In 2018, South Africa’s Constitutional Court decreed that the personal and private use of marijuana would no longer be a criminal offence. The landmark ruling was inspired by a number of factors, from cannabis’ legalisation in other jurisdictions through to ongoing research, which indicated that the drug could have significant potential as a medicine.
For those who had long expounded its ability to treat an array of medical conditions, from chronic pain to epilepsy and glaucoma, the decision was welcomed with open arms. Paving the way for further studies into its therapeutic efficacy, many believe cannabis may prove momentous for the medical field.
Widespread decriminalisation and legalisation
A little over a year ago, South Africa’s Constitutional Court made a very important ruling. Decreeing that the personal and private use of marijuana would no longer be counted as a criminal offence, they suggested that the drug’s decriminalisation and legalisation in 33 other jurisdictions was largely responsible for their decision.
Following in the footsteps of a number of their fellows, including Canada – the first G7 nation to legalise the drug – they also referred to the fact that there was an ongoing body of medical research that indicated cannabis had significant potential as a medicinal compound.
This included one of the most comprehensive reports that had ever been commissioned on the drug. Carried out in America by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, it encompassed more than 10 000 studies in its analysis and included 11 key findings on the health effects of marijuana.
Marijuana and its medical applications
While marijuana is one of the most well-known and frequently used drugs in existence, there is much the layperson does not know about it, including the fact that it contains two active chemicals that could potentially have medical applications.
These are cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The former is of particular note, as this compound can deliver many of the pain-relieving properties of the drug without its famous high. Produced alongside cannabinoids are a number of other compounds, including cannabis terpenes. With at least 150 in existence, these are similar to essential oils and provide the various scents and flavours of different cultivars. They each have their own unique properties – from myrcene, which is shown to relax motor neurons and lengthen sleeping times, through to limonene, which reduces anxiety and stress.
It’s therefore believed that further research into cannabis and its various chemical compounds could help to give us a much better understanding of the plant’s medical potential.
A new and effective painkiller?
One area in which it is believed cannabis could have significant applications is the treatment of chronic pain conditions, and already there’s an extensive body of research to support this.
This is mentioned in the report referred to above, which reveals there’s definitive evidence that cannabis and cannabinoids can be used to effectively treat long-term pain, with this ranking as the most common reason for individuals to request medical marijuana.
In addition, there’s research that supports the ability of marijuana to treat glaucoma – a disease that increases pressure in the eyeball, causing damage to the optic nerve and eventual loss of vision.
With the marijuana plant and its derivatives having so much potential in the medical field, it seems further study into its many health benefits must not only be strongly supported, but actively encouraged.
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