Medical Marijuana | Everything You Need to Know

We note that the subject contained in this article represents illegal activity in certain jurisdictions. Whilst we do not condone any acts which are contrary to any such laws, we understand that readers in those jurisdictions which have decriminalised cannabis may find this article of interest.

  1. What is Medical Marijuana
  2. Should Medical Marijuana Be Legal?
  3. How to Get Medical Marijuana
  4. What Conditions Can Medical Marijuana Treat?
  5. What Companies Produce Medical Marijuana?
  6. The Future of Medical Marijuana
Medical Marijuana Map USA

What is Medical Marijuana?

Currently, cannabis remains illegal on a federal level in the United States, and is listed under the schedule one category of the Controlled Substances Act.

Any drug that falls into this category is deemed to have zero medical value. Despite this, medicinal cannabis is still legal in 35 states and considered by many to be a massive threat to the pharmaceutical industry.

Medicinal marijuana was first legalized in California in 1996, when it was used as a treatment for AIDS, chronic pain, cancer, migraines and other disorders. Increasingly, the plant has been legalized for medicinal purposes thanks to the endless testimonials coming out in support of the drug.

Since then, the medical marijuana industry has reached interstellar heights. Valued at USD $4.5bn in 2018, the medical marijuana industry is predicted to keep on climbing all the way past USD $7.3bn in 2020.

But before you get too excited, let's take a closer look at just what the medical cannabis industry is.

Where is Medical Marijuana Legal in the U.S.?

Despite being considered to have "no accepted medicinal uses" on a federal level, medical marijuana is being made increasingly legal throughout the United States. Now, medical marijuana is available in 36 states, in addition to the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

The states where Medical Marijuana is legal in some capacity include:

Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Guam, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Northern Mariana Island, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Virgin Islands, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.

To find out where medical marijuana is legal, read more here.

For years, medical marijuana has been not only stigmatized but prohibited, meaning that research surrounding the plant has been stifled for decades. This has resulted in a severe drought of cannabis research, whether that be to find potential harms of its use, or the benefits that medical patients can achieve through medical marijuana.

Having said that, the growing legalization of cannabis meant that 2020 saw more research carried out on cannabis than any prior year.

Additionally, for those that are interested in medical marijuana but are reluctant to become intoxicated like they would when smoking a joint containing THC, there is cannabidiol (CBD), the non-intoxicating component of cannabis that can elicit many of the same benefits of cannabis without the intoxicating effects.

As cannabinoid medicines become more popular, patients are increasingly turning to the plant as a popular treatment for chronic pain, resulting in its adoption by many athletes across a range of sports, as well as by those suffering from inflammatory issues thanks to cannabis's anti-inflammatory effects.

These benefits are also enjoyed by cancer patients going through chemotherapy, who often report that medical marijuana helps them to manage their pain and sleep through the night.

And, as we've covered numerous times here at The Green Fund, cannabis is generally far safer to use than many opioids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) that are commonly prescribed to those in pain, which can lead to addiction and in some cases overdose.

Not only would cannabis legalization allow for more research to be conducted upon the plant to determine the true depths of its benefits and risks, but it would also allow patients to have a wider range of options beyond the already potentially harmful pharmaceuticals and opioid medications that are currently on offer.

To learn more reasons why medical marijuana should be legal, read our article here.

How do I get Medical Marijuana?

Each state has different qualifying conditions for users to gain access to medical marijuana.

Though admittedly, there are some conditions which will give you access to the drug in virtually any state. If you suffer from cancer, HIV/AIDS, PTSD, Crohn's disease, autism, chronic pain, epilepsy or glaucoma, chances are you are entitled to some green gold.

Assuming you have been diagnosed with one of those conditions, you should then get your documentation in order, and apply for a marijuana card, which will give you access to dispensaries which sell medical grade cannabis.

This is especially helpful for those suffering with chronic pain, of which there's an estimated 100 million in the US alone.

To find out more about getting your medical marijuana card, click here.

What Conditions Does Medical Marijuana help?

Medical marijuana has been in use for thousands of years, and was used as medicine in the U.S. during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The list of medical benefits associated with cannabis were described in the United States Pharmacopoeia for the first time in 1850 and has grown since been said to assist with virtually every ailment under the sun.

Steve DeAngelo, author of The Cannabis Manifesto: A New Paradigm for Wellness stated that "Defining cannabis consumption as elective recreation ignores fundamental human biology and history, and devalues the very real benefits the plant provides."

"Dennis Peron, the man who opened the first cannabis dispensary in the U.S., has been derided for saying that all marijuana use is medical. I would make the same point a bit differently: the vast majority of cannabis use is for wellness purposes."

We've constructed a short list of the conditions for which medical marijuana is used, and how it can help patients.

PTSD

According to a study published by Molecular Psychiatry, "plant-derived cannabinoids [psychoactive chemicals] such as marijuana may possess some benefits in individuals with PTSD by helping relieve haunting nightmares and other symptoms of PTSD."

Other studies have shown that medical marijuana can reduce the frequency with which triggers for trauma occur. Though simply lighting up a joint isn't always the answer. Sometimes it can be a combination of marijuana and external factors which assist individuals struggling with trauma.

A big contender for this category has been war veterans, whose likelihood of having PTSD is starkly higher than other groups in society.

I believe that medical cannabis will continue to work in conjunction with many other therapies.Shelley Franklin, the Veteran Program Coordinator for the Canadian Cannabis Clinics

Cancer Treatment

Along with cancer comes nausea, pain, inflammation and other issues which can be alleviated through the consumption of cannabis.

On top of this, cannabis has been shown to potentially stop the proliferation of cancer and even shrink tumors in some cases. Though beyond the seemingly miraculous physical effects of the drug, many users turn to it for mental well-being.

Marijuana can relax users, reduce anxiety and increase overall mood. For someone going through chemotherapy, these benefits can be crucial to maintaining the mental health of the patient.

Social media influencer Cheyann, who was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer at the age of 23, said cannabis was instrumental in her battle with chemotherapy.

"Another huge benefit of taking medical cannabis was that it helped with my appetite. After my surgeries, my stomach became very sensitive and small. I'd get full very quickly," she said.

"I'd also get so frustrated with myself: I wanted to eat full meals, but my body just couldn't handle it. I was already on a strict diet because of surgery, and with a sudden new allergy to dairy along with an ileostomy bag in place, I was losing weight very quickly."

Epilepsy

Epilepsy, as many will know, is where medical marijuana has made the largest splash. The only cannabis-based drug to have received FDA approval to date is GW Pharma's 'Epidiolex' – which is used to treat rare forms of epilepsy.

GW Pharma's product receiving FDA approval was a huge win for medicinal cannabis, as it gave the drug the legitimacy it needed to be more widely looked at as a treatment option.

Epidiolex has been proven to assist with rare forms of epilepsy such as Lennox-Gastaut syndrome or Dravet syndrome, often with staggering results.

Compared to a placebo trial, patients taking Epidiolex were twice as likely to experience a 75% reduction in convulsions and seizures.

Studies have also been performed on mice which has shown drastic reductions in their amount of seizures.

Chronic Pain

As we've mentioned in previous articles, the use of cannabis to treat those with chronic pain is an eye-catching new area of research.

The reason cannabis is such an exciting solution to chronic pain is because the only other current alternative is pharmaceutical drugs, which have the capacity for overdose. In fact, there were over 29,000 opioid deaths in the US in 2017 alone.

The reason opioid use is so high in the US can be largely attributed to the surging reports of chronic pain, with patients reporting chronic pain as the most common reason Americans use the healthcare system.

The National Center for Health Statistics (2006) states that roughly 76.2 million, one in every four Americans, have suffered from pain that lasts longer than 24 hours and millions more suffer from acute pain.

Cannabis has made strides with chronic pain, with Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration stating that "Overall, we can be moderately confident that CNCP patients receiving medicinal cannabis are more likely to achieve 30% and 50% reductions in pain and to report a reduction in pain ratings than patients given a placebo."

Cannabis has shown so much promise with replacing opioids that some are now considering the benefits of the plant in curbing the opioid epidemic facing the US.

The marijuana forum Weedmaps have released their documentary entitled 'The Exit Drug' which takes a new spin on the "Gateway Drug theory" by suggesting that marijuana doesn't lead users to a path of harder drug use, but rather, can ease users off it.

The documentary includes patients and doctors speaking about how their addiction was curbed through cannabis use. And the numbers don't lie: states with medical marijuana laws had 24.8 percent fewer opioid related death than states without them.

Insomnia

Insomnia is defined as difficulty in falling or staying asleep on a regular basis and affects roughly 35-40% of the world's adult population each year.

Studies show that insomnia is actually one of the main reasons people use cannabis medically, along with other health issues such as pain, anxiety and depression. Physical pain, anxiety and depression are all conditions that can affect sleep and are major sources of insomnia.

THC (or tetrahydrocannabinol) certainly has sedative qualities, as its consumption can reduce the amount of REM sleep you get, instead replacing it with 'deep sleep.'

This state of deep sleep is believed to be the most replenishing part of the sleep cycle, though it is currently unclear what the impacts of missing REM sleep are.

However, for those with PTSD, skipping REM sleep may be beneficial as this means they won't dream as often and may be able to avoid traumatic nightmares that awake them during the night.

Anxiety

Anxiety is the most prevalent disorder in the United States, affecting 40 million adults in the United States aged 18 and above. This equates to over 18% of the U.S. population.

The debate as to whether cannabis can assist with anxiety has reached mixed conclusions, and it actually seems as though cannabis can alleviate symptoms of anxiety for some people while exacerbating symptoms for other people.

According to one study, "a small signal found in animal studies and single-dose clinical trials provide early support that cannabis may be effective for alleviating anxiety, ultimately, the current evidence is equivocal."

Ultimately it is best to speak with your doctor about whether cannabis or CBD may help with your anxiety symptoms, as it may simply mask the problem or even exacerbate your anxiety.

Depression

In 2020, depression was identified as the leading cause of disability worldwide, affecting more than 350 million people globally. During COVID-19, depression is likely to worsen amid the lockdowns, isolation, and unemployment that is ongoing, with many people seeking some form of relief.

Cannabis use can provide a mild dopamine hit, which would improve one's mood, but likely wouldn't get at the underlying factors contributing to depression.

However, what cannabis may be able to do is alleviate some of those underlying conditions, whether it be insomnia, chronic pain, or another medical condition like epilepsy, which can contribute to depression.

Which Companies Produce Medical Marijuana?

There is a growing list of medical marijuana companies coming into the industry, servicing the millions of medical marijuana patients throughout the United States.

One of the most established companies in the medical marijuana space is GW Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:GWPH), which famously produced Epidiolex, the first FDA-approved cannabinoid medicine, used for rare forms of treatment-resistant epilepsy.

Patients can also turn to Trulieve (CSE:TRUL), a vertically-integrated medical cannabis company with 70 dispensaries across Florida. In addition to this, Trulieve has operations in Connecticut, California, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts.

And then there's Cresco Labs, Inc. (CSE:CL), a vertically-integrated cannabis and medical marijuana company based in Chicago, Illinois, with current retail operations in 9 states, including Illinois, California, Ohio, New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Michigan.

These are just a few of the companies in the U.S. that provide medical marijuana to patients, and you can find more here.

The Future of Medical Cannabis

Medical marijuana is becoming a disruptive force to big pharma, as an apparent fix-all to many of life's struggles.

Now, with the election of Joe Biden, who has stated he wants to federally decriminalize cannabis, as well as the Democrat control of the House and Senate, it looks likely that 2021 will shape up to be a very positive year for cannabis legalization.

Moreover, for those unable to access medical marijuana, many are turning to CBD, which is currently available over-the-counter.

The research is still slowly pouring out of the shadows when it comes to medical marijuana, but it seems undeniable that the drug will continue to play a massive role in healthcare for years, and decades, to come.

Stay on Top of All the Updates and Research

Here at The Green Fund, we're passionate about the marijuana industry and the potential of medical marijuana. We publish daily news about any updates to medical marijuana research, legalization updates across the U.S., and cannabis companies.

To stay on top of marijuana news, click here.

Top stay on top of medical marijuana updates, click here.

To stay on top of cannabis legalization, click here.

To see all of the companies within the cannabis space, click here.

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Louis O'Neill
Louis O'Neill

Louis is a writer based in Sydney with a focus on social and political issues. Having interviewed local politicians and entrepreneurs, Louis now focuses on cannabis culture, legislation & reform.

There are 13 Commentsin this post

  1. Thanks for explaining that cannabis use for chronic pain is exciting, because it presents an alternative to painkillers with the capacity for addiction and overdose. My husband suffers from chronic back pain, and he's always avoided using opioids because he's against it from a moral standpoint. I'm glad I read your article because now I'm excited to help him get a medical marijuana card and start using cannabis to treat his pain.

    1. Hi Daphne, thanks for the comment. Chronic pain is one of the most prevalent health issues in the 21st century, and unfortunately, existing painkillers such as opioids do indeed come with unwanted risks and side effects as well as the potential for users to become addicted.

      Below is an article we've written which covers chronic pain, though bear in mind that we aren't medical professionals and that you should prioritize the advice of your local doctor.

      https://thegreenfund.com/can-cannabis-cure-chronic-pain

  2. It's interesting to know that cannabis is a natural remedy against chronic pain. My father is struggling with lower back pain from an accident, and we are looking for a natural treatment for him. I will let him know about the benefits of cannabis to see if it helps.

  3. Thank you for pointing out the benefit that cannabis can have on epilepsy as it can reduce episodes buy 75 percent! I live in an area where medical marijuana is legal, and I would love to learn more about the industry, and how it affects people's lives. My sister suffers from vast amounts of chronic pain, and I wonder if this could help her. I was also just curious as to how someone gets into the cannabis business and how they decide what kind of weed to grow. I am not sure, but I find it all very interesting.

    1. Hi Greta, thanks for the comment and I'm glad our article could provide some insights.

      With regards to chronic pain, we've covered this topic previously as you can see below: https://thegreenfund.com/can-cannabis-cure-chronic-pain

      Of course, always consult a medical professional to find out what treatment is best suited for your sister. As to the business side of things, it depends on where you're based and what you'd like to do.

  4. Thank you for sharing and spreading awareness! As studies progress, it unfolds a lot of possible uses and applications in science and medicine. I hope this could be the future treatment of a lot of diseases.

    1. Thanks Amy. Yes, we're certainly learning that the United States' categorization of cannabis as having 'no accepted medical use' is far from accurate. Thanks for the support.

  5. It's great you mentioned that cannabis helps to deal with arthritis. Years ago, my dad had an injury that left him with arthritis, so he has been depressed because he can't use his workshop tools. We will consider talking to him about cannabis and how it can help lessen the pain.

  6. I didn't realize that medical cannabis can help with epilepsy. Is there any research on what in the cannabis helps with this issue? My niece suffers from epilepsy I wonder if my sister has considered using this to help her.

    1. Hi Shaylee, thank you for your comment.

      We've previously written about the link between cannabis and epilepsy in this article. Hopefully it helps, though research surrounding cannabis and epilepsy is relatively limited.

  7. It's helpful to read that if you suffer from cancer, autism, chronic pain, or other specific sicknesses or disabilities, you may apply for a marijuana card. My aunt has chronic pain and neuropathy in her legs and is looking for a more natural pain remedy. We'll have to find a marijuana certification service to see if she can get some for her legs.

  8. Thank you for mentioning that you should make sure to follow your state's specific guidelines and conditions for getting access to medical marijuana. My husband and I have been trying to find a solution to his chronic back pain. I think we should try and see if our state would allow him to get a medical marijuana prescription.

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