Is it Medicine?

Is It Medicine?

Marijuana has been used as medicine all over the world for thousands of years. The world's first medical text, written by Shen Nung, describes cannabis as a 'superior herb'. Ancient Moslems used hashish (a marijuana derivative) for medical purposes. Emperor Nero's surgeon praised cannabis for its medical properties.

The Anatomy of Melancholy, published in 1621, recommended hemp for depression. In 1764, The New English Dispensary suggested applying hemp roots to the skin for inflammation.

In more modern times, marijuana was listed in the American Pharmacopeia until 1941, when the Federal Bureau of Narcotics demanded its removal. It has been shown to be effective in treating emesis (nausea), cancer, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, epilepsy, and a host of other illnesses.

In 1975, the DEA funded a study to see if marijuana use was linked to cancer, as many were saying. Their study found that there was no link between even heavy use of marijuana and cancer. Their study also found that smoked marijuana displays powerful anti-tumor activity against certain tumors. When these findings were released, DEA promptly de-funded that study, and banned any further studies.

Read more about the battle in the U.S. for medical use.

The National Institutes of Health issued a report by an eight-member committee calling for N.I.H. tests of marijuana's efficacy in four medical areas. The chairman of the committee, William Beaver of Georgetown University, said: "For at least some potential indications marijuana looks promising enough to recommend that there be controlled studies."

One of the best discussions on the scientific-medical issues appeared in The Economist on Aug. 16. It described four kinds of illnesses in which patients have found marijuana helpful:

The increased pressure in the eyeball that the disease causes is eased by smoking marijuana. Indeed, the Food and Drug Administration allowed its use when other glaucoma treatments were unavailing until 1991 -- when it may have given way to anti-marijuana hysteria.
Sufferers from multiple sclerosis, for instance, find relief in marijuana from burning sensations in their arms and legs.
What The Economist called "marijuana's well-known ability to stimulate the appetite." This is reportedly of crucial help to AIDS sufferers.
The Economist said marijuana is "of undoubted benefit in suppressing the nausea suffered by many people on anti-cancer therapy."

All these benefits and many others are real and documented by doctors and scientists in the medical field. Hundreds, if not thousands, of health care professionals have seen the benefits derived from smoked or eaten marijuana, and most say that they would prescribe it if it were legal to do so.

Is it medicine? All the major studies on the subject, along with thousands of patients, doctors, and others involved in health care, seem to say it can be. In 1997, 96% of Americans polled think it should be available for medical use. So why is the government maintaining its mad-dog aproach to a substance that clearly can be beneficial?

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