History of Cannabis (Marijuana) Research to Dec. 2016

This post by Dr. Noel Hershfield represents a summary of current research on the History of Marijuana in the treatment of medical disorders to the end of Dec. 2016.

Making Cannabis legal is an important step by the federal government. No longer will a citizen be convicted of possession, no longer will they be sent to jail for this reason, and no longer will they be considered as a felon for being found with a few grams on their person. On the other hand, using Cannabis for medical purposes has created a major change in physician behaviour because this drug has been very poorly investigated compared to all other prescription drugs currently on the market.

The first evidence of Cannabis was discovered in anthropological and archaeological studies and verified by Carbon14 dating from 8000 B.C. in Taiwan. It has been used for food and for cloth (hemp) up until 100 years ago. It was used as a medicine 2800 years ago in China and some writings claimed that it was valuable for anaesthesia and infection. (Source: Yellow Emperor’s Canon of Internal Medicine dating back at least 3000 years ago). Cannabis is one of the five sacred plants in use both medically and ritually in India, South America, and other areas. Cannabis was said to have both medical and spiritual benefits. Maimonides, the great Jewish physician (and physician to Saladin’s court) prescribes it freely in his writings.

In 1963, a biochemist named Raphael Mechoulam, at the Tel Aviv University in Israel, asked some members of the IDF to bring back some hashish from Lebanon. He was at the time working at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Tel Aviv. He is known as the Patriarch of Pot! He discovered most of the chemistry of Cannabis especially tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which is the psychoactive chemical and CBD (Cannabidiol) and which has very little psychoactive effects and the cannabinoid receptor system, which exists in virtually every organ in the human body. This is suggesting it is similar to the endorphin receptor system—the body’s internal painkiller which has been present for Millennia!).

Mechoulam and his colleagues have written 400 scientific articles, and has 25 patents. He and his co-workers have discovered over 600 chemicals in the plant. He has collaborated with physicians all over the world and has spoken and presented his evidence all over the West. He collaborated with physicians who have treated over 20,000 patients in Israel suffering from such diverse disorders as glaucoma, IBD, asthma, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel diseases, and some movement disorders.

In a recent interview, Mechoulam has suggested that it should not be used unless there has been rigorous research. “it is a very psychoactive substance” especially if there is a high concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol, which is present in the human brain. Research has also shown that these receptors are sensitive to serotonin, dopamine, and many other neurostransmitters and is involved in the so-called “pleasure pathway”. Scientists have noted that high levels of cannabinoid receptivity is found in marathon runners which may be natural or endogenous. This pathway is activated in patients who are addicted to narcotics.

Finally, Mechoulam says “it is a treasure trove of medical wonders, however, it needs much more research, including dose finding, and properly done randomized controlled trials.”

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