Whether you are new to medical cannabis or have been a consumer for some time, we live in a community rich with useful resources.
Some common questions that occur about Medical Marijuana are:
What is Cannabis?
Cannabis, also known as marijuana, is a plant from Central Asia that is grown in many parts of the world today. The Cannabis plant produces a resin containing compounds called cannabinoids. Some cannabinoids are psychoactive (acting on the brain and changing mood or consciousness). In the United States, Cannabis is a controlled substance and has been classified as a Schedule I agent (a drug with increased potential for abuse and no known medical use). By federal law, the use, sale, and possession of Cannabis (marijuana) is illegal in the United States. However, a growing number of states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws to legalize medical marijuana
What are cannabinoids?
Cannabinoids are active chemicals in Cannabis that cause drug-like effects throughout the body, including the central nervous system and the immune system. They are also known as phytocannabinoids. The main active cannabinoid in Cannabis is delta-9-THC. Another active cannabinoid is cannabidiol (CBD), which may relieve pain and lower inflammation without causing the “high” of delta-9-THC.
Cannabinoids may be useful in treating the side effects of cancer and cancer treatment.
Other possible effects of cannabinoids include:
Blocking cell growth.
Preventing the growth of blood vessels that supply tumors.
Relieving muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis.
What Is CBD?
Cannabidiol — CBD— is a cannabis compound that has significant medical benefits, but does not make people feel “stoned” and can actually counteract the psychoactivity of THC. The fact that CBD-rich cannabis doesn’t get one high makes it an appealing treatment option for patients seeking anti-inflammatory, anti-pain, anti-anxiety, anti-psychotic, and/or anti-spasm effects without troubling lethargy or dysphoria. Scientific and clinical studies underscore CBD’s potential as a treatment for a wide range of conditions, including arthritis, diabetes, alcoholism, MS, chronic pain, schizophrenia, PTSD, antibiotic-resistant infections, epilepsy, and other neurological disorders. CBD has demonstrated neuroprotective and neurogenic effects, and its anti-cancer properties are currently being investigated at several academic research centers in the United States and elsewhere.
What Is THC Tetrahydrocannabinol?
To understand fully what causes the pleasurable feeling that marijuana is giving, it would be a great help to know what is THC and its properties. THC stands for delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, which is the main active chemical in marijuana plant. Marijuana is commonly smoked as a joint or using a pipe. As marijuana is being smoked, THC passes from the lungs going to the bloodstream. From the bloodstream, the chemical THC is carried to the brain and other organs in the body. After a few hours, marijuana users will experience that high feeling. In 1964, THC was first isolated. In its pure form, THC is viscous if warmed and when cold, it appears as a glassy solid. In most organic solvents, THC displays a good solubility but it is less soluble in water. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) acts upon the specific sites of the brain called cannabinoid receptors. CB1 (central nervous system) and CB2 (immune system) are the two cannabinoid receptors influenced by using marijuana. Both are activated but not to the full extent. Now that a better understanding is stated about what is THC, potential treatment and medical facts about marijuana can now be discussed. THC possesses a mild to moderate analgesic effects, which is beneficial in treating pain. Recent studies have been conducted, indicating what is THC and its cholinesterase action that may contribute to the treatment of myasthenia gravis and fending off Alzheimer’s disease. Spreading of cancerous cells is prevented in the event of brain, lungs and prostate cancers when marijuana’s active ingredient THC is absorbed. Different cannabis strains will vary on their THC content.
What is the history of the medical use of Cannabis?
The use of Cannabis for medicinal purposes dates back at least 3,000 years. It came into use in Western medicine in the 19th century and was said to relieve pain, inflammation, spasms, and convulsions.
In 1937, the U.S. Treasury began taxing Cannabis under the Marijuana Tax Act at one dollar per ounce for medicinal use and one hundred dollars per ounce for recreational use. The American Medical Association (AMA) opposed this regulation of Cannabis and did not want studies of its potential medicinal benefits to be limited. In 1942, Cannabis was removed from the U.S. Pharmacopoeia because of continuing concerns about its safety. In 1951, Congress passed the Boggs Act, which included Cannabis with narcotic drugs for the first time. Under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, marijuana was classified as a Schedule I drug. Other Schedule I drugs include heroin, LSD, mescaline, methaqualone, and gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB).
Although Cannabis was not believed to have any medicinal use, the U.S. government distributed it to patients on a case-by-case basis under the Compassionate Use Investigational New Drug (IND) program between 1978 and 1992.
In the past 20 years, researchers have studied how cannabinoids act on the brain and other parts of the body. Cannabinoid receptors (molecules that bind cannabinoids) have been discovered in brain cells and nerve cells in other parts of the body. The presence of cannabinoid receptors on immune system cells suggests that cannabinoids may have a role in immunity.
What is hemp?
Hemp is a variety of cannabis that is grown for the fiber and seeds. The fiber and seeds are incredible valuable and is why hemp is often called a “cash crop”. Hemp is a very hearty plant and grows very quickly in very diverse soil conditions. Cultivation of hemp for industrial purposes has been done by many civilizations for over 12,000 years. Industrial hemp was the desired fiber used to manufacture rope, canvas, paper, and clothing until alternative textiles and synthetics for these purposes were discovered. Although China has been the largest hemp producer over the years, other countries such as Australia and Canada are catching up. It has been illegal for anyone to grow hemp in the United States as hemp is illegal under the marijuana prohibition act but Colorado has changed the laws and paved the way for industrial hemp production again in the United States(see hemp history). Now hemp oils, hemp plastics, hemp building materials and many hemp fiber products can be seen and purchased on the market. Hemp is truly an amazing plant with the potential to help “green up” many industries.
Traditionally, hemp fiber has been a very coarse fiber when raw, which made it well suited to rope but less than ideal for clothing designed to be worn against delicate human skin. Advances in breeding of the plants and treatment/processing of the fibers have resulted in a much finer, softer hemp fiber, which is ideal for weaving into hemp clothing, fabrics and rope. Watch the video on Hemp for victory to learn more about the importance of hemp during war times. The “re-“growth of industrial hemp in the United States is heavily regulated, although the neighbouring nation of Canada successfully grows hemp commercially. Since becoming legal to grow again in Canada, the crop has taken off and has become a booming multi-million dollar export. Hemp building materials are another growing segment of the hemp industry. Canada is now a leader in the global hemp food/health marketplace. Canadian hemp products can be found in many hemp markets now in the United States and the world over. In addition to providing useful fibers, hemp seed also has high nutritional value. and the plant can be used to make biodegradable plastics, some fuels, and a variety of other things. Hemp foods including but not limited to hemp energy bars, hemp salad dressing, hemp milk, hemp protein shakes, hemp oil gel caps and hemp protein powder are among some of the health products being produced today.
How is Cannabis administered?
Cannabis may be taken by mouth or may be inhaled. When taken by mouth (in baked products or as an herbal tea), the main psychoactive ingredient in Cannabis (delta-9-THC) is processed by the liver, making an additional psychoactive chemical.
When Cannabis is smoked and inhaled, cannabinoids quickly enter the bloodstream. The additional psychoactive chemical is produced in smaller amounts than when taken by mouth. A growing number of clinical trials are studying a medicine made from a whole-plant extract of Cannabis that contains specific amounts of cannabinoids. This medicine is sprayed under the tongue.
Have any clinical trials (research studies with people) of Cannabis or cannabinoid use by cancer patients been conducted?
No clinical trials of Cannabis as a treatment for cancer in humans have been found in the CAM on PubMed database maintained by the National Institutes of Health. Cannabis and cannabinoids have been studied in clinical trials for ways to manage side effects of cancer and cancer therapies, including the following:
Nausea and vomiting
Delta-9-THC taken by mouth: Two cannabinoid drugs approved in the United States are available under the names dronabinol and nabilone. Both dronabinol and nabilone are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting in patients who have not responded to standard therapy. Many clinical trials have shown that both dronabinol and nabilone worked as well as or better than some of the weaker FDA-approved drugs to relieve nausea and vomiting. Newer drugs given for chemotherapy-related nausea have not been directly compared with Cannabis or cannabinoids in cancer patients. Inhaled Cannabis: Three small trials have studied inhaled Cannabis for the treatment of chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting. Various study methods and chemotherapy agents were used with mixed results. There is not enough information to interpret these findings.
Delta-9-THC taken by mouth: A clinical trial compared delta-9-THC (dronabinol) and a standard drug (megestrol) in patients with advanced cancer and loss of appetite. Results showed that delta-9-THC was not as effective in increasing appetite or weight gain in advanced cancer patients compared with standard therapy. However, a clinical trial of patients with HIV /AIDS and weight loss found that those who took delta-9-THC had increased appetite and stopped losing weight compared with patients who took a placebo.
Inhaled Cannabis: There are no published studies of the effect of inhaled Cannabis on cancer patients with loss of appetite. Studies of healthy people who inhaled Cannabis showed that they consumed more calories, especially high-fat and sweet snacks.
Combining cannabinoids with opioids: In a small study of 21 patients with chronic pain, combining vaporized Cannabis with morphine relieved pain better than morphine alone, while combining vaporized Cannabis with oxycodone did not produce significantly greater pain relief. These findings should be tested in further studies.
Delta-9-THC taken by mouth: Two small clinical trials of oral delta-9-THC showed that it relieved cancer pain. In the first study, patients had good pain relief as well as relief of nausea and vomiting and better appetite. A second study showed that delta-9-THC could be given in doses that gave pain relief comparable to codeine. An observational study of nabilone also showed that it relieved cancer pain along with nausea, anxiety, and distress when compared with no treatment. Neither dronabinol nor nabilone is approved by the FDA for pain management. Whole Cannabis plant extract medicine: A study of a whole-plant extract of Cannabis that contained specific amounts of cannabinoids, which was sprayed under the tongue, found it was effective in patients with advanced cancer whose pain was not relieved by strong opioids alone. Patients who received the lower doses of cannabinoid spray showed markedly better pain control and less sleep loss compared with patients who received a placebo. Results showed that, for some patients, control of their cancer-related pain continued without needing higher doses of spray or higher doses of their other pain medicines
Anxiety and sleep
Inhaled Cannabis: A small case series found that patients who inhaled marijuana had improved mood, improved sense of well-being, and less anxiety.
Whole Cannabis plant extract spray: A trial of a whole-plant extract of Cannabis that contained specific amounts of cannabinoids, which was sprayed under the tongue, found that patients had improved sleep quality.
We invite you to visit:
Safe Access Now- “Protecting Medical Marijuana Patients and Caregivers”
NORML- “Working to reform marijuana laws”
Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform
Marijuana Policy Project- “We Change Laws”
Chris Conrad- Cannabis expert
Below is a list of local clinics that can help you obtain or renew a physicians recommendation.
“Cannabis and Cannabinoids (PDQ®).” National Cancer Institute. Web. 16 Jan. 2015. .
“What Is CBD?” What Is CBD. Web. 16 Jan. 2015.
“What Is THC Tetrahydrocannabinol? Marijuana THC.” What Is THC? Tetrahydrocannabinol. Web. 16 Jan. 2015.
“What Is Hemp?- Industrial Hemp.” Hempcom. Web. 16 Jan. 2015.