History of Cannabis as Medicine

Cannabis has long been used as a medicine in Asian, African and South American countries. The first evidence of the medicinal use of cannabis is in an herbal published during the reign of the Chinese Emperor Chen Nung 5000 years ago. It was recommended for malaria, constipation, rheumatic pains, ‘absentmindedness’ and ‘female disorders’. I’m neither a doctor nor female, but I’ve lived with both and can confirm with anecdotal evidence that cannabis can be used to treat ‘female disorders’, so Chen Nung was definitely onto something 5000 years ago.

According to “History of Cannabis as a Medicine” by Lester Grinspoon, M.D., in India cannabis has been recommended to quicken the mind, lower fevers, induce sleep, cure dysentery, stimulate appetite, improve digestion, relieve headaches, and cure venereal disease. I’m still not a doctor but that last part doesn’t sound right to me, but I don’t know enough about venereal disease to dispute it.
In the West cannabis did not come into its own as a medicine until the mid-nineteenth century. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, numerous papers were published in Western medical journals recommending it for various illnesses and discomforts. Although during that time period they were also recommending opium and cocaine to treat a wide variety of illness, like the common cold.

In the past 100 years we’ve seen the prohibition and resurgence of medical marijuana in the United States.
· 1914 – Drug use, under the Harrison Act, is officially declared a crime.
· 1937 – By now, 23 states have outlawed marijuana. The government also passes the “Marihuana Tax Act”, making the use of non-medical marijuana illegal. Cannabis was still used in various medical treatments, albeit in controlled forms.
· 1970 – Marijuana was categorized as a Schedule I drug along with more dangerous ones, and was listed as having no accepted medical use. Despite the fact that some early American medical journals had begun listing the medical uses of cannabis, the government restricted any further research.
· 1985 – Marinol, the only US FDA-approved pharmaceutical is introduced and classified as a Schedule II controlled substance.
· 1996 – Patients and advocates turned to the state level for access, passing voter initiatives in California and Arizona that allowed for legal use of cannabis with a doctor’s recommendation. These victories were followed by the passage of similar initiatives in Alaska, Colorado, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and Washington D.C.
· 1999 – Marinol downgraded to a Schedule III controlled substance. Yet cannabis in its natural flower form still remains a Schedule I drug for the foreseeable future.
As of 2017, cannabis still remains a Schedule I drug; along with MDMA, LSD, peyote, quaaludes and heroin these drugs are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. In August 2017 however, the FDA has granted Breakthrough Therapy Designation to MDMA for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder).
Qualifying conditions to become a medical marijuana patient in Washington include:
· Cancer
· Multiple sclerosis
· Epilepsy or other seizure disorder
· Spasticity disorders
· Intractable pain
· Glaucoma
· Crohn’s disease
· Hepatitis C
· Diseases, including anorexia, which result in nausea, vomiting, wasting, appetite loss, cramping, seizures, muscle spasms, or spasticity
· Chronic renal failure requiring dialysis
· Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
· Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Due to a lack of scientific evidence supporting improved health outcomes from the use of medical marijuana for mental health conditions such as bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety, the Medical Quality Assurance Commission denied requests to add to the list of qualifying conditions. For more information please visit the WA Department of Health and Services.


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