Medical marijuana’s huge potential in both the scientific community and business sector
In the United States, marijuana use is still illegal under Federal law. However, since 1996, 24 out of 50 states have already recognized marijuana’s medical benefits and thus, have legalized it. Colorado and Washington were the first states to fully implement the legal sale of medical marijuana.
Much of the debate with regards to marijuana, aside from its legality, is its medical benefits. Marijuana, otherwise known as cannabis, usually refers to the different parts of the hemp plant, such as its leaves, flowers, and stems. The term medical marijuana implies the use of the unprocessed plant for the treatment of certain medical conditions, according to the National Institute for Drug Abuse.
Different states have passed varied laws in their implementation and criteria in allowing marijuana for medical purposes. However, these states still recognize the authority of the US Food and Drug Administration in defining the criteria and processing of safe and effective medications. However, marijuana as a plant has not been legally approved by the FDA.
Hard to reach FDA approval
The FDA states that marijuana is not a medicine as clearly indicated under the Controlled Substances Act, and is classified as a Schedule I drug. Under this category are the most dangerous drugs such as ecstasy, heroin, and LSD. These drugs are considered to cause severe psychological and physical dependence. Marijuana is classified as a drug with no currently accepted medical use and has a high potential for abuse.
Usually, to attain approval, the FDA requires a series of carefully conducted clinical studies on a wide range of human subjects. However, researchers have not conducted large-scale clinical trials which show that the benefits of marijuana can balance its risks.
There are hundreds of cannabinoids from the marijuana plant and some of them are linked to the drug’s mind-altering effects. However, there are currently two cannabinoids that have been used for medical purposes: delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). These chemicals have been crucial to the development of two FDA-approved medications.
FDA-approved medications containing THC are mainly used for increasing appetite and reducing nausea. THC may also be administered through pill or smoking to decrease pain and inflammation. In certain cases, THC may also be used to control muscle problems. Still, in certain cases, there is a growing interest to treat conditions such as childhood epilepsy by targeting less frequent seizures and mental illness using another cannabinoid known as CBD.
While there are thousands of medications that promise to cure and treat certain disorders, deadly diseases and certain medical conditions, the use of marijuana for epilepsy, cancer, and even fertility has been effective.
Treating epilepsy, cancer and fertility issues
Sixty-five (65) million people in the world have epilepsy. It is one of the most common neurological disorders that can affect people of all ages. In the United States, there are about three million people inflicted with this unpredictable neurological disorder. The disorder is characterized by a series of random and recurrent seizures that can be devastating to one’s health. Many people with this chronic disorder often have more than one type of seizure and may have more than one symptom of the neurological problem.
RX Marijuana discussed the possible drug treatments available for epilepsy and they are mostly anticonvulsant drugs where 70 percent of the patients report relief. However, reports of the potentially serious side effects of these drugs include anemia, swelling of the gums, double vision, and even psychosis.
While there are varied treatment options that promise to cure this disorder, marijuana has been included on this list. Although there are still legal issues regarding the use of medical marijuana, the Epilepsy Foundation supported by laboratory studies, anecdotal reports, and small clinical studies suggest that cannabidiol could be a potential seizure-controlling drug. Reports from children with epilepsy and have tried cannabis, have marked less frequent seizures.
Aside from epilepsy, studies on cancer treatments have been underway. According to Web MD, advanced cancer treatments are already made available today, such as chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. However, unconventional treatments employ oral administration or inhalation of cannabis. Preclinical studies from an NIH publication suggested that administering cannabinoids may inhibit tumor growth and block the development of blood vessels that trigger tumor growth. Among breast cancer incidences, CBD showed cancer cell death but had little or no effect on normal breast cells. Cannabis is also known to have pain-relief and anti-inflammatory properties, aside from controlling nausea and vomiting in cancer patients.
On the other hand, new research has found out that cannabis might hold the key to treating fertility issues. Bristol Post featured a study on cannabis as a male fertility treatment. According to the research, exposure to the drug can cause alteration of DNA-bound proteins, sperm chromatin, embryo development and offspring health. The research found out that CB2, another cannabinoid receptor, helps normalize sperm production.
Tax revenue from legal sales
Despite issues on legalization and its medical benefits, the emerging cannabis industry is set to rake in billions of dollars in tax revenues. In February 2016, CNBC reported that legal pot sales soared 17.4 percent in 2015 at $5.4 billion.
Several reports revealed that the year 2015 was the highlight of the growth of the cannabis industry following the legalization of Colorado and Washington. Furthermore, innovations on marijuana-based products such as vaporizers, edibles and even in its cultivation, contributed to its imminent growth.
Technology plays a significant role in revolutionizing the process of marijuana cultivation. Today, various processes in growing cannabis have emerged, such as energy-efficient and high-technology greenhouses. New startup companies have also designed new systems and processes in marijuana cultivation. Los Angeles-based medical startup company, Med-X, which runs a Reg A crowdfunding campaign, provides all-natural products for the safe and healthy cultivation practices in the cannabis industry.
Considering the medical and legal benefits of marijuana entails careful studies and various legal consultations. Marijuana, in some parts of the U.S. and countries around the world, is considered to possess medical benefits while other states and countries still impose strict guidelines on its use. While there are studies that support its medical benefits, others oppose its legalization because of its potentially addictive property. However, in all its pros and cons, the industry promises to grow in the years to come and medical cannabis startups are continually innovating products to promote its medical benefits.