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5 Top News Stories About Cannabis in 2017 (And What to Expect in 2018)

These are exciting times indeed for proponents of medical marijuana or cannabis, as this alternative form of treatment continues to gain traction among millions of citizens in the United States. Gone are the days when marijuana was merely considered an illegal substance; these days, the plant is highly valued and sought after for its therapeutic and medicinal properties.

Presently, 29 states in the US (including the District of Columbia) have already passed legislation in one form or another allowing the purchase, possession, and use of marijuana or cannabis for approved medical purposes. The United States is the latest in a substantial list of countries around the globe that have similarly made legal marijuana or cannabis available for medical use.

While great strides have already been accomplished in making marijuana more acceptable to society, a lot of work still has to be done in order to make it a full-fledged and respected form of alternative medical treatment. A lot of regulations also have to be put in place in order to ensure that the medical marijuana industry remains a professional and profitable one.

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Marijuana in the News

In 2017 and 2018, a lot of exciting developments occurred concerning medical marijuana or cannabis in terms of medical research and development, policies and legislation, as well as attitudes and opinions of people about this alternative mode of medical treatment. Here are just some of the noteworthy news that broke in 2017:

  1. Cannabis for epilepsy
    In the field of academic studies and research, one of the breakthrough items in 2017 was a paper published in a leading medical journal about the effectiveness of marijuana in treating drug-resistant epilepsy. This neurological disease afflicts millions of people worldwide, and it is particularly debilitating due to its physical manifestations of uncontrollable and involuntary movement. The research done by Dr. Orrin Devinsky of the NYU Langone’s Comprehensive Epilepsy Center showed the positive effects of cannabidiol or CBD, one of the most important chemical components of cannabis, on a study on children with Dravet syndrome. The experiment illustrated that CBD effectively decreased the frequency of convulsive seizures among the patients involved in the study, as opposed to a group who were treated with a placebo.
  2. Marijuana Madness
    In July 2017, a Gallup poll revealed interesting insights into the familiarity and preference of Americans for marijuana. Surprisingly, as much as 45% of citizens admit to having tried marijuana at least once in their life — the highest record of marijuana usage among Americans since the popular survey started in 1969. Further, the poll revealed that 12% of Americans smoke cannabis, which is another record figure considering that it was only at 6% four years ago. These data are promising indicators of the growing acceptance and use of marijuana among people in general.
  3. Social Stigma
    However, despite such news, there continues to be challenges and obstacles to people’s understanding and informed choices about marijuana or cannabis. In Honolulu, it was reported that medical marijuana users were given letters by the police chief to surrender their guns or firearms or risk violation of gun control laws, specifically the 1968 Gun Control Act. Medical marijuana proponents are raising questions regarding the relevance of such law, considering that it is outdated and has been rarely enforced ever since California became the first state to allow medical cannabis use back in 1996. Additionally, such citizens stand to lose their Second Amendment rights. Responsible marijuana usage has always been a contentious issue, and developments such as these are expected to be resolved effectively through continuing dialogue, awareness, and education.
  4. Marijuana Legislation
    In Denver, it has only barely been a year since residents voted a resounding approval of Proposition 300 or an initiative to allow open consumption of marijuana in licensed business and commercial establishments in the state. Now, they have already begun implementing such measures in selected private establishments in the “Mile High City.” While such move is still part of a pilot program being monitored until 2020, it is nevertheless a big achievement in terms of making medical marijuana more accessible especially for those who need it. It is considered one of the most immediate implementations of legislation regarding marijuana in the US.
  5. Congressional Support
    Speaking of law and legislation, there were also some promising developments in Congress regarding support for continuing research and study about medical marijuana or cannabis. Republican Senator Orrin Hatch has introduced a medical marijuana research bill that will utilize federal resources to fund studies into this alternative form of treatment. Senator Hatch underscored that overzealousness in anti-drug crusades may be unnecessarily and unfortunately making people miss out on the positive benefits of substances such as cannabis in terms of curing diseases and improving lives. He further expressed interest in exploring the analgesic properties of cannabis in particular, as an alternative to opioids or strong painkillers that usually cause dependence in regular users.

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What to Look Forward to in 2018

By many indications, there is increasing interest in medical marijuana, if not outright support and usage. It only goes to show that many people continue to be convinced that such treatment effectively addresses their medical and lifestyle issues. From dreaded diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and HIV to commonplace ailments such as chronic pain, insomnia, and depression—medical marijuana has been shown to provide benefits previously not found in traditional pharmacological solutions. 

What’s sure is that dialogue among various stakeholders in society as well as continuous research and study are needed in the years ahead. This is to ensure that medical marijuana is developed and institutionalized in the medical field in the proper manner, for the benefit of the greater good.