Study Summary: Medical Cannabis History & Pharmacology

Updated: Apr 17

Cannabis features a history that is complex due to modern day prohibition that began in North America in the 1920s (with federal prohibition being implemented in Canada in 1924 and in the U.S. in 1937). In a culture and emerging industry so rife with misinformation and urban legend, what does the scientific research have to say about the history of medical cannabis?

A 2017 study entitled "Medicinal Cannabis: History, Pharmacology, and Implications for the Acute Care Setting" that was published in the journal Pharmacy & Therapeutics investigated "the historical significance of the use of medicinal cannabis and...its pharmacology, pharmacokinetics, and select evidence on medicinal uses."


The Study

This study described cannabis as "the most commonly cultivated, trafficked, and abused illicit drug worldwide" and reported that "marijuana consumption has an annual prevalence rate of approximately 147 million individuals, or nearly 2.5 percent of the global population."


The study reported that cannabis has been employed as a medicine for millennia. "Evidence suggesting its use more than 5,000 years ago in what is now Romania has been described extensively," noted the study's authors.

"In 2014, approximately 22.2 million Americans 12 years of age or older reported current cannabis use, with 8.4 percent of this population reporting use within the previous month," reported the study. "An October 2016 Gallup poll on American's views on legalizing cannabis indicated that 60 percent of the population surveyed believed the substance should be legalized."


The study reported that cannabis has been employed as a medicine for millennia. "Evidence suggesting its use more than 5,000 years ago in what is now Romania has been described extensively," noted the study's authors.

The researchers explained that "cannabis was widely utilized as a patent medicine during the 19th and early 20th centuries" in the United States and was included in the United States Pharmacopoeia for the first time in 1850.


"As a [federal-level] Schedule I controlled substance [that officially features] no accepted medicinal use—along with a national stigma surrounding the potential harms and implication of cannabis use as a gateway drug to other substances—transitioning from a vilified substance to one with therapeutic merits has been controversial," reported the study.


After nearly a decade, the Cole Memo remains one of the only federal-level protections for patients in states that have legalized medical cannabis.

Wrote the research investigation, "Despite the complexities in the logistics of continuing medicinal cannabis in the acute care setting, proponents of palliative care and continuity of care argue that prohibiting medicinal cannabis use disrupts treatment of chronic and debilitating medical conditions."


The study explained how, in a 2013 U.S. Department of Justice memorandum to all U.S. attorneys, Deputy Attorney General James Cole noted that despite the enactment of state laws authorizing marijuana production and sale, "prosecution of individuals cultivating and distributing marijuana to seriously ill individuals for medicinal purpose has not been identified as a federal priority." After nearly a decade, the Cole Memo remains one of the only federal-level protections for patients that. participate in state-level medical cannabis programs.


Conclusions

The study concluded that modern medicinal cannabis and the large number of U.S. states and nations that have legalized it "represents the revival of a plant with historical significance reemerging in present day health care."


"Legislation governing use of medicinal cannabis continues to evolve rapidly, necessitating that pharmacists and other clinicians keep abreast of new or changing state regulations and institutional implications," reported the scientists.


They concluded that, as the medicinal cannabis landscape continues to evolve, "hospitals, acute care facilities, clinics, hospices, and long-term care centers need to...explore the feasibility of permitting patient access to [medical cannabis] treatment."


Visit the original study.


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