Medical marijuana is shown in a jar at The Joint Cooperative in Seattle, Washington January 27, 2012. Efforts to legalize marijuana for recreational use are gaining momentum in Washington state and Colorado, despite fierce opposition from the federal government and a decades-long cultural battle over America's most commonly used illicit drug.   Photo taken January 27, 2012   REUTERS/Cliff DesPeaux (UNITED STATES - Tags: HEALTH SOCIETY) ORG XMIT: LOA03

Thoughts about medical cannabis

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Medical cannabis, or medical marijuana can refer to the use of cannabis and its cannabinoids to treat disease or improve symptoms; however, there is no single agreed upon definition. The use of cannabis as a medicine has not been rigorously scientifically tested, often due to production restrictions and other federal regulations. There is limited evidence suggesting cannabis can be used to reduce nausea and vomiting during chemotherapy, to improve appetite in people with HIV/AIDS, and to treat chronic pain and muscle spasms. Its use for other medical applications is insufficient for conclusions about safety or efficacy.

Short-term use increases the risk of both minor and major adverse effects. Common side effects include dizziness, feeling tired, vomiting, and hallucinations. Long-term effects of cannabis are not clear. Concerns include memory and cognition problems, risk of addiction, schizophrenia in young people, and the risk of children taking it by accident.

The Cannabis plant has a history of medicinal use dating back thousands of years across many cultures. Its current use is controversial. The American Medical Association, the Minnesota Medical Association, the American Society of Addiction Medicine, and other medical organizations have issued statements opposing its use for medicinal purposes. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that while cannabinoids may have potential as therapy for a number of medical conditions, they do not recommend it until more research is done. They, along with the American Medical Association and the Minnesota Medical Association, call for moving cannabis out of DEA Schedule I to facilitate this research.

Medical cannabis can be administered using a variety of methods, including liquid tinctures, vaporizing or smoking dried buds, eating cannabis edibles, taking capsules, using lozenges, dermal patches or oral/dermal sprays. Synthetic cannabinoids are available as prescription drugs in some countries; examples include: dronabinol and nabilone. Recreational use of cannabis is illegal in most parts of the world, but the medical use of cannabis is legal in certain countries, including Austria, Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain. Australia is currently in the process of passing a law which would allow the use of marijuana for medical and scientific purposes. In the United States, federal law outlaws all cannabis use, while 25 states and the District of Columbia no longer prosecute individuals for the possession or sale of medical marijuana, as long as the individuals are in compliance with the state’s medical marijuana sale regulations. However, an appeals court ruled in January 2014 that a 2007 Ninth Circuit ruling remains binding in relation to the ongoing illegality, in federal legislative terms, of Californian cannabis dispensaries, reaffirming the impact of the federal Controlled Substances Act.

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