THE OBJECTIVE TRUTH ABOUT MEDICAL MARIJUANA
Cannabis was made legal for medicinal use in Colorado through the implementation of Amendment 20. This affords medical marijuana patients in Colorado an unmatched level of legal protection as Colorado is currently the ONLY state to have marijuana reform reflected in their constitution. Many other states have medical marijuana laws including: California, Oregon, Rhode Island, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, and Montana. Rhode Island and Montana are unique in regards to their recognition of medical marijuana recommendations/cards/licenses from other states. No others honor out-of-state MMJ approvals, including Colorado. Several states have their own initiatives set be vote upon in the 2010 mid-term elections – most notably Florida and New York.
All of these states placed these laws, amendments, and referendums in place for the same reason: undeniable evidence of the medicinal and therapeutic potential found in the Cannabis plant. Though research has long been stifled as a result of marijuana’s historic illegality, there remains both past and emerging research detailing just how powerful and useful this plant is to humans. Even beyond medicine - the seeds, stalks, and fibers of Cannabis can be utilized to generate everything from rope, to lotion, to food products, and more. In fact, it is one of the oldest species of plant used by mankind – dating as far back as 10,000 years.
Cannabis has been shown to be efficacious for many conditions including, but not limited to, the following:
1. Multiple Sclerosis – Cannabis has been shown to reduce central pain states while being well-tolerated by patients. [Randomized, controlled trial of cannabis-based medicine in central pain in multiple sclerosis]. Some emerging research also suggests that cannabis may also be able to play a role in alleviating muscle spasms.
2. Arthritis – Cannabis has been used in western medicine to treat musculoskeletal stiffness and pain as far back as 1700. CBD (cannabidiol), one of the non-psychoactive cannabinoids found in marijuana, has been shown to improve mobility and reduce morning stiffness and inflammation while reducing the needed intake of potentially harmful NSAIDS (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory drugs). [Supporting/dissenting research]
3. HIV/AIDS-related wasting and related symptoms – AIDS wasting results from the lack of appetite and nausea associated with fatigue and ARV’s (antiretroviral medications). Marijuana provides stimulation of appetite while alleviating nausea. It is well-tolerated among HIV/AIDS patients. [AIDS.org]
4. Chronic pain (widespread or specific) – Treating persistent and debilitating pain continues to be the most common use for cannabis medicines. In 1997, the U.S. Society for Neuroscience concluded that "substances similar to or derived from marijuana … could benefit the more than 97 million Americans who experience some form of pain each year." A 1999 study commissioned by the White House and conducted by the Institute of Medicine recognizes the role that cannabis can play in treating chronic pain. "After nausea and vomiting, chronic pain was the condition cited most often to the IOM study team as a medicinal use for marijuana." Animal research has also concluded that cannabinoids are antinociceptive [capable of blocking the appreciation or transmission of pain] in animal models of acute pain. Persistent pain conditions related to cancer/chemotherapy, AIDS, surgical procedures, and others have shown to be well-treated with cannabis – some studies have even indicated that cannabis offers pain-relieving properties on par with codeine, a widely prescribed and potentially harmful/toxic pain medication. Many patients suffering these conditions also choose to utilize cannabis as an opiod adjunct. This allows them to gain relief from opiod drugs while minimizing the nausea often associated with their usage.
5. Cancer/Chemotherapy - Marijuana is generally used to alleviate symptoms associated with the treatment of various cancers; most notably chemotherapy. Marijuana has been shown to be efficacious as both an analgesic (pain reliever) and antiemetic (nausea-reducer). This makes it a viable alternative to traditional antiemetic medications, and provides pain relief in tandem. This may be especially true in patients who have shown poor responses to typical antiemetics. In addition, there has been recent research conducted that showed promise in reduction and elimination of human lung cancer in mice [Marijuana Cuts Lung Cancer Tumor Growth In Half, Study Shows]. This bodes well for subsequent research, but much more investigation will be required.
6. Migraines - There is little known about the effect of cannabis on migraine headaches. Unfortunately, there is little known about the causes and potential treatment of migraines in general. Many traditional pain medications fail to relieve the unique pain of migraines, and the anti-migraine medicines available are not generally well-tolerated or fully effective. However, a significant number of patients report moderate to complete relief through the use of cannabis. [Supporting/dissenting research].
7. Epilepsy - Another condition that requires more research. Various Cannabinoids have been shown to have convulsive and anti-convulsive properties. Treating epileptic seizures with marijuana should begin with a thorough consultation with your doctor to discuss the potential benefits/risks. [Supporting/dissenting research].
At this point you may be asking, “how is it possible that cannabis can treat so many conditions?” The answer was generated by research conducted from 1988-1995 that led to the discovery of the endocannabinoid system in humans. This system of endogenous (produced within the body) compounds have been found to assist in the regulation of a variety of physiological processes including pain-sensation, mood, memory, and appetite. It also happens that the ONLY source of analogs (chemically-similar compounds) for cannabinoids is the Cannabis plant (hence the name, cannabinoids). [Brief history of the discovery of the endocannabinoid system]; [Detailed information]
Many potential candidates for treatment with cannabis medicines are discouraged by the idea that smoking the plant matter is the only way of using it. This is not only false, but some patients may respond better to other treatment options regardless of their preferences. The therapeutic Cannabinoids found in Marijuana can be utilized through a number of delivery methods other than smoking:
1. Vaporization: By drawing heated air over the plant matter, vaporizers allow for inhalation of the medicinally beneficial parts of the plant without generation of carbon and related carcinogens associated with combustion. There are a number of different vaporizers that achieve this result through different methods including heated glass, heat guns, and bags for retaining the vapor.
2. Hashish: A concentrated form of the medicine-containing portions of the cannabis plant. Hashish can be prepared through a variety of extraction and preparation techniques. By requiring smaller amounts to achieve the same effects, along with smoother smoke (resulting from the absence of plant matter), hashish can minimize the need to inhale large amounts of smoke while achieving the desired effect.
3. Edibles: A wide variety of foods may be “infused” with cannabinoids as they bond well with organic solvents like butter. Ingesting cannabis has effects that are similar to inhalation, but for a longer duration. They are a preferred delivery method for attaining therapeutic dosages without side effects. However, edibles can be quite potent and should always be dosed correctly, as should any usage of medicinal Cannabis.
A. Tinctures: though similar to edibles, tinctures are worthy of a class all their own. These syrup-like mixtures, infused with concentrated cannabis and various flavorings, are taken sublingually (under the tongue) and then swallowed. Though it is possible to make tinctures from alcohol; vegetable glycerin is preferred and provides a higher-quality medicine overall. Useful as preventative medicine (headaches, muscle pain, etc.) - this concentrate can be taken discreetly while allowing for accurate dosing. Side effects tend to be mild when utilizing this delivery method.