When you hear the word “marijuana,” you may immediately think of it as a substance that may cause addiction. And it can, which is why it is illegal under Schedule I of the Controlled Substance Act (CSA). However, there’s more to marijuana than meets the eye, whether you call it weed, pot, herb, grass, ganja, or something else.
Cannabis Sativa L., commonly known as the marijuana plant, is grown in North America, South America, Asia, the Caribbean, and other regions. The plant has been used for centuries by naturopathic doctors as a natural healing herb for a range of conditions.
Marijuana is a greenish-brown mixture of the dried flowers, leaves, stems, and seeds of the Cannabis plant. People also call it by other names based on how it’s used. For example, a “joint” refers to a hand-rolled marijuana cigarette while a “blunt” is marijuana rolled in cigar wraps. The plant is also sold, consumed, or used in different forms for medicinal purposes.
The healing properties of marijuana are found in its cannabinoids, mainly Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). However, cannabis is still illegal in some U.S. states because it contains the mind-altering (psychoactive) substance THC and has a high potential for abuse due to its euphoric effects. Additionally, marijuana is essentially a recreational drug that has no medical use according to federal law.
Despite this, medical marijuana is now legal in over 50% of US states for treating symptoms of certain medical conditions. The drug may be administered to relieve pain and other symptoms associated with common ailments under a medical marijuana program or the supervision of a certified clinician.
In fact, clinical trials have concluded that cannabis is an extremely safe and effective medication for patients with chronic pain.
There is much more to learn about medical marijuana use in this article, including:
Medical marijuana, also called medical cannabis, is simply the parts or products of Cannabis Sativa L. that contain substantial levels of THC. THC is the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis and one of more than 100 cannabinoids identified in the plant.
Those other cannabinoids are chemically related to THC, which explains marijuana’s induction of feelings of intoxication. THC may alter the way you think or behave when under the influence of marijuana. The complex plant contains over 500 other chemicals in total.
Studies have been conducted on medical cannabis to determine its potential therapeutic effects. As a result, many states now allow the medical use of marijuana for treating symptoms such as chronic pain and the nausea associated with chemotherapy.
Researchers believe that marijuana can potentially treat a significant number of conditions. You may qualify for medical marijuana therapy if you have any of the qualifying conditions listed below:
Depending on your state’s laws, your doctor may consider the use of medical marijuana as a treatment option for these conditions if other treatments have failed.
Medical marijuana may help relieve symptoms based on the type and severity of certain illnesses. The chemicals and cannabinoids work by attaching to the cannabinoid receptors in your body’s endocannabinoid system, mainly the CB1s and CB2s.
This system plays a major role in physiological processes related to pain sensation, appetite, movement, memory, and mood.
Cannabis has been shown to have a range of therapeutic qualities, including analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antiemetic, anti-spastic, anti-cancer, anti-seizure, and neuro-protective. It can also be effective for those suffering from certain mental health conditions.
Although research about the potential benefits of medical marijuana is limited, researchers have found evidence that the therapeutic effects of cannabinoids may help in the following ways:
In 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Epidiolex, a medicine made from cannabidiol (CBD), for treating and controlling symptoms of rare forms of epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. Trail results demonstrated that cannabidiol reduced the frequency of convulsive and non-convulsive seizures.
There are potential risks of medical marijuana, even when consumed legally. They include:
Marijuana use may impair judgment and coordination. Long-term use may affect IQ and mental function.
Potential Side Effects
According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), potential side effects of medical cannabis include:
Marijuana can impair
Other physical side effects include
Psychological side effects include:
Marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law because the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and FDA agreed that the substance has no federally approved medical use for treatment in the U.S. So far, the FDA has only approved the cannabis-derived drug Epiolodex for treating Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.
In addition, the FDA has approved cannabinoid medicines dronabinol and nabilone for the treatment of nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy.
Your healthcare provider will determine the optimal dose and frequency for your medical marijuana use. As far as administration goes, your certified cannabis doctor can help recommend the right method.
Cannabis can be administered in these ways:
Marijuana users can smoke, inhale, or eat marijuana. Some use vaporizers. Oil tinctures can also be applied under your tongue (sublingual). Mixtures such as lotions, creams, sprays, and oils can be applied to your skin (topical).
The time it takes for you to feel the therapeutic effects of cannabis will depend on your consumption method and the marijuana’s THC level.
Over two-thirds of U.S. states (33 states) and the District of Columbia (DC) have legalized marijuana for medical purposes. Those 33 states are:
Restricted medical marijuana use is currently allowed in the following states:
Legal recreational use of cannabis is currently allowed in states such as Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.
Marijuana can help relieve symptoms of certain illnesses in the short-term, and treatment may improve your overall quality of life. But keep in mind that, despite its medical benefits, it’s not a cure-all.
Be sure to check out the medical marijuana laws in your state and the requirements for eligibility. Patients typically need a written recommendation from a licensed doctor before receiving cannabis treatment. You may also need a medical marijuana ID card to buy marijuana at a cannabis dispensary.