History of Medical Cannabis

Many patients have asked us about the history of medical marijuana, here’s a bit of the background for you; Please feel free to leave a comment below with any more info to share in our community blog!

Cannabis is an ancient medicine, used for thousands of years in treating a variety of ailments. The exact region where cannabis use originated is difficult to place. Some believe its origins were in central Asia, but the extensive documentation of its usage in China suggests that usage began there. As early as 2737 B.C., after the process of extraction was developed, Emperor Shen Neng of China was prescribing cannabis tea for the treatment of gout, rheumatism, malaria, and poor memory. The popularity of cannabis then spread through various parts of the world including Asia, the Middle East and the eastern coast of Africa. A number of Hindu sects in India also used cannabis for religious purposes and stress relief. Ancient doctors prescribed cannabis for anything from a toothache to childbirth.

It is also believed that the Sumerian Culture of the Ancient Near East pioneered cannabis use for religious purposes. The plant assisted in giving man the ability for introspection, which the Sumerians believed was the gods speaking to them. Each person developed their own ‘personal deity’ whom they worshiped every day by burning cannabis.marijuana

While there is strong historical evidence illustrating that the psychoactive properties of cannabis have been used as part of cultural practices of several societies throughout the world, it is unclear when the psychoactive properties of cannabis were discovered in North America.  Some scholars believe that cannabis probably existed in North America long before the Europeans arrived [5]. The cannabis plant was widely grown across North America for its use as a fiber in clothing and cordage and to provide sails and rigging for ships.  The pilgrims also planted hemp soon after its introduction, and used it to cover their wagons. The psychoactive components of cannabis were not discovered in North America until much later.

By the late 18th century, early editions of American medical journals recommended the root of the cannabis plant, along with the seeds, for the treatment of inflamed skin, incontinence, and venereal disease. An Irish doctor named William O’Shaughnessy first popularized medical cannabis use in England and America. He found that cannabis helped patients with general discomfort, nausea in cases of rabies, cholera, and tetanus.

It wasn’t until 1914 that the drug was defined as a crime, under the Harrison Act. The act got around states’ rights issues by requiring a tax on nonmedical uses of the drug. If someone was using the drug without paying the tax, they were punished. By 1937, 23 states in the U.S. outlawed cannabis completely. That same year, the Federal Government passed the Marihuana Tax Act, which made nonmedical use illegal. Only the birdseed industry was exempted from the law. The hemp seeds gave birds’ feathers a distinct shiny gloss.

The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 classified cannabis along with heroin and LSD as a Schedule I drug, i.e., having the relatively highest abuse potential and no accepted medical use. Most cannabis at that time came from Mexico, but in 1975 the Mexican government agreed to eradicate the crop by spraying it with the herbicide Paraquat, raising fears of toxic side effects. The “zero tolerance” climate of the Reagan and Bush administrations resulted in passage of strict laws and mandatory sentences for possession of cannabis and in heightened vigilance against smuggling at the southern borders. The “war on drugs” thus brought with it a shift from reliance on imported supplies to domestic cultivation, typically in California. [4]

The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, or prop 203, appeared on the November 2, 2010 ballot. The statute was approved, and Arizona became the 15th state to legalize medical cannabis. Prop 203 allows patients diagnosed with Cancer, Glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, Hepatitis C, Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS), Crohn’s Disease, Agitation of Alzheimer’s Disease, Cachexia, Severe Nausea, Seizures, Epilepsy, severe muscle spasms, and chronic pain. The statute allows all patients to carry up to 2.5 ounces of usable medical cannabis.

medical-marijuana_0Different strains of cannabis have various effects and are used to treat each specific ailment. The two major classifications of strains are Cannabis Indica and Cannabis Sativa. There is also a third, less common group of strains called Cannabis Ruderalis. Cannabis Sativa tends to grow in tropical regions, it thrives in places with higher heat and longer days. Cannabis Indica is typically found in places like India, China, and the Middle East. Cannabis Ruderalis typically grows in cooler climates like Alaska and Russia.

The strains that fall within these categories each have a different medicinal benefit. Strains derived mostly from the Sativa plant tend to have higher levels of Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive component in cannabis. These strains tend to help patients suffering from diabetes, muscle spasms, and multiple sclerosis. Indica strains contain higher levels of the Cannabidiol, or CBD, a non-psychoactive component of cannabis that contains numerous health benefits. Indica strains tend to help people with conditions like Insomnia, AIDS, Glaucoma, cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, and other ailments.

As you can see there is a lot to be learned about this plant.  We’ve scratched the surface, but I hope this information inspires you to do further research. Feel free to leave a comment below with any additional info or questions!

2 Responses to “History of Medical Cannabis”

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