Marijuana has seen its share of criticism and regulatory control. The herb was banned in the early twentieth century and remained strictly prohibited until the end of the century.
The restrictions only started easing at the end of the millennium. The drug has come a long way since the legalization of medical marijuana in California in 1996. At least 29 states across the U.S. have legalized medical marijuana on prescription.
A Politicized Drug
What is really interesting about cannabis is that early bans were mostly a result of a political movement rather than any scientific evidence about the harmful effects of the drug. Most of the popular studies about the negative consequences of marijuana were published after cannabis had already been banned. The studies, mostly financed by donations from anti-marijuana groups, created a negative perception about the drug.
Recent studies undertaken by unbiased researchers have shown a different picture. While excessive use of pot smoking still appears to have an adverse consequence for consumers, regulated use has been linked with positive effects.
The Comprehensive Scientific Report
One recent report in particular is often mentioned in scientific circles. It is the conclusion of a 400 page report from the US National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine which analyzed more than 10,000 scientific studies the effects of marijuana on people.
The report notes that marijuana consumption helps chronic pain in adults, severely reduces the nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy and relieves major symptoms of multiple sclerosis. The drug also provides relief for sleep and hunger problems.
The report has also shown that smoking excessive marijuana can lead to respiratory problems and cause substance abuse disorders.
Research on Marijuana
Despite showing promising results in treating a number of ailments, the drug is still difficult to access for research purposes. Marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 drug. Possession, cultivation and delivery of marijuana, without proper medical registration, are punishable offenses in most states.
Scientists have increasingly started calling for easing restrictions on marijuana. Scientists for Legalization’ is an advocacy group that is campaigning to make marijuana research easier. The group notes that there is a concerted effort of silencing researchers and suppression of publication on pro-marijuana findings.
Research has shown indisputable positive benefits of cannabis, evidenced by thousands of published studies. It isn’t surprising that many developed countries are now legalizing medical marijuana including Canada, Australia and Germany.
Scientific Principles on Marijuana
Recently, the scientific community called for collaboration between various science and research bodies. The basic principles of the community are as follows.
Cannabis and natural cannabinoids should be removed from the Controlled Substances Act.
Federal and State policies on marijuana should be based on scientific research instead of propaganda.
Scientists carrying out research on marijuana should not face any legal or social risks for participating in the research.
Medical Marijuana research should be funded by the federal and state governments.
Marijuana research should be completely objective, free from bias and focused on a broad range.
No patient should be denied access to medical marijuana treatment while research on cannabis is still ongoing.
Marijuana Effects that Scientists Want to Study
Scientists argue that researching marijuana is safe and the process shouldn’t be made unnecessarily complicated by the government. Initial research on marijuana has been particularly promising in a number of specific areas.
Marijuana as an Effective Cancer Therapy
Cannabis has already shown positive health benefits for people going through chemotherapy or radiotherapy for cancer treatment. Cannabis can significantly improve a case of nausea or loss of appetite, two usual side effects of cancer therapy.
Patients that used medical marijuana therapy for treating the side effects of cancer treatment have shown something significant. Pre-clinical trials for a number of people showed that marijuana consumption slowed down the growth of tumors in their body.
One researcher notes that this is significant. We have long known that Marijuana can slow down the bodily functions for consumers. However if cannabis can stop the growth of cancer cells, it would provide an all-herb treatment for patients.
Scientists want to study what exactly slows down the cell so that they can create an extract that is injected directly into the tumor in the body.
Marijuana Effects on the Brain
Researchers have noted that marijuana has a large number of varying effects on the brain. It is known to trigger brain functions that cause sleep, relaxation, euphoria and hunger. Scientists want to determine which cannabinoids in the drug trigger which specific function.
If scientists can determine how the chemicals react with specific cells within the brain, they can create pills that only contain specific compounds from the plant.
The Curious Case of Anxiety
Marijuana has a weird effect when it comes to anxiety. When consumed in moderation, the herb can create a feeling of relaxation and calm for the patient. This is particularly useful for people with insomnia and stress disorders who find it difficult to sleep.
However, excessive consumption of marijuana has been seen to create an opposite effect. Too much marijuana consumption can often lead to a case of increased anxiety and restlessness for the person.
Scientists are not sure what causes this dual effect. One researcher noted that without clinical trials, we may be a long way away from finding out for sure.
Cannabis can Reduce Opioid Dependance
A number of doctors are interested in using marijuana as an alternative to opioids. Surveys show that people using painkillers often become addicted to them.
Giving marijuana along with opioids seemed to have a synergistic effect on the patient. As the patient gets used to marijuana, the doctor can give the opioid for a shorter period.
A study in 2016 showed that doctors in marijuana legalized states prescribed 1,826 fewer doses of painkillers on average every year.
Researchers believe that more research on marijuana extract pills could significantly reduce the patients’ dependence on pain killers and prescription medication.
Long Term Consequences of Marijuana
This is one of the major questions that researchers would like to answer. Even those scientists who are in the anti-marijuana camp would like the government to ease restrictions so that they can study the long-term effects of marijuana.
An unbiased research would help us find out the effects of marijuana on developing brains. This is particularly important as preclinical studies suggest that exposure to THC for prenatal and adolescent brains can have long-term impacts, well into adulthood.
The study would go a long way to prevent children exposed to the drug from developing problems in their adult life.
Famous Scientists Supportive of Marijuana
It has always been scientists and pioneers that have led the way in challenging taboos and breaking free of government restrictions. Whether it was Socrates and Plato of old or Galileo and Copernicus in the Middle Ages, scientists often questioned the deeply held politicized beliefs of the people when there was a lack of evidence.
In modern times, we see scientists like Feynman and Sagan following in the tradition of their peers. This time however, they challenged the question about illegality of a substance that had very little evidence to back up the claims about its harmful effects.
When it comes to astronomy and space exploration, there is no bigger name than Carl Sagan. The man was fascinated with space research and instrumental in popularizing the concepts with his show Cosmos. Working as one of the top scientists at NASA during the heyday of the agency, played a major part in the space program for the country.
Few people might be aware however that Sagan took up smoking weed during the 1960s. He was quite vocal about his support for legalization of marijuana and often called for lifting the ban.
One of the greatest American physicists of the twentieth century, Feynman was responsible for a number of government projects that helped U.S. significantly improve its military industrial complex. His work in quantum mechanics and particle physics formed the basis of modern theoretical sciences.
A gifted writer with a sense of humor, he was open about his marijuana consumption and often dismissed claims that the drug could have a negative consequence on his health.
Stephen Jay Gould
He was one of the most famous evolutionary biologists and paleontologists who lived in recent times. He played an important role in the development of the evolutionary theory and progress through speciation.
He is particularly known for his work on punctuated equilibrium that occurs in short bursts over long periods and leads to the diversity of life.
He was also a vocal supporter of medical marijuana for alternative therapy. He developed abdominal cancer at age 40 and started taking herb medication that lasted all throughout his career.
It wouldn’t be fair to keep the list all American. Francis Crick was a British molecular biologist, biophysicist and neuroscientist. He is most famous for being one of the co-discoverers of the DNA structure.
He was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine with James Watson for discovering the molecular structure of nucleic acids and its significance for information transfer in living material.
In the late 1960s, he helped establish a cannabis-legalization group named Soma. It is believed that he was instrumental in the manufacture of THC later, an active ingredient of cannabis.