Cannabis: A New Frontier in Therapeutics

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A Volunteer Displays Jars of Dried Cannabis Buds at the La Brea Collective Medical Marijuana Dispensary in Los Angeles
A volunteer displays jars of dried cannabis buds at the La Brea Collective medical marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles, California, March 18, 2014. Reuters

A conference on the therapeutic potential of medical cannabis was organized by the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) in San Jose, California. The event was held as part of the 2015 American Association for the Advancement of Science Annual Meeting, which brought together experts from North America and the UK. The main aim was to allow the participants to share their view points and facts on the medical cannabis.

Amidst the ongoing debate regarding the use of recreational marijuana and the analysis of its potential healing properties, this discussion holds a lot of value as it provided different angles and perspectives on the debate itself. It also shed light on the pros and cons of making marijuana a credible option for patients. Dr. Mark Ware, director of clinical research at the Alan Edwards Pain Management Unit at the MUHC in Canada, stated that an advancement of our understanding on the role of cannabis was highly essential. He specified that research and education were needed not just for patients but for physicians and policy makers as well.

"I don't think that every physician should prescribe medical cannabis, or that every patient can benefit but it's time to enhance our scientific knowledge base and have informed discussions with patients," Dr. Ware stated.

The press release by the McGill University State Centre states that several jurisdictions worldwide have given allowance to medical cannabis for those suffering from severe conditions. The production, distribution, and authorization however, has been made stricter. Though most believe that there is not enough evidence to support the view on the therapeutic effects of cannabis, an ingredient of cannabis tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), “has been approved as pharmaceutical drugs.”

Leading British cannabis researcher, Professor Roger Pertwee, states that THC produces anti-schizophrenic effects in a preclinical model of schizophrenia. He co-discovered tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), which is an ingredient in cannabis in the 70’s. He states that THC opens new avenues as well as reveals the great potential of cannabis as a therapeutic agent.

Adding to this and speaking of the long held view that cannabis use causes brain damage, Dr. Igor Grant, the neuropsychiatrist and director of the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR) at the University of California, San Diego, stated that studies fail to confirm these views. "Bain imaging has produced variable results, with the best designed studies showing null findings." Dr. Grant has conducted extensive neurocognitive studies to analyse the effect of cannabis on the brain. He has also done tremendous research on the therapeutic effects of medical marijuana in the United States, the press release states.

Dr. Grant informs that in cases of children and adolescents being exposed to cannabis, decline in brain development can be a valid point to think about. However, he states that there is no substantial evidence or data to prove that it causes such harm.

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