What is Medical Marijuana, and is it different from Recreational Cannabis?
Cannabis, or marijuana, has been around for pretty much forever. The plant seems to have evolved along with us humans over many thousands of years.
One of the earliest discoveries of Man’s connection with cannabis goes back to Siberia, over 3,000 years ago. Charred seeds were found interred within burial mounds in the area along with human remains.
Many early civilizations, including the Chinese, used cannabis as a medicine, and in various civilizations and cultures its use was prevalent through most of history.
Cannabis was widely cultivated in the US and the extracts were used in many common medicines. The plant was also valued as a source of fiber for rope and paper making as well as stock feed. Of course, the THC or CBD content would have been of little interest to these producers, but the plant is essentially the same.
George Washington himself farmed hemp on his Mount Vernon property.
So when, and why, did marijuana become illegal?
I’ve covered this and some related issues in my homepage article. It basically goes back to the “Reefer Madness” propaganda of the 1930’s.
In addition, cannabis was classified as a Class 1 drug by the US Federal Government in 1970. This puts it in the same category as heroin and other highly addictive and dangerous drugs. Around the world, many countries followed the US model.
The upshot of this legislation is that anyone who wished to research the medical applications would in effect be breaking the law. This situation has persisted until fairly recent times.
These days though, more and more researchers, around the world are investigating this curious plant and unearthing some surprizing results.
Around half of the US States have legalized cannabis for medical use. In addition to this, a majority of Americans favor legalized recreational use.
Uruguay has become the first country to actually legalize recreational marijuana use and possession. The only restrictions are that you can only buy weed if you are registered. Registered users can then purchase up to 10 grams a week, from a pharmacy. In The Netherlands, despite public folklore, it is still technically illegal for casual use but as we all know, widely and openly available.
So is this age-old plant finally shrugging off its long reputation as the “Assassin of Youth” to become a mainstay of modern medicine? Maybe so.
Let’s look at what researchers have discovered so far.
Researchers have uncovered a broad spectrum of chemicals in cannabis. The most widely known is tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. This, the main ingredient that produces the “high”, was discovered way back in 1963 by Raphael Mechoulam. Mechoulam was a research chemist working at the Weizmann Institute in Israel.
He and his colleagues also isolated cannabidiol (CBD), another complex chemical which has no psychoactive effect but promises many medical benefits. THC and CBD appear to work in harmony, but with most health benefits coming from strains with low THC and higher CBD.
Here’s a link to a video in which Dr Mechoulam discusses the medical applications of cannabis.
Following is a list of just a few ailments and illnesses where cannabis has been shown to be of benefit:
1. Alzheimer’s Disease.
According to a recent report by the Scripps Research Institute, marijuana can help slow the progression of age related ailments and some forms of dementia. Alzheimer’s, and other diseases, are thought to result from brain inflammation and marijuana is one of the safest anti-inflammatories shown to work wonders for some patients.
Marijuana is proven to have an incredible effect in alleviating pain and inflammation linked to arthritis and many other inflammatory conditions. THC and CBD in conjunction with other cannabinoids can help sufferers deal with acute pain much more safely than opoids such as morphine, or NSAID’s, with much lower addiction issues.
Tests at Harvard Medical School have shown that this herb may possess anti-anxiety effects. It’s known to have been used successfully to alleviate anxiety disorders by several doctors and naturopaths.
4. Inflammatory Bowel Disease.
I would appear that patients suffering from inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease can reap many benefits from marijuana use. CBD and THC working in tandem have been shown to react with cells in the body that play a very important role in gut function. These compounds help in tightening the intestinal cell bonds.
Cannabis is known to contain over 60 cannabinoids. THC, the primary chemical ingredient in marijuana is thought to be the most useful in the treatment of nausea. It is most effective when used as a treatment for drug or chemical-induced sickness.
6. Aids in treating Hepatitis C.
Hepatitis C is a dreaded disease and the treatment is all too often very harsh. Medications can induce nausea, fatigue, loss of appetite, and depression. These can last for several months. Many people are unable to finish the course of treatment owing to the extreme side effects. The good news is that pot can be used to lessen these side effects and improve the efficacy of hepatitis C therapy.
7. Help with weight loss.
Marijuana can help you lose weight. Yep, given what we all know about the munchies that may sound hard to believe, but you heard it right. Cannabis helps the body in regulating the production of insulin and thus helps manage caloric intake more efficiently which in turn will make you slimmer than non-users. (You just need to find a way to resist that packet of choccie biccies stashed in the pantry).
8. Bone Strength.
Another exciting find about this controversial drug is that it can actually help to repair broken bones. CBD reacts with collagen and spurs the healing process.
Other diseases where cannabis has been shown to give benefit include claucoma and Tourette’s syndrome. Even some forms of cancer. The list is growing all the time.
Marijuana has definitely been shown to have more health benefits than meets the eye. Users need, however, to have access to quality products. Products that are not adulterated with dubious additives aimed at giving a false high and maybe contributing to addiction. Legalization and control of marijuana would help here, by removing most of the criminal element and the incentives to “upsell”.
Be wary, also, of the fact that many legal and non-legal suppliers seem to have easy access to weed so strong Timothy Leary would think twice. (If you don’t know who that is – ask your grandfather)
Remember, where medical use is concerned, low THC and high CBD is the way to go. This usually means an Indica strain, though that’s not necessarily a hard and fast rule.
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