THE MEDICAL BENEFITS OF CANNABIS
Over the past twenty years, medical cannabis programs have expanded from just California to over half of the United States. With 33 states and D.C. having legalized the medicinal use of cannabis, now is the time to talk to your recommending physicians about whether medical marijuana can be used to treat symptoms of your qualifying condition.
The concept of medical cannabis is far less polarizing today. Recent polls illustrate that approximately 90% of Americans are in favor of legalizing cannabis use for medical purposes. Public opinion has changed mostly because of patient success stories and doctors embracing medical cannabis around the country. Patients and their caregivers have been the driving force behind the development of cannabinoids as medicine.
Unfortunately, federal legislation prevents proper scientific research. However, over 60 national and international health organizations officially recognize the potential benefits of medical cannabis. Many of them support granting patients immediate access to legal medical cannabis and, at the very least, encourage clinical research.
Despite a lack of research, there is extensive anecdotal evidence about the benefits of medical cannabis. More and more doctors are writing recommendations for their patients.
 Gass, N. (2016, Jun.). National poll: Majority supports legalizing marijuana. Retrieved from https://www.politico.com/story/2016/06/do-people-support-legalizing-marijuana-223928
 Retrieved from https://norml.org/library/item/quick-reference#international
Medical Cannabis Use
Whether you suffer from neuropathic pain due to fibromyalgia or inflammation stemming from Crohn’s disease, you may be eligible for a medical cannabis card in your state. Due to a lack of overall regulation, qualifying conditions for medical marijuana vary greatly from state to state.
In the United States, medical cannabis is most commonly used for chronic pain relief. Physicians are prescribing cannabis for patients living with neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s disease, due to the neuroprotective effects of certain cannabinoids, like THC. The antispasmodic properties of certain cannabinoids can be beneficial for those living with seizure disorders. Cannabis can also be used in palliative care for cancer patients.
 Boehnke, K.F., Gangopadhyay, S., Clauw, D.J., Haffajee, R.L. (2019, Feb). Qualifying Conditions of Medical Cannabis License Holders in the United States. Health Affairs, (38)2. Retrieved from https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/abs/10.1377/hlthaff.2018.05266
Why Medical cannabis
The endocannabinoid system [LINK to ECS blog] is what makes cannabis a viable treatment for certain conditions. The endocannabinoid system coordinates multiple physiological processes, including motor functions, sleep, mood, and immune function. It helps regulate our emotions, memory, pain, pleasure and other physical sensations.
The ECS functions as a homeostatic regulator, meaning it maintains a consistent and healthy internal environment. This influences different organs to work properly and communicate properly with the brain. When you consume cannabis, the plant’s cannabinoids, most notably THC and CBD [LINK to THC vs. CBD], activate the cannabinoid receptors located throughout your ECS. There are two main cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, found in the central nervous system and immune/peripheral nervous system respectively. Cannabis can work in harmony with the ECS to maintain optimal balance in the body.
chronic and neuropathic pain Disorders
Cannabis is an analgesic and has anti-inflammatory properties which can help patients living with chronic pain. A growing body of research suggests that patients with traumatic brain injuries can use cannabis as a tool in their pain management and overall treatment. It can also help ease neuropathic pain stemming from conditions like HIV.
Cannabis can be used as an alternative to commonly-prescribed medications. It is non-toxic and less addictive than opioids; there is no recorded fatal overdose from cannabis in any medical literature.
 Schurman, L. D., & Lichtman, A. H. (2017). Endocannabinoids: A Promising Impact for Traumatic Brain Injury. Frontiers in Pharmacology, 8, 69. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5314139/
 Ellis, R. J., et al. (2008). Smoked medicinal cannabis for neuropathic pain in HIV: a randomized, crossover clinical trial. Neuropsychopharmacology : Official Publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, 34(3), 672–680. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3066045/
Psychiatric and Neurological Disorders
Many people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder have reported positive effects while using cannabis. Certain strains of cannabis have anxiolytic effects which can reduce PTSD- related anxiety and improve overall well-being. THC has also been known to reduce REM sleep, the stage in which one’s most vivid dreams occur. Patients have found that higher THC content can reduce nightmares and help with insomnia associated with PTSD.
Studies show that cannabis can promote new cell growth while also exhibiting neuroprotective properties. This can help alleviate symptoms associated with neurodegenerative disorders, like ALS and Parkinson’s disease. Certain cannabinoids have anti-spasmodic effects which can help patients cope with painful spasms, seizures, and lack of muscle control, especially those suffering from multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Some cannabinoids can also reduce cellular inflammation which is the leading cause of progression in Alzheimer’s disease.
 Bonn-Miller, M.O. (2015). Medical Cannabis for PTSD: Current Evidence and Emerging Research.
 Feinberg, I., Jones, R., Walker, J., Cavness, C., Floyd, T. (1976, Jun). Effects of marijuana extract and tetrahydrocannabinol on electroencephalographic sleep patterns. Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics, 19(6):782-94. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/178475
 Iuvone, T., Esposito, G., De Filippis, D., Scuderi, C., Steardo, L. (2009). Cannabidiol: a promising drug for neurodegenerative disorders?. CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics, 15(1):65-75. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19228180
 Salk Insitute (2016, Jun). Cannabinoids remove plaque-forming Alzheimer’s proteins from brain cells. Retrieved from https://www.salk.edu/news-release/cannabinoids-remove-plaque-forming-alzheimers-proteins-from-brain-cells/
gastrointestinal and appetite Disorders
Physicians have used cannabis in the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders, including Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and inflammatory bowel disease. The anti-inflammatory properties of cannabis have shown promise in helping patients cope with symptoms. In some cases, cannabis could be an alternative to NSAIDs and narcotic medications for pain management related to gastrointestinal disorders.
Many cancer patients who undergo chemotherapy experience extreme nausea and vomiting. Cannabis is so effective at combatting these symptoms that synthetic variations of THC (dronabinol and nabilone) are often used to treat cancer patients, especially in places without access to medical cannabis. Like natural cannabis, dronabinol interacts with the CB1 receptor, causing it to release hunger-inducing hormones. Though the research is limited, some studies suggest that THC can even reduce the level of brain cancer cells.
 Ahmed, W., & Katz, S. (2016). Therapeutic Use of Cannabis in Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Gastroenterology & Hepatology, 12(11), 668–679. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5193087/
 Parker, L. A., Rock, E. M., & Limebeer, C. L. (2011). Regulation of nausea and vomiting by cannabinoids. British Journal of Pharmacology, 163(7), 1411–1422. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3165951/
The TAKE AWAY
Today, cannabis strains are bred to have varying levels and concentrations. The medicinal properties of the cannabis plant stem from the concentration of cannabinoids and terpenes, as well as their interaction with the human body.
Talk to your recommending physician about whether cannabis can be used to treat symptoms of your qualifying condition.