The World Health Organization recognizes the medicinal benefits of cannabis

Published Apr 10, 2019 10:44 a.m. ET
AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File

Though marijuana use has been prescribed for several years in both Canada and the United States, it was not until recently that the WHO officially recognized the medical benefits that using cannabis could provide for patients. In the earliest recommendation released in 2015, the World Health Organization took a negative stance, listing the majority of potential health consequences instead of advocating for the benefits of marijuana. In 2018 all of that changed with an update that was compiled by the Department of Essential Medicines and Health Products, the World Health Organization, and the committee on drug dependency that summarized the protocol for inserting newly available information as well as an industry status report. The project covered all medical marijuana aspects including terminology, recently updated risk assessments, the history of medical marijuana use, and the chemistry to be considered. This all sounds rather technical, but to break it down, there are a few separate components that for the most part, recognize the benefits of marijuana rather than focusing on unproven claims.

Terminology - The WHO has altered the definitions of two of the most prevalent cannabis terms that are used to include the following:

Cannabis: In the medical community cannabis is the preferred term used for medical marijuana.

Cannabinoids: Derived from three different sources including phytocannabinoids (Sativa and Indica), endocannabinoids (neurotransmitters), and synthetic cannabinoids (lab made).

Potential risks - Cognition issues and lack of coordination will now be listed as the most commonly experienced negative reaction.  Some of the others include lung disease, schizophrenia, psychosis, vascular conditions such as heart attack or stroke.

List of conditions marijuana will now be recognized by the WHO as effective in treating


The most significant change that’s beenwitnessed by this new update is the extension of situations that are now going to be listed and recognized as potentially treatable with medical marijuana. In the first release of the WHO’s statement, the only listed diagnoses were cancer and aids patients. Now the list of recognized medical conditions will be as follows: Cancer, seizures, back pain, sleepdisorders, chronic pain, depression, injury, neuropathic pain, multiple sclerosis, migraines, anxiety, Alzheimer's, nausea, Crohn's Disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, glaucoma, and panic attacks.

Methods of ingestion

Since the World Health Organization is focused purely on the most efficient ways to consume medical marijuana, there are only a couple of ways that are recommended to use when ingesting cannabis. Joints, weed pipes, dabbing, and bongs will not be supported at this time. However, vaporizers, inhalers, capsules, edibles, oils, and tinctures will be includedas medically approved devices.

In conclusion

Though it seems that most universal health type programs are a little behind in the times, this is a huge step that sets a precedent going forward for other healthcare professionals to learn from. The benefits of medical marijuana are vast and should be many doctors, and patients use these kinds of recommendations to decide on a treatment they may not have otherwise considered. The altered paper also touched on basics of human and cannabinoid chemistry which have been studied and proven in depth for researchers, doctors, and patients who are looking for real information going forward on how medical cannabis may help to treat or reverse a medical condition.



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