Should They Allow Cannabis In Jail? – CBD Instead

Should They Allow Cannabis In Jail?

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With the use of medical marijuana becoming legal throughout the country, should this be extended to inmates as well? Statistically speaking, there are more people with mental health conditions in jail than out. There are also people who commit crimes who suffer from chronic pain or physical illnesses. Would cannabis be a viable option for inmates?

Jail is supposed to be a place for punishment, so why would we let criminals have cannabis if it gets you high? You can use medical cannabis without having the intoxicating effect associated with THC. Letting inmates use cannabis isn’t to say they should be able to roll up a joint and relax, instead, they should be allowed access to a safe medical alternative. Hemp oil could be the solution to those incarcerated and ill because it can offer the relief without the high.

The Mentally Ill in Jail

A study revealed that in prison, 1 in 3 inmates are likely to be diagnosed with at least one mental illness. When it came to serious mental health conditions, 14.5% of men and 31% of women in jail had a diagnosis, opposed to the general population’s 4.1%. This isn’t to say that if you have a mental illness, you will probably commit a crime and go to jail. But there does seem to be a correlation between reckless or violent behavior and poor mental health.

What is Considered a Serious Mental Illness?

There is a list of mental health disorders that are considered to be serious because of how debilitating they can be for long periods of time. These disorders usually involve psychosis and can require hospital attention. Though not everyone with a serious mental illness becomes violent or reckless, it seems to be a trend behind bars.


Many people with schizophrenia can have a hard time thinking, behaving, and speaking clearly. Their distance from our reality brings odd behaviors that range from silly to violent. A common symptom of schizophrenia is having sensory hallucinations meaning they hear, see, smell, taste, or feel something that isn’t there.  

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder is when the person has extreme highs and lows that can last for weeks to months at a time. During their intense emotional episodes, they lose touch with reality and can become either manic or extremely depressed. Often people with this disorder show impulsive or reckless behavior that can either be turned in on themselves or outwards towards others.

Pervasive Developmental Disorder

Pervasive Developmental Disorder is when the person doesn’t develop necessary social or communication skills. The most popular form of this disorder is Autism which is four times more prevalent in jails than in our outside population.  

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is when a person can’t stop thinking unwanted thoughts that drive them to certain behaviors. While many people with OCD might not lean towards violence, this disorder can make the person have reoccurring aggressive thoughts towards themselves or others.

Panic Disorder

A panic disorder is when someone feels fear at high levels for no apparent reason. They can abrupt into a full-on panic attack out of nowhere, which can range from hyperventilating to crying, to having violent outbursts.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

For those who have PTSD, they have experienced a traumatic event, and their mind is on edge at all times. Some patients may just withdraw and isolate themselves from the terrifying world, while others may act out violently during their episodes.

Mental Health Care in Jails

Mental illness is not an excuse for someone’s behavior, but it is an explanation. While punishment should still be the primary function of the criminal justice system, the issue may lie in missing the rehabilitation opportunities with having such a dense population of sick people in one controlled space.   

Individuals with mental illness stay in jail longer with the same exact charges as other inmates who have no diagnosis. They also take longer to make bail if they can make it at all. Many people with mental health disorders will sit in jail while awaiting their arraignment while other inmates have been long gone in the outside world waiting for theirs. This means that they are being exposed to the inside jail walls longer than their healthier counterparts and it’s taking its toll on them. It has become so common to fall into a depression that the leading cause of death in jail is suicide.

Prison Violence

Being in jail for more extended periods of time means that the probability of you become assaulted is much higher. Your risk gets even high when you have a mental health disorder considering they suffer from more injuries in jail than their healthier counterparts.  

A study done on inmates with prison violence showed that 21% of male inmates are physically assaulted within a six month period. 2-5% of these accounts include sexual assault. In 40% of these cases, a physical injury was the result. 50% of these assaults were from a staff member. Unfortunately, it isn’t just the inmates who are trying to run the playground and show dominance.

Prisoners In Pain

Aside from people having a mental disorder, there are people with chronic pain conditions that are also sitting in jail. Just like us they have endured serious injuries or have chronic conditions that cause them pain. If the conditions are severe enough, these inmates get access to narcotics to help reduce their symptoms.

A study with 210 inmates older than 55 were asked about their pain levels. 75% of them reported symptoms. At the end of this study, 87% of the inmates received analgesics, and 70% received opioids to help treat their pain. When you are in jail, you get what you can get. You can deny the pills and be in agonizing pain while sitting around thinking about it in your cell, or you can take them for some relief.

How Can Weed Help Inmates?

Medical marijuana has shown in studies that it can help treat many symptoms of psychosis. If an inmate is suffering from being in the wrong mind, rehabilitation is going to be a lot harder to accomplish than if they are thinking rationally.

For inmates with less severe mental health conditions, medical cannabis can help with anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, and even addiction. Using hemp oil in correctional facilities can help bring these people back to earth and realize how to change their lives to better our society.

Cannabis is also a pain reliever, helps with gastrointestinal issues, heart issues, bone health, and so much more that could be helping these people get back on their feet and become productive members of society instead of being caught in the local jail house’s revolving door.

Why Put Weed In Jails?

Inmates lose many rights when they go to jail. They lose their right to go outside whenever they want. Some of them lose their right to vote or own a firearm. Some inmates even lose their right to live in some states under extreme circumstances. But people in jail are still covered by the 8th amendment which states they have a right to competent medical care.

Considering that long-term opioid use leads to addiction and health consequences, it would make sense that competent medical care would be a medication that doesn’t wreak havoc on the body. Using medical marijuana in place of all of the prescription pills could even be a cheaper option for the jails, giving them more funding towards rehabilitation for the inmates.

Why Rehabilitate?

One clue that could point to the need for rehabilitation is that people who get arrested and go to jail generally get arrested again. In a study that revealed statistics on criminals reentering the system, 67.8% of the inmates were rearrested within the next three years. 76.6% were rearrested in the next five. The top three offenders who make their ways into their familiar jail cell in order are property offenders, drug offenders, and violent offenders.

The Thing About Drug Offenders

Almost half of the inmates doing time are in jail for a drug-related charge. And what drugs are these people being caught with? In 2016, there were more arrests for marijuana than all violent crimes. The arrests for marijuana were higher than any other illicit drug. The most arrests involved in drug offenses was possession of marijuana. A lot of these criminals being kept from taking cannabis for medication are in there for cannabis.

Is CBD Oil The Solution?

We don’t want inmates getting intoxicated; this is why instead of Xanax they get Vistaril. When they get their pain medication, someone watches them swallow it, so they don’t stockpile it to save for a high. They take these precautions, and they can do the same with medical marijuana by utilizing CBD oil.

CBD oil has many of the same benefits of full cannabinoid cannabis without the high from THC. While THC directly binds to the CB1 receptor, cannabidiol instead stimulates the cannabinoids by elevating organic chemicals in our brains called endocannabinoids. This proposition hasn’t made its way into facilities yet, but it could be in our future.


Sarah Potts


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  • Hey Vanessa,
    I’m sorry your family is going through that, your brother must be having a tough time in there with all of those issues. It would be a different story if most jails were capable of treating illness and helping people cope with pain, but unfortunately, we aren’t there yet. But we can’t stop the fight to getting these people the help they need! Thank you so much for your input.
    CBD Instead

    CBD Instead on

  • My brother is serving a life sentence and has PTSD, ADHD and was shot twice so he also suffers from chronic pain. I was just thinking about how it would be of great benefit to have cbd made available even if it is at their own expense via commissary. Great article, I will be following this topic.

    Vanessa Deanda on

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