Marijuana as Medicine
Perhaps the strongest argument for legalisation lies with the medical uses of cannabis. The British government is on the cusp of allowing its use to treat painful conditions, and in America an eminent medic has come out in favour. Professor Lester Grinspoon from Harvard Medical School believes that cannabis "is likely to be seen as a wonder drug of the 21st century."
Cannabis is widely known for its medicinal ability to ease a host of serious conditions:
# cancer: cannabis can suppress nausea brought on by chemotherapy
# AIDS: it can increase appetite and prevent weight-loss
# glaucoma (an eye condition): cannabis can relieve eye pressure
# muscular pain: it can ease muscle spasms and period pains
In the 19th century, cannabis was widely used to relieve muscle spasms and rheumatism. Even Queen Victoria was given it by her doctor to ease her period pains.
It was the invention of the syringe towards the end of the century that marked an end to its widespread medicinal use.
Injecting drugs meant they could take effect a lot faster. Cannabis cannot be dissolved in water, so it can't be injected.
Only recently have scientists began to scrutinize the chemical more closely, and have started to conduct clinical trials to test its medical effects.
Relief for multiple sclerosis sufferers
There are a total of 85,000 people suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS) in Britain. This incurable debilitating disease manifests itself with a host of symptoms:
# balance problems
# muscle weakness and spasms
Although pharmaceutical drugs are available to MS sufferers, the condition is difficult to control. Clinical tests performed by the Multiple Sclerosis Society showed that most patients responded positively to cannabis. The drug especially alleviated spasms, pain, tremor and increased bladder control.
In addition, a postal survey was conducted amongst patients self-medicating with cannabis in the UK and the USA. More than 90% reported a beneficial effect on their condition. Unfortunately, many patients end up obtaining cannabis illegally.
Doctors have been allowed to prescribe capsules containing THC, the main active ingredient of cannabis, for years. Nabilone - a synthetically manufactured copy of THC - was licensed in 1982 for prescription use against nausea caused by chemotherapy.
However, some patients complain of the same side effect that many people state as the drug's main recreational attraction - it gets you stoned. Due to the complex relationship between THC and receptors in the brain, researchers haven't yet managed to separate the active medical ingredients from the brain-bending ones.
Patients taking the drug in capsule form are unable to control the dose as they can with careful inhaling. So the pharmaceutical industry has started developing THC aerosols and inhalers that don't harm lungs. This makes it easier for patients to control their dose and prevents them from getting too disorientated
BBC NEWS | Science & Environment