Let’s take a look into the rich history of medical marijuana shall we. Cannabis is a genus of plant which flowers and includes three commonly accepted species; sativa, indica, and ruderalis janisch. A native plant to Central and South Asia, cannabis has been used for multiple purposes by humans for thousands of years. Hemp, the fiber from cannabis, may be one of the earliest cultivated plants used by man. With its long and very strong plant fibers it was a primary source for rope, canvas, sails, twine and webbing fiber in early history.
Hemp was also used for clothing, paper, in concrete, and even as food. Christopher Columbus’ ships had sails that used hemp and the U.S. S. Constitution, “Old Ironsides,”also had hemp riggings. Fabric dated to 8,000 BC in ancient Mesopotamia was found to be made from hemp.
In addition to the uses of hemp, evidence of the smoking of cannabis for medical benefits can be found as far back as the 3rd millennium B.C., through the discovery of charred cannabis seeds found at an ancient burial site in what is present day Romania. Cannabis use is also evident by ancient Hindus in India and Nepal, the ancient Assyrians, in ancient Greece, and ancient China. Many civilizations used cannabis as part of religious ceremonies and traditions. There was even a study published in a South African Journal of Science stating “pipes dug up from the garden of Shakespeare’s home in Stratford upon Avon contain traces of cannabis (BBC News, March 1, 2001) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/1195939.stm
Cannabis was used as legal tender from 1631 to the early 1800’s. Money owed to the government of the United States could be paid with cannabis. During the American Revolution, laws were passed forcing farmers to grow cannabis due to its vital use in securing freedom. Cannabis provided the colonists with medicine, shelter, fuel, and clothing. Dr. Burke, a Smithsonian consultant, discovered evidence linking seven presidents with growing cannabis: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, Zachary Taylor and Franklin Pierce. Benjamin Franklin used the fiber of cannabis for paper.
Cannabis remained a part of the United States pharmacology until 1941 with the passage of the Marihuana (original spelling in document) Tax Act which made it difficult for physicians to prescribe. At the time, the American Medical Association (AMA) was one of the most vocal groups testifying against the proposed legislation stating it would remove medicine from patients.
Pharmacology of Cannabis
The herbal cannabinoids found in cannabis include:
- THC-tetrahydrocannabinol: stimulant, muscle-relaxer, appetite stimulant, antidepressant, euphoric, bronchiodialting, hypotensive and has analgesic effects
- CBD-cannabidiol: sedative and analgesic effect
- CBN-cannabinol:anti epileptic effect and mildly psychoactive
- CBG-cannabigerol: antibiotic, sedative effect, lowers interocular pressure
- CBC-cannabicyclol: sedative and analgesic effect
- THCV-tetrahydrocannabivarin: found primarily in African and Asian strains increased the speed and intensity of THC effect
Side effects from medical cannabis include:
- Dizziness from lowered blood pressure. Be sure to tell your caregiver if you have blood pressure issues and monitor the effects of cannabis closely that you take.
- A decrease in coordination and cognition. Short term memory loss may occur while medicated with certain strains
- Heart rate and/ or blood pressure may initially increase which may effect patients with severe anxiety or heart conditions.
- Effects will vary between individuals and with various strains
Your caregiver should always be informed of any conditions that may impact the use of medical cannabis.
Species of Cannabis
Cannabis Sativa is thought to have originated in Asia or Europe. The larger of the strains, sativa has been known to grow to heights of 20 to 25 feet outdoors. Due to the size of the plant, sativa is commonly used for the fiber content. This tall strain provides long strands of fiber. Generally, sativa is higher in THC and lower in CBD than the indica plant. Sativa has a more energetic type of effect when compared to indica. However, the yield of the sativa plant is generally lower than indica and takes more time to mature.
Cannabis Indica is believed to have originated in Asia close to the Himalayas. Currently cultivated throughout the world, indica is generally higher in CBD and lower in THC than sativa. Indica generally will produce a more relaxing and calm effect on patients.
Cannabis ruderalis was first found in Eastern Europe where it can still be found growing wild. Referred to as “ditch weed” this species does not grow tall but can tolerate harsh climates that would most certainly kill sativa or indica plants. Cannabis ruderalis has a lower THC content and not in demand for medicinal purposes.