What is Medical Marijuana?
Marijuana leaves, seeds and buds have been used for over 3000 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 Marihuana Tax Act which forced great restrictions on physicians prescribing Cannabis. In 1970 it 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 world wide and pharmaceutical companies, both domestically and abroad, have tried to capitalize on the medicinal cannibinoids found in marijuana. .
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 study’s published by the AMA show great potential for Medicinal Cannabis as an alternative treatment for patients with serious pain associated with diabetes, HIV/AIDS, spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis and cancer. 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.
CANNABIS & THE SCIENCE
The most well known 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 and CBD being identified as the most prevalent. 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.
THE CURRENT STATUS
Although federal law still prohibits the use of Cannabis, currently 22 states and D.C have legalized Marijuana for Medicinal purposes.In August 2013 the DEA issued a memo de-prioritizing prosecution of citizens following their states medical marijuana laws. As research of marijuana and its medicinal properties have continued to show promising results, the industry for Medical Marijuana has arrived. Now, state licensed dispensaries are able to sell lab tested marijuana and provide details about each batch including the amount of THC and CBD present in that particular plant. Anecdotal reports of success by thousands of MMJ card holders have been collected by dispensary agents and MMJ Certification Doctors.
TYPES OF MMJ & SAFE USE
Marijuana flowers can be tested for mold and funguses, cannabinoids and terpenes. Smoking marijuana is still the most popular form as it is the fastest way our body can feel the relief marijuana provides. Vaporizers have provided a safer method for inhalation by decreasing the amount of carcinogen exposure.
In addition to marijuana sold for smoking, dispensaries like SWC Tempe and SWC Prescott, also offer a large selection of alternate forms of marijuana and marijuana extracts. Marijuana Tinctures and topical treatments can be used for those looking for the medicinal benefits of solely CBD, which has no psychoactive effects. THC and CBD can be extracted and infused into edibles. Cannabinoids are fat-soluble which means they can be cooked directly into edibles or into a butter or oil base. Eating Marijuana infused edibles usually leads to stronger and longer lasting effects, compared to smoking. However, relief may take anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours depending on what is in the patients stomach and how potent the edible is. Other alternative methods for consumption of marijuana have presented in the forms of Wax and Shatter. Concentrated doses of cannibinoids allow users to smoke less frequently but still feel the immediate and long lasting effects one would get from edibles.
While the science behind recommending dosing for the amounts of THC, CBD and other cannabinoids have come a long way, it is an ongoing challenge for dispensary agents and marijuana kitchens to produce concrete recommendations as marijuana is not a one size fits all drug. Cannabis effects everyone differently and while choices in our healthcare can be extremely liberating they also must be taken on with great responsibility. Responsible State Licensed Dispensaries should be discussing all potential side effects and advising titration methods for safe adjustments to dosing. Patients should remain active in tracking success and sharing reports with their physicians, caregivers and dispensary agents.
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