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Patients Want To Talk Marijuana With CDC During Pain Management Meetings

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently announced it is hosting a series of conversations about alternatives to opioid-based pain medications—and a leading medical marijuana advocacy group is working to take advantage of the opportunity to educate the federal government about the benefits of cannabis.

A staffer with Americans for Safe Access (ASA) recently submitted a request to CDC to take part in one of about 100 individual conversations the agency plans to hold about pain management issues with interested parties.

“These stakeholders include patients with acute or chronic pain, patients’ family members and/or caregivers, and healthcare providers who care for patients with pain or conditions that can complicate pain management (e.g., opioid use disorder or overdose),” CDC said in announcing the meetings.

The notice states that the “conversations will help inform CDC’s understanding of stakeholders’ values and preferences related to pain and pain management and will complement CDC’s ongoing work to update or expand the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain.”

Heather Despres, the director of ASA’s Patient Focused Certification program, wrote in a letter to CDC that she’s interested in participating in one of these conversations on “both a personal and a professional level.”

Due to complications from a broken leg and a pregnancy, Despres said that she suffers from chronic pain herself and uses medical marijuana as an alternative to opioid painkillers she’s been prescribed.

“Continuing the use of medical cannabis for this chronic pain has enabled me to continue to take very minor amounts of opioids for high pain days and use cannabis for low pain days,” she said.

From a professional standpoint, Despres said she could bring valuable perspective to CDC based on her experience working with and advocating for patient access to marijuana through her role at ASA.

“Americans for Safe Access is a 501c3 non-profit whose mission since 2002 has been to help patients access medical cannabis,” she wrote. “This is done through activism and lobbying at both the state and federal levels. ASA hears from patients daily about how medical cannabis has helped to ease their reliance on opioid pain medications.”

“I would welcome the opportunity to discuss chronic pain management with cannabis instead of opioids with you and to explore more ways to help reduce the need for opioid medications,” the letter concludes.

The deadline to submit a request for a meeting is Friday, and ASA Executive Director Debbie Churgai told Marijuana Moment that the organization plans to send additional requests before the end of the week, and is urging others to do so as well.

“CDC’s solicitation provides an important and rare opportunity for patients to share their personal experiences regarding the use of medical cannabis to manage pain with a federal agency,” she said. “We highly encourage cannabis patients, caregivers, and physicians to seize this opportunity to weigh in on the future of cannabis in pain management by sharing how cannabis can be used as a form of harm reduction in treating opioid addiction, and highlighting case studies demonstrating the effectiveness of cannabis in treating chronic pain.”

If they’re selected, the ASA representatives will have 45-60 minutes to share their perspectives as it relates to several themes CDC laid out in a Federal Register notice announcing the meetings. Here are those themes:

-Experiences managing pain, which might include benefits, risks, and/or harms of pain management options.

-Experiences choosing among pain management options, including considering factors such as each option’s accessibility, cost, benefits, and/or risks.

-Experiences getting information needed to make pain management decisions.

Healthcare providers, patients and family members interested in requesting a meeting with CDC can send their information to [email protected].

CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control previously sought input on “individual stakeholder’s values and preferences related to pain and pain management options” as part of a separate objective. It received hundreds of comments related to medical marijuana and more than one thousand concerning kratom.

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Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Sacramento-based senior editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

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