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History of Medical Marijuana

Marijuana has been used as an effective medicine for thousands of years. Across the world, various ancient cultures -- including Chinese, Greek, Arab, and Native American -- have relied on marijuana (cannabis) for many of the same reasons we use it today. When used properly, marijuana is an excellent medicine for reducing the nausea associated with various medical conditions and treatments, chronic pain and swelling, and even intraocular pressure in glaucoma patients. These benefits have been documented the world over for many centuries and are not disputed, even by critics of medical marijuana.

Marijuana was introduced into the modern western world by the Irish physician William Brooke O'Shaughnessy, who, as a physician in Calcutta in the 1830's, experimented with medical marijuana for the treatment of muscle spasms, stomach cramps, and other ailments, including general pain. The results of Dr. O'Shaughnessy's experiments were unequivocal, and by the end of the 19th century, medical marijuana was one of the primary pain relievers used in the western hemisphere.

Other medicines, such as aspirin, were developed for the treatment of mild to moderate pain and marijuana use dropped. Cultural tides shifted, as well, with marijuana becoming viewed as a recreational drug favored by minorities, and it was banned by the federal government in 1937.

Doctors began experimenting with marijuana again in the 1970's when it was discovered that marijuana caused a significant reduction in intraocular pressure -- or the internal pressure within the eye. This condition, known as glaucoma, caused blindness in patients unable to reduce their pressure. Several doctors postulated that the use of marijuana would also reduce blindness. Again, the experiments proved successful.

Throughout the 1970's and 1980's, the health departments of several states experiments with marijuana. Finally, in 2003, the US Health and Human Services Department filed for, and received, a patent for the use of cannabinoids -- the active ingredients unique to marijuana -- as antioxidants and neuroprotectants. The federal government had found cannabinoids were effective at treating ischemic, age-related, autoimmune, and inflammatory diseases, as well as limiting neurological damage to patients who had suffered strokes, trauma, or had been diagnosed with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

Today fourteen states and the District of Columbia permit marijuana to be used for medicinal purposes. While regulations vary significantly from state to state, doctors throughout the nation are taking a fresh look at marijuana as medicine.

Disclaimer:This text is for informative purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical advice from a physician. Always consult your doctor before making any decision on the treatment of a medical condition.