Medical Marijuana: Here Are The Things That You Should Know
In popular culture, it goes by many names. Weed, cannabis, pot or marijuana. These are some of the most common terms used today to refer to this controversial drug that originates from the cannabis plant.
The term cannabis is taken from the plant’s actual Latin name (genus Cannabis) but the others are nicknames that have become part of popular culture with marijuana being the most well-known today. We will use both cannabis and marijuana in this article depending on the context it is discussed.
Over the years it’s quite astounding how cannabis is slowly getting detached from the dangerous drug segment. While it isn’t completely classified as a legal drug, there seems to be a global shift on perspective as societies from all over the world loosen up on their drug policy on cannabis.
In recent years, the medicinal properties of cannabis have been gaining a lot of attention and acceptance, which led to legalization in more countries both for recreational and medical use. In the US, more and more states have legalized medical marijuana to treat pain and illnesses, and many seem to be interested to follow suit.
The Philippines is also about to get onboard the growing list of countries willing to loosen up their drug policy on cannabis. Cannabis has properties known to be therapeutic to many illnesses and this has been the driving factor of many lawmakers including the President to support legalizing cannabis but limited to medical use.
What is medical marijuana?
Marijuana is a combination of shredded leaves, stems and flower buds of the Cannabis sativa plant. Marijuana can be smoked, eaten, vaporized, brewed and even taken topically, but primarily many people smoke it for recreation. Medical marijuana, on the other hand, is the use of marijuana’s therapeutic properties to treat known illnesses. The end product is practically the same as its recreational use, but regulated and limited solely to medical purposes.
Cannabis better known as marijuana contains more than 100 different chemicals called cannabinoids. Each one has a different effect on the body. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are the main chemicals used in medicine. While these two are the main culprit for that “feeling” that marijuana users get when smoking this, they can, however, be therapeutic to the body.
How does it affect your body?
The human body already generates chemicals that have marijuana-like effects which play a role in the inflammatory and pain process, appetite, and movement. When cannabinoids (the active chemical in marijuana) enters the body, it affects the central nervous system aka the brain function.
The cannabinoid will target the pleasure center of the brain, much like how alcohol and other prohibited drugs function when they enter our body. Depending on the quantity, quality, and method of consumption, the chemicals will stimulate the human brain to release dopamine – a chemical substance from the brain that’s responsible for your mood, memory, appetite, sensation, etc. High levels of dopamine will basically elevate all these internal activities in our body.
While the total impact of cannabis can vary from person to person, it’s a well-known fact that the primary effects of cannabis are relaxation and mood elation. These two effects are basically what medical marijuana is mainly leveraging on in treating certain illnesses that are mostly associated to pain and a person’s neurological condition.
How does marijuana alleviate an illness?
While there is still much research needed to substantiate the benefits of medical marijuana further and to regulate its side-effects, the good outweighs the bad (we’ll get to that later).
The consideration being given to medical marijuana can be attributed to these therapeutic effects:
- Reduce anxiety
- Reduce inflammation and relieve pain
- Control nausea and vomiting caused by cancer chemotherapy
- Kill cancer cells and slow tumor growth
- Relax tight muscles in people with Multiple Sclerosis
- Stimulate appetite and improve weight gain in people with cancer and AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome)
What are the conditions prescribed under medical marijuana?
Its ability to reduce chronic pain, nausea, and vomiting due to chemotherapy and spasticity (tight or stiff muscles) make it a good treatment option for the following conditions:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Appetite loss
- Crohn’s disease
- Eating disorders such as anorexia
- Epilepsy/ Seizure
- Mental health conditions like schizophrenia and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Multiple sclerosis
- Muscle spasms
- Wasting syndrome (cachexia)
What are the side-effects?
According to healthline, marijuana smoke is made up of toxic chemicals like ammonia and hydrogen cyanide, which is pretty much the same as your everyday cigarette. This can irritate your airways system and the lungs. You’re basically exposing yourself to the same risk when you’re smoking a cigarette.
The THC, the main psychoactive agent in marijuana can enter your lungs, your bloodstream, and then into your brain. Its effects can vary depending on who you are, the potency of the cannabis, and how you take it (smoke it or eat it).
While it can lead to relaxation and heightened senses, it can also lead to increased heart rate (which increases your risk of heart attack if you have a cardiovascular condition), anxiety, paranoia, and sometimes hallucination.
Medical marijuana in the Philippines
Earlier this year, the House of Representatives has approved the House Bill 6517, an act providing compassionate and right of access to Medical cannabis and expanding research into its medicinal properties.
The measure limits the use of medical marijuana to a debilitating medical condition, which was defined by the measure as any diseases that produce one or more of the following condition:
- Cachexia or wasting syndrome
- Severe chronic pain
- Severe nausea
- Seizures including those characteristics of epilepsy
- Severe or persistent muscle spasms including those associated with multiple sclerosis
- Damage to the nervous system of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity
- HIV positive or AIDs
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Rheumatoid arthritis or similar chronic autoimmune inflammatory disorder
- Diseases requiring admission into hospice care
- Other debilitating medical condition or its treatment subsequently identified by the Department of Health as recommended by a panel of doctors constituted for this purpose.
Financial implications of legal cannabis industry
Forbes Magazine reported that in less than a decade, the legal cannabis industry will see worldwide spending hit US$57 billion by 2027.
Citing research from ArcView Market Research, among the largest growth spread is likely to come from outside the United States, from $52 million spent in 2017 to a projected $2.5 billion in 2027.
While the US and Canada started the ball rolling by creating medical-only cannabis regulations, other countries in South America, European and East Asian continents have started to weigh in on the health and economic implications of the legal cannabis industry.
Much governmental legislation at federal and state level will need to be aligned to allow the legal import, cultivation, and distribution of medical marijuana to be standardized with proper safeguards in place.
While the legal framework has yet to be ironed out, the rights to access this treatment from the individual’s perspective is clear.
In order for you to utilize this unconventional form of treatment, you must be a qualified medical cannabis patient, diagnosed by a certifying physician. You must comply with the Department of Health (DOH) documentation requirements to be granted an identification card which is proof that you’re authorized to use medical cannabis.
While the bill legalizing medical marijuana in the country hasn’t been enacted into law yet, its full realization doesn’t seem out of reach. With the President and lawmakers expressing their support towards the measure and a population yearning for this kind of progressive approach in medical science, this will be one a landmark bill that’s going to be a first in Southeast Asia.