Evidence of the medical uses of marijuana (or cannabis as it was known to American physicians before William Randolph Hearst renamed it in the press) comes in different varieties:
Molecular Biology: A cannabinoid revolution was sparked in the late eighties by the discovery that the active ingredients of marijuana acted through a network of chemical receptors localized in specific sites in the brain and immune system that became known as cannabinoid receptors. The natural cannabinoid manufactured and utilized by the human body is called anadamide.
The cannabinoid receptors mediate process in the brain and immune system that match current patient claims. For more information about this, see the review article The Pharmacology of the Cannabinoid Receptor, A. Howlett, Annual Review of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Vol.35, 1995.
Controlled clinical studies on the medical effects of marijuana are being forbidden right now by the federal government (this link goes off-site), so we have no firm evidence as to the safety and effectiveness of marijuana in actual patients. Marijuana remains legally classified by the federal government as a Schedule I narcotic, as useless and dangerous as heroin, so the policy of the government impedes the very scientific research that could prove it false.
Reports by physicians: A survey of American oncologists published in 1990 revealed that 44% of those surveyed had advised cancer patients to smoke marijuana for relief of nausea from chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Cannabis was first reported as a medicine by a physician 5000 years ago in an ancient Chinese apothecary, and this trend has been repeated by every society in written history where cannabis was present. This includes America up until 1937, when the first federal laws criminalizing marijuana were passed by Congress over the loud objections of the American Medical Association.
Reports by patients: Here are web sites containing testimonials from people using marijuana to treat symptoms from cancer chemotheray, AIDS wasting syndrome and side effects of AIDS medications, pain and muscle spasms from multiple sclerosis and other serious illnesses:
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