Before studying recent research on marijuana, it’s important to know its history. Though marijuana is mankind’s best friend since time immemorial, ground-breaking research in recent years has made it all the more fascinating yet controversial. On one hand, some people swear by its medicinal properties, while on the other hand, some think it’s nothing but a hoax for those who just want to get ‘high’. Nonetheless, cannabis research is growing, and it seems to be moving in the right direction. From ‘The Gateway Drug’ to the mainstream drug for several illnesses, including epilepsy and chronic pain — marijuana has come a long way. Let’s discuss in detail the recent research around cannabis or marijuana.
Marijuana, the ‘killer’ drug
In the 1970s, marijuana came out as a “killer” drug. This was the time when the US government classified it as a Schedule 1 drug, which placed cannabis along with drugs of abuse like heroin and cocaine. This not only led to a ban on marijuana but also a full stop on its research. Those researching the area were no less than criminals at least to others. Before that in 1961, the United Nations had also placed marijuana as the Schedule IV drug, under which strictest control measures applied to its handling. Neither recreational nor medical activities can occur around marijuana. It has a ban by most countries, barring a few. However, as time changed, the status of marijuana also kept changing.
Countries are opening up to marijuana
Thirty-one states in the United States have legalized marijuana for medical uses. Canada and Uruguay are the two countries where marijuana has been completely legalized. Other countries like Portugal, Israel, and The Netherlands have also progressed a lot in bringing marijuana into the mainstream. The marijuana market is growing in size by the day. A new report by Grand View Research, Inc, says the legal marijuana market may reach $73.6 billion by 2027. The industry comprises everything from beauty products to health supplements to products related to mental health. People surprise as research findings unearth more and more qualities of this plant. In the words of Dr. Vivek Murthy, the former US surgeon general, initial findings have thrown light on certain properties of marijuana that may be “helpful” in the treatment of certain “medical conditions” and “symptoms”.
Recent research on marijuana
The Canadian government commissioned an analysis of 68 recent research studies on marijuana in 2019. The findings revealed marijuana needs to be studied more. Fiona Clement, a health-policy researcher at the University of Calgary’s Cummings School of Medicine, under whom a group found that out of all 68 case studies, 62 had a correlation between marijuana use and its adverse outcomes. Some of the major complications after consuming marijuana were found to be impaired memory, ability to learn things, increased risk of heart attack, and most importantly, psychosis. On top of these risks were teenagers, pregnant women, and those with mental illnesses.
Despite these findings, Canada ended up legalizing marijuana. Their nod was based on one thing that everyone seems to agree on — cannabis is neither a panacea of all disease nor it’s a killer drug. If you strike a balance and know what is good and what’s bad for you, it can benefit immensely.
Some other findings around cannabis-related research conducted on mice revealed some interesting details. The study around THC (intoxicating cannabinoid found in marijuana plants) exposure to unborn mice found that it could make them more prone to stress in later life. They developed faulty brain circuits in their adult life, which impaired their memory. Exposure to THC (Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol) also affected their ability to make decisions and control anger. In a positive development, however, the research also indicated the rats with Alzheimer’s disease showed improvement in memory when they came in contact with THC.
United Nations allows research around cannabis
After much deliberations for around two years, and reviewing a series of World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations on cannabis and its derivatives, the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs removed cannabis from Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs in December 2020. This was a huge victory for marijuana proponents as it’ll no longer be considered as a deadly and addictive drug like opioids and heroin. This has also opened doors for recognizing its medicinal properties, though cannabis use for non-medical and non-scientific purposes continues to remain illegal, according to the UN. The historic decision came after the WHO made six recommendations with regard to the listing of cannabis in international drug control treaties.
Marijuana with no ‘high’
CBD is the least controversial form of marijuana. CBD or cannabidiol is a chemical compound found in marijuana alongside hundreds of other cannabinoids. It is mostly extracted from the Cannabis Sativa or more commonly known as the hemp plant, a cannabis family plant. Unlike its cousin cannabinoid, Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, CBD is not a psychoactive compound. When extracted, this cannabinoid can work pretty well with certain critical illnesses — it can cure insomnia, chronic pain issues, inflammation, epilepsy. People are drawn towards the compound because it’s 100 percent organic and gives better results than contemporary medicines. However, most claims, barring a few, regarding its efficacy against certain illnesses are “anecdotal”, and thus may or may not work for you.
The bottom line
The bottom line on research around cannabis is that there’s a need for more case studies and large clinical trials to understand it deeply. We still don’t know enough about cannabis to trust it blindly. That’s why we need more countries like Canada and Uruguay so that research could be conducted on a much bigger scale. Though the medical community has indeed been overly dismissive about cannabis, things are changing for the good now. If you are using marijuana, and are fearful of its harmful effects, it’s time to fix an appointment with your doctor. The need is to be open with your health expert, and if you have benefitted from it, there’s no shame in revealing it.