about. Find an area of cannabis advocacy that gets you excited and give it your best effort.

Cannabis reform doesn't happen by itself, and if no one is out there advocating for medical cannabis patients, the winds of change will hurt patients in old states, and result in patients in new states seeing basic rights remain prohibited.

It is up to all of us to do our part. The medical cannabis reform movement needs people advocating at the federal, state, and local levels of government and politics. It also needs people advocating for reform in other areas, such as in sports leagues.

As Michael Krawitz discussed in his presentation, it is an ethical requirement that patients be given access to medicine that helps them, which includes cannabis.

Person by person, state by state, country by country minds are being changed about cannabis, but many more people need to be reached and convinced. Do your part to help end the stigma, and ensure that every patient that needs medical cannabis can do so in a safe and effective way.

Do you think that health insurance companies should have to cover medical cannabis?

Do you think that health insurance companies should have to cover medical cannabis?