What Is Cannabis?
Cannabis, also known as marijuana, is a plant from Central Asia that is grown in many parts of the world today. Cannabis is one of the most pharmacologically active plants with hundreds of different active chemicals. Cannabis has been utilized for thousands of years for a variety of medical conditions. The Cannabis plant produces a resin containing compounds called cannabinoids. The cannabinoid THC is psychoactive which means that it can act on the brain and change mood or consciousness. Other cannabinoids, such as CBD, have been shown to have therapeutic effects across many types of medical conditions including epilepsy, cancer, muscle spasms, diabetes and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
What Is Medical Cannabis?
Medical cannabis refers to the use of cannabis and its cannabinoids to treat disease or improve symptoms. Cannabis has been utilized for thousands of years for a variety of medical conditions. Medical cannabis offers an improved safety and tolerability profile compared to other widely-used drugs.
The Cannabis plant contains around 500 active compounds, but the most abundant, and best studied, are collectively known as cannabinoids.
The State of Florida has specified certain nomenclature determining the type of cannabis available to qualified patients:
- Low-THC Cannabis
- A maximum of 0.8% THC content, and a minimum of 10.0% CBD content
- Absence of THC means these products are non-psychoactive
- Available to patients with cancer or a condition that causes chronic seizures or muscle spasms
- Medical Cannabis
- No restrictions on THC content
- Presence of THC means these products will produce the "high" associated with cannabis, and also contain the health benefits of THC
- Available to patients suffering from a condition that has been determined to be terminal by two physicians
For more legal information at the bottom of this page, click here.
How Does Medical Cannabis Work?
The human body produces internal cannabinoids, called endocannabinoids. They regulate many of the body’s normal physiologic functions, including mood, anxiety, appetite, reward, stress, pain, metabolism, and immune functions. These endocannabinoids attach to the body’s CB1 and CB2 receptors in the brain, nervous system, and other parts of the body to modulate their regulatory effects.
When phytocannabinoids (phyto = plant-derived) from the Cannabis plant are introduced to the body, they interact with the CB1 and CB2 receptors, and cause a wide range of effects – many of which are helpful in treating diseases and their symptoms. Science is just starting to discover how these complex interactions between phytocannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system work, and how to target specific medical conditions with specific cannabis-derived treatments.
Indica vs Sativa
Cannabis grows naturally in a wide range of strains, split into two families: Indica and Sativa. Originally one species, Cannabis sativa, a second species was identified originating from India, and bears the name Cannabis indica. Physically, Sativa plants have longer thin leaves, while Indica varieties generally have thicker flat leaves. But the difference relies in the plants effects. Each variety of cannabis has a unique cannabinoid and terpene profile, producing different effects. Indica plants are generally higher in CBD concentrations than Sativa. The combination of research data regarding the properties of CBD and THC and the large body of anecdotal data allows us to predict which effects we will feel from each strain. Indica varieties produce effects of pain-relief, anti-inflammatory properties, relaxation, and sleep aid. Sativa varites commonly give feelings of energy, euphoria, stress relief, and appetite creation.
There are also a myriad of cross-bred hybrids, which produced varied combined effects. Many patients find they develop a preference for either Indica or Sativa, as they learn which varieties help their exact symptoms. This wide range of effects is a testament to Cannsbis's ability to help a diverse group of patients in need.
What Does Medical Cannabis Treat?
Initial evidence shows that medical cannabis demonstrates positive effects in treating a variety of different medical conditions.
Florida residents now have access to low-THC medical cannabis to treat or alleviate symptoms of the following medical conditions:
When alternative treatment options for a patient are not satisfactory, a physician may order low-THC medical cannabis to treat or alleviate symptoms of cancer or a physical medical condition that chronically produces symptoms of seizures or severe and persistent muscle spasms. [SB 1030]
Clinical studies have shown that Medical Cannabis products are effective in treating the medical conditions approved by the State of Florida for use of medical cannabis, including:
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s Disease
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Spinal cord diseases or injury with intractable spasticity
- Chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (CINV)
- Loss of appetite in cancer patients
- Chronic pain and neuropathy from cancer
- Management of symptoms of cancer or cancer therapies (e.g., chemotherapy, radiation therapy)
Patients in Florida who are suffering from terminal conditions and have less than one year to live will have access to medical cannabis. Stay tuned for more information this summer.
Traditional medications to treat these medical conditions may have adverse effects that limit their use or efficacy in some individuals.
Medical cannabis offers an improved safety and tolerability profile compared to other widely-used drugs. For example, cannabis may be a better option for pain management relative to opioids, such as oxycodone, due to their safety and tolerability profile and abuse potential or even NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, due to their safety profile . Physicians may recommend medical cannabis as an adjunct to current therapies, or it may be used to replace or reduce the doses of these other therapeutic agents.
In other studies, Medical Cannabis has also been shown to positively affect a wide variety of other medical conditions, including:
- - Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)/Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
- - Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia
- - Anxiety
- - Arthritis
- - Autoimmune disorders
- - Cachexia
- - Chronic pain
- - Crohn’s Disease
- - Diabetes
- - Eating disorders
- - Glaucoma
- - Hepatitis C
- - Huntington’s Disease
- - Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
- - Inflammatory diseases
- - Migraine
- - Menstrual cramps
- - Neuropathies
- - Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- - Sleep disorders
NOTE: Medical use for the conditions listed here is not yet permitted by Florida law.
Disclaimer related to treatment:
Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider before starting any new treatment or discontinuing an existing treatment. Talk with your doctor or healthcare provider about any questions you may have regarding medical cannabis, its therapeutic use, and whether it is right for you. Chestnut Hill Medical offers information and resources as a service to patients, and this information should not be used as a substitute for the care and knowledge that your doctor or pharmacist can provide.
June 16, 2016
AAN: Efficacy and Safety of Medical Marijuana in Selected Neurologic Disorders
American Academy of Neurology: "We performed a systematic review of medical marijuana (1948–November 2013) to address treatment of symptoms of multi…
June 27, 2016
National Cancer Institute: Cannabis and Cannabinoids, For Patients
Intended for Patients The latest official information regarding Cannabis and Cancer, from the Nat…
July 11, 2016
Medical Marijuana and Chronic Pain: A Review of Basic Science and Clinical Evidence
Current Pain and Headache Reports: Cannabinoid compounds include phytocannabinoids, endocannabinoids, and synthetics. The two primary phytocannabin…
Is Cannabis Legal?
A growing number of states, including Florida, have enacted laws to legalize Medical Cannabis. Currently, Florida has legalized low-THC Medical Cannabis for certain medical conditions (i.e., cancer, epilepsy, and muscle spasms) and high-THC Medical Cannabis for end-of-life patients. Expansion to full medical use which will expand the accessibility of all medical cannabis products to patients with a wider range of medical conditions is projected to occur in Florida in late 2016.
However, under Federal Law, cannabis is listed as a controlled substance and has been classified as a Schedule I agent (a drug with a high potential for abuse and no currently accepted medical use).
Under Federal Law, possession of cannabis is illegal in the United States outside of approved research settings. To date, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of Cannabis plant-derived medicine only as an investigational drug for certain medical conditions.
Florida November Ballot
A referendum on the general election ballot in November 2016 will let voters decide whether full-strength medical marijuana may be used, with a physician’s approval, by a wider spectrum of patients. Based on current polls, the majority of Floridians support this expanded access to medical cannabis.
Take Action…Vote in November 2016 to expand access to medical cannabis for patients in need.