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Understanding The Medicinal & Recreational Uses Of Marijuana

When you are told about marijuana, you might quickly think of recreational cannabis. Yet this substance also has medical virtues for patients with chronic pain, multiple sclerosis spasms, nausea or a lack of appetite due to AIDS or cancer. These properties are being increasingly recognized around the world and trying to differentiate medicinal from recreational marijuana is not an easy task. Here is an update on this whole issue.

Recreational use of cannabis has been around for a long time

The recreational use of cannabis has given rise to a subculture; proof is the various names given to this drug. Pot, dope, weed, reefer, bhang, green, herb, ganja, sinsemilla, grass, Mary Jane, chronic, bud, shit. In French, they are called dried flowers (and not dried leaves as some think): grass, beuh, marie jeanne, ganja, yobi; and resin: shit, teushi, teush, teuteu, chichon, hash, bédo as well as other names from different varieties.

Cannabis can be presented in several forms:

  • Dried flowers (also called "heads" or buds) or dried leaves (usually the flowering crown leaves of female plants), called marijuana;
  • Cannabis resin (hashish), which is a derivative of the dried plant, agglomerated in blocks after manufacture;
  • Cannabis oil (honey oil or hash oil) which is a concentrate derived from extraction with solvents;
  • Pollen;
  • Or skuff (or scuff).


There are a number of techniques for recreational use

Generally, cannabis is smoked: dried heads (flowers) or crumbled resin (possibly mixed with tobacco) are rolled in a sheet of paper and smoked like a cigarette.

Other techniques include using pipes (aka bongs or water pipes) to smoke cannabis while cooling the smoke, and in the case of bongs, by removing some of the impurities (tar, among others, water is lukewarm or hot because the cold water filters significantly less).

Cannabis can also be cooked as it is soluble in fats, to prepare dishes such as Space Cake, Pot Pie or Hash Brownies, or taken in solution in milk, so-called bhang.

Nevertheless, when ingested, the effects of cannabis are intensified and do not show for thirty minutes, which can disrupt the users and generate a state of anxiety and paranoia called bad trip.

Spraying is another method of ingestion

THC and other cannabinoids can be extracted as vapor by heating the plant lightly without burning it. This method has the advantage of not extracting the toxic substances contained in the smoke from cannabis and tobacco during normal combustion. By heating cannabis at about 190 °C, the psychotropic substances evaporate, but the plant does not burn yet. The vapor produced can then be inhaled, with an effect as immediate as if the drug is smoked. Spraying or sublimation is the preferred technique for people seeking to avoid the dangers of smoking.

The effectiveness of medical marijuana has been demonstrated

Cannabis has been used as a medicinal plant since ancient Egypt, but this substance has been understudied scientifically and rigorously in the 20th century because of its prohibition. It was only in 1992 that medical interest in this substance would rekindle with the discovery of Prof. Raphael Mechoulam of an analog-produced cannabis. According to the professor based at the University of Jerusalem, "the endocannabinoid system plays a role in practically all the physiological systems that have been observed." And the search for this compound seems to prove it right.

Several hundred studies have thus confirmed certain properties of medical cannabis:

  •     Pain-relieving properties, especially for chronic, resistant pain;
  •     Anti-spasm properties, useful in multiple sclerosis 4 or even partial epilepsy;
  •     Anti-vomit and anti-nausea properties for patients undergoing chemotherapy or with AIDS;
  •     Stimulation of appetite in case of severe thinness or cachexia in long-stay elderly patients , patients with Alzheimer's disease or AIDS;
  •     An improvement in sleep, in the treatment of asthma, or for the dilation of the vessels to improve glaucoma, and so on.

Cannabis, in its natural or chemically modified form, therefore demonstrates significant efficacy on certain pathological conditions.

Hemp derivatives have other promising uses

New avenues have also emerged as a result of scientific studies, suggesting, for example, that even if more research is needed, a possible efficacy against the growth of certain brain cancers, in the face of increased Alzheimer's disease or to assist in the treatment of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and excessive or pathological tics known as Tourette's syndrome.

Research continues to explore endocannabinoid dysfunction in order to identify other potentially positive roles of external cannabis (not produced by the body). According to Professor Mechoulam, "the drugs of tomorrow based on cannabis will probably be linked to neuroprotection (...) and chronic pain". His team also synthesized a derivative of hemp "very effective for digestive disorders" and works on derivatives usable in case of chronic inflammatory rheumatism or cancer.


How to use medical marijuana

Smoking cannabis in large quantity may increase the risk of lung cancer, according to several studies. Thus, it is indisputable today that the "joint" is more harmful than beneficial. In the case of medical use, it is therefore recommended, in the countries which authorize it, to consume cannabis in various non-smoked forms.

Whether used in combination with therapeutics (to manage side effects) or as an alternative to other treatments, medical cannabis has known and recognized benefits. It is thus prescribed in certain countries under conditions of indications (list varies according to the country), origin and form of use. The medical use of cannabis is a reality in the Netherlands, but also in Italy, Germany, Finland and certain American states. In France, its prescription remains exceptional.

Each country has its own legislation

In the Netherlands, the Office for Medical Cannabis recommends its consumption in the form of herbal teas or by using sprays, devices which allow users to inhale the active ingredient of cannabis in the form of vapor, without burning it or producing carcinogenic residues. 

An oral spray made with cannabis extracts, Sativex®, has also been available in pharmacies in Canada since 2005 for severe neurological conditions (multiple sclerosis).

There are also two drugs based on THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabis' active ingredient) in the US and Canada, Cesamet ® and Marinol ®. Patients taking medical cannabis generally carry a "Medical Necessity Card", which allows them to justify their good faith.

Strengthening medical cannabis in some countries

Since 1950, cannabis has been removed from the world pharmacopeia in a context of international prohibition of its recreational use. Since then, researchers are gradually rediscovering its medical use. This trend resulted in the return of medical cannabis to California in 1995, followed by a dozen US states and Canada. On the European side, the Netherlands set up a Medical Cannabis Office in 2003, which oversees the cultivation and sale of cannabis to patients in pharmacies. This cannabis for pharmacies is now also available in Germany, Italy and Finland. England, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium and Switzerland also authorize the prescription and delivery of cannabis derivatives. In France, Marinol ® is the only cannabinoid derivative used, but only through a special procedure (a Temporary Authorization for Nominative Use), which is rarely known and even more rarely used by doctors.

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