Medical cannabis is a controversial topic globally. The stigma surrounding marijuana is slowly diminishing as more studies reveal the benefits and real medical uses. There are several forms of medical marijuana from dry flower to topical options. If you aren’t a fan of smoking marijuana, there are vaporizing options, edibles and oil options.
What is Medical Cannabis?
Medical cannabis is simply defined as cannabis recommended by a physician or nautropath as an alternative treatment option for state-approved medical conditions. Patients will select strains and/or products based upon their medical need and the description of the strain/product. It is important to understand that some cannabinoids in strains are scientifically suggestive for supporting symptoms like seizures, insomnia, nausea and pain, others are suggestive or given based upon the genetics and known characteristics of the strain.
Reporting effects of strains, product testing and focus groups are ideal ways to determine a specific strain or product’s effects, benefits and negatives. The most common negative regarding medical cannabis is dry mouth, also known as cottonmouth. Warm liquids (non-carbonated) and hard candies combat cottonmouth the best.
How Long has Medical Cannabis Existed?
Medical cannabis has existed for centuries. Around 2900 BC Fu Hsi, Emperor of China, noted that cannabis(referred to as Ma in Chinese) is a medicine that has yin and yang properties. Two hundred years later, in 2700 BC, Chinese Emperor Shen Nung was credited with discovering cannabis’s healing properties. The first written evidence of cannabis’s medicinal properties came in 1500 BC.
Skipping ahead a few hundred years to Egypt, the benefits of cannabisfor treating glaucoma and inflammation were discovered in 1213 BC. In Ancient Egypt, prescriptions for medical cannabis were given for glaucoma, calming the uterus and inflammation.
Here’s a brief timeline of medical cannabis’ history:
- 1000 BC – Bhang drink used in India for anesthetic purposes. Bhang is cannabis and milk
- 700 BC – The Venidad mentions medical cannabis use in the Middle East
- 600 BC – Cited in the Sushrita as a cure for leprosy and an anti-phlegmatic
- 200 BC – Ancient Greeks note cannabis as a remedy for inflammation, edema (swelling) and earaches
- 1 AD – Chinese recommend cannabis for treating over 100 medical conditions
- 30 – Bible cites Jesus using “anointing oil” containing cannabis
- 70 – Romans cite cannabis as an earache treatment
- 79 – Pliney the Elder records medicinal benefits of cannabis in writing noting pain relief, joint pain relief and gout symptom reduction
- 200 – Hua T’o (a Chinese surgeon) used cannabis resin as anesthesia
- 900 – Arabic nations report use of cannabis for medicinal purposes
- 1578 – Li Shizen writes the uses of medical cannabis
For thousands of years, medical professionals and scientists have been aware of the medicinal benefits of cannabis. We’ll go into more detail about medical cannabis’s history soon, but this shows you just how far back recorded information regarding cannabis’s benefits goes.
What are Medical Cannabis’ Potential Supportive Benefits?
The number of benefits that medical cannabis has is increasing all the time. New studies are conducted to explore cannabis’ potential for decreasing or completely remedying ailments like pain, nausea and insomnia.
Cannabis works with the body’s natural endocananbinoid system. The endocananbinoid system works with the central and peripheral nervous systems. These two systems are responsible for maintaining balance in the spine, brain, immune system and several organs in the body.
Quick list of medical cannabis’ potential supportive benefits:
- Ability to focus and function
- Natural relief of symptoms
- No “hungover” feeling
- Nausea relief
- Headache relief
- Reduce inflammation and pain
- Reduce/eliminate seizures
- Mood stabilization
- Blood glucose stabilization
- Heart rate/blood pressure stabilization
- Anxiety/PTSD relief
- Depression relief
- Digestion issues (IBS, chronic nausea, stomach spasms)
- Muscle spasm suppression
As you can see, this is quite a long list already. Medical cannabis can help take away headaches, muscle tension and even stress. As mentioned previously, it’s benefits aren’t done being discovered. Some autism patients, including those that are non-vocal, find relief and some children have started talking. For epileptics, it can help reduce frequency or stop seizures completely.
Where is Medical Cannabis Legal?
Medical cannabis is now legal in 34 U.S. states with more states pondering legislation in 2017. In 2016, medical cannabis saw the biggest growth with the most states passing full medical cannabis legislation or restricted legislation only allowing CBD (Cannabidiol) products.
List of medical cannabis states:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- Washington D.C
- West Virginia
California was the first state to legalize medicinal use of cannabis in 1996 following prohibition. In 1998, Washington State, Oregon and Alaska passed cannabis law reform legislation allowing medicinal use. Maine followed in 1999.
How do you Get Access to Legal Cannabis?
The process for obtaining access to cannabis varies by state. All states do require a qualifying medical condition that is verified with a diagnosis. While some doctors do directly recommend medical cannabis for patients, in some states certification centers are made available. These locations have physicians on-staff to review medical records to determine if you do qualify. Most will not submit an application if they do not believe that you will be approved.
In states like Florida, doctors are required to take a “training course” to be able to provide recommendations for patients. Once you receive your approval and state-issued medical cannabis card, you’re able to visit your first dispensary. It is important to speak with the dispensary’s staff regarding your medical needs so that they can help suggest the right strains and/or forms of medicine that will benefit you the most.
What if your State doesn’t Allow Medical Cannabis?
If your state hasn’t passed cannabis law reform legislation or doesn’t allow in-state procurement of medical cannabis it makes it a little difficult. If you live in a state that is adamantly against cannabis use of any kind, speak with lawmakers that do support at least medical use and attempt to get a conversation going about medical cannabis. Getting legislation moving and spreading the word locally will help others that have the same thoughts to support the cause.
You could, of course, move to a state where medical use is legal. You do still have to develop a doctor/patient relationship to validate your condition. It is important to consider that some states require a minimum 90-day relationship with that physician.
In states that do allow some forms of cannabis but don’t provide an option for obtaining it, there are options for purchasing CBD products and having them shipped to you. CBD products contain little to no THC, but can still provide relief for several conditions including epilepsy, anxiety, nausea, inflammation and insomnia to name a few.
If you’re not sure what CBD is, see our guide Understanding Cannabidiol – CBD Explained.
Medical cannabis’ history dates back before records were actually kept. In 1906 in the United States, medications had to include cannabis as an ingredient if it was included. It wasn’t until the 1930s when all forms of cannabis became illegal – we’ll get into that later. We’ll dig deeper into all of these topics to give you more information about the history and benefits of this historical plant in the near future. Stay tuned!