Marijuana is an herb naturally found on the earth and able to thrive in many climates.
It has been used for almost 10,000 years as a material for pottery, textiles, rope, and paper before it became food, medicine and a casual intoxicant.
It is one of the first known crops humans cultivated and has survived to still be useful today.
Early Use of Marijuana
It is said agriculture is what created civilization, mankind cultivating the earth intentionally for resources they could manage.
Carl Sagan and others have argued marijuana was likely the very first cultivated crop, meaning its value and usefulness was deemed essential.
As early as 8,000 BC, hemp cord was used in pottery making in Taiwan, in 6,000 BCE its seeds and oil were used in cooking in China, and in 4,000 BCE its fiber was being used in textiles in China and Turkestan.
Clearly, marijuana was being cultivated for a multitude of uses, and people were using all parts of the plant to maximize its benefits.
Marijuana As Early Medicine
The first record of marijuana as medicine is in China by the Emperor in 2,737 BCE. Ayurvedic texts of India shortly thereafter named cannabis one of the “Five Sacred Plants,” offering instruction in its appropriate uses both as medicine and ritual offering to the god Shiva.
Within the first 300 years of the Common Era, cannabis was being noted in numerous Greek and Roman texts as a medical analgesic (pain relief) and anesthetic (loss of sensation).
In 500 CE a woman in Jerusalem was given cannabis during childbirth and from there, its use spread throughout the Jewish, Arab and Persian worlds.
It is even noted in the Jewish Talmud. By this point, its use as an inebriant was also well known and being adopted widely across many cultures.
Like any other medicine, cannabis can be used for its legitimate calming, soothing, and pain relief properties medicinally or those properties can be exploited for pure pleasure.
Marijuana came to the U.S. early. It was one of 100 plants early colonists were required to send to King George in England prior to revolting. While we were always told the Revolution was about tea, it was more complicated than that.
Cannabis was grown for the use of hemp fiber in the colonies and spread after the Revolution. Its medicinal properties were known and used.
In the early 20th century, marijuana came up from Mexico and into the southwest United States with immigrants.
Much of the mass hysteria surrounding it as a drug stems from racist anti-immigrant and anti-Mexican sentiment as more Mexicans settled in the U.S. with intentions of staying.
This is a truth we don’t like to grapple with: the moral panic over marijuana usage in this country has always been rooted in racism and who controls access to the drug.
While doctors were controlling and dispensing it, much like their dispensing of morphine, cannabis was a generally accepted medicinal and recreational drug.
Once it was realized that “the wrong sort” also had access to grow, use and profit from cannabis moves were swiftly made to outlaw it.
In 1938 the famous Reefer Madness film was put out as propaganda against the infiltration of cannabis as a recreational drug destroying youth. The film claimed the use of marijuana led to sex-depravity, insanity, and even murder.
Even today critics write about how marijuana growing, selling and use has criminalized Black and Latino populations the most while its use is significantly higher among whites.
With the legalizing of medical marijuana in some states the figures that more white people use cannabis have been borne out, but legalization has shifted who profits the most without shifting discriminatory criminalization rates.
Marijuana as Modern Medicine
Legalization of medical marijuana has come about because of a reawakening to the health benefits of cannabis and a realization of the toll criminalization is taking on communities.
Medical marijuana has been found to help in all the ways mankind has always known it to while also being beneficial to many fewer illnesses.
What Can Marijuana Really Do
- Analgesic: A natural pain reliever, cannabis can help with many types of pain. Sativex, a medication using cannabis, was given to patients suffering rheumatoid arthritis in a study and it helped relieve the inflammation and pain.
- Anesthetic: Given appropriately, cannabis can act as an anesthetic, meaning it can deaden actual sensation. This is a level of pain relief beyond mere dulling of pain.
- Cancer: Cannabidiol is one of the chemicals in cannabis and has been shown to decrease the Id-1 gene that cancer cells contain. Additionally, for those with cancer and receiving chemotherapy, marijuana can reduce nausea and improve their appetite.
- Nerve & Muscle Pain: Patients with Multiple Sclerosis and fibromyalgia have been known to say nothing touches the nerve and muscle spasm pain except cannabis.
- Migraines: Marijuana has been shown to prevent migraines as well as treat the pain.
- Glaucoma: Cannabis can decrease the pressure in the eye that causes glaucoma, leading to a slowing of the disease.
- Anxiety: While often being referred to as “mood altering,” it is not often enough acknowledged that mood-altering properties can be helpful. In the case of anxiety, cannabis can act as a mild, natural sedative.
- Alzheimer’s: Cannabis may slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease by blocking an enzyme that leads to the illness.
- PTSD: PTSD is an extreme form of anxiety coupled with fears, flashbacks, and nightmares. Like with anxiety, PTSD symptoms benefit from cannabinoids.
- Stroke, Concussion & Other Brain Trauma: A study showed that in lab testing marijuana helped protect and heal the brain following trauma or damage.
The Truth About Marijuana
The truth is large numbers of Americans are already using marijuana whether recreationally or medicinally, so legal or not the people have spoken and made clear they see a value to the plant. Criminalization has not reduced its use and instead limits the benefits it could provide.
The truth about marijuana is like any other medication: it has benefits and some side effects. It won’t cure everything but it can reduce symptoms and damage of so many illnesses and injuries it is worth additional focused study.
The benefits already found in studies and it’s long history of medicinal use show us it should be one of the legally available tools in treatment for any number of conditions.