Medical cannabis is the use of the components of the marijuana plant for relief of a multitude of medical symptoms and terminal illnesses. A review of the study literature in 2002 shows that the benefits of medically used cannabis to be effective relief for a variety of symptoms. There have been numerous studies all over the world in major countries that lead the world in medical advances indicating the use to be beneficial. The most recent study in the United Kingdom found the use promising in even more neurological disorders and chronic pain sufferers than first indicated.
The studies have proven the use of medical marijuana to be most beneficial for muscle spasm and skeletal disorders such as multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and partial seizures, spasms of cerebral palsy and spinal injuries. It was also indicated as a bronchodilator for asthma. The oldest indication for the use of marijuana is for nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy drugs. It also reduces chronic loss of appetite for cancer and AIDS patients, and reduces the inflammatory process in inflammatory bowel diseases and rheumatoid arthritis. Now the studies are headed in the direction of mental illness such as bipolar, depression, mood disorders attention deficit disorder and post traumatic stress disorder. This is only a tip of the iceberg. There are many other conditions that are being trialed for the use of cannabis. The Australian Parliamentary Library at www.aph.gov.au/library/pubs/rn/20 has conducted many studies
Cannabidiol also known as “CBD” is the component of the marijuana plant that is found to be of the greatest benefit. This component is extracted and is what is used for the medical purposes described above. Studies have actually found that CBD inhibits the growth of the cancer cell, so it is definitely leading to some promising interventions for terminal illness. The use of medical marijuana has been approved in certain states in the United States, but remains a federal crime. It is available only by prescription and each state has its own statutes on how much one is allowed to grow and possess. There are some synthetic derivatives that are available is various forms. Nabilone approved for use in 1985 is in pill form, but most cancer patients have difficulty swallowing this pill because of the mouth sores and the irritated throats from all the vomiting. It was then converted into a crystallized powder that can be sprinkled on anything the patient likes. Marinol approved in 1992 is in pill form only, and sativex approved in Canada in 1995 and 1997 is a sublingual spray.
Patients are allowed to cultivate and smoke the plant if they so chose, and as said before each state has their own laws governing the amount one can possess. The effects of smoking marijuana are immediate; which is very different than waiting for a pill to disintegrate and migrate throughout the bloodstream to become effective. Eight States started to approve the use in 1970 and more in 1980 as more studies were proving the benefits, even though these state approvals defied the policies of the federal government.
Since the proof has become overwhelming there have been twelve medical organizations that have supported the use of medical marijuana including The American Medical Association. Although there are some organizations that have not come on board, even though it helps the patients they represent. Organizations such as American Cancer Society, The National Multiple Sclerosis Society and the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
There is criticism against the use of medical marijuana; in 2006 the FDA advised against smoking the drug because smoking is harmful. According to the website Wikipedia, the Institute of Medicine conducted studies that showed there were no benefits for any of these conditions and that smoking marijuana is highly addictive and does not mitigate any symptoms or promote treatment None of the studies claim to reverse or cure these diseases, the use is merely a way to keep these patients more comfortable and give them back a certain quality of life that they may not have had if not for the medical use of marijuana.
Availability is not as widespread as one would think with all the new evidence. It is available is Austria, Canada, Spain and the United States. An example of one of the thirteen states that has approved marijuana use for medical purposes is Rhode Island. The State allows a patient under the care of a practitioner for the following diseases cachexia, cancer, glaucoma, hepatitis C, debilitating pain, severe nausea, seizures, severe muscle spasm, multiple sclerosis, crohns, IBS and alzheimers disease. The patient or the primary caregiver may legally possess 2.5 ounces of marijuana and/or twelve plants stored at an indoor facility. The state does have a registry and issues identification cards stating the marijuana is for medical purposes and is legal for them to carry. Most states have similar laws and similar amounts stated in the law. Each state has their own website to see what the regulations are; however, you can find Rhode Island’s regulations at www.health.state.ri.us if you need an application and believe you fall within these guidelines the website is www.health.ri.gov/hsr/mmp/index.php.
It has been used all through history ancient Greece, ancient India, Ancient Egypt, Medieval Islamic world all used cannabis for the same symptoms that we are studying now; everything from glaucoma to mental illness to spastic muscle diseases. The studies need to continue to find out more about its benefits. If it makes a terminally ill person more comfortable during their illness and in their last days, why shouldn’t they have that right? Would you take away a cancer patient’s morphine during the same time frame because it’s addictive?
There are some other studies that can be referenced through their websites:
Cannabidiol A novel inhibitor of Id-I gene expression in aggressive breast cancer cells
Cannabis in the Ancient World Cannabis Effects www.lycos.com/info/cannibas-effects
Synthetic THC / Marinol www.ardpark.org/marinol_research.htm