If you’ve been paying attention to the news lately, the chances are you’ve heard a lot about the use of medical marijuana. With cases such as Billy Caldwell and Alfie Dingley hitting the headlines, both of whom suffer from severe epileptic seizures that can only be helped with cannabis oil that contains the illegal psychoactive THC, there has been a lot of vocalization on the legislation of marijuana for medical use.
Did you know marijuana has medicinal properties, reducing and curing afflictions such as arthritis, multiple sclerosis, epileptic fits, Parkinson’s, dementia, migraines, chronic muscle pain and joint aches? Also that it could reduce the risk of diabetes, cataracts and glaucoma? And also alleviate sickness and nausea from treatments for cancer and AIDs, whilst increasing lost appetite?
So why is it still illegal for medical use in the UK today?
Let’s start with the drug and how it works…
The brain and immune system produce cannabinoids in our endocannabinoid system, which bind to the body’s receptors known as CB1 and CB2. Cannabinoids are what make up marijuana (around 120 different kinds), they lock onto our receptors and cause effects in our body. The two main cannabinoids in marijuana are:
THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is the component in marijuana that gets you high. It is also responsible for the analgesic pain relieving, anti-emetic, anti-nausea and anti-inflammatory properties of medical cannabis. Due to its psychoactive properties THC is illegal for medicinal use in the UK and is only available on the NHS in a synthetic form ‘Sativex’.
CBD (cannabidiol) is the component in marijuana that is responsible for having anti-psychotic, anti-seizure, and anti-anxiety properties. CBD is legal to sell in the UK but under strict licensing laws, and it is not allowed to be licensed as a medicine, but a dietary supplement. It must contain less than 0.2% THC.
They don’t really want you to get high, do they?
The law in the UK has been keen to very clearly distinguish between THC and CBD, making one legal only in a synthetic form, and one legal as long as it is isolated from the other. However, there is evidence to show that when ingested from the plant as it naturally occurs, THC and CBD are much more effective when given together.
High levels of THC without CBD can cause abdominal pain, dizziness, confusion, depression, nightmares, speech difficulties, chills, sweating, and even psychological and physiological dependence. Studies show that the two cannabinoids working in synergy together are much more effective.
To kill yourself smoking it, you’d have to smoke at least 20,000 above average-sized joints in about 15 minutes
It’s nearly impossible to overdose on THC from cannabis. If you were to do it from edibles such as brownies or food with cannabis oil in, you’d be more likely to die from the sugar and salt first; and to kill yourself smoking it, you’d have to smoke at least 20,000 above average-sized joints in about 15 minutes.
The long and short of it is that cannabis is extremely safe (safer than its synthetic counterparts) and safer than opioids, nicotine and alcohol combined. You cannot die from it.
Sounds great so far… are there any cons?
Well, if you were to ask Theresa May, she’d say that marijuana can lead not only to psychosis and schizophrenia, but it is also a gateway drug to other substances such as crack cocaine or heroin. However, this is an antiquated and out dated argument against the legislation or decriminalisation of medical cannabis.
There is in fact more recent research to show that marijuana can be a massive help to those trying to come off harder drugs, e.g. withdrawal from heroin or alcohol addiction and that it in no ways leads people to get onto them. Though there is reason to think that THC may cause psychosis if taken in excessive quantities, CBD is thought to have anti-psychotic properties and can in fact be used to treat schizophrenia.
In countries where marijuana is legal, crops are grown with higher CBD content, such as Charlotte’s Web, so you can have little to no high but all the benefits of CBD, thus no risk of psychosis.
One of the many benefits of medical marijuana as opposed to ‘street’ versions is that there’s often a lower THC content
Marijuana can have effects such as euphoria, laughter, relaxation and increased hunger or ‘the munchies’. (Check out these ladies trying marijuana for the first time). It can also give some people dizziness, hallucinations and sickness, or maybe a lack of motivation and disinterestedness in tasks; but one of the many benefits of medical marijuana as opposed to ‘street’ versions is that there’s often a lower THC content, so you will get more of the benefits and less of the knockout.
There is also no evidence to suggest those who smoke marijuana are at greater risk of lung cancer, but if that is a worry, there are many ways to consume it that involve no smoking, such as vaping, edibles, oils, serums and rubs.
Oh, and did I mention that when Colorado legalized marijuana, over 18,000 jobs were created and it added $2.4 billion to the economy? They made so much in tax they were considering giving $7 back to every resident.
So cons, maybe not so many.
Then why is it illegal?
Though it may be legal for medicinal use in Italy, Switzerland, Australia, Puerto Rico, Poland, Czech Republic, Canada, Croatia and decriminalized in Spain, Netherlands, Slovenia, Jamaica and Chile, and legal for medical and recreational use in 29 US states… maybe the UK is just slow on the uptake on the medical and economic benefits of marijuana?
Wrong. A new report from the UN’s International Narcotics Control Board has exposed that the UK is in fact the largest producer and exporter of cannabis in the world. This doesn’t seem to sit with the British government’s stance that “cannabis has no medical properties,” and its refusal to remove it from a Class B categorisation.
As to the actual why… well, we don’t really know. Dr Henry Fisher, policy director at drug policy think-tank Volteface, spoke to LADbible last year, and was posited this exact question.
“We’re left in this interesting situation, and there’s no other policy or criminal sense quite like it, where what the reality is and what the rhetoric is, is so different.
“If you read any drug related story in which there’s a statement from the Home Office it says the same thing ‘drugs are illegal and are bad for people in communities’ and that’s why they’re illegal.”
Is that a good enough reason?!
To sum it all up: pot facts about medical marijuana
- It is impossible to overdose on THC from the cannabis plant, unless you can smoke 20,000 joints in 15 minutes
- It is safer than synthetic versions
- It can help with all sorts of ailments
- The UK is the biggest exporter for medical marijuana in the world, yet it remains illegal here
- Marijuana has been used medically for thousands of years. In 2700BC, the Chinese Emperor Shen Nung was said to have discovered the healing properties of marijuana
- In 1000BC in India marijuana was mixed with milk and used as an anaesthetic
- It was also used in ancient Greece as a remedy for earache, oedema, and inflammation
- Shakespeare used it, George Washington grew it and Queen Victoria used it for menstrual cramps
- It was not considered bad until prohibition in the 1930s, with the real reasons for its denouncement being heavily tied up with racial tensions, fear of the paper industry from hemp and immigration (link).
Surely it’s time for a change
The stigma around marijuana being a “harmful drug” is tied up with control, fear, and who can be benefited economically (or perhaps who will lose money – pharma, I’m looking at you). The evidence is there, the pros (and cons) are clear.
If you think marijuana should be legal for medicinal use in the UK, you can write to your local MP, or sign this petition.
Still not sure? Have a look at this guy with Parkinson’s taking a small dose of cannabis oil
HAVE YOUR SAY
Should cannabis be decriminalized for medical use? Is keeping it illegal a nonsense? Or should we still be keeping this controlled substance safe in case drug use gets out of hand? Comment below, and let us know your thoughts…