Marijuana has long been in the crosshairs of politics and medicine/science. Until recently and since the U.S. government started ordering states to label it as poison back in 1906, it was perceived as just that. However, the healing powers of cannabis were not forgotten as an alternative medicine.
History of Medical Cannabis
Marijuana is a psychoactive drug used for recreational and medicinal purposes extracted from the Cannabis sativa plant. The most psychoactive component in cannabis is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), but it contains other cannabinoids such as (CBD). In the 19th century, medical professionals in the Western world prescribed cannabis for various therapeutic uses, such as an appetite stimulant, anti-epileptic, anti-depressant, tranquilizer, antibiotic, oxytocic, among others.
In the early 20th century, however, legislation was passed that classified marijuana as a banned substance, and access to the public was restricted. This was due to the fact that cannabis was mainly used as a recreational drug, with studies suggesting adverse effects linked with its usages, such as behavioral problems, decreased mental ability, the risk of psychosis and addiction.
Cannabis as an Alternative Medicine
In the recent past, however, there have been studies carried out that suggest that cannabis and its products can be used in the alleviation, treatment, and management of various ailments, some of which have shown resistance or immunity to conventional intervention methods.
Marijuana has been used effectively in the treatment of various conditions, including chronic pain, liver disease, glaucoma, cancer, brain disorders, such as schizophrenia and Tourette’s syndrome, but to name a few. Nonetheless, the pharmacology and medicine industries are quite a long way off from prescribing marijuana for the treatment and management of these ailments.
Concerns plaguing medicinal cannabis
Is Marijuana Legal?
At press time, it was legal for Canadians to possess a small amount of black market marijuana (less than 28 grams) and to smoke on a private property.
Medical marijuana has been legal (in theory) since 2001 under a government program whereby it issues licenses to private producers for sale to medical patients through cannabis clinics. Health Canada has authorized Licensed Producers to cultivate pre-approved quantities of marijuana, and process it into medicinal products under the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR).
Recreational marijuana, however, is set to become legal by July 2018, with most provinces already establishing their distribution framework. In November 2017, the federal House of Commons passed a legislation to legalize cannabis for recreational usage, which would become effective in the summer of 2018. This will increase incidences of cannabis being used for medicinal purposes.
Around the World
The main concern on the use of medical cannabis is its legal status, which poses a danger to potential users who have to deal with unscrupulous individuals to acquire the product. Possession of cannabis is illegal in most countries, inviting serious penalties, such as life imprisonment and even execution.
Some countries have some relaxed view towards possession of small quantities of marijuana but do not tolerate the cultivation, transport, and sale of cannabis.
Research on Marijuana
The reluctance in the medical industry to adopting cannabis as a medical treatment option stems from the fact that there is little research, and concurrently, little evidence on the efficacy and safety. The available evidence is not adequate to meet the specifications laid out for products for human consumption, such as the Food and Drug Regulations for marketed drugs in Canada. The majority of the available researchers have generally been conducted on animals in labs, that is, mice and rats.
Despite the relatively successful findings on the efficiency of using cannabis to treat and alleviate various ailments and conditions in these experiments, healthcare professionals are reluctant to prescribe medical cannabis until the results can be conclusively corroborated by human trials. Very few comprehensive researches have been conducted on human subjects, with the available research being conducted on small, non-randomized clinical trials. The illegality surrounding the cultivation and access to the drug has been touted as part of the main reason limiting advancements in research.
Public Perception of Marijuana
The general public has a negative attitude on medical cannabis and marijuana as a whole. The interaction of most of the public with marijuana has been with regard to the ‘drug war’, with governments cracking down on cartels seen to be dealing marijuana. This perception makes them reluctant to request for alternative treatment methods containing cannabis or cannabinoid products.
Marijuana and Religion
Religion also plays a major part in influencing the administration of cannabis, with the major religions considering the consumption of marijuana to be immoral. Medical professionals also adopt the ‘we can’t be too careful’ approach in their attitude towards the applications of medical cannabis. Most professionals are silent on their opinions of medical cannabis, hiding behind the inadequate research argument, despite having experience with the therapeutic effects of medical cannabis.
Advantages of Marijuana
Recent studies into the application of cannabis for medicinal purposes have shown that it has an array of advantages over conventional medicine. Cannabis has been identified as a viable candidate for alternative medicine to treat, alleviate or manage ailments that do not respond to or have associated adverse side effects when treated using conventional intervention methods. Some of the selling points are;-
Which Ailments does Marijuana Help with?
Studies have suggested that cannabis can be used in the treatment of various conditions, ranging from brain disorders, heart disease, digestive tract infections to cancer. This is linked to the discovery that the body produces its own cannabinoids to help in healing, and the CBD in cannabis increase this process, improving the overall condition of the patient.
Is Cannabis Safe?
Marijuana’s main advantage as an alternative medicine is its remarkable safety. Studies have shown that it has a very little effect on psychological functions, with no reported case of lethal overdose. Clinical trials conducted on animals reveal an effective to lethal dose ratio of 40,000 to 1, with laboratory animals able to tolerate doses of up to 1000 mg/kg. A DEA Chief Administrative Law Judge stated that ‘in strictly medical terms, marijuana is safer than commonly consumed foods; in its natural form, it is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man’.
Is Marijuana Addictive?
Medicinal cannabis and cannabinoid products are made from completely natural components, some of which are readily found in the human body. This means that there is very little chance of rejection, as well as addiction. Studies have shown that many of the conventional medicine used as muscle relaxants, analgesics, and hypnotics are far much more addictive than marijuana.
Disadvantages of Marijuana
Some of the recorded disadvantages of cannabis use for medicinal purposes include;-
Dangers of Cannabis as Alternative Medicine?
Cannabis smoke has been shown to carry particulate matter and tar similar to tobacco smoke. It is no secret that smoking is bad for one’s health. Smoking can increase the risk of lung cancer. The beneficial effects of smoking have been proven to go away much quicker than other methods.
Ganja.ca recommends to vape only if you prefer to ingest cannabis by smoking. Ideally, consuming edibles or oils is the safest alternatives to maximize efficiency and eliminate side effect.
The THC part of cannabis is a strong psychoactive and could be tricky if consumed by individuals suffering from various brain disorders. However, research has been able to isolate the THC component in some products, which have been administered to epilepsy patients with encouraging results that marijuana is truly an alternative medicine.