A Comprehensive Guide to the History of Medical Marijuana and Its Current Benefits Today
Many politicians and the general public have been scrutinizing marijuana for the past couple of months with the legalization of hemp, which is derived from the cannabis plant, in the Farm Bill of 2018. Hemp doesn’t get you high, but it does have the properties to help you feel better. This is the exact same reason why some forms of medical marijuana is now legal in 33 states and the District of Columbia.
Oklahoma was the most recent state to pass medical marijuana laws, with 90% of the voters in support of medical cannabis. The passing of this law in such a conservative state proves that cannabis, marijuana, and all its forms are slowly but surely becoming mainstream. The use of marijuana can be a bit tricky because what is accepted in some states, may be different from what is acceptable in another state. On top of that, the federal government still sees marijuana as illegal so there is still some bit of confusion. This is the reason why people need to learn more about this all natural and alternative drug therapy. Read on below to find out more about it.
Looking Back to History
The legal history of marijuana has placed it in the Schedule 1 Category of Drugs, which is deemed as the most dangerous forms of drugs by the Federal Government. People tend to lose their control when they take these drugs that have absolutely no medical value. On top of that, they are habit forming. Other drugs that used to share the spot with marijuana are heroine, ecstasy, and cocaine, which can all severely affect the health of people who take them. But now, medical marijuana is legal in many areas, and it is considered an alternative and all natural solution to many diseases and chronic illnesses.
Now, the questions begs to be asked, if marijuana has a lot of medicinal benefits which can be traced as far back as the ancient Greek period and the Chinese Dynasties, how did it end up in the Schedule 1 list of banned substances? To understand the whole scenario, only history can answer the mystery. In the early 1900s, post Mexican Revolution, there was an influx of Mexican immigrants into bordering states like Texas and Louisiana. These new migrants possessed their own language, culture, and traditions. One of these controversial customs was the use of cannabis as a medicine and relaxant.
These new migrants referred to this plant as “marihuana”, while Americans were familiar with this plant as “cannabis” because it was present in all tinctures and medications at that time. Because people are generally fearful of something knew, they began to think negatively of these people and their customs, failing to realize that they already have this plant in their medicine cabinets. The demonizing of the cannabis plant is akin to the banning of opium many years before as an attempt to control the Chinese immigrants who brought into the US soil.
Controlling and Restricting the “Illicit” Substance
As callous as it may sound, the idea of making marijuana evil was to search, detain, and eventually deport these immigrants back into Mexico. In the 1930s several hearings regarding marijuana laws were conducted, and controversial testimonies made claims that marijuana use was the reason colored men transformed to become more violent and sexually explicit. This became the driving force of the Marijuana Act of 1973, which banned marijuana use and sales.
Years later, this act was rendered as unconstitutional, but it was just taken over by the Controlled Substances Act in the 1970s. This is responsible for establishing the Schedules that people are now familiar with today. The drugs are classified according to their possible negative effects to the takers, as well as their propensity for turning the takers into addicts. Cannabis was then placed in the most restrictive classification, the Schedule 1. It was supposedly temporary as they tried to make sense out of the plant, its properties, and its possible benefits.
Back then at the around same period, the Schafer Commission, which was formally known as the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse, was appointed by President Nixon to carry out the much needed research. The Schafer commission issued a report on their findings in 1972, declaring that marijuana should not even be in the Schedule 1 and that they doubted its identification as an illegitimate substance. Unfortunately, this report was ignored by the White House and they disregarded the recommendations contained therewith, which is why marijuana remained in Schedule 1.
The First Sign of Progress Towards Approval
The decriminalization of marijuana was first felt in the state of Oregon in 1973. This means criminal penalties with personal marijuana use became more lax. Many other states followed Oregon, lowering the sting from anti-marijuana laws. But decriminalization is not the same as legalization because the latter not only allowed individuals to possess marijuana, they also permit legal production and sale of the substance.
It was only in 1996, when the notion that marijuana was an insignificant substance with no medical value was put to a grand and public test. The state of California at that time pushed for the approval of the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes, stating that it has thousands of years in history as a natural healing and therapeutic agent across many countries and cultures. Opponents of medical marijuana insist that the risk of abuse is high and there is not enough research to warrant marijuana use for medical purposes, but its long history was used as basis for evidence regarding its medical efficacy.
Imagine, for many decades, marijuana was banned in all the 50 states of the United States of America. But with the approval of medical marijuana in California, other states slowly began to see this plant’s many benefits. Just like dominoes that are lined up, as the first domino toppled, it caused a chain reaction that made one fall on top of the other. What began as decriminalization, ended up in legalization, and now, marijuana use is slowly being accepted as the norm.
That being said, the marijuana plant as a whole remains as a controlled substance under the federal law. Marijuana is still illegal for the federal government and that can create a bit of confusion. Even if states have legalized some form of marijuana use, the government can prosecute violations of applicable federal laws. To illustrate, even if a patient has a prescription, the TSA or Transport Security Administration will not allow cannabis in anyone’s luggage.
Currently, the US FDA or food and drug administration has not approved the marijuana plant as a medicine for treating a specific condition. However, there are now two FDA-approved medications with cannabinoids in pill form. For example, Epidiolex with cannabinoids is used for helping alleviate the symptoms of epilepsy. Cannabinoids are the chemical components that can be found in cannabis or marijuana. Now, there is continued research in the hopes to provide more medication coming from this natural source.
Marijuana Use Today
All except four states have drafted some kind of medical marijuana law. That being said, only 16 states permit the legal utilization of cannabidiol (CBD) or medical cannabis that has very low tetrahydrocannabinol (TCH) concentration on its ingredient list. CBD and TCH are both chemical components of the cannabis plant. CBD is not psychoactive, meaning it doesn’t produce any of feared mind-altering changes like mental highs, hallucinations, and addiction. THC, in contrast, is the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis that causes all those alterations.
These 16 states are not included in the count of states that have legalized medical marijuana because of their strict laws the has levied limits on the form and manner of how marijuana can be used and dispensed for medicinal purposes. Thirty-three states, however, permit patients to have broader access to marijuana use to treat their medical ailments.
Ten states and Washington DC have cannabis laws that permit legal use of marijuana for both medical and recreational reasons. In those jurisdictions, individuals do not need a prescription to avail of marijuana. As a potential user, it is the responsibility of the person procuring marijuana to read up on the laws to make sure that what he or she is doing is legal in the state and federal level. Ignorance of the law excuses no one.
The Low Down on the States
Medical marijuana is legal in 33 states and the District of Columbia:
District of Columbia
States that permitted restricted use only are the following: Alabama, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
Benefits of Medical Marijuana
Medical marijuana uses the cannabis plant or its chemicals in treating many conditions, illnesses, and diseases. The plant contains hundreds of different chemicals called cannabinoids. Each of them have different effects on the body. Research suggests that some of these cannabinoids are actually similar to chemicals that already exist in the body or that the body makes, which are involved in affecting memory, movement, pain, and appetite. These cannabinoids affect people when they connect with cells called receptors. As such, medical marijuana is used to treat many of the following conditions:
- Disease’s of the mind like Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and Parkinson’s disease
- Mental health issues like bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder
- Eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia
- It can impede sell growth to help arrest cancer tumor growth, including its symptoms and effects of its treatments
- It is used to treat disease of the immune system like multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, HIV, and AIDS
- It addresses pain, appetite loss, nausea, vomiting, muscle spasms, and the like
Addresses seizure disorders like epilepsy
- It can treat inflammation, glaucoma, Chrohn’s disease, Wasting syndrome, and many more
Take note that there are numerous kinds of cannabis strains but all of them are collectively called as cannabis. Since many different types of cannabis plant and its plant derivatives share the same name, the term medical cannabis is so easily misunderstood. A cannabis plant can consists of up to more than 400 different chemical components. Hundreds of these are cannabinoids. To illustrate, government approved cannabis medications contain only one or 2 chemicals. It is vital that patients verify and discuss their treatment paths with their medical professionals to be clear on all the possible effects of each ingredient.
Possible Side Effects of this Alternative Medication
Just like pharmaceutical drugs, medical marijuana is also reported to have some side effects. Some of them are bloodshot eyes, low blood pressure, hallucinations, fast heart rate, light headed feeling, and mild depression. It has also been noted to affect judgement and coordination, which has the potential to result in accidents and injuries. If used in children and teens who are still growing, it has the capacity to affect their IQ and mental development. Take note that all these side effects vary. Not every effect will be felt and the degree to which it manifests also varies. Doctors will prescribe medical marijuana only after careful consideration of the patient’s history. Sometimes, the side effects are minimal and the benefits far outweigh the negatives, so treatment is continued.
Can Patients Get Addicted to It
Unfortunately, doctors don’t have data about the addiction risk for people who use marijuana for medical purposes. This is rather ironic because cannabis has been around as an alternative herbal form of treatment for many centuries. Now, this area is still considered a new branch of science that needs more study.
Additionally, there have not been many tests and experiments conducted on a large group of people. And scientists need a lot of test participants to generate reliable data from which they can draw conclusions from. Since marijuana was under the Schedule 1 for so long, there has not been enough research and experiments conducted regarding it.
It must be noted, though, that people who used marijuana in the past to get a buzz can go on to misuse it when they are prescribed it for a medical condition. The most common problem is growing dependent on the drug. If patients abruptly stop using it, they can feel what are knows as symptoms of withdrawal.
How it is Medical Marijuana Used
There are many ways to take medical marijuana. You can:
- Smoke the leaves like a cigarette
- Inhale it via a vaporizer that transforms it into a fine mist
- Eat it because it can come in a brownie, lollipop, candy, and even gummy bears
- Apply it topically to the skin because it can come in a cream, lotion, oil, or spray
- Use a tincture by placing a few drops of the liquid sublingually (or underneath the tongue)
Take note that how a person takes it can depend on the recommendation of the doctor or personal preference. Each mode of intake has a different effect on the body. Smoking and inhaling cannabis have very quick reaction times. If it is ingested, it will take much longer because it needs to pass through the digestive system. The same holds true for topical application as it takes awhile for the marijuana to be absorbed into the pores of the skin.
How to Get Access to Medical Marijuana
To gain complete access to medical marijuana, a patient needs a written prescription and recommendation from a board certified and licensed medical doctor in the state where it is legal. Take note that not all doctors are willing to recommend marijuana for medical use for patient treatment and care.
The condition of the patient must qualify for use of medical marijuana. Remember that each state has its own extensive list of descriptions of qualifying conditions. Some states may require their patients to get a medical marijuana ID card that states they are qualified users of medical marijuana. If a person has access to that card, he or she can easily buy medical marijuana at a store called a dispensary.
Where to Find Dispensaries
Dispensaries can be found in all states that has declared some form of marijuana to be legal. Note that there are only a few states that allow the dispensing of marijuana for recreational purposes. Dispensaries vary in location, services, and strains that they offer. They have different partner networks with hemp growers, so make sure to do your research and go to a reputable one that sources their main ingredient from sustainable and organic growers with legitimate farming practices.
Some dispensaries have a brick-and-mortal presence, some sell online only, and some have both actual retail stores and e-stores. Some dispensaries have doctors, naturopaths, and nurse practitioners on site because they offer medical marijuana. But some states have allowed recreational use so there are dispensaries that offer no medicinal value. There are many apps and websites that can help consumers find the dispensaries nearest to their location. Some of these apps and sites even go the extra mile to give product reviews and personal testimonials from happy CBD users.
The use of medical marijuana can no longer be stopped, with more states legalizing it. Soon, the federal government might just get on board once they see that this alternative herbal drug has more healing benefits than its pharmaceutical counterparts. Any person who is seeking to purchase marijuana has the responsibility to research state laws. It is vital to be aware of the possible side effects. Responsible marijuana use is encouraged so as not to succumb to addiction.