For nearly half a century, the United States has been adamant and iron-fisted in its war on drugs; a war who’s “success,” is often heavily debated. And in the early 70’s when this war was first waged by President Nixon, there was one drug, in particular, that seemed to garner the most attention, not only in its widespread use but also through the demonizing of it – marijuana.
However, marijuana was not always held in such social disregard as it was it then, nor does it hold that standing currently. In fact, many people might be surprised to know that the advent of marijuana use for strictly recreational reasons is a relatively new development when you look at the timeline of human history and the impact that this plant has had on our lives for thousands of years. And while as a cash crop, marijuana has been in production since the time of the founding fathers and a few millennia prior, it is the use of marijuana as a medicine that is truly showing the most promise.
It is difficult to turn on the news or read a newspaper without hearing or reading about marijuana, and most often, the headlines are a lot different than they were in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Instead of reading about huge drug busts, or the negative effects that marijuana can have on a person, we find ourselves seeing articles about the decriminalization or legalization of it or the potential for marijuana to aid in a plethora of ailments and diseases like cancer, ADHD, or fibromyalgia. However, in much of the world, both modern and ancient, the idea of using marijuana as medicine is old news.
In 2737 B.C., Emperor Shen Neng was among the first major leaders of the ancient world to prescribe marijuana tea to treat a number of ailments, including gout, rheumatism, malaria, and even poor memory. The drug’s popularity spread throughout Asia, the Middle East, India and even down to Africa. On this journey, marijuana was furthered prescribed for everything from pain relief to an earache, childbirth to religious enlightenment.
Taking as closer to modern day, by the late 18th century, early editions of American medical journals recommend help seeds and roots as a treatment for inflamed skin, incontinence, and venereal disease. It was an Irish doctor named William O’Shaughnessy who first made popular marijuana’s medical use in England and America. As a physician with the British East India Company, he found marijuana eased the pain of rheumatism and was helpful against discomfort and nausea in cases of rabies, cholera, and tetanus. However, it wouldn’t be too long after this point where marijuana began to lose its reputation as medicine and gain the title of illicit.
In 1914, marijuana use became defined as a crime under the Harrison act and in that moment, seemingly all research and study into the benefits of marijuana ceased. According to Time magazine, “With an exception during World War II, when the government planted huge hemp crops to supply naval rope needs and make up for Asian hemp supplies controlled by the Japanese, marijuana was criminalized and harsher penalties were applied. In the 1950s Congress passed the Boggs Act and the Narcotics Control Act, which laid down mandatory sentences for drug offenders, including marijuana possessors and distributors.”
Skip ahead to modern times and as of April 2015, 23 states in the U.S. have legalized medical cannabis, but only people with certain qualifications can obtain it – so what changed?
While the debate can potentially be lengthy as far as the reasoning behind the US revisiting the use of medical marijuana, one thing that should certainly be agreed upon is that its proven benefits cannot be denied – in fact, they are growing.
So what modern day ailments do we face as a society on the whole that could benefit from the use of medical marijuana, especially in response to a growing number of individuals looking towards more natural and less invasive treatments? Glad you asked…
Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is a chronic, typically progressive disease involving damage to the sheaths of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, whose symptoms may include numbness, impairment of speech and of muscular coordination, blurred vision, and severe fatigue. As it stands, there is no cure for MS, however, there are some effective treatment options, many of which are found in cannabis and its many healing chemical properties.
According to CNN, using marijuana or some of the chemicals in the plant may help prevent muscle spasms, pain, tremors, and stiffness, according to early-stage, mostly observational studies involving animals, lab tests and a small number of human patients. The downside -- it may impair memory, according to a small study involving 20 patients. However, after doing the most rudimentary cost/benefit analysis, it isn’t difficult to accept medical marijuana as the viable MS treatment that it is.