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A new bill decriminalizing marijuana passed in the House of Representatives at the end of 2020. This marked a symbolic achievement in the movement to legalize cannabis. Senate approval is required to pass the bill into law, but House approval is one step forward. Decriminalizing cannabis can provide natural relief to many people. And, progress is being made towards this goal across the country. 

As of November 4th, 2020, 36 U.S. states and four territories have approved the medicinal use of marijuana. Fifteen states and three territories regulate adult cannabis use as well. Potential for natural relief from a host of medical conditions bolsters the argument for decriminalization and, eventually, full legalization of cannabis products. 

Unfortunately, possessing marijuana is still a crime in some states and is still a crime under federal law. Forty percent of drug arrests in 2018 were marijuana-related. Ninety percent of those arrests were related to possession. Additionally, when compared to usage statistics, marijuana-related drug arrests disproportionately impact minority communities. These statistics represent greater health and social disparity facing the nation. 

Cannabis Provides Natural Relief For Seizures

Although more research is necessary, the evidence does support clinical applications of medical marijuana to treat certain conditions. Some of the best evidence exists for central nervous system (CNS) disorders, such as epilepsy. Recent research has investigated cannabidiol (CBD)-rich products to treat drug-resistant epilepsy in children. Further studies may tell scientists exactly how and why this occurs, but some information we do have. 

“CBD has been shown to reduce inflammation, protect against neuronal loss, normalize neurogenesis, and act as an antioxidant,” according to study authors Victoria Golub and Dr. D. Samba Reddy of the Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics at Texas A&M University. Whether CBD may reduce seizures in adults as it does so well for children is the basis of some of the current research in this field. 

Another CNS disorder that may be treated with cannabis is multiple sclerosis (MS), a progressive neurodegenerative disease with no known cure. Cannabinoids are chemical compounds found in cannabis, some of which have medicinal properties. Not only might cannabinoids control MS symptoms, but they may also help slow the progression of the disease, providing preventive properties as well as treatment. Further study is necessary to bring a cannabis-derived treatment, which may be safer and more effective than current pharmacological compounds, to the forefront. 

Natural Remedy For Depression

Pain, anxiety, and depression were identified as leading reasons people use medical cannabis. About one-third of medical cannabis users are seeking a natural remedy for depression, while half want natural relief from anxiety. Sixty-four percent of patients reported wanting natural relief from pain. With a significant portion of medical cannabis users aiming to treat depression, anxiety, and pain, there is substantial justification to continue researching how all-natural medicine can offer relief from these patients’ symptoms. 

Depression and marijuana use frequently co-occur, and the research is too sparse to accurately explain why. While some argue cannabis use may cause depression, increasingly, evidence supports the opposite effect. If marijuana provides a natural remedy for depression, it’s certainly worthwhile to devote research dollars to find out more about this potential treatment. Medical marijuana may provide natural relief for depression, especially in patients who may not respond well to antidepressant drugs.

All-Natural Medicine For Gastrointestinal Issues

The endocannabinoid system is made up of endocannabinoids, which chemically bind to naturally occurring cannabinoid receptors. These reactions produce benefits to different areas of the body. Current research suggests the gastrointestinal (GI) tract benefits from activating this system. Unfortunately, because marijuana is still considered a Schedule I drug, the study and prescription of marijuana for modulating GI conditions is limited. Despite its potential benefits for providing natural relief for GI conditions, the risk-benefit analysis is still somewhat a mystery to both patients and healthcare providers alike. 

All in all, the use of cannabis for medical purposes is a hot topic in science today and will be further illuminated by increasing understanding of the endocannabinoid system. Unlocking these potential clinical benefits can provide natural relief to many people struggling with a myriad of medical conditions. 

The New Bill Moves Us One Step Forward

The new bill involving marijuana decriminalization may be revisited in 2021 when a new session of Congress begins. For now, the new bill passing in the House sends a message that the movement is progressing. Decriminalizing marijuana will provide more opportunities for patients to receive natural relief from their ailments and for scientists to study the endocannabinoid system. 

High Time For Change

Conversations around the endocannabinoid system and self-experimentation are sadly not frequently happening with health care providers and their patients today. Advocates are pushing for wider acceptance. Evidence suggests that cannabis products work to provide natural relief for a myriad of disorders. 

“There is ground-breaking clinical cannabis research being conducted right now, but almost all of it is considered anecdotal because of current regulatory laws,” says Ashley Reynolds, CBD expert, and advocate. “Some folks brave enough to try cannabis are living pain-free, anxiety-free, and even seizure-free lives. If we lived in a world free of fear and stigma around cannabis, we’d allow ourselves to self-heal first.”

Reynolds used cannabis to help relieve her postpartum anxiety, and she encourages others to get curious about cannabis. She adds:

Embrace your inner canna-curiosity — start a conversation with your healthcare provider and get educated. Ask about access, ask why cannabis isn’t widely offered in the realm of treatment, urge them to know more. Your health and your happiness can start today, and it can start with cannabis.

Decriminalizing marijuana is seen as one avenue toward greater acceptance of all-natural medicine. Although the new bill passing the House was mostly symbolic, this year may initiate further legal steps toward decriminalization of marijuana, a push toward greater health equity and freedom in the U.S. For those seeking natural relief from depression, anxiety, neurological ailments, seizures, and gastrointestinal issues, hope is on the horizon.

Jennifer Ball is enrolled in an MA in Science Writing program at Johns Hopkins University. In her free time, she enjoys exploring the city of Chicago and practicing mindfulness meditation on a daily basis. Follow her on social media @jennifercball or visit her website.

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