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Medical Cannabis Overview

Medical Cannabis Overview

The following information is presented for educational purposes only. MedicatedOne provides this information to provide an understanding of the potential applications of cannabidiol (CBD). Links to third party websites do not constitute an endorsement of these organizations by MedicatedOneand none should be inferred.

By now, you’re hearing about medical marijuana everywhere. It’s being called a miracle drug, as well as the United States’ fastest growing industry. With a truly mystifying amount of incorrect information out there on the subject, getting up to speed on medical marijuana is surprisingly difficult. To make things easier, keep reading this article for the fundamentals you need to know.

These are the basics of medical marijuana, including what it is, why it might be good for you, how long it’s been around, whether it’s legal, and how you can get legal access where you live. Get all the details below, or skip to the section you’re most interested in:


What is Medical Marijuana?
How Long has Medical Marijuana Been Around?
Where is Medical Marijuana Legal?
How Do You Get Legal Cannabis?
Medical Findings on Cannabis
What if you can’t get medical marijuana?

What is Medical Marijuana?

Cannabis is a category for a plant species that houses both hemp and marijuana. For a lot of people, the best way to think about cannabis is with an analogy: hemp and marijuana are to cannabis as lemons and oranges are to citrus. Two related but different plants, from the same "family.”

The characteristic that defines hemp from marijuana is the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) threshold, since hemp is almost devoid of THC but often high in Cannabidiol (CBD). Hemp has 0.3 percent THC or less while marijuana has a THC concentration of 0.31 percent or higher.

 Medical marijuana refers to using the whole cannabis plant, or the plant’s basic extracts, for the treatment of various ailments or conditions. If you’re not treating ailments or conditions, marijuana can’t be labeled medical marijuana.

 To date, marijuana has not been recognized or approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a food or medicine, but the agency has approved some cannabis based medications. In addition, nearly half the states and U.S. territories have legalized marijuana for medical use.

Cannabis contains over 85 cannabinoids, some of which have been found to have therapeutically beneficial properties. The two major cannabinoids found in cannabis that academic and scientific studies demonstrate to possess therapeutic properties are cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

These cannabinoids interact directly with the body’s endocannabinoid system – a signaling network found within every living mammal on Earth. It features two cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2 receptors, which THC and CBD "dock” with to provide their therapeutic effects. THC is the mind-altering ingredient in cannabis, and it’s been shown to increase appetite, reduce muscle control problems, and reduce nausea, pain, and inflammation. CBD doesn’t cause a psychoactive effect like THC, but it has been shown to reduce pain and inflammation, as well as be effective in killing certain cancer cells, controlling epileptic seizures, and treating mental illness.


How Long Has Medical Marijuana Been Around?

Cannabis has been used for medicinal purposes since the time of ancient China. Cannabis and its therapeutic benefits, specifically gout, rheumatism, constipation, and senility, were described in ancient Chinese texts. Chinese Emperor Shennong, who was also a pharmacologist, wrote about using cannabis for treatment purposes in a book published in 2737 BC (Adams & Martin, 2006).

With regard to the United States’ pharmacological system, cannabis was long included as a viable treatment option. It wasn’t until 1937, when despite the lack of support from American Medical Association (AMA), the U.S. passed a federal law banning cannabis. According to Americans for Safe Access, from that point on cannabis was only legally available to a small number of patients through a federally organized program called the Investigational New Drug (IND) compassionate access research program. In effect, the IND program allowed patients to receive up to nine pounds of cannabis from the government each year, in 1976.

Today, numerous states have established medical marijuana programs, which allow patients access to legal cannabis with a doctor’s recommendation. California was the first state to establish such a program with voter initiates that passed in 1996. Soon after, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and Washington DC followed with their own initiatives.

Today, 23 states and The District of Columbia allow patients legal access to medical marijuana. Despite the fact that cannabis continues to remain federally illegal, in October of 2009 the U.S. Department of Justice announced that they would not pursue medical marijuana participants or distributors who comply with state laws.


Where Is Medical Marijuana Legal?

So far, 23 states have established medical marijuana programs. These states include: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. In addition, Washington DC and Puerto Rico allow medical marijuana for patients.

Additional states, while not offering comprehensive medical marijuana programs, have approved "low THC, high cannabidiol (CBD)” products for limited medical purposes. These states include Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.


How Do You Get Legal Medical Marijuana?

Medical marijuana is only legally available in the states and territories that have established medical marijuana programs. The conditions and ailments that are approved for medical marijuana treatment vary, so you’ll need to first determine whether your condition is included on your respective state’s list of qualifying conditions.


The rules and requirements for acquiring legal medical marijuana also vary between state and territory. In general, you’ll need to visit your doctor, who if feeling tat you and your condition would benefit from medical marijuana, will write you a medical prescription. You will be placed in the state’s respective system and will then be allowed to buy marijuana from a dispensary, which is an authorized seller. You’ll have the option between cannabis in dried bud form that you can smoke, sprays, extracts, and edibles.


Medical Findings on Cannabis

While the benefits of medical marijuana have been studied since the 1940s, the most groundbreaking discoveries about cannabis and its therapeutic effects have only emerged in the last decade. Studies have shown that cannabis has the ability to:


  • Slow the progression of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s’ diseases
  • Reduce the number and severity of debilitating epileptic seizures
  • Reduce muscle spasms experienced by those with multiple sclerosis
  • Kill or limit the growth of cancer cells
  • Provide anxiety relief and reduce nightmares for those with post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Minimize neurological damage following spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries.*


In addition, cannabis has long been shown to effectively mollify both pain and nausea, making it a potentially powerful therapeutic for numerous medical conditions, including patients having to undergo chemotherapy or traditional AIDS/HIV treatments.

More than 15,000 modern peer-reviewed scientific articles on the pharmacology of cannabis and its cannabinoids have been published by medical journals, according to Americans for Safe Access.


*Sources: (McAllister, Soroceanu & Desprez, 2015) (Iuvone, et al., 2004) (More & Choi, 2015) (Blair, Deshpande & DeLorenzo, 2015) (Lakhan & Rowland, 2009) (Bar-Sela, et al., 2015) (Abrams, et al., 2007) (Latini, et al., 2014) (Akirav, 2013) (Mechoulam & Shohami, 2007).


What if You Can’t Get Legal Cannabis?

 If you’re unable to get access to medical marijuana, there are other options. Chief among them is CBD hemp oil, the natural botanical extract of the hemp plant, which can be imported to and purchased in most states without violating the laws regarding cannabis.

CBD hemp oil is derived from hemp, a particular variety of cannabis. While you can find hemp oil in many local stores, store-bought hemp oil is usually derived from hemp seeds and doesn’t contain a significant concentration of CBD that pure CBD hemp oil contains. CBD hemp oil is extracted oil from hemp that contains a significant amount of CBD and other nutritious materials like terpenes and omega-3s.


Learn More

There’s a wealth of information about medical marijuana available. If you’re interested in learning more, be sure to check out some of our other content.



Abrams, D.I., Jay, C.A., Shade, S.B., Vizoso, H., Reda, H., Press, S., Kelly, M.E., Rowbotham, M.C. and Petersen, K.L. (2007, February). Cannabis in painful HIV-associated sensory neuropathy: a randomized placebo-controlled trial. Neurology, 68(7), 515-21.

Adams, I.B., and Martin, B.R. (2006, January 24). Cannabis: pharmacology and toxicology in animals and humans. Addiction, 91(11), 1585-1614.

Akirav, I. (2013). Targeting the endocannabinoid system to treat haunting traumatic memories. Frontiers in Behavioral Neural Neuroscience, 7, 124. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3776936/.

Bar-Sela, G., Vorobeichik, M., Drawsheh, S., Omer, A., Goldberg, V., and Muller, E. (2013). The Medical Necessity for Medicinal Cannabis: Prospective, Observational Study Evaluating the Treatment in Cancer Patients on Supportive or Palliative Care. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2013, 510392. Retrieved from http://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2013/510392/

Blair, R.E., Deshpande, L.S., and DeLorenzo, R.J. (2015, September). Cannabinoids: is there a potential treatment role in epilepsy? Expert Opinion on Pharmacology, 16(13), 1911-4.

Iuvone, T., Esposito, G., Esposito, R., Santamaria, R., Di Rosa, M., and Izzo, A.A. (2004, April). Neuroprotective effect of cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive component from Cannabis sativa, on beta-amyloid-induced toxicity in PC12 cells. Journal of Neurochemistry, 89(1), 134-41.

Lakhan S.E., and Rowland M. (2009). Whole plant cannabis extracts in the treatment of spasticity in multiple sclerosis: a systematic review. BMC Neurology, 9(59), doi:10.1186/1471-2377-9-59.

Latini, L., Bisicchia, E., Sasso, V., Chiurchiu, V., Cavallucci, V., Molinari, M., Maccarrone, M., and Viscomi, M.T. (2014, September 4). Cannabinoid CB2 receptor (CB2R). stimulation delays rubrospinal mitochondrial-dependent degeneration and improves functional recovery after spinal cord hemisection by ERK1/2 inactivation. Cell Death & Disease, e1404.

McAllister, S.D., Soroceanu, L., and Desprez, P.Y. (2015, June). The Antitumor Activity of Plant-Derived Non-Psychoactive Cannabinoids. Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology, 10(2), 255-67.

Mechoulam, R., and Shohami, E. (2007, August). Endocannabinoids and traumatic brain injury. Molecular Neurobiology, 36(1), 68-74.

Medical Cannabis Research. (2015). Americans For Safe Access. Retrieved from http://www.safeaccessnow.org/medical_cannabis_research_what_does_the_evidence_say.

More, S.V., and Choi, D.K. (2015, April). Promising cannabinoid-based therapies for Parkinson’s disease: motor symptoms to neuroprotection. Molecular Neurodegeneration, 10, 17.

Scientific History of Medical Cannabis. (2016). Americans for Safe Access. Retrieved from http://www.safeaccessnow.org/scientific_history_cannabis.

State Medical Marijuana Laws. (2016, January 8). National Conference of State Legislatures. Retrieved from http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/state-medical-marijuana-laws.aspx.M