Is it really Medicine? A NOT so brief (but interesting) History of Medical Marijuana

If you are a Medical Marijuana (cannabis) patient then you know the answer is “YES” when someone asks “Is marijuana really a medicine?” It’s a question that some people are still asking—so here’s a little background of how marijuana has been used throughout history.

The oldest documented use of marijuana (cannabis) as medicine goes back to about 2900 BC in China.

What about use in the United States?

1652: The British Herbalist Nicholas Culpeper wrote about medical uses for Hemp (the cannabis plant). George Washington did too,  between 1745 and 1775.

1850 to 1937: many patented marijuana preparations were sold in apothecaries (pharmacies).Cannabis Indica as medicine

The Pharmacopoeia

In 1851: Cannabis was included in the United States Pharmacopoeia, the book used to identify and standardize (the then mostly botanical) drugs in medical use.

Marijuana was listed as useful for treatment for numerous afflictions including: neuralgia, alcoholism, opiate addiction, tetanus, typhus, cholera, dysentery, leprosy, incontinence, gout, convulsive disorders, tonsillitis, insanity, and excessive menstrual bleeding.

The supplies (indica flowers) used in making the medicine came mainly from India. These supplies were interrupted by World War I.

1913: the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it had succeeded in growing domestic cannabis of equal quality to the Indian cannabis. By 1918, about 60,000 pounds were produced annually, from pharmaceutical farms.

1920s through 1940’s: Reefer Madness was born. Driven by industrialists, racists and law enforcement media hype–the public responds with mass hysteria about the dangers of Marijuana to society. Alcohol prohibition ends and Marijuana begins to take its place.

1937: The American Medical Association opposes the passage of the Marihuana (Stamp) Tax Act, which  charged doctors, pharmacists and producers for sales. The required stamps are expensive to buy and only a few are issued, discouraging everyone involved in cannabis sales. Cannabis products disappeared from pharmacy shelves and in 1943 cannabis was removed from the Pharmacopeia.

1964: Dr. Rafael Mechoulam and colleague, Dr. Yehiel Gaoni, identified and synthesized delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

1970: Marijuana becomes illegal and classified alongside heroin as a Schedule I drug—a class of drugs that are considered to have NO medicinal value.

1976: The Federal Governments recognizes that marijuana has medicinal use. The Investigational New Drug (Compassionate Use) Program (IND) is created to allow Robert Randall to use marijuana to treat his glaucoma. Other patients enroll and also receive 300 rolled marijuana cigarettes per month to treat their conditions.

1978: Individual states begin recognizing marijuana as useful medicine. New Mexico becomes the first state to create a medical marijuana program.

1980: Marinol, a synthetic version of THC is fast-tracked as a prescription medicine, primarily for AIDS and cancer patients.

1990sScientists discover two types of Cannabinoid receptors in the human brain (CB1 and CB2 ) which buffer the effects of THC.

1992: Scientists Discover Endocannabinoids –your body’s natural cannabinoid system. The ECS controls central and peripheral nervous system functions, energy intake, processing and storage, the immune response, reproduction and cell fate production system. New era for medical research begins!ECS neurons

1999: The IND program is shut down to new applicants (by President Ronald Reagan) after too many (hundreds of) patients applied. Although officially terminated, the 13 remaining patients continue to receive government-issued marijuana

2000: Hawaii Legislators recognize that marijuana is medicine and create the Medical Marijuana Program.  Qualifying conditions include: cancer, glaucoma, HIV (+) status, chronic or debilitating disease: Severe pain, severe nausea, seizures (epilepsy), severe & persistent muscle spasms (from Multiple Sclerosis or Crohn’s Disease), severe weakness, malnutrition or weight loss (wasting syndrome & cachexia).

2003: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services receives Cannabinoids Patent (patent (US 6,630,507 B1)  for the therapeutic use of “cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants, suggesting it may be useful in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.”

TODAY (2015): MANY MEDICAL PRACTICES INCLUDE

MARIJUANA AS A MEDICINE

In Israel, cannabis therapy is incorporated into clinical, hospital, and nursing home settings. In Canada, physicians can approve a specific amount of cannabis for their patients which is delivered to their home. There are TEN PHARMACEUTICAL drugs based on chemicals found in the cannabis plant.

In the United States: 23 States have medical marijuana programs. The Department of Health assumed administration of Hawaii’s Medical Marijuana program, making improvements immediately.

Health Care Professionals are attempting to educate other Health Care Professionals and Patients. This includes the work of the  Society of Cannabis Clinicians, the American Cannabis Nursing Association, and the United Patients Group.

So, NOW if anybody still wonders if you think that Marijuana is really medicine—please tell them that this question was answered a very LONG time AGO…. and please help them find educational resources (like this article).