Marijuana is one of many words used to describe a preparation of the Cannabis plant intended for use as a psychoactive drug and as medicine. Pharmacologically, the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC); it is one of 483 known compounds in the plant, including at least 84 other cannabinoids, such as cannabidiol (CBD), cannabinol (CBN), tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), and cannabigerol (CBG).
Cannabis is often consumed for its psychoactive and physiological effects, which can include heightened mood or euphoria, relaxation, and an increase in appetite. Possible side-effects include a decrease in short-term memory, dry mouth, impaired motor skills, reddening of the eyes, and feelings of paranoia or anxiety.
Modern uses of cannabis are as a recreational or medicinal drug, and as part of religious or spiritual rites; the earliest recorded uses date from the 3rd millennium BC. Since the early 20th century cannabis has been subject to legal restrictions with the possession, use, and sale of cannabis preparations containing psychoactive cannabinoids currently illegal in most countries of the world; the United Nations deems it the most-used illicit drug in the world. In 2004, the United Nations estimated that global consumption of cannabis indicated that approximately 4% of the adult world population (162 million people) used cannabis annually, and that approximately 0.6% (22.5 million) of people used cannabis daily. Medical marijuana refers to the use of the Cannabis plant as a physician-recommended herbal therapy, which is taking place in Canada, Belgium, Australia, the Netherlands, Spain, and several U.S. states.
Marijuana is one of the oldest medicines in human history. The plant Cannabis Sativa has been used for thousands of years in cultures all over the world including China, India, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe for a wide variety of conditions.
It was a very popular remedy in the 19th Century and early 20th Century. Queen Victoria used it for menstrual cramps. Pharmaceutical companies like Parke-Davis and Eli Lilly manufactured cannabis tinctures that were widely used by doctors until marijuana prohibition came into effect in the United States in 1937.
“From 1842-1900 cannabis made up half of all medicine sold (in the United States). From 1850-1937, the U.S. Pharmacopoeia listed cannabis as the primary medicine for more than 100 separate illnesses or diseases.” - Source: Herer, Jack, Emperor Wears No Clothes, 11th edition, 1998
The plant was made illegal in the 30's after an extensive "reefer madness" lobbying and propaganda campaign. Influential businessmen in the cotton, chemical, and tree pulp industries sought to block industrial hemp (which can be used to make fabric and paper, among other things) from competing with their products.
Today the government of Canada recognizes the medicinal and therapeutic benefits of marijuana. Health Canada issues legal exemptions that allow for cultivation, possession and consumption by persons living with a condition that is known to be treatable with marijuana. These include multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, cancer, AIDS/HIV infection, severe arthritis and epilepsy
The use of marijuana as medicine is being recognized and revived, as many studies show that the herbal remedy is still an effective course of treatment for many ailments. In Canada, medical marijuana is legal for selected conditions and eligible patients can download registration forms online.
Some of the conditions that marijuana therapy can be effective for include:
AIDS and HIV
Some AIDS patients use medical marijuana for help with pain, loss of appetite, and to deal with the side effects of their prescription medications.
Anxiety and Stress
Marijuana has a relaxing effect on the mind and body and can be used to curb feelings of anxiety and stress. Stress is cited as a factor in the severity of many common illnesses and can affect the immune system.
Most arthritis patients use aspirin or other anti-inflammatory drugs which can have severe side effects. Marijuana treatment has been shown to be an effective alternative for treating the pain and swelling of the disease in many cases.
Studies show that some cancer patients can find relief from pain and the side effects of chemotherapy (such as nausea and vomiting) with marijuana. Promising animal research has shown marijuana therapy may also be able to reduce the size of tumors.
Cannabis can provide effective relief from chronic pain caused by illness or injury including muscle pain, back pain, nerve pain, and migraines.
Some epileptics find that marijuana helps reduce the number and severity of their seizures.
Cannabis can help soothe pain, increase appetite, calm spasms, and improve digestive motility in patients with gastrointestinal diseases such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Crohn's disease, and Colitis.
Side Effects and Risks
Some marijuana users experience other side effects including short term memory loss, food cravings, weakened balance, and loss of physical coordination.
Although the concept of medical marijuana is still controversial, the majority of doctors and nurses now believe it should be legally available as medicine.