Cannabis is one of the oldest medicines that has historically been used by humanity, with many known and unknown doctors who explored the plant’s possibilities. Now over 80 years since federal cannabis prohibition began in the U.S., medical practitioners are beginning to reconsider cannabis as a medicine.
Chinese Emperor Shen Nung, also referred to as the “Father of Chinese Medicine,” wrote many medical documents about herbs around the third century, including cannabis. Fast forward to the 20th century where U.S.-based Dr. William Woodward, who represented the American Medical Association (AMA), spoke up against the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. During the congressional hearings leading to making cannabis illegal, Dr. Woodward argued that cannabis should be regulated but not prohibited. Despite his efforts, cannabis was made illegal. As a consequence, generations of medical doctors were only given information about cannabis’ illicit nature, and few ever saw evidence of its historical uses as a medicine.
The discovery of the cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol in 1964 and the first cannabinoid receptor in a rat in 1988 provided medical professionals with evidence of the body’s largest neurotransmission system. Although this established the important role of how cannabinoids assist in maintaining health, doctors were unable to support any information other than official scientific evidence.
Part of the blame for this lack of knowledge by doctors was due to a seemingly-impenetrable labyrinth of government regulations that made any scientific investigation into the medical efficacy of cannabis nearly impossible. This coupled with the lack of research, a report by Dr. David Allen in 2013 found that only 13.3 percent of America’s medical schools provided any instruction on cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system.
Truthfully, it isn’t the medical community that is to thank for the progress of cannabis over the past few decades—it was the voters who chose to legalize medical cannabis in California in 1996. That movement paved the way for the benefits of medical cannabis to become common knowledge.
“A 2019 analysis of 18 studies published in PLOS (Public Library of Science), a peer reviewed online medical journal, found that doctors no longer rejected the clinical usefulness of medical cannabis.”
Thankfully, after decades of hard work, knowledge of cannabis is slowly but surely coming to light. A 2019 analysis of 18 studies published in PLOS (Public Library of Science), a peer reviewed online medical journal, found that doctors no longer rejected the clinical usefulness of medical cannabis. Six additional studies reported support for the clinical usefulness of medical cannabis and five other studies concluded that medical cannabis was believed to be a viable therapeutic option.
The PLOS report indicated that although doctors were now supportive of the medical consumption of cannabis, it highlighted that they still express concerns relating to the risk of psychiatric adverse drug reactions and that cannabis would be obtained “medicinally” as a legal façade for recreational consumption.
Even with those caveats, many doctors are now more comfortable with their patients consuming cannabis to treat their conditions. As Dr. David Bearman, executive vice-president and co-founder of the American Academy of Cannabinoid Medicine pointed out to CULTURE, “With more and more patients telling their healthcare providers that their friends, neighbors and relatives are getting good therapeutic results with cannabis, it is becoming harder and harder for health care professionals to ignore the obvious—cannabis is medicine.”
Whether it’s being used to treat pain, insomnia, movement disorders, depression or a host of other debilitating ailments, cannabis is a first-line drug. The rediscovery and growing acceptance of cannabis as medicine by our nation’s doctors bodes well for the health of the individual and the welfare of our communities.