Medical marijuana can provide a wide range of benefits for people struggling with medical ailments. And while it’s a hot topic in recent years, it’s actually not a new phenomenon in the medical world. Medical cannabis has been used for a variety of health issues for thousands of years, but only recently it has become legalized in certain states across the U.S. — which makes marijuana laws a hot button.
There are a lot of different opinions out there about medical cannabis medical marijuana patients’ rights, as well as a lot of misinformation and a lot of confusion. Even Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent, recently revised his opinion on medical marijuana, stating “we have been terribly and systematically misled for nearly 70 years in the United States.” It’s important that you know the facts, you know the potential benefits, and you know your rights, before you consider using medical marijuana as a part of any treatment plan.
So let’s get to it; here’s what you need to know:
What are the Health Benefits of Marijuana?
Medical marijuana has been shown to reduce nausea and increase appetite, soothe pain, minimize anxiety and help improve your mood. It can help you relax, can combat chronic pain, and has been shown to ease symptoms for people battling crippling illnesses such as AIDs, multiple sclerosis and cancer. Medical marijuana can also help reduce the number and frequency of seizures in patients with epilepsy and other neurological illnesses, and it can even prevent and treat glaucoma.
How Does It Work?
Marijuana is derived from the cannabis plant. It is a complex drug that contains hundreds of compounds, which bind to different receptors in the brain, resulting in various physical and neural responses that affect the way you feel. Scientists believe the compound “responsible for the drugs’ psychoactive effects is tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. THC binds to cannabinoid receptors throughout the body, and marijuana’s “high” comes from THC’s binding to brain regions responsible for pleasure, time perception and pain,” according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Eventually, your body reacts to that chemical binding by producing more dopamine, which is a “feel good” chemical produced in the brain.
Where is it Allowed?
According to marijuana laws, medical cannabis is currently legal in 29 states across the U.S. as well as Washington D.C., Guam and Puerto Rico. Even though marijuana is still considered an illegal drug on a federal level, these states, as per NORML state laws, allow cannabis use for medical purposes and state legislature protects patients from criminal charges, it allows them access to marijuana and it allows consumption if they use marijuana for prescribed medical purposes.
Many states have local patient registries, which you need to be enrolled in if you want any form of state protection against federal marijuana laws. Local laws also dictate how the marijuana may be consumed (ingested versus smoked or vaped) and it notes what medical conditions are approved for marijuana treatment.
There’s Still a Lot we Don’t Know
With traditional medication the FDA requires an intense amount of testing and research before any drug is approved for use. With medical marijuana, testing is a bit more difficult and scientific research is hard to come by. According to Dr. Kenneth Mukamal, associate professor of medicine at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, “unfortunately, there are almost no uses of medical marijuana that have been subjected to the kind of rigorous testing you’d want for a pharmaceutical.”
This is because marijuana, even when it is being used for medical purposes, is still considered a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act on a federal level.
Marijuana is thought to have a high risk for abuse, and therefore it’s hard to get approval for clinical trials and tests. When you think about it, marijuana laws are not based on science, but rather on a lack of scientific evidence, because it is so hard to get trials approved.
On top of that, every strain of marijuana is different and every plant is unique. Remember this is a natural source as opposed to something created in a lab. It’s hard to test a drug that has significant variability in terms of concentration and chemical contents.
That said, times are changing, and experts are learning more about the positive medical effects of marijuana every day. Talk to your medical professional, explore your options regarding NORML state laws; and always listen to your body.
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