In recent years, there has been a dramatic shift in the federal regulation and scheduling of the cannabis flower. A plant that once sat at the top of a “slippery slope” and was deemed “public enemy number one” by Nixon’s War on Drugs (citation) has glimpsed redemption through the rediscovery of the holistic health benefits it possesses. As of the 2018 midterms, 32 states have legalized the medical use of cannabis for qualified patients (citation); yet significant social stigma continues to prevent researchers from uncovering the breadth of these medical benefits, and patients from reaping them.
This paper aims to examine the remaining stigma surrounding cannabis, specifically its origins and rationales in the face of a culture that is now overwhelmingly cannabis positive, and how this stigma has influenced existing federal bars that prevent accurate, modern research of the medical benefits of cannabis. Subsequently, these conclusions will be used to evaluate the impact that insufficient availability of medical cannabis has on ill patients and their families, exploring the hardships of relocation, associated risk, and diminished quality of life.
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Though the origins of the cannabis plant are nearly synonymous with antiquity, its uses as a therapeutic herb can be traced to early Asia, where it formed the backbone of traditional Indian medicine (citation 1). According to ( author of citation 1), this ancient culture claimed benefits from ingesting cannabis that are exceedingly similar to those found today, including appetite stimulation, relaxation/sedation, as well as anticonvulsant and anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) properties. However, social stigma surrounding cannabis may have also begun here.
Traditionally, there were three preparations of the cannabis plant that were commonly used: ” …’bhang’ was taken by mouth, and the slightly stronger preparation ‘ganja’ was smoked, but the most potent preparation (was), ‘charas’ (known elsewhere as hashish)…” (citation 1). The latter (which is most comparable to the highly debated, highly concentrated cannabis products, also known as “wax” or “dabs” that we see on the market today) , was not used for the aforementioned medical purposes, and (author citation 1), states that consumers were regarded as outcasts.
Despite this, the introduction of cannabis to Europe in the 19th century was overwhelmingly smooth, and the plant was adopted into both the British and American Pharmacopeias after extensive research, which led to its widespread medicinal use in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (citation 1: 10, 11). However, it was dropped from both in 1932 and 1941 respectively (citation 1: 12), though not due to stigma as might be expected. Rather, pure opiates increasingly replaced cannabis, as health professionals, favored the more stable composition, and longer shelf lives (citation 1: 13).
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