How Colorado is Redefining Medical Cannabis

Untitled by Tanjila Ahmed via Flickr
Untitled by Tanjila Ahmed via Flickr

 

Marijuana still has a scary image to many people who aren’t familiar with it. There’s still a widespread perception that ingesting pot is dangerous and is lumped in with hard drugs. The steady decriminalization of cannabis across the United States and other countries, however, has helped erase these exaggerations. Colorado, which has legalized both medicinal and recreational cannabis, has been a prime testing ground for the legitimate use and marketing of cannabis products.

 

 

Cannabis Demystified

Most of the myths surrounding cannabis were perpetuated by new industries of the early twentieth century that feared it would cut into profits. At one time in the 1800s when cannabis was legal around the world, it was fairly common knowledge that it was a natural remedy for health conditions such as depression, anxiety and loss of appetite. Following the reversal of alcohol prohibition, the rise in tobacco manufacturing, the advent of pharmaceutical drugs and chemical companies, marijuana was demonized and outlawed.

Newspaper publishers, which relied on sponsorships from all of the above industries, helped spread the hysteria that “marijuana makes you crazy.” For the Great Depression era generation, the 1936 film Reefer Madness, which depicted pot as leading to violent criminal behavior, was enough proof that the drug was too dangerous. So cannabis was then made illegal in the United States in 1937.

Medical Community Rethinking

Research on cannabis was generally suppressed the second half of the twentieth century, other than some scientists were allowed to study the plant’s chemistry and affects on the brain. They found starting in the 1960s that the plant contains pain reducing chemical compounds called cannabinoids, such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).

By 1996 when California became the first state to lift the ban on marijuana for medicinal use, there was plenty of research that suggested the plant was exactly what “hippies” had claimed: pot has euphoric effects that help people relax and forget about pain.

As of 2015 twenty-three states have decriminalized medical cannabis through elections and legislation. Colorado voters originally lifted the ban in 2000 for medicinal use then gave the green light for recreational use in 2012. It was initially legalized for the treatment of health conditions such as chronic pain, cancer, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, seizures and nausea. Patients are allowed to purchase medical cannabis through dispensaries and caretakers, but not pharmacies.

Effects of Legalization

Legal marijuana sales have grown quickly in Colorado in its early years, hitting over $75 million for the month of June 2015. This figure was over twice as much sales revenue from the previous June. The pot boom has allowed the state to collect about $7 million per month in taxes, with numbers consistently trending higher.

With cannabis popularity rising, the state has also had to study safety issues. In 2015 it proposed rules regulating the sale of edible candy made of cannabis. There is also concern that the growth of edibles such as cannabis brownies need to be contained, since the effects are much stronger than smoking the plant. On the other hand, the stronger psychoactive effects of edibles allow more responsible users to get more relief while taking reduced dosage, cutting costs.

Colorado’s lenient marijuana laws have attracted increased tourism as well as a boom that has revived the state’s real estate industry. People with serious illnesses in which conventional treatments don’t work are migrating to Colorado to experiment with cannabis as treatment. Recent studies from Children’s Hospital Colorado show that one in three children using cannabis treatment for epilepsy have experienced a decrease in seizures. Find out more about cannabis by visiting Colorado Pot Guide.

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