10 Medical Marijuana Industry Facts - WMNews Ep. 24

Script written by Angela Fafard A sweeping bipartisan bill introduced in 2015 could soon legalize medical marijuana in all American states. A sweeping bipartisan bill introduced in 2015 could soon legalize medical marijuana in all American states. Welcome to WatchMojo News, the weekly series where we break down news stories that might be on your radar. In this installment, we’re counting down 10 crucial facts you should know about the medical marijuana industry.

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Script written by Angela Fafard

10 Medical Marijuana Industry Facts - WMNews Ep. 24

#10: What Is Medical Marijuana?
The Medical Therapy

The term medical marijuana refers to the treatment of medical issues through the use of marijuana. Marijuana is derived from the Cannabis plant, which produces tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol, the main chemicals with psychoactive properties. Dating back 10,000 years, the cannabis plant was originally used in Taiwan for its fiber. This naturally led to the discovery of its medicinal purposes and it was soon used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat various ailments. Introduced as a therapy to western society by Irish physician William Brooke O’Shaughnessy, the use of medical marijuana has since become a hot topic issue, and by early 2015, it was only legal in a few American states.

#9: Could It Help Treat Patients?
The Research

There has been a limited amount of research in relation to the effects of marijuana and its varied use in treating patients suffering from cancer, HIV, dementia, diabetes, epilepsy and more. This is in large part due to the Schedule I classification of cannabis in the United States, meaning it’s not currently accepted for medical use in the country. As a controlled substance, it shares its classification with drugs like heroin, LSD, MDMA, ecstasy and so forth. For the most part, both patient trials and long-term research into the topic have been limited, as the American government refuses to reclassify marijuana. That being said, a study released in 2014 found that in states where medical marijuana is legal, there was a 25% decrease in deaths related to prescription pain medication. Potential medical benefits of consuming marijuana include a reduction of nausea and vomiting in those going through chemotherapy and those with complications related to AIDS. As the United States begins to loosen the collar on research permissions, however, more long term studies and conclusive evidence should accumulate.

#8: What Happens to Your Body When You Use It?
The Science

The two main chemicals in cannabis, along with the almost 500 compounds found in the plant, work in tandem to release tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). These chemicals interact with the brain cells called cannabinoid receptors, releasing dopamine into the body. Dopamine functions as a neurotransmitter and is a part of the brain’s reward system, essentially leading to a feel good sensation. Once this process is complete, a person will typically feel giddy, sleepy and/or relaxed, have an increased appetite and feel light-headed. However, research has suggested that these positive benefits of marijuana consumption are offset by more negative effects, such as a decrease in balance, a blockage in memory formation, and an addiction to the substance.

#7: What Forms Do the Plant Take?
The Consumption

There are several methods by which one can consume marijuana. In the United States, as of 2013, the most common form was through smoke inhalation. Cannabis vaporizers have since gained popularity as an alternative to smoke inhalation, because many believe that fewer harmful toxins are inhaled via vaporizers. Marijuana can also be consumed in other forms though, such as hash oil, baked goods, lotions, salves, sprays, tea, chocolate bars, and even in pill format.

#6: What Is the Medical Community’s Opinion?
The Consensus

In April 2015, CNN’s chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta called for a “medical marijuana revolution.” A year before that, health website WebMD surveyed over 1,500 American doctors about medical marijuana. The results stated that 67% of respondents claimed it should be a medical option for patients and 56% supported making it legal nationwide. In areas where medical marijuana is currently available, such as Canada, doctors are calling for the launch of clinical trials, which would study the ever-growing base of marijuana users and the risks and benefits of consumption. Dr. Mark Ware, the executive director of the Canadian Consortium for the Investigation of Cannabinoids, believes that the world would benefit from such “real world evidence.”

#5: Where Is It Legal in the United States?
The Dispensary

According to a 2015 Pew Research Center Poll, 53% of the Americans polled were in favor of legalizing marijuana. This is in sharp contrast to almost 50 years ago when less than 15% of the population was in favor. As of early April 2015, over 30 states plus the District of Columbia have either tried to decriminalize the possession of marijuana or legalized some medical use of marijuana, for example through the use of dispensaries, which are offices that distribute medication. And this, despite the fact that possession of marijuana remains a felony. Furthermore, the tally of states supporting decriminalization and/or legalization may soon grow, as there are seven states pending legislation, including Florida, Texas and Missouri. Furthermore, the 2015 appropriations bill passed in December 2014 saw Congress ban the American Justice Department from interfering with each state’s activities regarding their own marijuana laws

#4: Have Other Countries Legalized or Decriminalized Marijuana?
The World View

Medical marijuana has only been widely decriminalized in a small number of countries, including over 20 states of the U.S. Canada, Belgium, Australia, the Netherlands, and Spain have varying laws concerning the distribution and regulation of the drug. For example, in Canada, marijuana is illegal, though it has been available since 2001 for medical purposes through what is called the ‘Marihuana Medical Access Regulations’ – now ‘Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations’. By contrast, the personal use of marijuana is decriminalized only in certain states of Australia. That being said, many countries around the world, including Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Mexico, Portugal and more, have decriminalized small amounts of marijuana for personal use or simply do not prosecute on a law enforcement level.

#3: How Does Legalization Affect the Economy?
The Taxes

Depending on the state in which you live, there are high taxes on the marijuana for sale at the dispensaries and stores in the United States. In Colorado, the state has accrued nearly $60 million dollars in taxes from the sale of marijuana from 2014-15 and it will most likely issue a one-time refund to the taxpayers. The revenue acquired in taxes, combined with the funding that was previously accorded to law enforcement in fighting the use, possession and sale of marijuana, has left the state with a large cash windfall. The Drug Policy Alliance, an organization promoting drug policies, also points to declining levels of crime and traffic fatalities in Denver since the first retail marijuana stores opened in early 2014. Furthermore, a portion of these taxes can be distributed to fund various state budgets such as the school boards, and youth drug prevention programs.

#2: Who Is Against Legalizing Marijuana?
The Controversy

Many who oppose the decriminalization of marijuana, including the governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, believe that it is a gateway drug, leading to an increased vulnerability to the abuse of other drugs and addiction in young marijuana users. The main argument cites research, which shows that lab rats introduced to THC, one of the main chemicals in marijuana, show a stronger sensitivity to harder drugs when exposed to them later on in life. Law enforcement opponents believe there is a lack of proper regulation of the drug in regards to underage use and health code violations like homegrown plants. Furthermore, certain medical officials, such as Dr. Eric Voth (voe-th), chairman of the Institute on Global Drug Policy, believes that allowing medical marijuana to bypass the U.S. Food and Drug Administration sets a terrible medical precedent.

#1: Will the Senate Bill Pass?
The Law

In March 2015, republican and democratic senators alike, namely Rand Paul, Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand, introduced a sweeping bipartisan bill to the Senate titled the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States Act. Under the proposed bill, certain restrictions would be eased concerning marijuana, allowing greater access to the drug for research in treating various ailments, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Alzheimer’s, cancer, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis. Countless bills have been introduced in the past with minimal effect, yet it seems that the majority of the American public and political opinions are shifting in favor of legalizing medical marijuana for the first time in history.

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