In 1964, researchers in Israel discovered the therapeutically active substances in cannabis that have come to be called cannabinoids and isolated the most popular and possibly effective cannabinoid, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). More than 20 years later, in 1988, researchers identified the human body’s endocannabinoid system.
The use of cannabis, as medicine, dates back nearly 5,000 years. During the 19th century—and up until 1942—cannabis was included in the American pharmacopoeia, a list of effective drugs and how to make them used by doctors and pharmacists at the time. Between 1840 and 1900, more than 100 articles were published in medical journals in the United States regarding the efficacy of cannabis for patients. The period of 1837 to 1937 was called by one historian the “golden age of medical cannabis.”
Cannabis’ impact on the human body can be credited, in large part, to what are called Cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are chemical compounds secreted by the plant’s trichomes that offer a wide array of therapeutic benefits. The two most well known cannabinoids are THC and CBD. Cannabinoids bind to receptor sites in the brain and body – this system of receptors is referred to as the Endocannabinoid System.
In 1988, the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Law Judge, Francis Young—responding to a petition to reschedule cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act (to make it easier to conduct research into its efficacy)—said, “In strict medical terms, marijuana is far safer than many foods we commonly consume…. Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. By any measure of rational analysis, marijuana can be safely used within the supervised routine of medical care.”
These days, a wide variety of consumption methods exist. Traditionally, cannabis is smoked in either a pipe-type instrument or rolled in paper and smoked like a cigarette (a joint). Oral ingestion (eating cannabis-infused foods) has also been a traditional consumption method in many cultures.