The current hype in the media about Cannabis and the opiates crisis has led many into considering the use of cannabis to treat the symptoms of ailments they have or even in an attempt to cure a condition that the conventional medicine has proven to be incapable of curing such as cancers, Multiple Sclerosis, Arthritis and back pain, Parkison, Alzheimer, and the list goes on and on and on.
We’ve all been brain washed into believing that Cannabis would make us crazy, get us to do bad things or even kill us. As a matter of facts, the US FDA back in the nineteen thirties has declared Cannabis or any related plant such as Marijuana or Hemp a schedule 1 drug similar to heroin and other hard core drugs meaning that Cannabis had no medicinal value at all, which is completely false because Cannabis had been in use for thousands of years for many things:
- As a medicine
- To make paper
- To make clothing
- To make ropes
Hemp, which is a variety of Cannabis from the Sativa family was at the time of its ban the most cultivated crop in the US and the declaration of independence of the USA was written on a Hemp based paper.
Doctor M. Moskowitz, MD from Sausalito CA says the following about Marijuana: “marijuana is the
single most medicinally valuable plant that has ever existed”. Coming from a medical doctor using conventional medicine treatment, this is huge and must be noted.
Now how do we differentiate the recreational Cannabis from the one that actually treat symptoms or cure people and commonly called medical Cannabis? What is medical Cannabis?
Quick recap on Cannabis and Cannabinoids
my other post Cannabinoids 101 – An introduction to Cannabinoids goes into more details on Cannabis and Cannabinoids. This section is just a quick reminder in case you do not have time to read the full article on Cannabinoids which I however, recommend you do as it will help you understand everything else a lot easier.
We all know Marijuana from its bad reputation of being a drug that makes you high. We also know about Hemp which as oppose to Marijuana does NOT make you high; although their leaves look similar in shape, there are noticeable differences between the two plants. Marijuana and Hemp are in fact two different varieties of Cannabis; Marijuana will make you high while Hemp will not. The reason behind it is the chemical constitution of both plants. Chemical compounds found in Cannabis (in both Marijuana and Hemp) are called Cannabinoids and so far more than hundred have been identified and the two main Cannabinoids are Tetrahydrocannabinol, aka THC and Cannabidiol aka CBD. THC is the substance responsible for the psychoactive effect in Cannabis, in other words making people high and CBD is the other main Cannabinoid full of therapeutic value and which does not give any psychoactive effects. Marijuana has a higher concentration of THC (making you high) while Hemp has a higher concentration of CBD (Not making you high). Other compounds known as Terpenoids and Flavonoids constitute the so called entourage of the Cannabis plant which all have an important role to play in the treatment of diseases. Isolating one single compound has proven to be less effective compare to using the whole plant extract that comes with the entourage.
Quick recap on the EndoCannabinoid System
The EndoCannabinoid system is a biological system within our body that produces Cannabinoids similar to those found in the Cannabis plant. Researchers say the ECS is certainly the most important physiological system in the body that helps leaving organism to stay healthy. The system found throughout the brain and nervous system produces so called endogenous cannabinoids that bind to Cannabinoid receptors in our body with the main goal to keep our internal system balanced no matter what changes or fluctuations are happening in the external world. The ECS was only discovered in the mid nineties; the medical community did not know about it and even today, many doctors still have no ideas about it and what it really does. Only the few doctors that have made the decision to get involve and study the Cannabis plant a bit deeper are really aware of its power.
The ECS is made of endogenous Cannabinoids, which are Cannabinoids created by our body, Cannabinoids receptors known as CB1 and CB2 and the enzymes involved in synthesizing and the degradation of the Cannabinoids.
Using medical Cannabis supplements the endogenous Cannabinoids with Phytocannabinoids, these are Cannabinoids from plants, in this case from Cannabis to saturate the EndoCannabinoid System and force the body to heal itself.
Many define medical Cannabis as any Cannabis consumed or used with the intent of addressing a health condition. With this definition, if two people buy the exact same Cannabis and the first person takes it for addressing nausea caused by chemotherapy and the second person takes it for fun, it will be considered that the first person took medical Cannabis while the second person had recreational Cannabis.
In my humble opinion, medical Cannabis is a lot more than that nowadays; with all the studies completed so far, scientists and health practitioners working with medical Cannabis now get to know the concentrations of Cannabinoids, Terpenoids and Flavonoids that address specific ailments. The strain that would best address cancer is different from the strain that would address anxiety, arthritis or Parkinson. Some people like Leonard Leinow have developed it into a science creating new breeds of medical Cannabis with precise amount of the two main Cannabinoids THC and CBD. Leinow has created strains with 50/50, 75/25 or 25/75 and many more concentrations. Industrial getting into Cannabis business are doing it because they can create more strains that will precisely address more ailments. There is currently over 700 strains of cannabis labelled as medical Cannabis and they each address a specific health condition.
Where to get Medical Cannabis
Before you even think of medical Cannabis, you first need to get a referral from a doctor so you can register as a medical patient unless Cannabis is legal in your country like it is in Uruguay and Canada. Depending on where you live, many options are available; in Germany for instance, you can get medical Cannabis right from the pharmacy. In North America, Cannabis dispensaries have been set up where patients can get their supply at if they do not want to grow their own prescribed amount of medical Cannabis. It worked this way in Canada until very recently, but with the October 17, 2018 law change legalizing Cannabis in the country, anyone can grow up to 4 plants and possess up to 30 grams of Cannabis whether for recreational or for medical use without violating any law.
Cost of Medical Cannabis
One major reason for legalizing Cannabis in Canada was to stop the black market by making the supply available legally for people to buy. However, Cannabis price in legal dispensaries are so high that people just go back to the black market to get their supply, even if they cannot guaranty the quality they get.
While price varies from province to province, we’ve noticed legal Cannabis prices going up to almost $16 per gram, with the black market price coming down to around $6.5. Everyone likes deals! And if you are buying medical Cannabis because you are sick, you will most likely be buying a lot, so you will be looking for deals. The current price for legal Cannabis will only drive more people to the black market unless they choose to grow their own.
Medical Cannabis Format
Medical Cannabis is currently offered in many different formats for patients’ use.
People can choose to inhale their medical Cannabis by smoking it in rolling papers, in a traditional pipe, or a water pipe. Patients can also inhale their medical Cannabis vaping the dried leaves, oil, or pre-made cartridges in a variety of vaporizers currently available on the market. Cannabis needs heat to turn the Cannabinoid in the plant into the active compounds we know as THC and CBD.
Other patients chose to use concentrated oil and extracts whether home or industrially made. The internet is full of procedure how to make your own medical Cannabis extract. This method allows patients to get a very high concentration of specific Cannabinoids in a short period of time to address their ailment. Concentrates can be taken sub-lingual or vaped. Due to restriction in the workplace, many opt for CBD oil which by definition contains less than 0.03mg of THC, thus does not create psychoactive effect, the high effect.
Not everyone likes smoking. Medical Cannabis can also be ingested through baked goods, chewing gum, lolly-pops, wine, etc.
The other way patients use medical Cannabis is through their skin. Topical Cannabis products come in the form of balms and lotions and can have a variety of concentration of THC or CBD. They address all kind of conditions including skin cancers. The CBD cream market is exploding in North America because pure CBD cream will not make one high.
Many people who do not want to experience the psychoactive effect of THC are advised to take their medical Cannabis oil through a suppository.
Effect of the Different forms of Medical Cannabis
Inhalation is definitely the fastest way to get it working because the Cannabinoids get straight in the bloodstream through the lungs but one may need to inhale a certain quantity.
“Eating” your Cannabis will take a bit longer to act compared to inhaling. This is because after processing the food, it goes through the liver before getting into the bloodstream. This method could take up to 60 minutes before you start feeling some effects, so do not take more if after 20 minutes you still feel like nothing is happening. However, you will only need about 25% of the amount you have to inhale to get a similar result.
Using you Cannabis on your skin may take even longer compared to the previous two methods, unless the problem you are addressing is actually on your skin.
As conclusion, the over 700 strains of medical Cannabis available on the market are making a clear statement on people suffering and it is essential that more funds be injected in the research to exploit the tremendous potential of that plant. Many options are available. Some privately owned dispensaries have developed strains that are showing to be very effective for specific health conditions that conventional medicine is struggling to address. They sell the products or sometimes the plants to grow yourself. And even better, the active community around medical Cannabis is just a click away through a website, a forum or a podcast one can listen to while commuting.