Find out about the legal or illegal status of medicinal and/or recreational marijuana of every country in the world.
Medical marijuana has gained a huge amount of attention over the past few years. From helping children manage violent seizures caused by epilepsy to suppressing the crippling effects of mental conditions like PTSD and anxiety, cannabis seems to have huge potential as a medicine. Stay up to date and inform yourself about the endocannabinoid system, the medical potential of THC and CBD, the legal status of medical marijuana across the globe and much more.
Medical marijuana has gained a huge amount of attention over the past few years. From helping children manage violent seizures caused by epilepsy to suppressing the crippling effects of mental conditions like PTSD and anxiety, cannabis seems to have huge potential as a medicine.
Cannabis contains over 100 active compounds known as cannabinoids, which are generally believed to be the powerhouse behind marijuana’s unique effects.
When we consume cannabis (either by smoking, vaporizing, or ingesting it), the cannabinoids within the plant material are absorbed into the body where they begin to interact with the human endocannabinoid system (or ECS).
This system is made up of a wide variety of receptors cells.The two major cannabinoid receptors are known as CB1 and CB2, but recent research shows that cannabinoids can also interact (either directly or indirectly) with a wide variety of other receptors as well.
Today, we know that the endocannabinoid system plays an important role in managing various physiological processes, including appetite, pain-sensation, mood, memory, and more. The main receptors that make up this system (CB1 and CB2) are spread throughout the body and generally found in the brain and nervous system.
When cannabinoids enter our body, they interact with CB1, CB2, and other receptors to produce a wide variety of effects. So far, we know that cannabinoids like THC, CBD, CBG, and others, can have some of the following effects:
How individual cannabinoids cause these effects isn’t exactly clear, and further research is needed to understand their effect on a molecular level.
It is important to realise that cannabis can produce very different effects in one individual to another. For some, it may produce euphoria, deep relaxation, and provide relief from anxiety. For others, however, it might cause paranoia, stress, and increase feelings of anxiety. Again, it’s not completely clear why this is.
However, the fact that cannabis can have such drastically different effects on individuals only makes it clearer that more research is needed to better understand the effects of this complex plant.
Medical cannabis is showing huge promise in treating a wide variety of conditions and symptoms. Unfortunately, prohibition has really limited research into cannabis and therefore directly affected our understanding of this plant, how it works, and how we can manipulate it for medical purposes.
This means that we still don’t fully understand all the possible medical uses for cannabis. Some studies show that cannabinoids can help treat pain while others have found it could treat skin conditions, neurological disorders, or even fight the spread of cancer cells.
However, the research in this field is still in its infancy, and most studies on the medical use of cannabis call for further research in order to come to clear conclusions about cannabis’ role in treating specific diseases and symptoms.
All that being said, consensus about the medical potential of cannabis is slowly growing among medical professionals. So far, there is sufficient evidence to suggest cannabis can help in the management of at least the following conditions:
Despite seeming simple in nature, pain can be extremely difficult to treat and exists on many different levels. However, research has found that THC, one of the major components of cannabis, has powerful pain relieving properties. This is likely due to its ability to activate pathways in the central nervous system that help block pain signals.
Cannabis shows promise in treating both nociceptive pain (caused by damage to the skin, muscles, visceral organs, joints, tendons, or bones) and neuropathic pain (caused by nerve damage), the latter of which is notoriously difficult to treat.
There are countless conditions that produce chronic pain. However, some of the most common include:
Nausea and vomiting can be symptoms of a wide variety of conditions. In many cases they can also be the side effects of medication and/or treatment and, in chronic cases, can have a sever impact on a patient’s life.
New research shows that a number of cannabinoids have antiemetic effects. This means they can help to control feelings of nausea or vomiting and even help boost appetite (a major advantage for patients undergoing chemotherapy or ART). In doing so, cannabis may help to ward of symptoms like appetite loss, weight loss, and muscle wasting.
Seizures are caused by a variety of conditions that affect the brain, spinal cord, and nervous system such as epilepsy, strokes, and tumors. The ability of certain cannabinoids (especially CBD) to help reduce the severity, duration, and frequency of seizures caused by epilepsy has been well documented, especially in rare manifestations of the disease like Dravet Syndrome or Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS). The anticonvulsive effects of cannabinoids like CBD may also help to treat spasticity caused by conditions like multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, cerebral palsy, and more.
While the evidence for CBD as a viable treatment option for these conditions is substantial, scientists still know very little about how CBD actually works to stop convulsions, meaning more studies are needed in order for us to fully understand the potential of of this compound and how it interacts with our bodies.
The possible medicinal benefits of cannabis don’t only extend to managing physical conditions/symptoms. A growing number of research shows that cannabinoids may potentially play a big role in the treatment of mental disorders like anxiety, PTSD, Alzheimer's, depression and more.
Anyone who has ever experimented with cannabis will understand that it has a clear effect on our ability to make and process memories. Well, research suggests that this might not be such a bad thing for people suffering from mental disorders.
PTSD, for example, is an anxiety disorder caused by a patient’s constant reliving of a particularly traumatic memory. The fact that some cannabinoids can impair memory to some extent leads some researchers to believe that it may offer a new alternative to treating PTSD.
Another common effect of using cannabis is a feeling of relaxation and euphoria. Studies suggest that some cannabinoids help to modulate the release of serotonin, an essential neurotransmitter involved in the regulation of mood, sleep, appetite and libido. This suggests that cannabis may help to calm the effects of anxiety, which can include fear, mental unrest, panic, and more.
Finally, some compounds found in cannabis have also been shown to have unique neuroprotective effects. Research suggests that this may give cannabis the potential to play a key role in managing conditions like depression (characterized by an imbalance in neurogenesis and neurodegeneration) and even Alzheimer’s (caused by neurodegeneration).
As cannabis laws change in a number of places around the world researchers are able to investigate marijuana much more freely and easily than before. This means that we’re getting ever closer to developing a more conclusive and well-rounded understanding of how this plant works and the role it might play in modern medicine.
Apart from the conditions above, research suggests cannabis may also be used for treating a wide variety of other conditions, including:
The legal status of medical marijuana varies greatly. As of April 2017, 29 states in the US as well as the territories of Guam and Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for medicinal purposes.
The exact laws governing medical cannabis in each state, territory, and district vary. These laws govern everything from the type of medical cannabis patients can access, how much cannabis they can buy or possess at a time, whether they can cultivate their own cannabis at home, as well as the conditions which qualify for treatment using cannabis.
The US states with medical cannabis programs are:
For precise details about the legality of medical cannabis in your area remember to check with your local authorities.
How to access medical marijuana once again varies across the globe. In most places with medical cannabis programs patients can buy cannabis from registered dispensaries. These dispensaries will usually stock a wide variety of cannabis products including dry flower, extracts, edibles, balms and lotions, and more.The products bought from a dispensary will usually be regulated in some sense and will have clear labels describing the product, its strength, recommended dosage, etc.
In most places where medicinal cannabis is legal patients have to register in some way before being able to freely purchase cannabis at a dispensary. This usually involves getting a prescription/recommendation from certified a medical professional and registering with local authorities as a medical marijuana patient.
A popular alternative to buying medical cannabis through a dispensary or other kind of retailer is cultivating. At least in the US, most states with medical marijuana programs allow patients to grow a certain amount of cannabis plants at home and process them based on their needs This might involve using parts of the plants to make extracts or other products.
Finally in places like Spain, people can cultivate their own cannabis by joining a cannabis social club. These clubs are legally allowed to produce a limited amount of cannabis for their members without any legal repercussions.
Medical marijuana can be taken in 4 main ways: smoking, vaporizing, ingestion, or topical application.
Smoking is one of the most traditional ways of using cannabis. It involves combusting dried cannabis flowers either in a joint, pipe, or other smoking device, and inhaling the smoke it produces.
The heat from the combustion causes chemical reactions in the cannabis that slightly change the molecular build of some cannabinoids. When the smoke is inhaled, cannabinoids enter the body through the lungs and start to take effect almost immediately.
Smoking is an enjoyable and effective way of medicating for many patients because the effects from the cannabis have a very fast onset. However, most medical professionals would advise against smoking as a regular form of administering medical cannabis.
This is because smoking cannabis essentially exposes patients to many of the same health risks as tobacco smoking. When marijuana is combusted, chemical bonds in the plant’s molecules are broken, creating “free radicals.” These new compounds can combine to create a wide variety of new, different compounds, most of which are highly toxic and carcinogenic.
Studies have shown that marijuana smoke contains many of the same harmful compounds as tobacco smoke. Plus, the way marijuana is smoked (usually inhaled and held in the lungs for a few seconds) possibly increases the risk of smoking related health risks like cancer.
Vaporization is very similar to smoking. It involves heating cannabis to a certain temperature that maximizes the extraction of cannabinoids without actually combusting the plant material.
Most vaporizers work on either convective or conductive heating principles. This allows for cannabis products (such as flower and concentrates) to be heated evenly to the desired temperature, creating a thick vapor. This vapor is then inhaled, much like smoke, allowing the compounds to enter the body.
Vaporizers are specially designed to give patients more control about how their cannabis is heated. Research has shown that cannabinoids vaporize at different temperatures far below the temperature at which a regular joint burns.
By being able to precisely control the temperature to which their cannabis is exposed, patients are able to maximize the extraction of cannabinoids from their cannabis without exposing their body to the risks of smoking.
According to research conducted by California NORML, regular smoke from a cannabis joint only contains about 5-10% cannabinoids. The vapor from a high quality vaporizer, on the other hand, can contain up to 95% cannabinoids.
Ingestion is another popular way to administer cannabis. It usually involves swallowing a cannabis extract such as a tincture or oil or making cannabis infused edibles with cannabutter or cooking oil.
The principle behind ingestion is simple. Most cannabinoids are soluble in fat, meaning you’ll need to cook cannabis in oil or butter for a few hours at low temperatures in order to infuse the fat with the cannabinoids, From there, you can proceed to use the oil/butter as you would in your everyday cooking.
Alternatively, most cannabis dispensaries also carry a line of pre made edibles. Again, these products are made to relatively strict regulations and should have clear information about their potency, cannabinoid content, and dosage.
Once you ingest a cannabis infused meal, it has to pass through the digestive tract in order for the cannabinoids to be absorbed into your body. This can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the dose and your individual digestive patterns. This isn’t ideal for patients looking for immediate relief from a symptom or condition.
Another increasingly popular way to ingest cannabis is called green juicing. This process basically involves juicing live cannabis plant material as opposed to using dried flowers. By using live cannabis, patients are able to get much higher concentrations of cannabinoids without the psychoactive effects.
Topicals can be used to treat a wide variety of conditions including pain, soreness, and inflammation. They are non-psychoactive and work by delivering cannabinoids to the body via the skin. They are said to directly activate CB2 receptors around the body without breaching the bloodstream. This means that even if a topical contains THC it won’t produce psychoactive effects such as euphoria, heightened perceptions, etc.
Whether or not a medical marijuana patient can travel with their medicine once again comes down to the laws in their local area. In places where medical marijuana is legal, patients should be able to travel on regular public transport like buses, trains, ferries, and trams without any problems.
However, things get a little more complicated when it comes to air travel. In the United States, for example, the Federal Transportation Security Administration is the governing body responsible for handling the security of the travelling public.
On its website, the TSA makes it very clear that it is governed by federal law. This means that if the TSA discovers medical marijuana in the possession of a traveller or his/her luggage, the Administration will bring the matter to a law enforcement officer.
How the matter is handled from there on out is at the discretion of the law enforcement officer. There have been stories of medical cannabis patients being allowed to travel with their medication, but that doesn’t mean this is always the case.
The TSA has made it very clear that it is governed by federal law, and federal law currently lists cannabis as a Schedule 1 controlled substance regardless of whether it will be used for medical or recreational purposes.
Outside of the US, the laws governing travelling with medical cannabis aren’t so clear. If you plan to travel with medical marijuana, always make sure to contact your airline and local air travel authority for accurate details regarding local/international laws.
Below are some common myths circulating about cannabis and its role as a medicine:
Medical marijuana has an extremely in-depth and complex history that dates back thousands of years.
Some of the earliest mentions of medical cannabis date back to 2737 B.C., when Chinese Emperor Emperor Shen Neng prescribed cannabis tea for a wide variety of conditions including gout, rheumatism, malaria and even poor memory.
But cannabis use wasn’t unique to China. It has also been traced back to parts of India, the Middle East, and even Africa. In these areas, cannabis played an important role not only as a medicine but also a spiritual tool used in religious ceremonies, rituals, and more.
In India, for example, cannabis was recommended to quicken the mind, lower fevers, induce sleep, cure dysentery, stimulate appetite, improve digestion, relieve headaches, and cure venereal disease. Meanwhile, in Africa it was used to treat dysentery, malaria, and other fevers. Even to this day, some tribes use cannabis derivatives to treat snake bites and before childbirth.
Fast-forward a few thousand years and we begin to see evidence of the medical use of cannabis in Europe. In the 17th century, English clergyman Robert Burton recommended using cannabis to treat depression, while the New English Dispensatory of 1764 recommended applying hemp roots to the skin for inflammation.
However, we didn’t see medical cannabis use in the West until the 19th century. Between 1830 to 1900, roughly 100 papers were written about the medical use of cannabis by Western medical researchers.
In 1839, a young professor at the Medical College of Calcutta by the name of W.B. O'Shaughnessy was one of the first Western physicians to begin experimenting with medical cannabis. After using it on animals and deciding it was safe, he began administering it to human patients with a wide variety of conditions including rabies, rheumatism, epilepsy, and tetanus.
After O'Shaughnessy brought cannabis medicine (probably in the form of a tincture) back to England in 1842, physicians across Europe and America soon started prescribing it. In fact, tinctures were actually one of the main forms of medical cannabis available in the US prior to prohibition.
By 1854, cannabis was listed in the United States Dispensatory and was widely available in drugstores. By 1860 it had been studied further by more researchers who once again noted its ability to help manage a wide variety of pathologies including tetanus, neuralgia, dysmenorrhea, convulsions, the pain of rheumatism and childbirth, asthma, postpartum psychosis, gonorrhea, and chronic bronchitis. It was also highly regarded as a powerful appetite stimulant.
However, the unreliability of cannabis medication combined with the invention of the hypodermic syringe in the 1850s meant medicinal cannabis use was slowly declining as people began to use opiate-based medicines instead. In the 19th century the development of drugs like aspirin and barbiturates meant the decline in cannabis use for medicinal purpose only continued.
Fast-forward another 30 years and you’ve arrived at the beginning of cannabis prohibition. Cannabis became illegal in most nations in 1925 after the International Opium Convention, a follow up to the first convention signed in 1912 at the The Hague in The Netherlands.
In the US, the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 and a campaign by Harry Anslinger and the Federal Bureau of Narcotics eventually lead to prohibition and the harsh stigmatisation of the drug through government propaganda that claimed it made people violent, erratic, and insane.
From there on out, it became increasingly more difficult to investigate cannabis for its medical potential let alone prescribe it for any condition. Instead, prohibition caused a big dent in our knowledge of cannabis which we are just starting to recover from over 70 years later.
If you want to grow your own medicine, please take a look at the cannabis strains here below. All these strains are created by professional breeders with the medical user in mind. CBD and THC percentages are tested and mentioned in their description.