What is Medical Cannabis?
Medical cannabis (or medical marijuana) refers to the use of cannabis and its constituent cannabinoids, such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), as medical therapy to treat disease or alleviate symptoms. The Cannabis plant has a history of medicinal use dating back thousands of years across many cultures. Its usage in modern times is controversial, and in recent years the American Medical Association, the MMA, the American Society of Addiction Medicine, and other medical organizations have issued statements opposing its usage for medicinal purposes.
Cannabis has been used to reduce nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy and people with AIDS, and to treat pain and muscle spasticity; its use for other medical applications has been studied, but there is insufficient data for conclusions about safety and efficacy. Short-term use increases minor adverse effects, but does not appear to increase major adverse effects. Long-term effects of cannabis are not clear, and there are safety concerns including memory and cognition problems, risk for dependence and the risk of children taking it by accident.
How is Cannabis Consumed?
Medical cannabis can be administered using a variety of methods, including vaporizing or smoking dried flowers, eating extracts, taking capsules or using oral sprays. Synthetic THC is available as prescription drugs in some countries; examples include: dronabinol (available in the United States (US) and Canada) and nabilone (available in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom (UK), and the US).
The General Legality of Cannabis
Recreational use of cannabis is illegal in most parts of the world, but the medical use of cannabis is legal in certain countries, including Austria, Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain. In the US, federal law outlaws all cannabis use, while 33 states and the District of Columbia have decided they are no longer willing to prosecute individuals merely for the possession or sale of marijuana, as long as the individuals are in compliance with the state's marijuana sale regulations. However, an appeals court ruled in January 2014 that a 2007 Ninth Circuit ruling remains binding in relation to the ongoing illegality, in federal legislative terms, of Californian cannabis dispensaries, reaffirming the impact of the federal Controlled Substances Act.
What is the Endocannabinoid System and Why is It Important?
The endocannabinoid (eCB) system is a group of neuromodulatory lipids and their receptors in the brain that are involved in a variety of physiological processes including appetite, pain-sensation, mood, and memory; it mediates the psychoactive effects of cannabis.
The eCB system's salient homeostatic roles have been summarized as, “relax, eat, sleep, forget, and protect” . It modulates embryological development, neural plasticity, neuroprotection, immunity and inflammation, apoptosis and carcinogenesis, pain and emotional memory, and most importantly from the viewpoint of recent drug development: hunger, feeding, and metabolism.