Healing or harming?

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Prairie Doc

By Richard P. Holm, MD

Just about 4000 years ago, Chinese writings explained the medicinal powers of what is now called cannabis or marijuana, describing its properties to help arthritis, gout, malaria, nausea and psychological stress. In the 1500s and 1600s the Spanish and English brought cannabis to the new world for medical purposes and it became a huge commercial crop for making rope. In the 1920s cannabis emerged in jazz clubs as a recreational drug. At the time, it was thought of as a better alternative to alcohol since cannabis users didn’t seem as disruptive to the community.

During the prohibition era of the 1930s, the U.S. Bureau of Narcotics considered cannabis addictive and they made it illegal along with alcohol. Further, the U.S. Controlled Substance Act of 1970 defined cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug, putting it in the same category as heroin and LSD, claiming there was a high abuse potential and no medicinal use. Although these claims have changed, the U.S. law remains on the books. During the Obama administration, the Department of Justice was directed to relax prosecution of cannabis rule-breakers while allowing state rules to supersede the U.S. law. The Trump administration has made very little change since.

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