According to Delphic analysis by British researchers in 2007, cannabis has a lower risk factor for dependence compared to both nicotine and alcohol. However, everyday use of cannabis may be correlated with psychological withdrawal symptoms, such as irritability or insomnia, and susceptibility to a panic attack may increase as levels of THC metabolites rise. However, cannabis withdrawal symptoms are typically mild and are never life-threatening.
An absence of such fiber-strain traits as tallness, limited branching, long internodes, and very hollow stems, is characteristic of narcotic strains. Drug forms have historically been grown in areas south of the north-temperate zone, often close to the equator, and are photoperiodically adapted to a long season. When grown in north-temperate climates maturation is much-delayed until late fall, or the plants succumb to cold weather before they are able to produce seeds. Unlike fiber strains that have been selected to grow well at extremely high densities, drug strains tend to be less persistent when grown in high concentration (de Meijer 1994). Drug strains can be very similar in appearance to fiber strains. However, a characteristic type of narcotic plant was selected in southern Asia, particularly in India and neighboring countries. This is dioecious, short (about a meter in height), highly branched, with large leaves (i.e. wide leaflets), and it is slow to mature. The appearance is rather like a short, conical Christmas tree.
The Cannabis plant has a history of medicinal use dating back thousands of years across many cultures. The Yanghai Tombs, a vast ancient cemetery (54 000 m2) situated in the Turfan district of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in northwest China, have revealed the 2700-year-old grave of a shaman. He is thought to have belonged to the Jushi culture recorded in the area centuries later in the Hanshu, Chap 96B. Near the head and foot of the shaman was a large leather basket and wooden bowl filled with 789g of cannabis, superbly preserved by climatic and burial conditions. An international team demonstrated that this material contained tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive component of cannabis. The cannabis was presumably employed by this culture as a medicinal or psychoactive agent, or an aid to divination. This is the oldest documentation of cannabis as a pharmacologically active agent.
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Edible cannabis, however, is quickly making up ground as a go-to method for consuming medical marijuana. Indeed, some states with legal medical marijuana laws still forbid smoking marijuana. Instead, medical forms of the drug are only available in pill or capsule form. Oils and tinctures, which are made from extracting cannabinoids from herbaceous material, are also commonly prescribed in the form of cannabis edibles.
The plant was first given its taxonomic identification by Carl Linnaeus in 1753 and thoroughly described to Westerners in the 1800s, when the medical doctor William O'Shaughnessy gave a report to the Medical and Physical Society of Calcutta in India in 1839. The doctor described its effects on people and did a few case reports on "gunjah," the Indian name for the drug.
In December 2013, Uruguay became the first country to legalize growing, sale and use of cannabis. After a long delay in implementing the retail component of the law, in 2017 sixteen pharmacies were authorized to sell cannabis commercially. On June 19, 2018, the Canadian Senate passed a bill and the Prime Minister announced the effective legalization date as October 17, 2018. Canada is the second nation to legalize the drug.
An in vitro study of the effect of CBD on programmed cell death in breast cancer cell lines found that CBD induced programmed cell death, independent of the CB1, CB2, or vanilloid receptors. CBD inhibited the survival of both estrogen receptor–positive and estrogen receptor–negative breast cancer cell lines, inducing apoptosis in a concentration-dependent manner while having little effect on nontumorigenic mammary cells. Other studies have also shown the antitumor effect of cannabinoids (i.e., CBD and THC) in preclinical models of breast cancer.[19,20]
Market considerations also heavily determine the wisdom of investing in hemp. Growing hemp unfortunately has a magnetic attraction to many, so there is danger of overproduction. A marketing board could be useful to prevent unrestrained competition and price fluctuations, but is difficult to establish when the industry is still very small. As noted above, unwise investment in Canada produced a glut of seeds that resulted in price dumping and unprofitable levels for the majority. Cultural and production costs of hemp have been said to be comparable to those for corn, and while the truth of this remains to be confirmed, the legislative burden that accompanies hemp puts the crop at a unique disadvantage. Among the problems that Canadian farmers have faced are the challenge of government licensing (some delays, and a large learning curve), very expensive and sometime poor seed (farmers are not allowed to generate their own seed), teenagers raiding fields in the mistaken belief that marijuana is being grown, and great difficulties in exportation because of the necessity of convincing authorities that hemp is not a narcotic. Unless the producer participates in sharing of value-added income, large profits are unlikely. The industry widely recognizes that value added to the crop is the chief potential source of profit, as indeed for most other crops.
Despite advances in pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic management, nausea and vomiting (N/V) remain distressing side effects for cancer patients and their families. Dronabinol, a synthetically produced delta-9-THC, was approved in the United States in 1986 as an antiemetic to be used in cancer chemotherapy. Nabilone, a synthetic derivative of delta-9-THC, was first approved in Canada in 1982 and is now also available in the United States. Both dronabinol and nabilone have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)for the treatment of N/V associated with cancer chemotherapy in patients who have failed to respond to conventional antiemetic therapy. Numerous clinical trials and meta-analyses have shown that dronabinol and nabilone are effective in the treatment of N/V induced by chemotherapy.[25-28] The National Comprehensive Cancer Network Guidelines recommend cannabinoids as breakthrough treatment for chemotherapy-related N/V. The American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO) antiemetic guidelines updated in 2017 recommends that the FDA-approved cannabinoids, dronabinol or nabilone, be used to treat N/V that is resistant to standard antiemetic therapies.
The genus Cannabis was first classified using the "modern" system of taxonomic nomenclature by Carl Linnaeus in 1753, who devised the system still in use for the naming of species. He considered the genus to be monotypic, having just a single species that he named Cannabis sativa L. (L. stands for Linnaeus, and indicates the authority who first named the species). Linnaeus was familiar with European hemp, which was widely cultivated at the time. In 1785, noted evolutionary biologist Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck published a description of a second species of Cannabis, which he named Cannabis indica Lam. Lamarck based his description of the newly named species on plant specimens collected in India. He described C. indica as having poorer fiber quality than C. sativa, but greater utility as an inebriant. Additional Cannabis species were proposed in the 19th century, including strains from China and Vietnam (Indo-China) assigned the names Cannabis chinensis Delile, and Cannabis gigantea Delile ex Vilmorin. However, many taxonomists found these putative species difficult to distinguish. In the early 20th century, the single-species concept was still widely accepted, except in the Soviet Union where Cannabis continued to be the subject of active taxonomic study. The name Cannabis indica was listed in various Pharmacopoeias, and was widely used to designate Cannabis suitable for the manufacture of medicinal preparations.
Fig. 3. Photograph of Cannabis sativa. Left, staminate (“male”) plant in flower; right, pistillate (“female”) plant in flower. Fig. 4. United States National Institute of Health, University of Mississippi marijuana plantation site, showing variation in plant size. A tall fiber-type of hemp plant is shown at left, and a short narcotic variety (identified as “Panama Gold”) at right.
In recent decades, the neurobiology of cannabinoids has been analyzed.[12-15] The first cannabinoid receptor, CB1, was identified in the brain in 1988. A second cannabinoid receptor, CB2, was identified in 1993. The highest expression of CB2 receptors is located on B lymphocytes and natural killer cells, suggesting a possible role in immunity. Endogenous cannabinoids (endocannabinoids) have been identified and appear to have a role in pain modulation, control of movement, feeding behavior, mood, bone growth, inflammation, neuroprotection, and memory.