A Guide to the Medicinal Benefits of Marijuana

Ever since the floodgates opened when Colorado allowed for the commercialization of marijuana, the recreational use of the substance has been a
contentious issue in the United States. For that matter, all over the world, people are coming to terms with marijuana as a recreational substance on par with beer and liquor. But, is there more to the little green plant than meets the eye? Some think of marijuana as a miracle drug, capable of reducing pain, seizures, and other ailments without the costly side-effects that are common among opioids. Others seem to have an agenda that would keep marijuana, and all of the products manufactured from it, out of the hands of regular people.

This guide is designed to peer through the murky haze of disinformation and come through with the facts about whether or not marijuana has beneficial medical properties. The truth is, even the name marijuana comes with some baggage–the technical term is cannabis–and propaganda is rife among those who support it and those who don’t. But, with every new study, the picture is beginning to clear up. And, as it turns out, cannabis has more than a few tricks up its sleeve.

The Basics

Scientists across the world agree that the cannabis plant can be used to create health remedies. The only difference between them is the extent to which these remedies can actually be helpful. But, before we can look into that, it is best to familiarize yourself with the basic chemistry of cannabis. For the most part, there are three facets of cannabis that make it a prime target for health studies. They are the molecules THC and CBD, and the aromatic oil cannabis produces made from molecules known as terpenes. Here is a little more about each of these and the beneficial effects that can be extracted from them:

THC: If you know anything about cannabis, you have probably heard of THC. It’s the fun little molecule that is found in high concentrations in the
flowering bud of a cannabis plant. It is responsible for the head change that is achieved when consuming marijuana recreationally. We call it THC,
because its real name is tetrahydrocannabinol and that’s too much to remember or say. What is interesting about THC is that it is a cannabinoid
and cannabinoids actually serve an important function in your body already . In fact, if your body was not meant to absorb cannabinoids, it
would likely not have the prodigious number of cannabinoid receptors it currently does. There is much to learn about THC, but suffice to say, the
feelings you get from it are not much different than the feeling a runner gets when they have finished a marathon.

CBD: As another of cannabis’ many cannabinoid molecules, CBD holds a special place in the hearts of many who have suffered at the
hands of opioid addiction across the world . That’s because it is able to soothe aches and pains (among other disabilities) without creating a
dependency. Even athletes have been turned on to the power of CBD, or cannabidiol , and it’s nearly harmless delivery method. It has been shown
to reduce or prevent seizures, help with nausea in cancer patients, and yes, even soothe your glaucoma. If seperated from THC and other
cannabinoids, CBD has been shown to produce little to no head change and those who consume it are typically able to continue about their day
unabated by its effects. There is little debate about the efficacy of CBD oil for various illnesses–the only real issue is that it can only be found in
cannabis.

Terpenes: Many believe that cannabis developed these cannabinoids as a sort of defense mechanism in the wild. Terpenes are perhaps the
most extreme example of this response. It is a kind of oil that is secreted from the same area that THC and CBD are produced but is usually
quite aromatic. In fact, that signature “marijuana” smell comes directly from the kind of terpenes that exist in whichever strain you are smelling.
The smell can range from musky to downright fruity depending on where and whom you buy your cannabis from and terpenes are in control of the
entire process. Controlling the terpenes of a cannabis plant is one of the many key ways that you can control its development–everything from the
climate to the age of the plant can affect them. Terpenes are found in many other plants and have also been found to have antioxidant or antibacterial properties. Some studies have even shown terpenes to assist in resisting cancer.

Therapeutic Benefits

There is a reason that cannabis is more effective at avoiding dependency than opioids: it simply doesn’t possess as strong of a pain-relieving element. But, as it turns out, that is the main draw when using cannabis as a pain reliever. Although you can not use cannabis to replace post-surgery medication or other similar applications, it is especially proficient at preventing long term pain.

Most people that become addicted to opioids become that way because they are forced to use them over a long period of time due to chronic pain. This has become an especially egregious problem amongst the elderly and infirm (as well as the general population) in the United States. Replacing those drugs with cannabis significantly reduces the complications that can come with long-term pain control. Cannabis can also replace lesser painkillers like Advil when a consumer is unable to take those due to health issues. This is not conjecture anymore, it is simply science.

There are many uses for cannabis, including combating PTSD among soldiers. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to list the number of conditions cannabis can be helpful for without turning this guide into a medical document. However, here are some of the more common uses for cannabis, outside of pain relief:

Nausea – One of the most common uses for cannabis and its extracts is to provide relief during chemotherapy. For one, it has the ability to prevent
nausea–something that goes hand-in-hand with chemo. Not only that, but it is highly effective in preventing the weight-loss that is another common side effect. Cannabis won’t save your hair, but there’s practically no reason not to give it a shot if cancer has taken over your life. Not to mention, chemo is very painful and the relief cannabis can provide is almost priceless if you or a loved one is going through something like that.

Brain Injuries – Although there is much more research to be done, studies have shown that cannabis can be helpful for protecting the brain after trauma. This trauma can include strokes, seizures, and even concussions caused by sport. In most of the major leagues in the United States, athletes have started to fight for their right to use cannabis. According to a recent study, patients who used cannabis on a regular basis were less likely to die from a serious brain injury. Now, cannabis won’t replace a helmet, but it can supplement efforts to protect your most valuable organ. In any case, this same effect may also help prevent or treat Alzheimer’s in the elderly, as well.

Seizures – At this point, if you haven’t watched a video of a chronic seizure or tremor sufferer use cannabis to immediately and safely treat their
illness–you are missing out. This is where the effects of cannabis can become downright magical. It has been shown to treat conditions ranging from epilepsy to some of the most obscure brain diseases out there. Some have even suggested that cannabis was the only thing that could stop their seizures. In a documentary entitled “Weed” by Sanjay Gupta, a strain high in CBD was shown to reduce the seizures of a 5-year-old from 300 a week to just once per week.  Maybe it isn’t this effective for everyone, but it is hard to argue that this is a criminal act and still suggest you have a heart.

Controversy

While it is likely not necessary to go into exactly why cannabis is controversial, it can be useful to understand how we got here. The ban on cannabis is not something that has been around forever. In fact, the same forces that started the liquor prohibition were behind cannabis laws. Of course, we all know how that turned out.

But, it wasn’t until 1970 that cannabis was outlawed completely, under the watchful eye of Richard M. Nixon. The Controlled Substances Act, as it was
called, saw no difference between the recreational use of cannabis and its usage in both manufacturing and medicine. Since then, that law has been used to completely decimate communities where cannabis use was common and somehow minority communities ended up bearing the brunt of this change. Over the years, several of those closest to that administration admitted that they used drugs and drug enforcement as a way to control the non-white populations of the United states. Unfortunately, this isn’t even a phenomena that started with Nixon. As stated earlier, the name marijuana even carries a certain connotation. A concerted effort was made during prohibition times to tie the use of the drug to Mexican-Americans and other Hispanic people.

If all of that doesn’t make your blood boil, then you might be in the wrong place. But, it is safe to say that the hype over the “danger” of cannabis is well
overstated. In fact, it’s possible that many lives could have been saved had we not been fighting over whether or not this natural substance was “legal”. It is not a question at all, however, that our prisons (private and public) are filled to the brim with cannabis users who are invariably more likely to be people of color.

The Advent of Medical Marijuana

Thankfully, the United States was founded on a system of checks and balances in its justice system. That has allowed many state governments to fight against the tide of unreasonable regulations–especially when you consider states are supposed to guard against its use with the same ferocity as heroin and other poisons. Since 2016, most of the states in the Union had passed laws that allowed for, at the very least, medical cannabis usage. Medical use was the obvious first step and from that came the first efforts to legalize its use recreationally. Colorado succeeded in doing just that in 2012, setting the stage for others to follow.

Now, all bets are off for the future of cannabis usage, both medicinally and recreationally. The new administration has completely shut down any talks of lifting federal regulations and has begun to prosecute state-legal operations again. At the same time, support for cannabis usage is at an all-time high across the country. It seems like only a matter of time until the forces behind its legalization stand up and fight for complete decriminalization.

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