Marijuana may be one of the most effective medical treatments known to man. It’s not insulin – we can all live without it – but it offers more hope for symptom relief than almost any other plant.
But there’s still more to cannabis that we don’t know than that we do know. Scientists discover critical new facts about the drug all the time, from its use as an anti-nausea medication to its role in fighting certain cancers.
So here are five of the most fascinating things we do know about medical weed.
Weed Kills Cancer
Marijuana smoke contains many of the same carcinogens found in tobacco smoke, but for reasons that remain a mystery, those chemicals don’t have the same effect on potheads.
Research is split, with one study finding a link between marijuana smoking and lung cancer. Several other studies found no such correlation. No research to date has positively proved that cannabis smoking causes cancer.
Indeed, some recent studies suggest THC may be highly effective in fighting cancer. Marijuana kills malignant cells that cause brain tumors, for example.
Weed Could Protect Against Alzheimer’s
Earlier this year, a long-time neuroscientist in Seattle reported that his studies suggest heavy THC use by early adults could protect against Alzheimer’s disease later in life.
Gary Wenk’s research hasn’t been published, in part because of political resistance. But he said his results show regular cannabis use by adults in their 20s or 30s can reduce chronic inflammation of brain cells, which may cause senile dementia.
Research published later in the year found similar but somewhat contradictory results. Scientists in Florida found extremely low levels of THC can slow or halt the progression of Alzheimer’s.
Medical Weed Has a Long History
People have been growing and using marijuana as medicine for thousands of years. The drug has been a part of the human experience almost as long as alcohol, and it has long served a medical purpose.
Scientists recently found human remains that were buried in Siberia next to a cannabis preparation. The mummified woman apparently suffered from advanced breast cancer, and archaeologists speculated the pot was probably a medical treatment.
Queen Victoria famously used pot to treat her severe menstrual cramps during the 19th century. And she wasn’t the only one: Centuries before MMJ became a political issue in North America, world leaders and peasants alike used the magical plant as medicine.
Israel Does Most Medical Weed Research
Medical marijuana as a political movement was born in California in 1996, when voters passed the first MMJ law in the world. But the United States is no longer the home of medical pot.
Israel holds that title now. Much of the most important research into medicinal cannabis is conducted there and published in Israeli medical journals. That’s because Israel has one of the world’s most generous MMJ laws. The government there actively encourages research.
In the United States, by contrast, the federal government actively stymies medical marijuana science. The DEA and NIDA, the agency in charge of the federal government’s only supply of legal weed, are notorious for preventing studies that require access to that pot.