In my last article "The Los Angeles City Council vs. Cannabis Industry", I reported the LA City Council is dragging its feet in implementing new regulations and licensing procedures for the Cannabis industry, losing out much-needed taxes, jobs and economic rewards to a much-beleaguered state.
Los Angeles is not only losing all the financial benefits from the Cannabis industry, but they are now through inaction, allowing an increase in Opioid Addiction and related medical costs.
A new government study estimates 38% of adults, an estimated 92 million people used prescription pain medications in 2015. Wilson M. Compton, M.D., M.P.E. the Deputy Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) of the National Institutes of Health is calling for alternative ways to treat pain. Amazon has a reported 40,000 open jobs, Berkshire Hathaway is finding it difficult to find applicants in their southern markets, due to drug use. It’s estimated that 1 out of 6 potential employees are addicted to Opioids, Crack, Cocaine, Heroin or Marijuana making them ineligible for hire.
I am the medical director for a Chronic Pain & Opioid Dependency Treatment program for workers compensation insurance companies. Insurance companies have approved injured workers with Chronic Pain and Opioid Dependency to be treated with Cannabis based products. That’s right, seeing the benefits of Cannabis, claims management services their client insurance companies and the companies that pay them, have approved the use of Cannabis to help their injured workers. They see Cannabis as an effective, inexpensive way to treat pain and its related diseases.
It was also reported that deaths from Opioids quadrupled from 1999 -2015. For every injured worker we transition from Opioids to Cannabis, we not only save a life, but we also save the injured worker from Opioid related diseases. These diseases result in billions of dollars in medical costs associated with Cardiac Disease, Joint Destruction, and Diabetes to just to name a few. These costs are transferred to you the consumer through higher priced goods. This is just the worker's compensation arena, private healthcare and more importantly Medi-Cal programs are experiencing even higher medical costs.
Right now, the Healthcare act is in the news and the debate continues around the coverage for disadvantaged persons. The cost of private insurance supports the cost of free healthcare to the economically’ disadvantaged, and it's called Medi-Cal.
Medi-Cal Physicians earn $10.00 per month for every patient they manage. The more patients the Physician manages, the more money they make. What few people understand, is the physician is incentivized by patient approval ratings, i.e. "likes". The higher the patient satisfaction, the more patients the doctor manages and the more money they make. The population of California is 39 million people; 13.5 million of which, or 1/3 of the total population, is enrolled in Medi-Cal and receives free health care. Simply put, the doctor is incentivized from making the patient happy.
Coincidently, the Medi-Cal patient is a member of the largest demographic receiving long-term pain medications (Opioids). The long-term uses of Opioids and related medications have resulted in a significant rise in related diseases. These diseases include Cardiac Inflammation, Liver Disease, Diabetes, Cancer and ultimately Death, resulting in billions of dollars in medical costs. With 64% of Medi-Cal Patients receiving Opioid related prescriptions, the costs are rising logarithmically. As the medical costs rise, so does the cost to the taxpayer in the way of higher insurance premiums. Next year, the cost of Covered California care will increase its rates next year by 12.5%. Anthem Blue Cross is leaving the market, leaving many individuals looking for new insurance providers.
The related costs associated with prescription drug use are staggering and in the billions of dollars. With chronic Opioid use, there is a significant rise in (CHF) Congestive Heart Failure. Medi-Cal spends 17 billion dollars a year for the care and treatment of this problem. We are also seeing a significant rise in heart valve disorders, an inflammatory disorder linked to diet, smoking and prescription medication use. This “disease” ends up requiring $500,000.00 in surgery and treatment costs. Ironically, Opioids are prescribed for post surgical pain resulting in continued Heart Valve Inflammation. The average patient that received one surgery will most likely require two more surgeries, costing an estimated $1.5 million dollars.
My colleagues and I have been very successful treating private care patients, and injured workers on disability with inflammation, pain and Opioid dependency. So successful, the insurance companies see Cannabis as a solution to chronic pain. I am not naïve enough to think that we will eliminate Opioids immediately from the healthcare system. However, early studies indicate, Cannabis is an antidote to these diseases. Just making Cannabis products available to the public will result in lower medical costs especially Medi-Cal costs. It has been my experience, large numbers of sick people want to be healthy and they will use the resources in front of them to attain that health. The inaction of the LA City Council is not allowing Cannabis related business to open and conform to the new law.
The council’s impotence in making forward motion leaves Doctors unsure how to legally use these solutions. This valid fear of losing their licenses or possible incarceration is limiting my ability to recruit doctors to treat our injured works with Cannabis Products.
If the benefits of Cannabis were not known, I can understand the city's reluctance to move forward. However, we know Cannabis products work in controlling chronic pain and inflammation. Tracy Ryan of Cannakids, as well as many other parents, used these products to save their children from Cancer. The NFL is looking to Cannabis to solve (CTE), Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, made famous by Will Smith in 2015 film Concussion. This devastating brain injury affects 96 percent of ex-players and can be seen in active players. This is just a partial list of the positive effects of Cannabis in the treatment of all diseases.
With all this positive data and no apparent contraindications, legal Cannabis is still restricted from doing business in a safe and regulated way.
Without any alternatives in sight, the cannabis industry is a key to increasing our economy, providing jobs, and decreasing healthcare costs.
Los Angeles must get out of the way of progress; they are affecting our health and economic abundance.