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Tales from the Scrypt: Clearing the Air About Cannabis

Aldrin Tan - October 30, 2018 - 0 comments

Weed. Hemp. Hashish. Marijuana.

The ever-evolving names for this plant reflect the tumultuous history behind Cannabis sativa. There is no doubt that since marijuana’s first ban in the United States in 1911, it has bloomed into one of the most controversial medical and legal battles in history.

For millennia, cannabis was regarded for its healing, recreational, and spiritual properties. With the rise and sophistication of the medical industry came the need for the regulation of these remedies, which began with the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. Between President Nixon’s “War on Drugs” in the 1970s and California becoming the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996, the people of the United States have proven that cannabis is a complicated debate with no easy resolution.  

Cannabidiol (CBD) oil is derived from the marijuana plant but doesn’t induce the psychoactive effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Throughout history and present day, people claim CBD has healing properties. The healing effects of CBD occur when activated within the body, whether by naturally-occurring cannabinoids or when a substance such as cannabis attaches to receptors, mainly the CB1 and CB2 receptors. Many CB1 receptors are in the brain and deal with pain, emotions, appetite, and other functions. CB2 receptors are more commonly found in the immune system and affect inflammation and pain.

Because cannabis has a negative reputation and limited research to support its healing properties, its efficacy continues to be a debate that has lasted over a century. However, its medicinal qualities have people turning to community pharmacists for CBD products and education. Pharmacies are uniquely positioned to be dispensers within the states that have legalized the medicinal use of cannabis, yet CBD isn’t a product to be taken lightly.

At this time, 30 states have legalized the use of medical marijuana, yet it remains illegal according to federal law. The U.S. Department of Justice even reserves the right to challenge state-based marijuana laws at any time. It is classified as a Schedule I drug, meaning it has no medical use and a high potential for abuse. Despite some studies that prove its efficacy, cannabis still requires more testing and research in order for the evidence to satisfy the questions healthcare professionals and patients are asking.  

On the other hand, marijuana has been used as a natural medicine for centuries. Because CBD targets pain receptors, it can be prescribed as a natural pain reliever in lieu of opioids and other addictive medications. Other uses include nausea relief in cancer patients and combatting weight loss that occurs during HIV/AIDS. Recently, the FDA approved a CBD oral solution called Epidiolex that treats two forms of epilepsy. This announcement brings the medical industry a step closer towards expanding the research and studies necessary to unite the healthcare industry on the issue of legalizing medical cannabis.

The CBD market is projected to grow to $2.1 billion by 2020, creating a lucrative opportunity for pharmacists who choose to dispense medical marijuana. Regardless of personal opinions, pharmacists have a duty to their patients to be aware of optional treatments like CBD, especially if it is legal within their state. As groundbreaking opportunities like medical cannabis arise, independent pharmacists can stay ahead of the curve and be ready to offer the solutions and care their patients rely on.