What is medical cannabis?

Medical cannabis - or medical marijuana - uses a plant, and extracts of the marijuana plant, to treat a number of conditions. It has increased in popularity over the past few years and has been proven to help conditions such as fibromyalgia and epilepsy. 

However, due to different legislation surrounding marijuana across the world, the use of the plant for medical reasons have often been controversial. Many families have had to fight for their right to use this plant-based healer, with some cases ended up in court. 

How does marijuana help with medical conditions?

The marijuana plant contains many different chemicals that can be extracted for specific uses. These chemicals are known as ‘cannabinoids.’ The most popular chemicals that are used for medicinal purposes include Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). CBD has even become a niche in today’s market, with CBD infused foods being more popular in shops, and even on Netflix series.  

These two chemical extracts are often associated with pain relief. Doctors in some countries, such as the US, will prescribe medical marijuana to help with headaches, glaucoma, and even cancer. The chemicals from marijuana can help the body to achieve a natural balance and fight issues such as inflammation and appetite loss. 

Who can use medical cannabis?

Whether or not you can access and use medical cannabis largely depends on where you live in the world. Medical cannabis has recently been legalised in Ireland, for example, but is only available when patients fail to respond to standard treatments for certain conditions. Access to the treatment can only be prescribed through a medical professional. 

In the UK, legislation, and the adoption of medical cannabis has been a slow burner. Prescriptions are made in limited cases and usually in the most severe medical cases. Laws were loosened after two young boys suffering from severe epilepsy were denied access to medical marijuana. 

In comparison, medical cannabis is legal in 33 states in the United States. Although more patients have access to it, this is controlled by the state. Patients are given a medical cannabis card, which is an identification card provided by the states, only when a medical professional recommends the medical use of marijuana. Patients will need to pay a fee for this card and it can only be used in regulated cannabis dispensaries.

Medical cannabis cannot be used by anyone living in a state where it is ruled as illegal. Pregnant women also shouldn’t use medical marijuana as there is no evidence that it is safe. 

What medicines contain marijuana plants or their extracts?

Medical cannabis can be administered in a number of ways. Examples include capsules, patches, sprays, and even edibles.

The medicine that is prescribed largely depends on the condition being treated and can vary from country to country. In the UK, for example, the following medicines are available through prescription and only when standard treatments prove ineffective: 

  • Epidiolex for children and adults suffering from epilepsy
  • Nabilone for chemotherapy patients
  • Sativex for MS patients

Will medical cannabis encourage a regulation reform? 

Cannabis as a general is not legal everywhere. While some countries are advancing their approach and usage of cannabis for medicinal purposes, this does not necessarily suggest that all regulations surrounding the drug will be relaxed. 

There are many reasons why cannabis is illegal in different parts of the world, including the risks and side-effects that come with using the drug. Recreational drug use can sometimes lead to drug abuse and laws exist to keep vulnerable people protected. 

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