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Medical Marijuana

Medical marijuana, a therapeutic application of cannabis, has emerged as a significant topic in healthcare. Its use for alleviating symptoms in various medical conditions, such as chronic pain, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis, highlights its potential in offering an alternative treatment approach, resonating with patients and practitioners alike.

Medical Cannabis with MMJ doctor

What is Medical Marijuana and Its Significance in New York?

Medical marijuana in New York represents a groundbreaking shift in healthcare and social policy. Defined as cannabis used for medical purposes, it includes various strains and formulations to treat a range of medical conditions. 

In New York, the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act has established a comprehensive framework for the regulation of medical, adult-use, and cannabinoid hemp. This act is a first-of-its-kind in the nation, setting a precedent for how states can manage cannabis use in a controlled, beneficial manner.

The significance of medical marijuana in New York goes beyond healthcare. It’s a symbol of progressive social change, addressing past injustices and promoting economic development. The state’s approach actively encourages participation from communities historically impacted by cannabis prohibition. 

This is achieved through a robust social and economic equity program, ensuring that the benefits of the cannabis industry are shared widely and fairly.

From a public health perspective, New York’s medical marijuana program is designed with stringent quality assurance measures. These include standards for production, manufacturing, strict product testing, labeling, packaging, and advertising. 

Such measures ensure that medical cannabis products are safe for consumers and are not targeted towards youth.

Economically, the program stimulates growth by encouraging small businesses and farmers to engage in the cannabis industry. This includes the creation of microbusiness, cooperative, and delivery license types, fostering a diverse and inclusive cannabis market.

Table of Contents

How is Medical Marijuana Defined and What are its Key Components?

Medical marijuana, also known as medical cannabis, is defined as the use of the marijuana plant or its basic extracts to treat symptoms of illness and other conditions. A key aspect of its definition lies in its intended use for medical, rather than recreational, purposes. 

The marijuana plant contains more than 100 different chemicals called cannabinoids, each having a different effect on the body. The primary components of medical marijuana are THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol).

THC is the psychoactive component that produces the “high” associated with marijuana use. However, in the context of medical marijuana, THC is valued for its pain-relieving properties and its ability to stimulate appetite and reduce nausea. CBD, on the other hand, does not cause a high and is often associated with reducing pain and inflammation, controlling epileptic seizures, and possibly treating mental illness and addictions.

Medical marijuana products come in various forms, including oils, pills, creams, and edibles, which are chosen based on the patient’s needs and the MMJ recommendation of a healthcare provider. The composition and concentration of THC and CBD vary in these products, allowing for tailored treatment approaches.

What are the Major Cannabinoids in Medical Marijuana and Their Effects?

Cannabinoids are the active chemicals in medical marijuana that are similar to chemicals the body makes that are involved in appetite, memory, movement, and pain. The major cannabinoids in medical marijuana include:

  1. THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol): THC is the most well-known cannabinoid due to its psychoactive effects. It is effective in reducing nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy patients, increasing appetite in conditions like HIV/AIDS, and reducing chronic pain and muscle spasms.
  2. CBD (Cannabidiol): CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid known for its medical benefits without the high. It’s used to treat conditions like epilepsy, inflammation, pain, psychosis or mental disorders, inflammatory bowel disease, nausea, migraines, depression, and anxiety.
  3. CBN (Cannabinol): CBN is known for its pain-relief properties and is also used as a sleep aid due to its sedative effects.
  4. CBG (Cannabigerol): Although less researched, CBG is believed to have anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and neuroprotective properties.

The effects of these cannabinoids are a subject of ongoing research, with evidence suggesting their potential in treating a variety of medical conditions. 

The interaction of these cannabinoids with the body’s endocannabinoid system plays a crucial role in their therapeutic effects. This system regulates various physiological processes, including pain sensation, immune response, appetite, and mood.

What is the Legal Status of Medical Marijuana in New York?

In New York, the legal landscape of medical marijuana has been shaped significantly by the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act. This act represents a pioneering legal framework in the United States, comprehensively regulating the licensure, cultivation, production, distribution, sale, and taxation of medical marijuana, along with adult-use and cannabinoid hemp within the state.

Under the current regulations, medical marijuana is legally available to individuals who receive certification from a healthcare provider registered with New York’s medical marijuana program. Notably, the state has removed the specific list of qualifying conditions, granting healthcare providers the discretion to certify patients for medical marijuana based on their medical judgment.

This change allows for a broader range of conditions to be considered for treatment, including but not limited to chronic pain, cancer, HIV/AIDS, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis. The focus is now on the healthcare provider’s assessment of whether the patient’s condition could benefit from medical marijuana treatment.

The Office of Cannabis Management in New York oversees the medical marijuana program. This body ensures that medical cannabis products are safely and responsibly distributed to registered patients through licensed dispensaries. These dispensaries are required to adhere to strict guidelines regarding product testing, labeling, packaging, and advertising, ensuring that products are safe for consumption and not accessible to underage individuals.

An important aspect of New York’s approach to medical marijuana is its emphasis on social and economic equity. The state actively encourages participation from communities that have been disproportionately impacted by previous cannabis prohibition policies. This is achieved through a robust equity program that aims to promote racial, ethnic, and gender diversity in the issuance of licenses and in the broader cannabis industry.

What is the History of Medical Marijuana Use in Various Cultures and in New York?

The history of medical marijuana is rich and varied, spanning across different cultures and centuries. Its use for medicinal purposes can be traced back to ancient times.

Ancient and Global Historical Use

In ancient cultures, cannabis was revered for its healing properties. Historical records from as early as 2737 BC in China mention the use of cannabis by Emperor Shen Nung for treating a variety of ailments including malaria, rheumatism, and gout. In India, it was used in Ayurvedic medicine for pain relief and to reduce stress. The ancient Egyptians used it to treat glaucoma and inflammation. In Greece and Rome, cannabis was used for ear pain and to reduce general inflammation.

Medical Marijuana in American History

In America, the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes dates back to the 19th century. It was introduced into Western medicine by Dr. W.B. O’Shaughnessy in 1839, after observing its use in India. Cannabis was commonly used in the United States for various medical conditions, including labor pains, nausea, and rheumatism, until the early 20th century.

The Shift in New York

In New York, the history of medical marijuana has been shaped by both cultural attitudes and legislative changes. The early 20th century saw a shift in perception, leading to the criminalization of cannabis. This was largely due to misinformation and societal concerns about drug abuse. However, in recent decades, there has been a significant shift back towards recognizing the medicinal benefits of cannabis.

In July 2014, New York State passed the Compassionate Care Act, legalizing the use of medical marijuana for patients with specific serious conditions. This marked a significant change in the state’s approach to cannabis, acknowledging its therapeutic potential.

Modern Perspective and Cultural Integration

Today, the use of medical marijuana in New York and globally is viewed through a more informed lens. There is a growing body of research supporting its efficacy in treating a range of medical conditions. Culturally, there’s a shift towards understanding and accepting the therapeutic benefits of cannabis, reflected in the changing laws and regulations in New York and other parts of the world.

In context, the history of medical marijuana is a testament to its enduring presence in human health and wellness practices. From ancient times to modern-day New York, its journey reflects changing perceptions, advancing scientific understanding, and a growing acceptance of its role in medicine.

What are the Various Ways to Administer Medical Marijuana?

The administration of medical marijuana has evolved significantly, offering various methods to suit different patient needs and preferences. Each method has its unique characteristics, affecting the onset and duration of effects. 

Understanding these methods is crucial for patients and marijuana doctors to determine the most appropriate form of administration.

Inhalation Methods

  1. Smoking: One of the most traditional methods, smoking involves inhaling the smoke from burning cannabis flowers. It allows for quick absorption of cannabinoids into the bloodstream through the lungs, providing rapid relief. However, smoking can have respiratory risks and is not recommended for patients with lung conditions.
  2. Vaporization: This method involves heating cannabis to a temperature that releases cannabinoids in a vapor form without burning the plant material. Vaporization reduces the inhalation of harmful byproducts, making it a safer alternative to smoking. It also offers quick onset of effects, similar to smoking.

Oral Methods

  1. Edibles: Cannabis-infused foods and drinks provide a discreet and easy way to consume medical marijuana. The effects of edibles take longer to manifest, usually between 30 minutes to 2 hours, but they tend to last longer, making them suitable for chronic conditions.
  2. Tinctures: These are cannabis extracts dissolved in alcohol or another solvent. Tinctures are typically administered under the tongue, allowing for fast absorption into the bloodstream. They offer precise dosing and a quicker onset of effects compared to edibles.
  3. Capsules and Pills: These are ideal for patients who require consistent dosing and prefer not to taste the cannabis. Like edibles, capsules and pills have a delayed onset but provide prolonged effects.

Topical Methods

  1. Creams and Lotions: Cannabis-infused topicals are applied directly to the skin. Ideal for localized relief, they are used for conditions like arthritis, muscle soreness, and skin conditions. Topicals do not typically enter the bloodstream, so they don’t produce psychoactive effects.
  2. Transdermal Patches: These patches are placed on the skin, releasing cannabinoids slowly over time into the bloodstream. They provide consistent, long-lasting effects and are useful for chronic conditions.

Alternative Methods

  1. Nasal Sprays: Nasal sprays are a less common method, delivering cannabis directly into the nasal cavity. They are useful for rapid relief from symptoms like seizures or nausea.
  2. Suppositories: Used rectally or vaginally, suppositories are an option for those who cannot ingest cannabis orally or through inhalation. They provide a high absorption rate and are useful for localized relief in the lower body.

Each method of administering medical marijuana has its advantages and considerations. The choice depends on the patient’s specific condition, desired effects, and personal preferences. As the medical cannabis field advances, these methods continue to evolve, providing patients with a range of options to effectively manage their symptoms.

What Medical Conditions are Treated with Medical Marijuana?

Medical marijuana has been recognized for its potential in treating a wide range of medical conditions. Its efficacy stems from the cannabinoids, primarily THC and CBD, which interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system to regulate various physiological processes. 

Here are some of the key medical conditions treated with medical marijuana:

  1. Chronic Pain: One of the most common uses of medical marijuana is for pain management. It is particularly effective in neuropathic pain, often resistant to other treatments.
  2. Multiple Sclerosis (MS): Cannabis is known to reduce muscle spasms and neurological effects associated with MS.
  3. Epilepsy: CBD-rich medical marijuana has shown promise in reducing the frequency and severity of seizures, especially in rare and severe forms of epilepsy like Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.
  4. Cancer: Medical marijuana can help manage symptoms related to cancer treatments, such as nausea and vomiting induced by chemotherapy. Some studies also suggest it might have anti-tumor properties.
  5. Anxiety and Depression: While research is still ongoing, some patients report relief from symptoms of anxiety and depression with the use of medical marijuana.
  6. Glaucoma: Cannabis can reduce intraocular pressure, providing temporary relief for individuals with glaucoma.
  7. HIV/AIDS: Medical marijuana can help manage symptoms like nausea, appetite loss, and pain associated with HIV/AIDS.
  8. Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD): Conditions like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis may benefit from marijuana’s anti-inflammatory effects.

How Effective is Medical Marijuana in Treating These Conditions?

The effectiveness of medical marijuana in treating these conditions varies based on the individual, the condition being treated, and the method of administration. Clinical studies and patient reports have provided evidence supporting its efficacy, though more research is needed in many areas.

  1. Chronic Pain: Numerous patients report significant pain relief with medical marijuana, often leading to reduced reliance on traditional pain medications, including opioids.
  2. Multiple Sclerosis: Patients with MS have experienced reduced muscle stiffness and spasms when using cannabis, improving their quality of life.
  3. Epilepsy: CBD-rich cannabis has been a breakthrough for some patients with severe epilepsy, with FDA approval of the first cannabis-derived medication, Epidiolex, for these conditions.
  4. Cancer: While not a cure for cancer, medical marijuana is widely recognized for its ability to alleviate chemotherapy-related symptoms and improve patient quality of life.
  5. Mental Health Conditions: The effectiveness in treating anxiety and depression is still debated, with some patients experiencing relief and others not. It’s crucial to approach treatment under medical supervision.
  6. Glaucoma: Cannabis provides temporary relief for glaucoma symptoms, but it is not considered a long-term treatment solution.
  7. HIV/AIDS: Patients have reported improved appetite and weight gain, along with reduced pain and nausea.
  8. IBD: Some patients with IBD report symptom relief with cannabis use, though clinical evidence is still emerging.

Medical marijuana shows promise in treating a variety of medical conditions, its effectiveness can be highly individualized. Ongoing research and clinical trials are crucial to fully understand its benefits and limitations. 

Patients considering medical marijuana should consult with healthcare professionals to weigh its potential against any risks or side effects.

What are the Known Side Effects and Risks of Medical Marijuana?

While medical marijuana is celebrated for its therapeutic benefits, it’s crucial to acknowledge and understand its potential side effects and risks. 

These can vary depending on the individual, the dosage, the method of administration, and the specific cannabinoids used.

Short-Term Side Effects

  1. Psychoactive Effects: THC, the psychoactive component in cannabis, can cause short-term memory impairment, altered judgment, and in some cases, paranoia or anxiety.
  2. Respiratory Issues: Smoking medical marijuana can irritate the lungs and lead to bronchitis-like symptoms. However, these risks are significantly reduced with other forms of administration like edibles or vaporization.
  3. Increased Heart Rate: Cannabis use can increase heart rate, which may pose risks for individuals with heart conditions.
  4. Dizziness and Drowsiness: Patients may experience dizziness or drowsiness, which can affect their ability to operate machinery or perform tasks that require full attention.
  5. Dry Mouth and Eyes: Commonly referred to as “cottonmouth,” users often experience dry mouth and dry eyes after using cannabis.

Long-Term Risks and Potential Complications

  1. Dependency and Withdrawal: While the risk of dependency on cannabis is lower compared to other substances, it still exists. Withdrawal symptoms can include irritability, insomnia, and loss of appetite.
  2. Mental Health Concerns: There is a concern, especially among adolescents, that prolonged use of cannabis may increase the risk of developing psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia, particularly in those with a genetic predisposition.
  3. Cognitive Impairment: Long-term or heavy use, especially when started at a young age, may be associated with cognitive impairment, although this is still a subject of ongoing research.
  4. Lung Health: Long-term smoking of cannabis is associated with similar respiratory effects as tobacco smoking, including increased risk of chronic bronchitis.

Considerations for Specific Populations

  1. Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women: The use of cannabis is not recommended during pregnancy or breastfeeding due to potential risks to the baby’s development.
  2. Adolescents: Young individuals are advised against using cannabis as their brains are still developing, and cannabis use could potentially interfere with this process.
  3. Individuals with Mental Health Disorders: For those with existing mental health conditions, particularly mood disorders, cannabis use should be approached with caution and under medical supervision.

While medical marijuana offers significant therapeutic benefits, it’s important for patients and healthcare providers to consider its potential side effects and risks. These considerations are vital for making informed decisions about the use of medical marijuana in treatment plans. 

As with any medication, the key lies in balancing the potential benefits with the risks, and this balance should be tailored to the individual’s specific health needs and circumstances.

How Does the Body Absorb and Metabolize Medical Marijuana?

Understanding how the body absorbs and metabolizes medical marijuana is crucial for both patients and healthcare providers to optimize its therapeutic effects while minimizing potential side effects. 

The process varies significantly based on the method of administration and the specific compounds in marijuana, primarily THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol).


  1. Inhalation (Smoking/Vaporizing): When inhaled, the active compounds in cannabis are absorbed rapidly through the lungs into the bloodstream. This method allows for quick onset of effects, usually within minutes. The lungs’ large surface area and the high blood flow make inhalation an efficient way to deliver cannabinoids to the body.
  2. Oral Ingestion (Edibles, Capsules): Oral ingestion leads to a slower onset of effects as the compounds must pass through the digestive system and liver before entering the bloodstream. This process, known as “first-pass metabolism,” can alter the structure of cannabinoids, affecting their potency and duration of effects. The onset of effects can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours.
  3. Sublingual (Tinctures, Sprays): Sublingual administration involves placing the cannabis product under the tongue, where it is absorbed directly into the bloodstream through the mucous membranes. This method bypasses the digestive system, leading to a faster onset of effects compared to oral ingestion.
  4. Topical (Creams, Lotions): Topical application allows cannabinoids to be absorbed through the skin. However, they typically do not enter the bloodstream but interact with local cannabinoid receptors. This method is ideal for localized relief without systemic effects.
  5. Transdermal (Patches): Transdermal patches release cannabinoids slowly over time, allowing for steady absorption through the skin into the bloodstream. This method provides prolonged effects and avoids the peaks and troughs of other methods.


  1. Liver Metabolism: When cannabinoids are ingested orally, they are metabolized by the liver. THC is converted into 11-hydroxy-THC, a potent compound that can have more intense and longer-lasting effects.
  2. Excretion: Cannabinoids and their metabolites are primarily excreted through feces, with a smaller amount eliminated through urine. The duration of their presence in the body can vary based on factors like frequency of use, body fat content, and metabolism speed.

Factors Influencing Absorption and Metabolism

  • Dosage and Potency: Higher doses and more potent forms of cannabis will have more pronounced effects.
  • Individual Differences: Factors such as age, body composition, genetics, and tolerance can influence how an individual absorbs and metabolizes cannabis.
  • Frequency of Use: Regular users may experience different effects compared to occasional users due to tolerance development.

In context, the absorption and metabolism of medical marijuana are complex processes influenced by the method of administration, the body’s physiology, and individual characteristics. 

Understanding these processes is essential for tailoring medical marijuana use to achieve desired therapeutic outcomes while minimizing risks. As research in this area continues to evolve, it provides valuable insights for optimizing the use of cannabis in medical treatments.

Conclusion on Medical Marijuana in New York

In New York, medical marijuana has transitioned from a controversial subject to an accepted medical therapy, reflecting a significant shift in societal and medical perspectives. Governed by the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, New York’s approach is comprehensive, balancing patient access with stringent regulatory measures for safety and quality. 

The program not only addresses a range of medical conditions, from chronic pain to epilepsy, but also integrates social justice and economic development, particularly focusing on communities historically impacted by cannabis prohibition. 

New York State has removed the specific list of qualifying conditions, granting healthcare providers the discretion to certify patients for medical marijuana based on their medical judgment.

As medical marijuana continues to evolve in New York, it stands as a testament to progressive healthcare policies, blending patient care with broader societal benefits. This evolution marks a pivotal chapter in New York’s healthcare narrative, showcasing a commitment to innovative, compassionate, and equitable medical practices.

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