The thin line between medical and recreational marijuana
Current policies around the world have approved of marijuana use in some form in a number of countries. However, medical marijuana laws vary wildly across various jurisdictions.
For example, 33 states in the United States (US) currently approve the use of the drug for medical purposes through diverse regulatory frameworks, while 10 of those states have legalised the recreational use of the drug. But the plant remains illegal on the federal level.
The lack of uniformity in medical marijuana laws mostly stems from the lack of empirical, scientific evidence of the medicinal properties of marijuana. Besides, the label medical marijuana is a misnomer.
Contrary to numerous claims, there are no substantial evidences proving the distinction between certain strains that are best-suited to medicinal or recreational purposes. The presumed dichotomy is based on the intent of use -- medical marijuana is presumably obtained for medicinal purposes, while recreational marijuana is presumably obtained for recreational purposes.
Another major reason behind misconceptions surrounding medical marijuana is that prohibition is a major obstacle to research. Prohibition forestalls research that could help unearth the needed scientific evidence to conclusively prove the medicinal functions of marijuana.
However, a growing body of anecdotal evidence continues to lend more credence to claims about the medicinal benefits of marijuana. In several cases of various health ails, marijuana has proven effective in the management and treatment of conditions and symptoms.
What gives marijuana its medicinal properties?
Marijuana is composed of over 100 cannabinoids. Each of these compounds is associated with distinct therapeutic properties. Among these, the two most studied are tetrahydrocannabinoid (THC) and cannabinoid (CBD), thanks to their incredible therapeutic potentials. Others, such as cannabigerol (CBG) and cannabinol (CBN), have also been extensively explored.
THC is known for its psychoactive effects, causing the “high” feelings commonly associated with marijuana use. However, THC also exhibits critical therapeutic potentials. CBD is also associated with a vast array of therapeutic properties. However, unlike THC, CBD lacks psychoactive effects.
Two cannabidiols, THC and CBD, are mostly responsible for the medicinal effects of cannabis despite their differences. Source
Another key factor in the medical marijuana equation is a phenomenon called the entourage effect. This refers to a theory that holds that cannabinoids only function at their best when they’re administered together with the other cannabinoids, and not as standalone products. As a result, medical marijuana products usually come with a mix of varying proportions of the various cannabinoids, depending on the intent of use.
How does medical marijuana take effect on the body?
Substances akin to cannabinoids are produced naturally in the human body to regulate numerous bodily functions. As such, cannabinoids obtained from marijuana can help replenish the supply of these regulatory chemicals to various parts of the body.
Cannabinoids in marijuana interact with the body through the endocannabinoid system -- a signaling system that regulates a slew of bodily functions, from sleep to appetite, blood pressure, and pain reception. As such, cannabinoids can influence a wide range of bodily functions, helping manage symptoms of various ails, including pain, nausea, vomiting, insomnia, inflammation, and more.
What conditions can medical marijuana treat most effectively?
Marijuana has been a medicinal plant for centuries. Historically, it has been used to treat various illnesses across various parts of the world, prior to widespread prohibition on the drug beginning around the turn of the 20th century.
However, today’s legal landscape is slowly moving away from prohibition and studies in recent times have shown that marijuana can be highly effective in the treatment of certain ailments. They include:
- Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases -- stalls the progression of these diseases.
- Epileptic seizures -- reduces the frequency and severity of the seizures.
- Multiple sclerosis -- reduce muscle spasm.
- Cancer -- it can induce anti-tumorous effects and also help eliminate the side effects of chemotherapy, including nausea and vomiting.
- Mental illness -- it can reduce anxiety in people suffering from social anxiety disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Neuroplasticity -- it can forestall neurological damage.
A study showed reduction in seizures in highly refractive pediatric epilepsy patients exposed to a cannabis treatment. Source
How can you obtain medical marijuana legally?
You can only access medical marijuana legally if there’s a legalised channel of distribution in your locality. You need to look into the regulatory frameworks for medical marijuana that exist in your jurisdiction. Such regulations might determine the type of health conditions that qualify for medical marijuana treatment, as well as the procedures involved in obtaining the drug.
In addition, medical marijuana regulations also determine the forms in which the drug can be obtained. Medical marijuana products come in smokables, edibles, balms, salves, lotions, tincture sprays, and capsules
Medical marijuana is really no different for recreational marijuana, except in its purpose. There are no specific strains or compounds that can be used only for medicinal purpose or only for recreational purposes. In order to define medical marijuana, you must define the intent of the user -- medicine or leisure?
Australia legalised marijuana for medical use in 2016, and so medical cannabis is available in the country. The process here requires the submission of a prescription for approval before any medical cannabis can be obtained legally.