Marijuana is medicine. This plant-based treatment should be an accessible and affordable healthcare choice for all patients. Scientific data supports its use to treat specific ailments or conditions — research has shown, for example, that it’s an exceptionally effective treatment for seizures and chronic pain.

This plant can be used in many forms of application or ingestion. My professional team at National Holistic Healing Center (NHHC), a medical marijuana dispensary serving over 10,000 patients in the Washington D.C. area, recommends specific strains with known benefits to treat depression, insomnia, ADHD, pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, and many more ailments. Like any medicine, marijuana must be prescribed and dosed properly. Cannabis is still classified as a dangerous Schedule 1 drug and made federally illegal by the government, meaning patients typically cannot travel outside their medical state with therapeutic cannabis. But thanks to recent reciprocity laws, NHHC and other local dispensaries can now treat patients from over 17 states, including Pennsylvania, which is helpful for patients traveling to D.C.

This cutting-edge approach to personalized care is also offered at Ilera Healthcare, a Pennsylvania medical dispensary, to better suit patients' specific needs. All marijuana strains contain cannabinoids, the natural chemical components of the marijuana plant — including THC and CBD — which support balance and stability throughout the body and its endocannabinoid system. But each strain also has unique benefits. For example, Lemon Skunk — a title that reflects the industry’s unconventional naming system — has a natural lemon smell derived from the organic compound limonene. Limonene has inherent benefits, such as being an antidepressant and a diuretic that can regulate blood pressure.

Patients currently have some access to these options in the 33 states, plus D.C., that allow medical marijuana use. But as 10 of those states have recognized, a pure medical system is not enough. Many patients cannot afford to go to the doctor to obtain the required prescriptions for medical use, or can’t afford the payments themselves. For those who can afford to go through this structure, most Department of Health Medical Marijuana Programs require patients to register and provide detailed personal information, which is sensitive due to the stigma of marijuana usage. Thus patients in some instances will resort to the black market, which lacks the regulatory compliance of tested medication and security measures.

More importantly, the unregulated market does not provide the education, diversity, or consistency of strains and products necessary to provide individualized care. Patients deserve informed access to different strains that can provide optimal healthcare choices for their specific conditions.

Another path to that care would be federal legalization of strictly medical marijuana. But that wouldn’t do the job either. If not properly implemented, that process could make it challenging to maintain economic equality state to state.

For example, Oregon had a surplus of medical marijuana last year which drove the legal market price down significantly. If the Oregon surplus was shipped to Pennsylvania dispensaries, or other states that lack mass production due to the immature local market, the law of supply and demand would allow a low-cost Oregon strain with comparable quality to be sold cheaper than locally produced products. Thus local entrepreneurs and business owners could run the risk of losing a large share of their business to larger players. Individual states should maintain the right to regulate their own markets to ensure that the benefits of jobs, businesses, and tax and regulation are all seen by the residents and constituents of these communities.

More and more states are taking advantage of that right to enforce their own marijuana laws. The best way to give their residents safer, more effective healthcare options is recreational legalization.

Chanda Macias, MBA, PhD, is the owner and CEO of National Healing Holistic Center.