Legalizing Mary Jane: past, present, and future use of cannabis in medicine

  • Emma Avery


Recreational marijuana (or cannabis) is scheduled to be legalized by the Federal Government of Canada on October 17th, 2018 with passing of the Cannabis Act, ending a 95 year prohibition. Before the drug ban, cannabis was used throughout the western hemisphere for both recreational and medicinal purposes. Notwithstanding prohibition, in recent decades, the medical field has become interested in the therapeutic benets of cannabis. Physicians currently prescribe cannabis for a number of conditions, including cancer pain and chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, as well as multiple sclerosis{related spasticity, amongst others. Despite the medical benefits of cannabis, there are important considerations of safety to be made, as cannabis has (1) been shown to have neurotoxic eects in the developing brain, (2) may potentiate psychiatric illness in some individuals, and (3) when smoked, can lead to harmful disease sequelae. These deleterious side eects are relevant to both recreational and medical cannabis use. This article provides a very brief history of medical marijuana and outlines some of the key events leading to the prohibition and subsequent legalization of cannabis. It also touches on some of the physician considerations surrounding medical and recreational cannabis use.