Intro to Medical Marijuana

“Medical Marijuana” is a term that often becomes the subject of debates from a barbershop to the capitol building. But what exactly is medical marijuana and how could it become such a hot topic?  Read on for some medical marijuana facts.

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Overview of Medical Marijuana

Medical marijuana refers to cannabis and its constituent cannabinoids that are used in medical therapy. Even though cannabis has been used in many parts of the world going back thousands of years and for different purposes including medication, its usage in modern medication is somewhat controversial and has triggered endless debates whether among the general public, politicians, health organizations, and also medical professionals.

In the US, medical organizations that oppose the use of medical marijuana include the American Medical Association and the American Society of Addiction Medicine and some other organizations. While the American Academy of Pediatrics stated that cannabinoids may have health benefits to be used in the treatment of many medical conditions, yet according to this organization the use of marijuana is still not recommended before further research can be done.

Today the medical use of cannabis has been legalized in several countries, including the United Kingdom, Spain, Netherlands, Israel, Finland, Czech Republic, Canada, Belgium and Austria. Many states in the United States have passed medical marijuana laws, but until today the possession, use, and sale of marijuana is still illegal according to federal law and some states laws.

The basic rules concerning the use of medical marijuana are not so much different in all these countries. In order to use marijuana legally, a patient must have a medical conditions that can be treated with medical marijuana based on the examination by an authorized medical professional. In the United States, a person must have a Medical Marijuana Card to get his/her supply at an authorized marijuana dispensaries. However because it’s illegal to profit from marijuana transaction according to federal law, these dispensaries only run their “business” on donation.

Health Benefits of Marijuana

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There are still many different opinions regarding the health benefits of marijuana, but it seems most researchers involved in various studies on the health benefits of marijuana have agreed that it’s quite effective in the treatment of muscle spasms and to be used as general pain relief. Another common use of medical marijuana is to reduce nausea and vomiting for people with HIV/AIDS and those going through chemotherapy. Cannabis is also known as a quite effective appetite stimulant.

The effectiveness of medical marijuana for other medical conditions is still not widely agreed on, because there are still many studies being conducted with varying results. For example, research is ongoing in the use of medical marijuana for the treatment of neurological problems such as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and movement problems. While results vary somewhat, medical researchers mostly agree that cannabis can give subjective relief of spasticity, but they had different results when it comes to the objective post-treatment assessments.

Today, there is still various research being conducted to discover other health benefits of medical marijuana, including for the treatment of cancer, dementia, diabetes, epilepsy, glaucoma, Tourette syndrome, and some other diseases.  Be sure to check out our other articles on the benefits and side effects of marijuana.


Use of the cannabis plant as a medicine is not a new thing, it has been used in medicinal practices going back a few thousand years ago. In a book written by the Chinese Emperor, Shen-Nung, in 2737 BC, cannabis is said to have medical benefits that can be used to treat many ailments, such as rheumatism, gout, absent-mindedness, as well as constipation.  It’s also regarded as one of the 50 basic herbs in traditional Chinese medicine.

In ancient Egypt, the use of cannabis is written in the Ebers Papyrus from the year 1550 BC. In this ancient document it’s said that cannabis is used as a pain reliever for hemorrhoids treatment.

In ancient India, cannabis was used to treat various illnesses and ailments such as gastrointestinal disorder, headaches, insomnia, and for pain relief. The Ancient Greeks used it to relieve sores in humans and horses. It was also used to treat nose bleed and to expel tapeworms.

Similarly, in the medieval Islamic world, practitioners recognized the various medicinal benefits of cannabis including the properties of diuretic, antipyretic, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antiepileptic, and antiemetic. These properties of cannabis were used extensively in medication.

The Western medicine started to use cannabis after it was introduced by William Brooke O’Shaughnessy. The earliest use of cannabis in the Western medicine was to treat stomach cramps, muscle spams and also as pain relief.  Some folks still use the alternate spelling of medical marihuana, while others call it medicinal cannabis.

Modern History

One of the first cannabis extracts was developed by Albert Lockhart and Manley West after they studied the health effects of traditional cannabis use in 1964. From that study, they made a product called “Canasol” that was first marketed in 1987. Earlier in the 1970s, Marinol, a synthetic version of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol – one of the constituent cannabinoids) was also produced and sold in the United States.

Even though the use, possession, and sale of cannabis were and still considered illegal by the federal government, in the years between 1996 and 1999 cannabis prescriptions by physicians gained support from voters in eight US states, and in the mid 2014, 23 states finally passed medical marijuana laws. Soon after that, three more states joined in making the total of 26 states Medical Marijuana states plus the District of Columbia that have passed medical marijuana laws.

Recent Developments

Recently, President Barack Obama has given a positive signal about his approval to a Senate bill that proposes less constrictions on the use of medical marijuana. As reported by CNN, the President said “I’m on record as saying that not only do I think carefully prescribed medical use of marijuana may in fact be appropriate and we should follow the science as opposed to ideology on this issue, but I’m also on record as saying that the more we treat some of these issues related to drug abuse from a public health model and not just from an incarceration model, the better off we’re going to be.”

The Senate bill that’s known as the Carers Act seeks to provide protection for medical marijuana users from the federal law’s prosecution, and also to open the banking system to marijuana dispensaries. The bill was introduced in March 2015 by the Democrats Cory Booker and Kirsten Gilibrand, also the Republican Rand Paul.

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