Last month, social media’s 10-year challenge took the world by storm. The call to action was for users to post two photos, side-by-side, showcasing their 10-year transformation. While the trend provided entertainment among friends, family and followers, it also provided a moment of reflection. The challenge went viral and eventually, industries and companies joined in to show the difference a decade has made on their side. However, few companies today can say that they have witnessed changes as drastic as those in the cannabis industry.
Although the medical use of cannabis well surpasses 10 years, we have only recently begun to explore the breadth and depth of cannabis-based medicine. What was once an alternative fringe treatment is now poised to be a game changer in the healthcare arena. Studies continue to show the promise of replacing opioids with cannabis to manage pain, helping to battle the current crisis sweeping the United States. Cannabis has shown promise in the treatment of cancer and its side effects.
Historically, cannabis was widely used as a patent medicine, or medicine that can be obtained with no prescription, in the early 19th and 20th centuries, and was first introduced in the United States Pharmacopoeia. It was not until 1937 that selling or possessing cannabis became federally prohibited after the Marijuana Tax Act was passed. Cannabis was then removed from the Pharmacopoeia in 1942. The federal policy on cannabis remained the same for years, until 1996, when California became the first and only state to allow the use of medical marijuana for its patients. Laws governing cannabis would not see any other significant changes until more than 20 years later.
2017 represented a landmark year in the cannabis industry when Washington, Colorado and California each elected to legalize recreational cannabis for all citizens, virtually creating a new consumer industry over night. There were many reasons to encourage this change, mostly for taxation purposes. This served as a catalyst in shifting public perception around medical marijuana, with those who do not elect to use the source recreationally or medicinally, still showing favor of its legalization.
Fast forward to the present and we see the World Health Organization (WHO) currently calling for the rescheduling of cannabis. Drugs are scheduled based on their efficacy in treating different illnesses, as well as their incidence of abuse and risk of dependence. For years, cannabis has been classified internationally as a schedule IV drug or a drug that has a high incidence of abuse and no medical value. While this request would have been shocking 10 years ago, the rapid change in the industry and the public’s softened view of cannabis has now opened the door for discussion.
The reason why this shift is happening now is two-fold, 1) many have realized that not all of the warnings against marijuana are valid and 2) established drugs (e.g. opioids, epileptic medicines, etc.) can produce severe adverse side effects where cannabis may provide a better alternative. The rise of cannabidiol (CBD) has also contributed to cannabis’ newfound popularity. New CBD medications offer palliative treatment for certain ailments and are able to remove tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) from the medications so that the drugs have no psychoactive effect. CBD is even being applied in the health and wellness sector in the form of topical creams and essential oils.
The cannabis plant is extremely versatile and we have only begun to scratch the surface of the life-alerting healing capabilities that are potentially available. The past 10 years have encompassed historical moments for the cannabis industry, including policy changes, public perception and research. If we continue on this path of progress, perhaps the next 10-year challenge will show how diseases have been completely revolutionized thanks to cannabis.