The State of New York legalized medical marijuana in 2014 with Senate Bill S7923, and it was implemented in January 2016. Since that time, this controversial and misunderstood plant has helped thousands of patients. While many people believe that individuals should have the right to choose if they want to use this product, others push for stiffer fines and penalties for using something that has been proven less harmful than tobacco or alcohol. While the debate rages on, legislators made a landmark decision to put the lives and wellbeing of chronic or critically ill patients above that of marijuana naysayers.
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Under New York’s Compassionate Use Act, individuals who have been diagnosed with one or more debilitating or life-threatening conditions can legally purchase medical cannabis products from a registered dispensary once qualified by a licensed marijuana doctor.
1. Is Medical Marijuana Safe?
Although marijuana is a psychoactive drug, researchers believe that it is safer to use than tobacco and alcohol when consumed as the recommending physician describes. While there have never been any deaths reported from using cannabis alone, individuals who mix this medication with other drugs should be concerned about the dangers of contraindications.
Additionally, individuals who use medical marijuana should only do so in the safety of their own homes and not when they are driving or using any heavy equipment. Regardless of its legal status, marijuana can impair a person’s judgment and reaction time, making certain activities inadvisable. If a person who is under the influence of marijuana decides to drive, law enforcement officials may issue a citation and potentially arrest that person; penalties would become more severe in the event of an accident while using. Great care and concern must always be taken by anyone using this or any other medication.
2. Does Marijuana Affect Surgery?
Although cannabis is safe and effective to use as a medication, patients who are anticipating surgery do need to be concerned. Deciding whether it’s safe to use marijuana before surgery isn’t exactly a yes or no decision; it’s more complicated than that. Depending on the method of consumption, marijuana use before surgery can cause several different complications. While some people are tempted to use it to relax or help reduce stress, most doctors and anesthesiologists don’t recommend it.
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Cannabis can cause vasodilation, a process where the blood vessels in the body relax, making the heart rate increase as the blood pressure falls. Vasodilation will change the way the body responds to anesthesia.
Because of the potential for complications, patients should have an honest conversation with the anesthesiologist. They should tell precisely how much and how often they use marijuana and the method of consumption. It is also essential to let them know when they last used. The anaesthesiology understands how marijuana affects the body and will be prepared if you need more anesthetic than what is considered normal. Additionally, the anaesthesiology needs to be prepared for any airway issues that are common with those who smoke or use a vaporizer.
3. Marijuana After Surgery
Unfortunately, individuals who smoke or vaporize marijuana have an increased recovery time, just like those who smoke cigarettes or cigars. Some require the use of a ventilator long-term unless they stop smoking or vaping for at least a month before the procedure.
Another downside to inhaled marijuana use after surgery is the time it takes for wounds to heal and the potential for scarring from the incisions. Inhaled varieties decrease the amount of oxygen available to the tissues and skin around the incision. Not only does this slow the recovery, but it also increases the risk of infection.
At the same time, many patients use marijuana for pain relief after surgery. Opioids and other drugs that are usually prescribed after surgeries can cause serious addiction. That’s why medical cannabis can become an alternative to traditional medications since it allows patients to get postoperative pain relief. However, you should still check with your doctor whether marijuana and surgery recovery are compatible in your case.
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Although most of the information available regarding marijuana and surgery refers only to the inhaled varieties, there isn’t enough information to definitively state how other forms such as edibles or topicals can affect the procedure. As with any drug, regardless of how you use it, individuals are encouraged to have an open and honest discussion with the surgeon and anesthesiologist. Because most other forms only affect the body for a few hours after the last use, many providers will only ask that patient refrain from using their medical marijuana less than six hours before a procedure.
Keep Your Doctor Informed
Individuals who live in New York and are scheduled to have a surgical procedure should discuss all medications with their surgical team. While it is doubtful marijuana use will prevent you from having surgery, it may change how the surgical team prepares. Remember, safety is always the main concern, give yourself the best possible scenario, and discuss this as well as other medications that you may take.
If you do not yet have your medical marijuana card in New York, you can begin an application here, or contact us by phone at 1 (888) 578-6704 if you have any questions. If you do have your recommendation, you can find a map of New York dispensaries here.