The legal marijuana industry is growing quickly in the United States, especially now that 23 states (plus the District of Columbia) have legalized the drug. Medical marijuana business development is becoming more popular, and entrepreneurs are finding ways to invest in the cannabis industry. In the last six years, public support for marijuana legalization has also grown: 58% of Americans now approve of the legalization of cannabis, compared to 17% in 2010.
The medicinal properties of marijuana have been used for centuries, but its use is finally becoming less taboo in our culture; in fact, more than 75% of physicians approve of marijuana use for medical purposes, and an overwhelming 92% of patients say the drug is effective. With favorable public opinion and lawful utilization both on the rise, here are six surprising health benefits of medical marijuana:
- It can help improve lung function in smokers
It’s been shown that smoking marijuana doesn’t wreak havoc on your lungs like regular tobacco does, and studies have found that smoking cannabis in place of tobacco can help restore lung function and capacity. A 20-year study found that, out of the 5,115 young adults who participated, the tobacco smokers gradually lost lung function while the pot smokers actually improved theirs.
- Cannabis has been shown to kill cancer cells
Although these studies have been performed only in laboratories and not on living cancer patients, there’s quite a bit of evidence that a chemical found in cannabis can slow or shrink cancerous cells. It’s also been shown to have these same effects on brain tumors in mice, and a 2014 study found that marijuana use greatly slowed malignant brain tumors in 80% of patients.
- It may slow down the progression Alzheimer’s Disease
According to 2016 statistics from the Alzheimer’s Organization, Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Sadly, 1 in 3 seniors die while suffering from Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. THC, the active chemical in marijuana, has been shown to slow the formation of amyloid plaques (thought to kill brain cells and potentially cause Alzheimer’s); it’s also been shown to reduce aggression and behavioral disturbances in these patients.
- Medical marijuana can help ease pain in many debilitating conditions
In California, 5% of adults reported they use marijuana for a serious medical condition. Cannabis can help to reduce muscle spasms and tremors in patients with multiple sclerosis, and due to THC’s anti-inflammatory properties, it can help with pain management for conditions like M.S., arthritis, cancer, Parkinson’s, and other chronic ailments.
- It can help veterans suffering from PTSD
There are some non-governmental studies that show as many as 1 in 5 military personnel returning from the Middle East may suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Medical marijuana is legally prescribed for PTSD in New Mexico, and since 27% of licensed cannabis users have a PTSD diagnosis, it’s actually the top qualifying criteria for obtaining the legal dispensation. The THC in cannabis has been shown to regulate the parts of the brain responsible for producing anxiety and fear, which is imperative for such a condition.
- Marijuana is a safer alternative to alcohol and other drugs
Although marijuana consumption is not completely free of risks, it’s infinitely less harmful than alcohol and other addictive drugs; marijuana is less addictive and isn’t as much of a physical detriment to the body. In fact, a 2015 study published in Scientific Reports found that cannabis was 114 times less deadly than alcohol.
As with any substance or medicine, marijuana has its own risks and side-effects, but its acceptance and usage is on the up-tick. Educating the public about its benefits is vital, especially when those with physically painful conditions and diseases can be helped by its use and its widespread legality.