How we see the world shapes who we choose to be — and sharing compelling experiences can frame the way we treat each other, for the better. This is a powerful perspective.

For many folks living with a chronic illness or a disability, like myself, we’re often just looking for something that can help us with our symptoms.

Yet, we’ve exhausted every resource and have tried nearly everything on the market. Many people will, as a result, look to cannabis as an alternative.

People with disabilities represent one of the largest, yet most underrepresented marginalized groups in the world. Around 15 percent of the world’s population, or 1 billion people, live with a disability.

Knowing this, the cannabis industry has begun capitalizing on this fact, staking its claim in the health and wellness market — and demonizing prescription medications in favor of CBD or THC in the process.

In doing so, they’ve created a narrative that’s harming anyone who continues to use prescription medications.

I will be the first person to admit that I use cannabis — and I believe that CBD works. I was diagnosed with epilepsy at the age of 12 and have been able to manage my seizure activity with two different types of prescription medicines.

In 2016, I was diagnosed with complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) and have been using CBD to help with my own recovery process. There are times when I may feel triggered and will take a toke off my Pax 3, or I will pack some CBD gel caps into my purse to bring along with me while trying to cope with the stress and anxiety of everyday life.

But while CBD has changed my life, I don’t think I would be able to live without my prescription medicine.

On days when I go without my seizure medication, my brain and body know. And although cannabis has been able to help many people with Dravet syndrome, a life-threatening form of epilepsy, I still turn to prescription meds.

The cannabis industry has chosen a judgmental, all-or-nothing narrative when it comes to prescription medication

It’s true that medical studies have linked cannabis to managing symptoms for various conditions, from epilepsy and chronic pain to migraines. There have even been studies that suggest cannabis may help those who are looking to come off opioids.

Yet, rather than provide a balanced view of the benefits of both prescription medication and cannabis, much of the cannabis industry has gone with the “all-or-nothing” approach.

Brands within the industry have begun using various marketing techniques with both subtle and not-so-subtle taglines like, “hello marijuana, goodbye anxiety” and “plants over pills.”

Meanwhile, cannabis publications are pushing highly charged op-eds with the intent of pitting prescription drugs against medical marijuana. High Times, for example, published their own piece in 2017 titled, “10 Reasons Pot Is Better Than Prescription Drugs.”

In it, the writer states: “It’s not simply a matter of [medical marijuana] being superior to Rx, which it most certainly is; it’s the sheer scope of dominance that the healing herb has over deadly and addictive medications that are so mind-blowing.”

Spreading false narratives about prescription drugs places judgement on those who continue to use them

Making sweeping statements, like the one above, creates even more stigma around the use of prescription medications to help treat symptoms for those with chronic conditions or disabilities.

“Making claims that plants are better than pills is wildly irresponsible,” Matthew Cortland, a disabled, chronically ill writer and lawyer based in Massachusetts, tells Healthline. “I don’t understand the marketing rationale behind it. This stuff sells itself. [Yes], the medical-industrial complex will oftentimes fail patients and that’s when patients turn to alternative treatments, like cannabis. [But] the plant should only be used to control or manage symptoms, it’s not a replacement for other pharmaceuticals.”

While it’s entirely possible that this newly formed industry means no intentional harm, by positioning that cannabis will better serve the user, they’re playing further into this stigma.

Moreover, by spreading a false narrative that implies cannabis is inherently safer, less toxic, and more helpful than pharmaceuticals, these companies are playing into this ableist notion that they know what’s best for those living with a disability or medical professionals.

As a result, folks from the disabled community will frequently face prejudicial attitudes, negative stereotyping, and stigma for the way they choose to handle their care.

A quick look at various cannabis-based threads and posts on social media reveals anywhere from judgmental to hostile opinions toward prescription medication and those who take them.

What many people don’t realize, though, is that unsolicited medical advice is downright disrespectful and oftentimes harsh.

In my experience, I’ve seen people suggest acupuncture for chronic pain, mindful meditation for stress, and yoga for depression. While any of these could act as ways to help with chronic illness, disabilities, and mental health, they’re not end-all solutions.

The same goes for cannabis. It’s unrealistic to believe there’s just one magic cure — particularly for those with a chronic illness or disability.

Folks shouldn’t be shamed into choosing how they manage their symptoms

There’s no denying that cannabis has the power to treat and help many of us — but so do prescription medications.

It doesn’t empower anyone when we start to pit prescription medicine users against cannabis users.

You may think you’re being helpful by pushing cannabis on someone because a full-spectrum CBD oil helped out your joint pain or the girl scout cookies strain helped with your anxiety.

The truth is: We need to fully consider who we’re speaking with and if they want to find this cure (aka cannabis) for their ailments.

For some folks, prescription medicines are absolutely necessary for them to live, day to day. Rather than shaming someone, we should be providing them with the necessary information regarding treatment so that they’re able to make choices that are right for them.


Amanda (Ama) Scriver is a freelance journalist best known for being fat, loud, and shouty on the internet. Her writing has appeared in Buzzfeed, The Washington Post, FLARE, National Post, Allure, and Leafly. She lives in Toronto. You can follow her on Instagram.