04/18/2016 03:55 EDT | Updated 04/19/2017 05:12 EDT

Why Medical Cannabis Users Aren't Just "Getting High"

cannabis background

Through the movement towards legalizing cannabis there has been one constant, frustrating shout of opposition. "They just want to get high!" This vague, ill-defined term which is suppossed to derogate patients as manipulative drug users, not medical patients such as they are. It dates back to those early days of propaganda, telling stories about the reefer parties of group sex and LSD.

Recreational use is a real part of the cannabis world. It's not worth trying to deny that. What the definition of "recreation" is, however, deserves some thought. My kind of recreation with a doob is a hike in the woods, or going fishing. It's true too, if THC is taken in excess the relaxing, easily entertained feeling of being high is pretty pleasant. As a medical user, I do still get high some times for fun.

That said, getting high is far from the whole picture. Rather than trying to finagle the details of whether or not the aura known as highness is recreational, or trying to say it's meditation, such subjective points, we will look at purely medicinal, non-psychoactive uses of cannabis.

Cannabis has been a medicine for far longer than it has been a drug. There are many different theories of its history, and signs of it date back to the old testament and ancient europe, all over Asia, and spread down into Africa. Ancient history is a matter of interpretation and the details remain in debate, but cannabis use was a huge part of culture and medicine in distant parts of the world.

China has some of the best documented early uses of Cannabis, and it spread all through their medicine. From being used with wine as a surgical anasthetic, to eating seeds to cure all kinds of digestive problems, it was a foundation element of traditional Chinese medicine. China is far from its only place in early civilization, but is one of the best documented. In its origin days, the primary purposes were far from exclusively centered on its psychoactive effects.

Another great cradle of Cannabis was in the middle east. It spread through Arab medicine, playing many of the same roles it did in China, as well as many of the newer focuses. They are some of the first to identify anti-epileptic association, as well as using it for pain management, digestion, and many common grounds with China. India and Egypt as well have clear documentation of Cannabis in non-psychoactive medical roles from thousands of years ago.

They didn't deny that Cannabis has psychoactive properties, many of them also had spiritual relationships with the herb for meditation and reflection, but rather recognized it is not a black and white picture. The line between medication and recreation is sometimes not one of substance but how you use it.

Cannabis as medicine re-emerged into western civilization in the 1800's. From the start research began on many of the same aspects that the ancients investigated. Pain has been a key focus of Cannabis research since the beginning, and they saw it as an anti-convulsant now just as many people attest to now. It developed in its presence on pharmacy shelves from the 1830's to early 20th century in various forms, being prescribed or bought for different ailments. Pain and indigestion were central points then as well. Most products sold were tinctures, cannabis in solution in alcohol or other mediums. It was even freely grown to any and all in the United States of America up until 1937, around a century after it attained prominent presence in western medicine.

Clearly through our history it was not just a recreational drug. This is true again now, but becoming an even clearer distinction. As we come to better understand the underlying components of Cannabis, the chemicals which affect our bodies and our minds, we begin to develop both strains of the plant and medical extracts which can avoid psychoactive components altogether. Whether you hear of Charlotte's Web, the high CBD strain originally bred for epilepsy, or the chronic pain management strains and prescriptions, it's clearer all the time that THC is not Cannabis' only strength.

Chronic pain management is the most clear and definite application of non-psychoactive Cannabis. Across this continent people are coming off of opioids like Oxycontin by replacing that drug with non-psychoactive Cannabis. Many of them vaporize, or smoke small amounts. This replaces high doses of extremely physically addictive and tolling substances.

More and more there comes pressure from the leading anasthesiologists to move opioids out of chronic pain and push further for Cannabis as a management tool. In an ideal world opioids should be a traumatic event or surgical painkiller, and for long term management different approaches can be found.

Cannabis can be one of these approaches. For further reference, look up overdoses on prescription painkillers versus black market Cannabis.

This is just what we have found so far! Research will change in scope and pace radically with the upcoming legalization, and I am confident we will see more, and better understood, progress.

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