Although the regulated used of medical marijuana has made its way across the United States in recent decades, the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes is anything but modern. For thousands of years, and for countless people, marijuana has been providing relief from an untold number of ailments. The course for medical marijuana has been troubled in the U.S. over the last century, but scientists, politicians, advocates and patients are refusing to give up and continue to research and fight for the use of medical marijuana as a highly scientific, regulated and natural medicine.
Humans have been using cannabis in its many forms for thousands of years. Its medicinal properties were most likely first discovered in Asia around 500 BC. The plant eventually made its way around the globe, where societies from Egyptians and Hindus to the British and early colonists used it both for spiritual and medical purposes. Throughout Asia, Europe, and the Americas, hemp fiber was used to make clothing, paper, sails, and rope, and its seeds eaten.
Between the early 19th and 20th centuries, medical marijuana was a mainstream pharmaceutical in the modern world. Modern prohibition of marijuana, which occurred with the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, was motivated by political and racial factors. By imposing tariffs on the sale, possession or transfer of all hemp products, the government effectively criminalized the plant. Then, in 1970, President Richard Nixon repealed the Marijuana Tax Act and listed marijuana as a Schedule I drug alongside heroin and LSD. Since its prohibition and recent re-legalization, it has remained on the political agenda of numerous US politicians.
Years of prohibition, however, and current views on the use of marijuana for medical purposes, have suppressed knowledge of the plant, its therapeutic efficacy and the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS plays a crucial role in the regulation of the human body’s physiology, mood, and everyday experiences. Natural chemicals in the body, known as cannabinoids, bind to receptors in the ECS to regulate balance those functions. There are two types of receptors in the ECS; CB1 and CB2. Located amongst the brain, central nervous system and other parts of the body are the CB1 receptors. The second type of receptors, known as CB2, are predominately found within the immune system. Modern research has shown that medical marijuana, which also contains cannabinoids, bind to the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the body and produce a myriad of effects.
People from around the world continue to express that medical marijuana had alleviated a variety of conditions, from inflammation and nausea to pain and anxiety. Although its current Schedule I status in the US has slowed the research that needs to be done to fully understand how medical marijuana reacts within the body when consumed, those that are conducting research are finding significant benefits in using marijuana to treat a variety of conditions.
Today, over half of the U.S., Washington D.C. and the U.S. territories of Guam and Puerto Rico have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes. In these states and territories, medical marijuana can be purchased and used by registered patients for various conditions that have been approved by their specific state program. Some states even offer reciprocity between medical marijuana programs, meaning patients with a valid registration and card from one state may be able to legally purchase, possess and consume medical marijuana in another state. Reciprocity regulations vary by state, however, so medical marijuana benefits should never be assumed state- to-state. Recreational marijuana, meaning it can be purchased, possessed and consumed without being a registered patient, is currently gaining legality status across multiple states as well.