For the past decade or so, the medicinal uses of marijuana have been highly debated, due to the fact this drug is classified under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, which means it is illegal to use, possess, or distribute marijuana. Scientific studies have been conducted on the potential health benefits of marijuana and certain chemicals contained within the drug, namely THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol).
Scientists and researchers have performed a variety of studies using different types of laboratory configurations, where lab furniture, lab benches, lab tables, and other pieces are arranged to accommodate the test subjects, most frequently rats and mice. These configurations allow researchers to easily distinguish between the subjects and ensure accurate results when comparing outcomes between the placebo group and those administered marijuana or derivatives of its chemicals.
One of the more recent studies funded by the U.S. government that has shifted their view was conducted in 2014 in the United Kingdom at St. George’s University in London. This study focused on the effects of THC and CBD and how they reacted with various types of cancer cells. During the research study, it was discovered that both THC and CBD did cause certain types of cancer cells to become weakened, which made them more susceptible to radiation therapies.
One particular area included in the study was the effects marijuana would have on brain cancers, many of which are often fatal. The study concluded the use of marijuana, along with radiation therapy, reduced the number of cancer cells and was an effective treatment.
Further research included using extracts from entire marijuana plants and administering the extracts to mice with cancerous cells and tumors. The study on the mice showed those that were administered the marijuana extracts responded better to radiation therapies, as the marijuana weakened the cancer cells, allowing the radiation to effectively kill the cancer.
Due to the positive results from this study, the federal government updated the U.S. Department of Health’s National Cancer Institute’s website in May 2016 to include a page specifically about marijuana (cannabis) under its Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) section.
Specifically, Section 6 was updated to reflect the findings in laboratory studies using animals. The new information from the 2014 research study was included to reflect the potential marijuana has for helping weaken aggressive cancer cells and making them easier to kill using radiation therapies, specifically under the “Antitumor Activity” subsection.
According to the information contained in this section, it states, “Studies in mice and rats have shown that cannabinoids may inhibit tumor growth…may be able to kill cancer cells.” In particular, the last bulleted point in this subsection dealt specifically with the 2014 study and states, “CBD may make chemotherapy more effective and increase cancer cell death without harming normal cells.”
There were also some modifications made to Section 7, which reflects what clinical studies and trials have been conducted using humans. It is worth mentioning, studies have not yet been conducted on humans to determine the effectiveness of marijuana as a CAM treatment for cancer by itself.
However, studies and trials have been conducted on the effects of marijuana usage for managing the side effects of various forms of cancer treatments, including radiation therapies. These studies have found marijuana can be beneficial to address several types of side effects, including:
Nausea and Vomiting
– Oral marijuana drugs containing delta-9 THC, called nabilone and dronabinol, and approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), have been found to be effective in reducing the side effects of nausea and vomiting in cancer patients.
– Marijuana has been found to help reduce inflammation.
Pain and Soreness
– Delta-9 THC has been found to reduce pain, discomfort, and soreness.
Stress and Anxiety
– Studies have been conducted on the use of inhaled marijuana, either as a smoke or a vapor to help reduce stress and anxiety. Research has shown it can help reduce both symptoms.
– Vapor and smoked marijuana have been found to help address insomnia and can make it easier to fall asleep.
Loss of Appetite
– Various forms of marijuana can help stimulate the appetite response within the body. Cancer patients, HIV patients, and AIDS patients can experience a loss of appetite as a side effect from various medications, and marijuana use has been shown to help improve appetite and weight gain in some people.
Furthermore, a study conducted in California, called the California Men’s Health Study, which consisted of 84,000 participants and has followed participants for over 16 years, found that the occurrence of bladder cancer was 45% lower in subjects who were cannabis users, compared to non-cannabis users.
What Is the Difference Between Cannabis and Cannabinoids (CBD and THC)?
Cannabis is simply the scientific name given to the marijuana plant. Studies on the medicinal benefits of marijuana are regulated and limited due to the federal government listing the plant as a controlled substance. However, in light of recent relaxation of laws in various states and territories, the federal government’s view is slowly changing and could make future research studies easier to perform.
Cannabinoids are the chemical substances contained within marijuana that can be extracted and isolated. Both THC and CBD are two chemicals considered to be cannabinoids. THC is the chemical that causes people to feel “high,” while CBD provides pain relief and anti-inflammatory properties without the “high.”
How Do Patients Take Cannabis and Cannabinoids?
When most people think about medicinal marijuana usage, they might picture people smoking the leaves of the plant, much like cigarette users smoke tobacco. However, there are various forms of cannabis use besides smoking it. Some patients mix the leaves into baked goods or make herbal teas rather than smoking it.
Cannabinoids can be obtained as extracts or in pill formats. Since cannabinoids can be separated, it allows patients to choose which form of cannabinoids is best for their condition. For instance, some patients might only require CBD, while others may respond better to THC. In some cases, certain patients could require both CBD and THC.
How Do Patients Get Cannabis Since It Is Illegal in the United States?
Even though it is still listed in the Controlled Substances Act, many states have taken their own steps, over the years, to legalize the drug for medical purposes, and some states have even gone so far as to legalize it for recreational use, much like alcohol.
The regulation and legality of marijuana for medicinal purposes has been left up to each individual state and U.S. territory. As such, many states and territories have passed legislation making the distribution and use of cannabis legal for patients diagnosed with cancers and other medical conditions. The current list of states where marijuana is legal for medical purposes, along with those recently passed during the past November elections, includes:
- New Mexico
- North Dakota
- New Hampshire
- Rhode Island
- New Jersey
- New York
- District of Columbia
- Puerto Rico
Are Cannabinoids Legal?
The FDA has approved specific cannabinoids for the treatment of side effects of cancer. Therefore, the chemical extracts CBD and THC would be considered legal, so long as they were obtained legally through approved distributors.
With the federal government updating their CAM web page and clearly showing there are indeed certain medicinal benefits for cancer patients, one has to wonder not if but when the use of marijuana for medical purposes will become common in all fifty states. In the meantime, expect further lab planning and other research studies to be conducted with marijuana and its ability to treat a wide range of medical conditions besides cancer.
If you require assistance configuring your laboratory or research facility for studies, please feel free to contact Genie Scientific at 800-545-8816 to speak with a representative. We offer a wide variety of laboratory cabinets, benches, tables, fume hoods, and flammable storage cabinets customizable to your specific needs.