Evolving research indicates that marijuana is an invaluable medical aid in the treatment of many health conditions. Pain relief stands out as the cannabis plant’s most useful function. Neuropathy issues such as sciatica, spasticity, seizures, and movement disorders have shown significant improvement after using medical marijuana.
Medical Marijuana Safety and Efficacy
Cannabis is safe for human consumption and poses very few side effects, unlike many pharmaceutical drugs. Even with marijuana over-usage, no deaths have ever been reported when the plant is used in its pure form. The Cannabis Consumption Story, which has been published in the Substance and Mental Health Services Administration annual report, clearly shows it is physically impossible for a person to die of a cannabis overdose. The safety of medical marijuana makes it an invaluable tool to treat chronic pain and medical conditions. Unlike standard opioids which can easily be misused and result in an overdose death.
History of Medical Marijuana
Since 2700 BC, documentation shows that cannabis has always been a therapeutic, safe, and effective botanical for health problems. Many medical journals throughout Europe, from 1840 onward, illustrate the medical benefits of cannabis. In 1915, the Eli Lily pharmaceutical company manufactured and sold popular marijuana-laden tinctures for the treatment of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) in women. Marijuana was listed in the American Medical Pharmacopoeia up until 1942 as a standard pharmaceutical drug used to treat a variety of health conditions.
In the 1930s, the U.S. federal government instigated the Marijuana Prohibition. Many people today believe that the prohibition was pushed and funded by big tobacco and alcohol companies which wanted to do away with marijuana use because they viewed it as direct competition to their products. Also, it was believed that the Bureau of Drugs and Alcohol needed funding to stay operational after alcohol prohibition ended so they set their sights on cannabis.
Black Labeling Marijuana
The federal government set to black label marijuana nationwide by funding a smear campaign to push fear. They focused-on criminalizing African American musicians in New Orleans and Hispanics in Mexico by stating they all smoked weed, and it induced what was called ‘reefer madness.’ Reefer madness was a form of hysteria they claimed that caused addiction and crime. The government demanded that marijuana be removed from the American Medical Pharmacopoeia and made an illegal and highly dangerous drug.
Where is Marijuana Legal?
Nowadays times are changing. Marijuana remains illegal on a federal level, but as of 2018, ten states and Washington, DC, have legalized marijuana for recreational use for adults over 21. An additional 33 states have legalized medical marijuana. Canada has also legalized recreational marijuana nationwide, and Mexico is forecast also to follow their example. Medical marijuana is available in Germany, Israel, and the Netherlands. Israel continues to be a pioneer in researching the benefits of medical marijuana.
Medical Marijuana and the ECS
All mammals have an endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS has cannabinoid receptors; CB1 and CB2 that perform a variety of functions such as controlling the immune system and the central nervous system. When ingested, the cannabinoids found in cannabis bind with the ECS receptors to reduce pain, inflammation, promote restful sleep, and other health benefits.
Types of Cannabis Plants
There are two distinct types of cannabis and many strains/hybrids that have been created.
- Cannabis Indica: Cannabis Indica is known to have a sedating, relaxing, and calming effect on users.
- Cannabis Sativa: Strains of Cannabis sativa tend to be exhilarating and uplifting. They spur creativity.
- Hybrids: Hybrids are a mix of the two strains that fall somewhere in between. The types vary in traits inherited from the parent plants.
Cannabis and Cannabinoids
All types of cannabis are rich in compounds such as cannabinoids. Cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) remain the two main types of cannabinoids. Unlike THC, CBD has no psychoactive properties. Many people turn to CBD dominate strains to treat a variety of health conditions without experiencing the ‘high’ associated with THC dominate strains.
Is Hemp Also Marijuana?
Many people become confused and think that hemp is different than cannabis, but they are the same plant. Hemp has just been bred to have extraordinarily little THC but retains elevated levels of CBD. Marijuana that is classified as hemp also lacks many of the terpenes favored by cannabis connoisseurs. It is not as healthy or as beneficial since it does not have the same terpene compounds as cannabis. Hemp tends to be grown on a large industrial scale and is used to create CBD products.
Cannabis Dosage Varies
When taking marijuana, the user must remember that there exists no set dosage. Many people choose strains that are a 1:1 ratio of CBD/THC for widespread use. However, as more studies reveal the various methods of cannabis researchers have noted that rates such as 1:20 for CBD/THC works well when treating cancers, auto-immune diseases, and to stop the side effects of chemotherapy.
Pharmaceuticals and Marijuana Comparison
Many physicians now suggest that a patient first start using cannabis before seeking treatment with more potent pharmaceutical drugs. This is especially true for pain sufferers who want an alternative to opioid-type drugs. Dr. Allan Frankel M.D. says, “Many prescription drugs approved by FDA have far greater potential to turn you into a “junkie” or cause “legal drug addiction.” These drugs are “taking over lives” in record numbers. Frankel goes on to say, “marijuana is overall a benign substance.”
To compare marijuana with pharmaceutical drugs:
- NSAID’s (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen, Celebrex, and Aleve are analgesics. Most people use NSAIDs to treat minor to medium pain. NSAIDs are used to reduce the symptoms of arthritis. They have side effects like stomach irritation, ulcers, kidney damage, heartburn, and headaches. Marijuana has very few side effects.
- Anti-depressants, muscle relaxants for depression and pain also have extensive and often extreme side effects plus are addictive. Cannabis is not addictive.
- Corticosteroids to reduce inflammation are hard on the stomach, increases blood pressure, causes weight gain, and shifts blood sugar. They also can cause more depression, cataracts, and osteoporosis. Marijuana is an effective anti-inflammatory with few, if any, side effects.
- Opioids for pain are addictive, make you sleepy and impair your balance. Many users become addicted and overdose.
The Pharmaceutical Industry Fights Legalized Marijuana
Unfortunately, the pharmaceutical industry continues its 80-year battle to keep marijuana illegal on a federal level because they stand to lose billions in profits. A common complaint of marijuana opponents is that ‘there is no science’ to back up the benefits of the plant. However, this is just not true. Around the world, innumerable innovative researchers are performing clinical trials that focus on cannabis. In every situation, marijuana has been found to be beneficial.
Is Marijuana a ‘Gateway’ Drug?
Many other critics of marijuana call it a ‘gateway drug.’ However, such proclamations are nothing more than myths put forth to scare. Consistent research shows that most marijuana users do not go on to use cocaine or opioids. Unlike methamphetamines and opiates, the marijuana user does not become hopelessly addicted and pushed to use higher and more lethal doses of the drug to obtain relief. Interestingly, many prescription drugs such as antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, and pain relievers are highly addictive.
Cannabis used responsibly improves lives. The plant’s healing properties take center stage and have become indisputable. However, cocaine, heroin, prescription opioids, and meth have claimed millions of lives around the world. Times are changing, but they need to change at a national level. The United States must embrace marijuana in a similar fashion as Canada and take note of its success.
Cindy Burrows, B.S., M.T., Herbalist and Nutritional Health Consultant. Cindy is a speaker, writer, and entrepreneur of several businesses.