Marijuana is the common name for a drug comprised of the leaves and flowering
tops of the Indian hemp plant, cannabis sativa, which can be smoked or eaten for unique
feelings. The active ingredient of marijuana, known as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is
concentrated in the flowering tops of the Indian hemp plant. In the USA, the legality of
marijuana, found to be medically useful by some, has been a controversial topic for
decades (Nahas 1).
Today, the 5,000-year medical history of cannabis has been almost forgotten.
Cannabis sativa has been used therapeutically from the earliest records to the present
day. Although the Chinese and East Indian cultures knew about the properties of this
drug from very early times, the drug spread across the globe with progressing global
discoveries (Nahas 2). However, the most valuable medical experiments were made
during the 19th century. At that time, due to its analgesic effects, marijuana was
prepared chiefly in an alcoholic solution used to treat tetanus, neuralgia, labor pain,
dysmenorrhea, convulsions, asthma, and rheumatism. Its use declined in the early 20th
century partly because other more valuable alternatives became available -- synthetic
drugs such as aspirin and barbiturates. In 1937, the Marijuana Tax Act was passed.
Designed to prevent non-medical use, this law made cannabis so difficult to obtain for
medical purposes that it was removed from the pharmacopoeia (Randall and O'Leary
The modern renaissance of medicinal cannabis began in the early 1970s, when
several young chemotherapy patients claimed that marijuana was more effective for the
relief of nausea, weight-loss, and loss of appetite. Advocates argued that medicinal
marijuana countered the side effects of chemotherapy and word spread rapidly; by
mid-decade, the capacity of marijuana to lower intraocular pressure had been observed.
As the AIDS epidemic became prevalent, patients began to use marijuana to decrease
the pain caused by AIDS and AIDS-related diseases (Randall and O'Leary 200). These
new medical uses of cannabis led to wider folk experimentation. The use of marijuana in
the symptomatic treatment of convulsive disorders, migraine, insomnia, and
dysmenorrhea was rediscovered. During Richard Nixon's campaign on the drug war in
the 1970's, beginning with the establishment of the Office of Drug Abuse Law
Enforcement (ODALE), marijuana was then confined to Schedule I under the Controlled
Substances Act. This classified marijuana as a drug that has a high potential for abuse,
lacks an accepted medical use, and is unsafe for use under medical supervision (Miller
In November 1996, California endorsed a change in the state's drug laws that
contradicted the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Office of National Drug
Control Policy (ONDCP). California voters approved Proposition 215, an initiative that
made marijuana legally available as a medicine in the United States...