By Josh Trupo
Medical marijuana is taking the country by storm. Back in 1937, with the implementation of the Controlled Substance Act, it was made illegal at the federal level and was given a Schedule 1 classification by the DEA. Schedule 1 drugs, like heroin, are said to have “a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.”
However, doctors have pushed back against this for some time, culminating in California’s landmark 1996 legalization of medical marijuana. Since then, 36 states, including Virginia, have followed suit and made the move to legalize marijuana for medical purposes.
So, which is it? Does marijuana have scientifically recognized medicinal properties? Or is the federal government correct in keeping it at a Schedule 1 classification?
According to physicians across the country, marijuana does have numerous medicinal uses. It can function as a stabilizer, lessening the severity of, and in some cases even completely removing, the sorts of seizures and tremors in patients with mild to severe epilepsy. It is a much safer and less addictive painkiller than the likes of Oxycontin. It can help clear up glaucoma in the eyes and is now being prescribed for its efficacy in managing depression, anxiety, eating disorders and PTSD.
Marijuana has two major chemical components that play a part in its medicinal use. There is CBD, cannabidiol, which researchers are finding may be the most important ingredient leading to marijuana’s medicinal properties. CBD, unlike the other major component, tetrahydrocannabinol – or THC – is not psychoactive. This means that, for those who are uncomfortable with the mind-altering high associated with marijuana, low THC strains can and have been made to provide the benefits of marijuana with none of the cloudiness. CBD can be found in plant form, where you break it up and smoke it the same way you would regular, high-THC marijuana. It can also be an ingredient baked into foods, pills, and even creams, removing the need for inhaling potentially harmful smoke into the lungs.
Many doctors are still researching the differences in these two chemical components to marijuana. They are looking to discover where inside the molecular makeup the benefits are found. Many professionals who deal with epilepsy, chronic pain, or PTSD do not wish to experience the psychoactive effects of marijuana on a daily basis. However, there is some research showing that a certain degree of THC may be necessary for the marijuana to be as effective as possible at treating medical issues.
With Virginia’s recent recreational legalization of marijuana, doctors are urging caution and temperance. As a way to take the edge off, not unlike having a glass or two of whiskey on the weekends, there is nothing to be worried about, they say. Marijuana is not physically addicting, and many have and will continue to use it for fun and recreational use.
However, for those who may need it for medicinal purposes, doctors strongly advise that patients do not self-medicate. While not physically addictive, marijuana can become psychologically addictive, meaning that the brain can become dependent on the rush of dopamine and serotonin – two chemicals in the brain associated with positive emotion. In self-medicating, one may find oneself in a position of being unable to naturally produce these chemicals at the rate one once did.
Instead, for anyone who believes marijuana could be an effective treatment, it is strongly advised to discuss the option with a doctor, who can monitor how much and how often the drug is used.
Now in Virginia, one can be approved by a healthcare provider for a Virginia medical card online with Leafwell. Via telemedicine, a patient can meet with a provider and discuss qualifying conditions. The whole process takes 15-30 minutes. If approved, Leafwell will email the patient the certification which can be used to purchase medical cannabis products in Virginia immediately.
Also, as of July 2022, the state application process (which could take up to two months) is no longer required, eliminating a barrier and expanding access across Virginia.