An Objective Overview of Medicinal Cannabis

The use and cultivation of cannabis is centuries old, dating back to 500 BCE. The plant was used as herbal medicine, and its origins are most likely Asian, as evidence of marijuana seeds has emerged in graves of shamans in Asia. In America, farmers cultivated hemp for use in textiles and the manufacturing of rope during the colonial period. In the 19th century, doctors used cannabis to treat cholera, given that extracts from the plant helped reduce stomach pains associated with the disease. Many other examples of its ancient use are readily available. Today, the plant is widely used for medicinal purposes and recreationally for its psychoactive properties.


During the last decade, the cannabis movement worldwide has gained a lot of attention and notoriety. Many countries, including Uruguay, have fully legalized marijuana. Other countries, such as the Netherlands, have tolerated the use of the drug and have decriminalized use and possession. In the United States, many states have provided legal access to medicinal and recreational cannabis, while other states have begun decriminalizing. Even with the increase in acceptance, medical marijuana attorneys are still in high demand. Businesses that focus products and services around the drug may need to seek assistance from lawyers and cannabis insurance specialists to guarantee legal protection and liability assurance. Regardless of the degree of tolerance, the use of the drug has expanded, and the topic has become controversial as arguments on both sides have made it to political debates and have obtained national news coverage. The question that people are debating is whether the drug has medicinal properties or if the claims are a hoax.

Research in Medicinal Use

Objectively, the debate over medical marijuana is mainly on if the medicinal properties of the drug (if any) outweigh the long-term risk associated with prolonged use. Results from certain studies do suggest that the drug has medicinal properties in chronic pain. For example, researchers consistently show that the use of cannabis is effective in the management of pain. In one such study, researchers suggested that patients using cannabis reported around a 40% decrease in pain, compared to a 20% decrease in those using a placebo. More importantly, the results indicated an improvement in quality of life, as about 50% of patients using cannabis experienced an overall 30% reduction in pain intensity.  This 30% threshold is important because it is the percentage of pain reduction commonly associated with an improved quality of life. A study by the UK MS Research group also reached similar conclusions: 50% of patients demonstrated improvements, as opposed to 30% using the placebo.

Results in other areas of research are not as significant.  For example, in the treatment of seizures, most of the studies suffer from methodological flaws that raise concerns regarding objectivity. Other studies, such as one conducted by Craig Press, Kelly Knupp, and Kevin Chapman, also have issues where bias may play a factor. Although the result of the study may suggest that the use of oral cannabis extracts may show patient improvement, these findings are primarily based on reports and observations given by the family of patients. These studies do show a promising trend that scientists are beginning to look at cannabis in a more independent manner. Researchers recognize flaws in the study’s design and scientists are beginning to realize the need for additional investigations where control groups, placebos, and other measures can assist in providing more impartial results.

Research involving patients with chronic illnesses or terminal diseases tends to present results that are less problematic as the long-term effect of cannabis use may be irrelevant. In other areas, such as those involving children or non-terminal diseases, the topic raises critical questions as to the safety of prolonged use. What is clear is that as legalization has gained momentum, scientists have been less reluctant and more willing to investigate and present impartial results. More specifically, the United States government classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug. At the very least, current research provides insight that suggests that the drug does have medical uses and its classification should be reviewed.