are in Medical
Introduction to medical cannabis
all medicines have toxic, potentially lethal effects. But marijuana is not such
a substance. There is no record in the extensive medical literature describing
a proven, documented cannabis-induced fatality...Simply stated, researchers have
been unable to give animals enough marijuana to induce death...In practical terms,
marijuana cannot induce a lethal response as a result of drug-related toxicity...In
strict medical terms marijuana is far safer than many foods we commonly consume...Marijuana,
in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known
to man." - DEA
Administrative Law Judge, FL Young, 1988
the greatest injustice produced by the current legislation with regard to cannabis
is that relating to its potential medical usage. The usage of cannabis is largely
governed under the Misuse Of Drugs Act 1971 and according to this it has no medical
value. However, current scientific research and the testimonies of thousands of
people from the past and present fully contradict this claim.
has been used as a medicine worldwide for at least 5000 years. It was part of
the British Formulary until 1971 when the Misuse Of Drugs Act was passed, resulting
in it being banned. The heyday of cannabis medicine was around the end of the
nineteenth century, where it was used for a number of symptoms in a number of
forms. The excitement of the introduction of hypodermic syringes and injectable
opiates reduced its usage somewhat, in addition to newer synthetic drugs. However,
in retrospect some of these new drugs have proved ineffective in some people,
and have dangers inherent in their use. Unfortunately, the current state of our
War on (some) Drugs legislative policies have prevented its legal use, and restricted
any research efforts that brave scientists have attempted.
seems almost farcical that currently in the UK, so-called hard drugs such as heroin
and cocaine, whilst being illegal to use recreationally, are available on prescription
whereas the relatively harmless cannabis plant cannot be used, it being deemed
useless and too dangerous to use even under full medical supervision. This is
no longer a popular viewpoint. Several surveys have been done recently, and almost
invariably they have come out with support for medical marijuana usage whether
the survey is restricted to select groups (e.g. Doctors) or to the general public.
Indeed certain referendums in the United States have lead to some states (for
example California and Arizona in 1996) 'legalising' cannabis for medicinal use.
However, it is not a feasible solution as cannabis usage is still a federal crime.
properties of cannabis
has been claimed to help with a large number of wide-ranging symptoms. However,
research has established three major properties which are medically useful. Cannabis
can be inferred from the above, cannabis has a number of possible applications
in medical treatment. Typically most research and use seems to focus on cancer
chemotherapy, AIDS and MS. For details of these, and a small amount of the vast
other array of disorders that people have claimed to use cannabis successfully
for see the medical usages page.One should not
limit its possible applications to these symptoms however. Huge amounts of anecdotal
evidence and increasing amounts of modern research suggest other uses as diverse
as diseases of the body such as glaucoma, diseases of the mind such as Adult Attention
Deficit Disorder and until-now untreatable conditions such as certain forms of
tumour growth. Recent research also shows cannabis has anti-oxidative and neuro-protectional
why is cannabis not available on prescription?
question may puzzle some readers! The simple answer is that cannabis cannot be
prescribed for any reason due to the Misuse of Drugs Act. This is evidently not
a satisfactory answer. For a substance to become a 'medicine' and thus officially
prescribable, it must be certified by the Medicines Control Agency as being suitable.
This requires two measures - safety (harmfulness to the user) and efficacy
(effectiveness for its designated purpose). However, cannabis has seemingly been
repeatedly proved to be both safe and efficious. In terms of safety, cannabis
has never been proven to have caused even a single death directly. Its
toxicity level is so low that no human has managed to consume enough to cause
a fatal reaction. This is extremely rare for modern medications. Every year, through
overdoses, allergic reactions, contraindications and for other reasons thousands
of people die through the use of legitimately prescribed medications. According
to NIDA statistics, the ubiquitous pain-killer
Aspirin kills around 2000 people in America per year. As it has never been accomplished
it is unreliable, but experts have estimated that in order to ingest enough cannabis
to die from its toxicity, you would need to have literally several thousands of
times the quantity that people would use to medicate or during recreation. Compare
these with legal drugs - Aspirin for instance could be fatal (and is certainly
very damaging) if just 20 times the recommended dose is taken. As for its effectiveness,
ignoring the legal status, time and time again it is proven to help. Thousands
of people testify to how it has helped them, and research is continually done
which shows significant medical benefits in a wide array of disorders.
time moves on, the serious issue of using cannabis medically becomes taken more
and more seriously. Not only do people go out of their way to treat themselves
with cannabis despite the possible consequences of law-breaking, but now a company
has been set up specifically to research the possible therapeutic usages of cannabis.
GW Pharmaceuticals is now (legally) conducting research into medical uses of cannabis.
They have encountered no significant unexpected health-related problems, and are
conducting trials with the hope of getting a cannabis-based medicine licensed
for prescription usage within 3 years. They will apply for the licence in the
near future, and the UK Government has indicated that if granted, they will allow
the medicine to become legal to prescribe. More details can be found on our GW
July 2001, Canada became the first country to legalise cannabis for medical use.
In Canada, cannabis can be legally prescribed by doctors, albeit under heavy restrictions.
People with terminal illnesses, having less than a year to live, as well as those
with certain specified conditions (for example AIDS, arthritis, cancer) will be
allowed to use cannabis medicinally if they have a form signed by their doctor
and two other experts. Unfortunately at this time it may be hard for some people
to use it medicinally in practice due to lack of supply. The licensed patient
or a named representative can grow cannabis for their usage, but no-one else is
allowed to cultivate or sell any form of cannabis for any reason. However, the
government has funded a cannabis plantation which mainly produces materials for
research purposes and in the future it is likely that medical patients will be
able to get their cannabis from them.
the case, it should be remembered that whatever anyone's personal views are on
the subject, thousands of people do treat themselves medically with cannabis.
They spend excessive amounts time and money in order to get their supply, without
any guarantee of its strength, quality or purity. They risk confiscation, fines,
criminal records and imprisonment. Why would they do this if cannabis was not
an effective medication - indeed so effective it is worth risking everything rather
than use a medication that the authorities have deemed 'legal'?