Cannabis, marijuana, ‘grass’, or ‘weed’ are just a few of the names used to identify one of the most popular drugs used worldwide, which is the Cannabis Sativa. UN statistics show that this psychoactive plant is the most used illicit substance on Earth, estimated to be consumed by around 227 million people, yearly.
However, it can also be used legally for medical purposes for various types of cancer, HIV/AIDS, and some neurological problems and as an supplement to stimulate appetite and relieve pain. Medical Marijuana has benefits, risks, and it is not legal in every country of the world.
Medical Marijuana – Benefits
Cannabis is the only genus of plants that contains a unique class of molecular compounds, cannabinoids, a family of complex chemical substances that act on the cannabinoid receptors (protein molecules located on the surface of cells).
Researchers have discovered several types of cannabis compounds, the most important of which are delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychoactive compound, and cannabidiol (CBD), an anti-psychoactive compound.
Marijuana is used around the world mainly because of its psychoactive properties produced by THC, the main active ingredient in the plant.
In fact, this is the difference between regular hemp and marijuana. The THC in the drug Cannabis plants exceeds 20% of the total plant content, while in the plant used to produce fiber and other products the THC does not exceed 0,3%, the CBD being the predominant compound in this case.
The popularity of this drug is due to its ability to reduce anxiety and increase the level of euphoria. As with other recreational substances, the effects of Marijuana on health depend on the frequency of use, the potency and the amount of Marijuana that is consumed, and the age of the consumer.
When used occasionally by adults, Marijuana has little or no negative effects on healthy people.
In 2010, an independent UK scientific committee analyzed 20 drugs to assess the damage they cause to both individuals using them, and to the society (through crime, family destruction, workplace absenteeism, and other issues).
Accumulating the data, the researchers concluded that alcohol is the most dangerous drug, followed by heroin and crack cocaine. Marijuana ranked 8th, presenting a quarter of the danger of alcohol.
Most of the benefits of Marijuana are related to its psychoactive effects. Marijuana is effective against stress, reducing anxiety, increasing the level of euphoria and causing a slight disruption of the environment among users.
Also, Marijuana can help people with low weight eat more because it stimulates the appetite. For this reason, marijuana is useful for patients affected by cancer, because stimulating the appetite helps them maintain a healthy weight, leading to higher survival rates.
People affected by chronic pain are also among those aided by marijuana.
Preliminary evidence suggests that marijuana can also be useful for people suffering from Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis, but more research is needed to reach a definitive conclusion.
Medical Marijuana benefits are similar to regular Marijuana.
Medical Marijuana – Risks
The biggest disadvantage associated with Marijuana use is the internalization of the NMDA receptor, which can lead to poor retention of memories.
The occasional use of marijuana does not affect the long-term memory and the ability to form memories.
Activation of the CB1 receptor results in an increase in activity and blood flow in a region of the brain called the anterior cortex (ACC), which triggers the increase in diastolic blood pressure. This means that Marijuana, when combined with stimulants, may increase the risk of cardiovascular problems, such as a heart attack.
Frequent consumption of marijuana turns this blood flow stimulation into a blood flow attenuation when the CB1 receptor is internalized. Very common consumption, defined by 5 or more joints each day, may even lead to a reduction in size of the anterior cortex, which may affect attention and increase the risk of developing a psychosis.
When the anterior cortex is affected in this way, it may not return to normal size even if Marijuana consumption ceases.
Here are the effects of marijuana on memory:
- Consumption of marijuana causes a temporary state of short term memory reduction. It’s about the same sensation you have when you look at your watch, and shortly thereafter you no longer remember what time it is. This effect does not cause long-term memory problems.
- Those who frequently consume Marijuana may suffer a slight cognitive disorder, the so-called brain fog, if they stop consuming Marijuana but this effect disappears after two weeks without causing long-term damage.
- Those who consume a lot of Marijuana may have difficulty concentrating and learning if their anterior cortex has been affected.
Researchers have discovered a method by which marijuana users can prevent temporary loss of memory arising from consumption. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or aspirin. These prevent the occurrence of memory disorders caused by THC.
Medical Marijuana – State Laws
Although for the most of the century Marijuana has been banned in the vast majority of the world’s countries, in recent years several states have reassessed their legal status.
Uruguay became the first country to legalize marijuana in 2013.
In the Netherlands, citizens can own and cultivate marijuana, and coffee shops can sell marijuana with a retail sale restriction.
In Spain, although marijuana is officially forbidden, it can be consumed in the so-called ‘Marijuana clubs’, which are accepted by the authorities.
Also, surprisingly, according to the testimonies of tourists and escapees from North Korea, marijuana is legal in this country and seems to be consumed on a large scale.
In the US, marijuana has been legalized in Colorado, Washington, California, and in other states, but remains illegal at federal level.
In other countries it is allowed to use it for medical purposes, marijuana being decriminalized. Possession is still illegal, but it is classified as a contravention, being rarely sanctioned by the police.
On the other hand, in some countries of the world the Marijuana and other Cannabis-related drugs are totally forbidden, and selling, buying, holding, or consumption of such drugs can lead to huge fines, prison, or even to death sentence.
Here are some examples of the harshest ones:
- Malaysia – if caught holding 200 grams or more of Cannabis, you’ll be sentenced to death
- Iran – drugs are considered a real problem in Iran, especially when it comes to opium consumption and trafficking, but Cannabis is not tolerated as well. If caught with large quantities of Cannabis-related drugs, you’ll have to pay a huge fine, or, in the worst case you’ll be executed.
- Singapore – even if you’re caught with some small amounts of drugs, the authorities will consider you a drug lord, and if they’ll find you guilty, they’ll send you for execution.