Dear U.S. government: Medical marijuana is nothing new

by DGO Web Administrator

I am not a doctor, nor am I trying to play one here on DGO, but, I believe it’s time to take a deeper look into medical marijuana. This is partially to shine a light on the surprisingly varied methods by which the cannabis plant works in concert with the human body in order to promote good health, and partially to put a final nail into the coffin of the argument that claims MMJ programs are simply a way for potheads to establish a foothold in the push for legal weed.

Cannabis has not been noted throughout history as an intoxicant nearly as often as it is as a healing herb; C. sativa has been has been used for thousands of years to combat maladies as widely varied as pain, nausea, wounds, tapeworm and hemorrhoids and is found in the medical literature of ancient China, India, Egypt, Greece and extensively in the Middle East, in both ancient Biblical contexts and by Muslim doctors. It has been used as food for nearly 10 millennia and as a folk medicine for nearly as long.

The modern history of cannabis as a medicine centers on Irish doctor William O’Shaughnessy, who introduced it to Western medicine as pain- and spasm-relieving agents in the mid-19th century and its use in the United States in hundreds of patent medicine formulas.

For reasons that have more to do with immigration issues and racism than with sound medical and scientific research, California was the first state, in 1910, to outlaw cannabis use and in the following decades, with the nation’s first “Drug Czar” Harry J. Aslinger. Aslinger pushed spiritedly for its prohibition using wild tales of the “Reefer Madness” style and tone and cannabis was relegated from an important and useful place in medicine to a plant that could not be investigated or studied for its healing properties. This demonization reached its zenith in 1970 when Richard Nixon decided to classify marijuana as Schedule I drug and to leave it there two years later against the best advice of a commission that he himself appointed. As the standard for Schedule I substances lists them as chemicals with the “greatest potential for abuse and no medicinal value,” researchers were unable to work with or investigate its possible medicinal value for the next several decades.

In a quirk of history and politics, the United States government established a medical program based at a facility in Oxford, Mississippi, which, in 1978, dispensed marijuana to 20 patients.

In the late 1990s, states began to ignore the federal government’s ban on cannabis as medicine and started implementing their own medical marijuana programs. California was first in 1996 and has since been joined by 22 other states and the District of Columbia. Sixteen additional states operate programs in which cannabidiol, a chemical compound found within the cannabis plant and is highly effective at managing childhood seizure disorders, among other conditions, is legal and monitored as a medical substance.

Next week, we will look more closely at some of the conditions that medical cannabis combats and the evolution of the research and discovery that has led us to this exciting time in the history of this wonderful plant. Be well til then.

Christopher Gallagher lives with his wife and their four dogs and two horses. Life is pretty darn good. Contact him at [email protected]

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