Article by Mohammad-Reza Ghovanloo, Hamilton Spectator
We’ve lost many years of potentially important research on the use of cannabis as medicine because of polarized views of the “weed” among researchers, policy-makers and the general public.
On one side, there are those who see cannabis as a dangerous psychoactive drug that should be prohibited. On the other, there are those who view cannabis as panacea with the potential to treat every disease and condition known to humankind.
So now that cannabis is legal to smoke, will bureaucratic hurdles still make it hard to study? It’s time to remove the barriers to cannabis research. There’s still too much we don’t know — both potential benefits and risks.
Cannabis has some promising medicinal properties and its use as a possible anti-convulsive has a long history. New research from my colleagues and myself indicates why it may be effective.
Cannabis originated in the Himalayas and was first cultivated in China for seed and fibre production. Early records of using cannabis medicinally can be traced to Sumerians records around 1800 B.C., which mention using this plant against a variety of diseases, including convulsions. There are more recent records of cannabis use against epilepsy in Islamic literature.
During the twentieth century, the use of cannabis became illegal in many parts of the world due to its psychoactive (“high”) effects. These legal constraints made understanding the chemistry elusive until the 1960s.
It took over 20 years to determine how one of the main cannabinoids — ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol, more commonly known as THC — causes its well-known effects, such as excessive anxiety and euphoria. THC is also reported to be an analgesic (an agent that acts to relieve pain), a muscle relaxant and an anti-inflammatory agent. This is where cannabis becomes interesting for medicinal use.
However, because of its noteworthy “high” effects, THC may not be an ideal therapeutic compound despite its potential benefits. Fortunately, there are other cannabinoids that may have the same effects as THC without its psychoactive properties, such as cannabidiol (CBD).