Medical Cannabis in the U.S.

Medical Cannabis in the U.S.

The land of the red, white and blue used to be a lot greener. British and French colonists started cultivating cannabis and hemp in the early 1600s, and George Washington recommended that people “sow it everywhere.” From around 1851 to 1941, the government listed cannabis in the United States Pharmacopeia, and hemp extracts were used in food and medicine. Eli Lilly, Parke-Davis (Pfizer) and Squibb & Sons (Bristol-Myers-Squibb) sold it, newspapers advertised it, the Sears-Roebuck catalog listed it and the Red Cross even promoted it. At the start of the 20th century, anti-cannabis crusaders like Harvey Wiley and Harry Anslinger helped pass and promote prohibition with legislation like the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act, the Uniform State Narcotics Act, the Marijuana Tax Act, the Boggs Act, the Narcotics Control Act and the infamous Controlled Substances Act of 1970 that said cocaine and crystal meth have more medical value than cannabis.

While cannabis remains a 100-percent prohibited drug under the Controlled Substances Act, clinical findings are forcing U.S. government agencies to modify their no-medical-value stances. In 2015, the National Cancer Institute admitted that cannabis can help treat cancer symptoms, inhibit tumor growth and kill cancer cells. Likewise, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a long-time prohibition supporter with a domain, addressed the issue with a 2015 article titled “Is Marijuana Medicine?” NIDA noted that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to recognize cannabis as such, but scientific studies into cannabinoids seem to suggest that it is. The article called for more research, not an end to prohibition, but government agencies like the Department of Health and Human Services already procured patents like “Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants.”

What do the modern medical journals say? In 2015, the American Medical Association (AMA) published a systematic review of 79 clinical trials and medical 28 databases, and it found evidence to support medical cannabis treatments for chronic pain, spasticity, chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting, sleep disorders and Tourette syndrome. The U.S. embraced medical cannabis for at least a century before prohibition, and despite decades of unfounded propaganda, the medical and scientific communities are stepping up to highlight once again the plant’s therapeutic value.


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