The history of medical marijuana is an interesting topic. Today we will explore its origins and migration into western civilization, discussing its place in the world today.

The science and history of medical marijuana broken down

I have been asked to present a series of lectures to medical personnel concerning cannabis and various aspects. I’m going to propose 4 different seminars.

  1. The first will be the medical marijuana history and science.
  2. The second one will be on the endocannabinoid system.
  3. The third video will deal with specifically the process of how people get registered certified for medical cannabis.
  4. The fourth will deal with questions and issues that physicians have presented to me and requested response.

A little about Dr. Metcalf

Just a little bit of information about myself. I am a board certified internist. I finished my residency here in Pittsburgh at St. Francis medical center and I’ve been doing occupational medicine and emergency medicine. For the last couple of years I’ve been doing cannabis.

It has been a real honor and privilege to do that.

So, today I’ll start on part one of the science and history of medical cannabis.

Cannabis has been around for milleniums

Just to let you know cannabis according to documentation has been around for at least 5,000 years.

Dating back to 3000B.C., we have documentation from Egypt, India and China with different graves where the cannabis plant was actually there!

So its been used as a medicine for thousands of years.

Medical marijuana in western civilization

Now to start the journey into the western culture…. In 1839, a surgeon from England by the name of William Shaughnessy, went to India to study. He found that cannabis was helping people with so many different problems and he was impressed with his experience. So, he brought it back to the west with him.

For the next 100 years cannabis was used in medicine. This included the American medical community. The AMA and various pharmaceutical companies, including Bayer, used high proponents of that.

In fact the founder of modern medicine, William Osler, recommended using cannabis as the best medicine he had for migraine headaches. Very impressive.

Unfortunately back in the 30’s and 40’s there was a social change here in America. In 1940, cannabis was taken of the pharmacopoeia, which is a listing of the different medications.

medical marijuana history

Perhaps you recall the movie Reefer Madness? That actually catapulted cannabis into a very strange position and it was made a Schedule 1 drug shortly after.

In 1952, cannabis was made a narcotic. In 1970, THC, the more psychoactive component of marijuana was made a Schedule one, which is similar to LSD and heroin . It really had no particular value.

On December 16 2016, CBD, another component of cannabis, was also made a Schedule one drug. This has made it challenging for research and application.

Now that stated, there is currently 33 states that have medical cannabis and 10 states that have recreational. There is a lot more research being forwarded and Pennsylvania is leading the nation.

4 major components of marijuana

To give you a little about the components of cannabis…. There are 4 major categories.

  1. Phytocannabinoids. Phyto- means plant based.  Phytocannabinoids mimic our bodies own cannabinoids, which I’ll talk about in part two of this pro series. One phytocannabinoid is CBD, which has been used for seizure disorders, anxiety,  depression, nausea/vomiting and cancer to some extent. Most are aware, especially from back in the 1960’s and 70’s, of THC. The more psychoactive component of marijuana which can get you “high” or “stoned”. It can also be used for seizures, sedation, and appetite stimulation. There are over 100 phytocannabinoids.
  2. The second major group is terpenes. Terpenes give flavor, aroma, and color. Some terpenes are sedative like myrcene which is sometimes up to 40% of the cannabinoid terpene profile, or linalool. Terpenes that are more energetic are limonene, pinene and beta caryophyllene. All of these compounds work synergistically with phytocannabinoids.
  3. Our third major group is what they call the antioxidants. Things like cannaflavin a, b, and c which are unique to the cannabis plant. Also, epogen and quercetin. What antioxidants do is protect us from free radical damage from cells and electrons that are released during the oxidative process.
  4. The last and least well-known group are cannabis alkaloids. These are nitrogen compounds that work physiologically in the body. What makes cannabis so unique as a medicine and herbal product is the fact that it has what they call an entourage effect. All of the different compounds work together to bring the body back into balance; versus a drug that has one molecule and has one effect on the body that creates side effects both upstream and downstream.

Medical Marijuana strains

There are 3 main strains of marijuana.

  1. Indica, which is more THC
  2. Sativa which is more CBD
  3. Hybrids.  A combination of the two.

Based on my last research, there are over 6,000 strains, at least with over 700 compounds in cannabis. An article written in 2005, reflects on Ethan Rousseau, who is an international researcher and neurologist. He felt that classifying cannabis as indica, sativa, or hybrid was ‘old school’ and is looking more toward the milligrams that the actual compound has within the product you might buy at a dispensary.

This is the science and history of medical marijuana in a nutshell. I greatly appreciate you taking the time to review this article. Please feel free to share this information.

Be well and know that we care. Have a great day!

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Dr. John Metcalf

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