While the jury is still out in many states about the legality of medical pot, it would seem that more and more supporters are gradually influencing public policy and opinion in favor of allowing patients with certain conditions or symptoms legal access. As of July 10, 2010, a total of 14 states have legalized medical pot use for those who are officially registered. Alaska, Colorado, California, Hawaii, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, Rhode Island, and Washington have all instituted programs.

For proponents of medical pot, this is a perfectly acceptable way to alleviate the symptoms or improve the health related to over 200 conditions currently afflicting Americans. They suggest that medical pot is less toxic than many of the other drugs currently prescribed for those conditions and has less harmful side effects overall. Even the American College of Physicians and the former Surgeon General, Joycelyn Elders has supported the idea of recognizing the possible benefits from using medical pot as a treatment for multiple illnesses and conditions.

The earliest known uses for medical pot, the dried leaves of the cannabis sativa hemp plant, date as far back as 5,000 years ago in China when it was used as a general anesthetic. The Greeks and Romans treated muscle spasms, general pain and indigestion with marijuana. By the 1800s, medical pot was being used in America for spastic conditions, labor pains, insomnia, headaches and menstrual cramps.

Today, medical pot can alleviate chronic pain for the terminally ill, stimulate appetite in the elderly and AIDS patients, and calm nausea and vomiting in patients undergoing chemotherapy. It may have value in treating seizures, epilepsy, migraines, Chron’s, arthritis, Tourette’s and glaucoma. New research suggests that medical pot may also protect brain cells from damage during stroke episodes and have applications for brain injuries, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Even doctors who treat multiple sclerosis may find valuable use for medical pot.

Medical pot can be ingested in many ways. Smoking the full plant or plant particles produces a quick response, usually in less than 1 minute, but the effects only last 1-2 hours. Vaporizing medical pot also provides quick, sometimes more intense response, but it can be a more expensive process. Creating an oil or tincture from the flowered tops may serve well as a pain-dulling agent. The longest pain relief seems to come from cooking medical pot in butter until absorbed and then baking with the butter.

There are still strong opponents of medical pot for several reasons. Primarily, there still seems to be a lack of indisputable evidence from regulated studies to support the beneficial uses of medical pot over more traditional drugs. There are also concerns about recreational use, periods of impaired judgment, addictive qualities, and availability to teenagers. While all this is being worked out, it is recommended that patients talk to their doctors about the possibility of obtaining a medical marijuana card for legalized access to and use of medical pot.

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