What is Medical Marijuana?

Posted by SWC Team

Oct 14, 2014 11:58:58 AM

HISTORY

Marijuana leaves, seeds and buds have been used for over 3,000 years as medicine. Until 1942, marijuana (cannabis) could be found in the US pharmacopoeia where it was promoted for sedative, anti-inflammatory and anticonvulsant effects. The American Medical Association (AMA) not only acknowledged its great potential to ease pain and nausea but  supported its’ use, encouraged research and even publicly opposed the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act which forced great restrictions on physicians prescribing Cannabis. In 1970, marijuana was classified by Congressional vote as a schedule I drug categorizing it with heroin and LSD claiming it had no medicinal value. Despite legalization issues, research on marijuana as medicine has continued worldwide and pharmaceutical companies, both domestically and abroad, have tried to capitalize on the medicinal cannibinoids found in marijuana.

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THE MEDICINE

Plants and herbs of many species have been used as medicine and have contributed to the development of a large percent of our prescription medicines today. Despite restrictions by the federal government, research of marijuana as medicine has flourished over the last two decades.

Recent studies show great potential for Medicinal Cannabis as an alternative treatment for patients with serious pain associated with HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, autoimmune disease, diabetes, spinal cord injuries, cancer, and other conditions. Some studies have reported that tetrahydocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana, could reduce tumor growth in common lung cancer and significantly reduces the ability of cancer to spread. Scripps Research Institute is among the many research facilities who have found promise in medical cannabis use to treat physical and behavioral symptoms associated with Dementia and specifically Alzheimer's Disease.  While many pharmaceuticals now carry required warnings, of harmful side effects, no harmful long term side effects of marijuana have been confirmed.

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THE SCIENCE

The most famous compound found in Cannabis (marijuana) is THC. THC was identified by researchers in the 1960’s which led to the discovery of what scientists now call the EndoCannabinoid System. Our bodies produce endogenous cannabinoids which play a key role in brain functions like memory, mood and our reward system as well as functions of our immune system. Our bodies have a natural network that responds to the compounds found in marijuana plants, phytocannabinoids, like THC. Many different cannabinoids have been isolated from the cannabis plants. THC (tetrahydocannabinol) is the best known cannabinoid. It occurs naturally in the plant primarily as THCA, however some THC is present. As the primary psychoactive compound, it is responsible for the effect most patients are familiar with. CBD (cannabidiol) is the second most prominent compound found in the cannabis plant. Many of the medical benefits of cannabis are attributed to the CBD content of the medicine. It has been found to have strong anti-inflammatory and anti-convulsive properties. By focusing on plant genetics, marijuana can be grown to be richer in THC or CBD. A greater understanding of the difference in genetics of Cannabis, including plant types indica or sativa, allows growers and patients to select strain types that will give them very specific effects.

Please stay tuned for future articles about the history, medicine, and science of MMJ. We are committed to delivering up to date information and research to benefit our patients and the medical marijuana movement.

Topics: Education & Research