Cannabis 101: Your 2018 Guide to Medical Cannabis

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Lowa, Louisiana, and New Jersey may go “green” in 2018. Medical cannabis dispensaries are now opening in Connecticut, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. Advocates are driving legislation to legalize medical and/or recreational use in Delaware, Rhode Island, Ohio, Oklahoma, Utah, and more. Even conservative Texas allows low-THC cannabis derivatives for severe cases of intractable epilepsy.

More than half of the United States have legalized the cultivation, sale, and possession of medical cannabis, and that number will soon produce an overwhelming majority. It may be time to refresh your understanding of medical cannabis, its purpose, and performance.

Your guide to medical cannabis:

  • What is cannabis? An annual, dioecious, flowering herb, cannabis belongs to the family Cannabacae, flowering hemp that includes Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. Cannabis is used synonymously with “marijuana” which really refers to its leaves. 
  • What is medical cannabis? As National Geographic reported, “Even into the middle of the 20th century, science still didn’t understand the first thing about marijuana.” Cannabis had been used for thousands of years for medical issues. Yet, the history of its benefits was largely anecdotal.

In 1963, Raphael Mechoulam of Tel Aviv’s Weizmann Institute of Science focused on the organic chemistry of the cannabis plant. In relatively short time, Mechoulam and his research team had isolated ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). The ability to synthesize the compounds promises the opportunity to create pharmaceuticals for prescribed application.

  • What does cannabis do? The effects of cannabis depend on the volume and ratio of THC and CBD. That ratio helps identify the cannabis strain. THC binds to receptors labeled CB1 and CB2 producing psychoactive effects like euphoria and altered states of sense perception. CBD does not bind to receptors, but it restores balances in biochemistry and the human endocannabinoid system. This allows THC to work effectively.

But, the plant’s terpenes also differentiate one strain from another. All plants have terpenes that contribute to aroma and taste. But, the terpenes in cannabis also bind to receptors in the human neurotransmission system. Research has not identified their specific purpose or mechanism. But, they do seem part of the “entourage effect” attached to CBD.

  • What is medical cannabis? Medical cannabis is cannabis put to medical purposes. That is, breeders design strains to serve specific medical conditions. In addition, medical cannabis is produced and ready for administration and delivery other than smoking.
  • What conditions does medical cannabis treat? The FDA has listed cannabis as a Category 1 drug. This effectively limits significant research, so it will be some time before you have a complete answer to the question.

Moreover, the list of permitted medical conditions varies from state to state. Those state lists include up to 40 or more medical problems, but these problems are typical to most lists:

AIDS-related illness

Alzheimer’s Disease

ALS

Anxiety

Arthritis

ADD/ADHD

Autism

Autoimmune Diseases

Back Pain

Bulimia

Cachexia

Cancer

Cerebral Palsy

Chronic pain

Chron’s Disease

Diabetic Neuropathy

Epilepsy

Fibromyalgia

Glaucoma

Huntington’s Disease

Insomnia

Intractable vomiting

Major Depression

Migraines

Muscle Spasms

Osteoarthritis

Parkinson’s Disease

PTSD

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Schizophrenia

Sleep Apnea

Spinal Cord Injury

Tourette’s Syndrome

and many more

 

 

Common to many of these problems are inflammation, anxiety, spasticity, and chronic pain. And, all these problems benefit from the research-confirmed anti-inflammatory, anti-emetic, analgesic, and anxiolytic properties in cannabis.

■ What good is THC in medical care? Cannabis strains with high-THC content do produce psychoactive highs. But, patients have used Blue Dream, Girl Scout Cookies, and Gorilla Glue to treat pain, inflammation, stress, and anti-cancer benefits. Dosage is important because the psychoactivity can be contraindicated. For example, while low dose will cut anxiety, high doses may produce paranoia.

■ What good is CBD in medical care? High-CBD cannabis strains calm and soothe without messing with your head. Using CBD leaves you focused and able to work. High-CBD strains like Charlotte’s Web, ACDC, and Cannatonic work to relieve pain, anxiety, and depression. But, CBD also has anti-spasmodic, antipsychotic, and anti-epileptic powers.

■ How do you take medical cannabis? Medical cannabis dispensaries sell marijuana for smoking. But, many people suffering from the listed problems cannot or do not smoke. They seek and use options, such as the following: 

  • Medical cannabis oil is extracted from cannabis buds and is often consumed by smoking or vaping. It can be administered sublingually or rectally. And, it can be added to beverages and recipes
  • Medical cannabis edibles are easy to consume as baked foods, cookies, candies, chews, and gummy bears. You can add it to recipes for any meal, sauce, or dessert. Liquids, of course, are easier to consume for seniors and terminally ill patients. Edibles provide long-lasting relief, but they take a while to kick in.
  • Medical cannabis tinctures come in small eyedrop bottles to squirt or drop under the tongue. The dropper lets you manage the dosage, so this may be the administration of choice when treating children.
  • Medical cannabis suppositories send the cannabis properties through the walls of the colon. The effects start quickly and last long. It is best recommended for patients who have difficulty swallowing.
  • Medical cannabis transdermal patches and topicals leach the cannabinoid properties through the skin. You can massage lotions, ointments, salve, and sprays into areas of pain and soreness.
  • Medical cannabis beverages come in the form of juices, teas, smoothies, sodas, sports drinks. Your medical dispensary sells pre-packaged bottles and cans. The smoothies, sodas, and sports drinks refreshing while the teas calm and relax. 

Cannabis 101: Your 2018 Guide to Medical Cannabis

What have you learned? Over half of the states have legalized medical cannabis for growing, sale, possession, and consumption. Each state has its own regulations on how much you can grow, buy, and possess.

Each state also lists the acceptable medical conditions for medical cannabis therapy although many of the conditions are common. And, most medical practitioners recommend using medical cannabis in forms other than smoking.

Finally, each state has its own procedures for approving and monitoring medical cannabis dispensaries. And, each has its own rules for patient eligibility.

You can soon expect to see medical cannabis dispensaries throughout the country where or not they prove to be a gateway for recreational use.