It has been demonised in the media by pundits and politicians, but doctors have long been aware of the medical applications of marijuana. Will we soon see a future with universal access to medical marijuana?
Truth is always the first casualty of war, and no where is this more true than in the War on Drugs. In a misguided effort to stamp out rising substance abuse issues, anything that runs against the official line (loosely summarised as “all drugs are bad, all drugs are bad, all drugs are bad”) is inevitably swept under the carpet. Acknowledging that marijuana might have any positive benefits is tantamount to treason.
Yet marijuana has long been recognised within the medical establishment for its medicinal value. Noted for its capacity to relieve nausea, loss of appetite and chronic pain, it has been used with great success by sufferers of cancer, HIV, glaucoma and multiple sclerosis, proving time and again to be more effective than prescription medication.
History of Medical Marijuana
Using marijuana for medical purposes is no new development – many ancient cultures recognised its value. The Ancient Egyptians and Indians used it in their traditional medicine for a wide variety of purposes, ranging from the treatment of haemorrhoids to pain relief (especially for women in childbirth.) The Ancient Greeks made extensive use of marijuana seeds, steeping them in water and using the extract to treat inflammation and pain.
It continued to find use right up to the 20th century – before the advent of asprin in the 19th century, marijuana was the most commonly prescribed form of mild pain relief in most Western countries.
Medical Marijuana Today
After a long spell in the wilderness in the first half of the 20th century, where it was demonised as a highly dangerous substance, the medical marijuana debate was reignited in 1972 by Tod H. Mikuriya’s groundbreaking medical study, “Medical Marijuana Papers”. Since then, numerous medical studies have supported and expanded upon his findings, and marijuana today prescribed in certain US states and European nations for a wide variety of conditions.
It isn’t all positive by any means – the majority of US states strictly prohibit the use of medical marijuana, and there has been no uptake from the majority of nations around the world (including the UK). Many people choose to get their medical marijuana illegally, running the risk of prosecution simply for seeking effective relief to chronic pain.
By all accounts, marijuana is able to provide the best form of relief for some of the most painful and debilitating conditions that people suffer from, yet draconian drug laws leave many people in unnecessary suffering.
Many people feel that the medical marijuana debate is at something of an impasse. Some countries go so far as encouraging citizens to buy marijuana seeds and grow their own supplies, whilst many other countries (such as the UK) taking an increasingly strict line against the drug.
Medical marijuana faces an uncertain future; to be seen to be actively promoting an increased use of marijuana is to commit political suicide, even though countless medical organisations (ranging from the British Medical Association to the American Public Health Association) have argued for greater access to medical marijuana.
What the future holds, none can say – it seems that all the studies in the world that promote marijuana and marijuana seeds from a medical point of point can’t overcome the political paralysis. But with more and more people becoming aware of the benefits of medical marijuana, it is to be hoped that someday everyone can enjoy the benefits of the “healing herb”, not just the lucky few in the most progressive states and countries.