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Marijuana and Cancer

Marijuana is the name given to the dried buds and leaves of varieties of the Cannabis sativa plant, which can grow wild in warm and tropical climates throughout the world and be cultivated commercially. It goes by many names, including pot, grass, cannabis, weed, hemp, hash, marihuana, ganja, and dozens of others.

Marijuana has been used in herbal remedies for centuries. Scientists have identified many biologically active components in marijuana. These are called cannabinoids. The two best studied components are the chemicals delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (often referred to as THC), and cannabidiol (CBD). Other cannabinoids are being studied.

At this time, the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) lists marijuana and its cannabinoids as Schedule I controlled substances. This means that they cannot legally be prescribed, possessed, or sold under federal law. Whole or crude marijuana (including marijuana oil or hemp oil) is not approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for any medical use. But the use of marijuana to treat some medical conditions is legal under state laws in many states.

Dronabinol, a pharmaceutical form of THC, and a man-made cannabinoid drug called nabilone are approved by the FDA to treat some conditions.

Marijuana

Different compounds in marijuana have different actions in the human body. For example, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) seems to cause the "high" reported by marijuana users, and also can help relieve pain and nausea, reduce inflammation, and can act as an antioxidant. Cannabidiol (CBD) can help treat seizures, can reduce anxiety and paranoia, and can counteract the "high" caused by THC.

Different cultivars (strains or types) and even different crops of marijuana plants can have varying amounts of these and other active compounds. This means that marijuana can have different effects based on the strain used.

The effects of marijuana also vary depending on how marijuana compounds enter the body. The most common ways to use marijuana are in food (edible marijuana) and by smoking or vaping it (inhaled marijuana):

  • Edible marijuana: When taken by mouth, such as when it’s used in cooking oils, drinks (beer, tea, vodka, soda), baked goods (biscuits, brownies, cookies), and candy, the THC is absorbed poorly and can take hours to be absorbed. Once it’s absorbed, it’s processed by the liver, which produces a second psychoactive compound (a substance that acts on the brain and changes mood or consciousness) that affects the brain differently than THC. It’s important to know that the amount of THC in foods that have had marijuana added to them is often unknown and getting too much THC might cause symptoms of overdose.
  • Inhaled marijuana: When marijuana is smoked or vaporized, THC enters the bloodstream and goes to the brain quickly. The second psychoactive compound is produced in small amounts, and so has less effect. The effects of inhaled marijuana fade faster than marijuana taken by mouth.

How can marijuana affect symptoms of cancer?

A number of small studies of smoked marijuana found that it can be helpful in treating nausea and vomiting from cancer chemotherapy.

A few studies have found that inhaled (smoked or vaporized) marijuana can be helpful treatment of neuropathic pain (pain caused by damaged nerves).

Smoked marijuana has also helped improve food intake in HIV patients in studies.

There are no studies in people of the effects of marijuana oil or hemp oil.

Studies have long shown that people who took marijuana extracts in clinical trials tended to need less pain medicine.

More recently, scientists reported that THC and other cannabinoids such as CBD slow growth and/or cause death in certain types of cancer cells growing in lab dishes. Some animal studies also suggest certain cannabinoids may slow growth and reduce spread of some forms of cancer.

There have been some early clinical trials of cannabinoids in treating cancer in humans and more studies are planned. While the studies so far have shown that cannabinoids can be safe in treating cancer, they do not show that they help control or cure the disease.

Relying on marijuana alone as treatment while avoiding or delaying conventional medical care for cancer may have serious health consequences.

Possible harms of marijuana

Marijuana can also pose some harms to users. While the most common effect of marijuana is a feeling of euphoria ("high"), it also can lower the user’s control over movement, cause disorientation, and sometimes cause unpleasant thoughts or feelings of anxiety and paranoia.

Smoked marijuana delivers THC and other cannabinoids to the body, but it also delivers harmful substances to users and those close by, including many of the same substances found in tobacco smoke.

Because marijuana plants come in different strains with different levels of active compounds, it can make each user’s experience very hard to predict. The effects can also differ based on how deeply and for how long the user inhales. Likewise, the effects of ingesting marijuana orally can vary between people. Also, some chronic users can develop an unhealthy dependence on marijuana.

Cannabinoid drugs

There are 2 chemically pure drugs based on marijuana compounds that have been approved in the US for medical use.

  • Dronabinol (Marinol®) is a gelatin capsule containing delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that’s approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat nausea and vomiting caused by cancer chemotherapy as well as weight loss and poor appetite in patients with AIDS.
  • Nabilone (Cesamet®) is a synthetic cannabinoid that acts much like THC. It can be taken by mouth to treat nausea and vomiting caused by cancer chemotherapy when other drugs have not worked.

Nabiximols is a cannabinoid drug still under study in the US. It’s a mouth spray made up of a whole-plant extract with THC and cannabidiol (CBD) in an almost one to one mix. It’s available in Canada and parts of Europe to treat pain linked to cancer, as well as muscle spasms and pain from multiple sclerosis (MS). It’s not approved in the US at this time, but it’s being tested in clinical trials to see if it can help a number of conditions.

How can cannabinoid drugs affect symptoms of cancer?

Based on a number of studies, dronabinol can be helpful for reducing nausea and vomiting linked to chemotherapy.

Dronabinol has also been found to help improve food intake and prevent weight loss in patients with HIV. In studies of cancer patients, though, it wasn’t better than placebo or another drug (megestrol acetate).

Nabiximols has shown promise for helping people with cancer pain that’s unrelieved by strong pain medicines, but it hasn’t been found to be helpful in every study done. Research is still being done on this drug.

Side effects of cannabinoid drugs

Like many other drugs, the prescription cannabinoids, dronabinol and nabilone, can cause side effects and complications.

Some people have trouble with increased heart rate, decreased blood pressure (especially when standing up), dizziness or lightheadedness, and fainting. These drugs can cause drowsiness as well as mood changes or a feeling of being “high” that some people find uncomfortable. They can also worsen depression, mania, or other mental illness. Some patients taking nabilone in studies reported hallucinations. The drugs may increase some effects of sedatives, sleeping pills, or alcohol, such as sleepiness and poor coordination. Patients have also reported problems with dry mouth and trouble with recent memory.

Older patients may have more problems with side effects and are usually started on lower doses.

People who have had emotional illnesses, paranoia, or hallucinations may find their symptoms are worse when taking cannabinoid drugs.

Talk to your doctor about what you should expect when taking one of these drugs. It’s a good idea to have someone with you when you first start taking one of these drugs and after any dose changes.

What does the American Cancer Society say about the use of marijuana in people with cancer?

The American Cancer Society supports the need for more scientific research on cannabinoids for cancer patients, and recognizes the need for better and more effective therapies that can overcome the often debilitating side effects of cancer and its treatment. The Society also believes that the classification of marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance by the US Drug Enforcement Administration imposes numerous conditions on researchers and deters scientific study of cannabinoids. Federal officials should examine options consistent with federal law for enabling more scientific study on marijuana.

Medical decisions about pain and symptom management should be made between the patient and his or her doctor, balancing evidence of benefit and harm to the patient, the patient’s preferences and values, and any laws and regulations that may apply.

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), the Society’s advocacy affiliate, has not taken a position on legalization of marijuana for medical purposes because of the need for more scientific research on marijuana’s potential benefits and harms. However, ACS CAN opposes the smoking or vaping of marijuana and other cannabinoids in public places because the carcinogens in marijuana smoke pose numerous health hazards to the patient and others in the patient’s presence.

Top Strains for Stress Relief

Stress is a normal part of life, sometimes serving a useful purpose. Stress can motivate you to get things done, but sometimes it can cause anxiety and take a toll on your body. Cannabis has been one of the go-to solutions for many stressed individuals as it helps decrease stress and anxiety levels very quickly.

There are 2 different ways of identifying the potential characteristics of Florida medical marijuana. Strain Based identification, and Ratio Based products. Ratio based is typically shown on a product packaging as the percentage of THC to CBD in a product(example 1:1 = equal parts of each). Strain based is typically used for inhaled versions of cannabis, and especially cannabis flower, as it is more difficult to identify specific amounts of cannabinoids. In this blog, we will focus on the strain-based identifications.

6 best marijuana strains for stress

Not all cannabis is created equal. In fact, there are different strains of cannabis that produce different effects, making some strains better for certain conditions than others. Here are the 6 best marijuana strains for stress-relief:

Girl Scout Cookies

GSC, originally known as the Girl Scout Cookies strain, is comprised of OG Kush and Durban Poison. It is known for promoting relaxation and happiness. This strain has been able to elevate THC levels to 25% to 28%, so a little goes a long way. Consumers consider this strain as one of the best marijuana strains for stress and anxiety because it relieves stress and physical pain and also aids with depression.

Granddaddy Purple

Granddaddy Purple, commonly known as GDP, is a mix of Purple Urkle and Big Bud, inheriting a complex grape and berry flavor. This strain helps multiple conditions, such as pain, stress, muscle spasms, and insomnia, and is ideal for generating a peaceful calm throughout the entire body. However, having “cottonmouth” is a common side effect of this strain, so drink plenty of water.

Jack Herer

Jack Herer is a Sativa-dominant hybrid that has an appealing orange-lemon scent and taste with a hint of pine. This strain provides an excellent balance between cerebral and physical effects, promoting deep relaxation.

Sour Diesel

Sour Diesel (“Sour D”) is another Sativa-dominant strain that is all about mental stimulation, making it one of the best marijuana strains for stress and anxiety. This strain has fast-acting effects that not only energize but also induce a “dreamy” feeling. Consumers say that Sour D has a lemon/lime taste, hence where the “sour” term in the name originates from. Some great effects of this strain include: mental stimulation, positivity, and mindfulness. Beware of cottonmouth with this strain as well.

Blue Dream

Blue Dream is one of the most common and most popular strains available. This California-originated strain has a sweet, earthy, and berry aroma. Blue Dream is used to help with stress, depression, anxiety, chronic pain, insomnia, and concentration.

OG Kush

The OG Kush strain is a reliable strain for those who are looking for stress relief. This strain produces a euphoric feeling and can help reduce stress, anxiety, and help with depression. Some have even reported relief from headaches and migraines with this strain as well. The OG Kush cannabis strain has a woody, earthy taste and a unique aroma with notes of pine and a hint of sour lemon.

For some, CBD is the preferred cannabinoid for stress. It offers a variety of medicinal benefits, including relief from anxiety and inflammation. Others prefer THC because it comes with its own unique therapeutic and mood-boosting properties. Try choosing a product that contains both THC and CBD to leave you feeling a little more balanced.

MMTCFL does not sell medical marijuana products, but ask your local dispensary about these strains and others that may help reduce stress.

At MMTCFL, we can determine if you are eligible for medical marijuana and help you get your medical marijuana registration card. Get started with medical marijuana today by taking our online eligibility survey.

Finding the Right Medical Marijuana Strain for You

One of the many benefits dispensaries offer their patients is the ability to choose specific strains from a large selection of products. Patients appreciate knowing what they’re buying and take comfort in the fact that the products on the shelf are cultivated specifically for medical use and lab tested for safety and potency.

But then comes the hard part…how do you know which product is right for you when you’re facing down a dispensary menu with a dozen or more different strains to choose from? It’s a challenge that can freeze even the most experienced cannabis consumer in their tracks. Fortunately, cannabis science offers us a helpful roadmap for navigating this tricky terrain and making informed decisions at the dispensary counter.

Sativa, Indica, and Hybrid Strains

The first thing you’ll notice about most medical cannabis menus is that they’re often organized into sativa, indica, and hybrid categories. Here’s an overview of these commonly used terms:

Indica strains tend to provide a physical effect, which can be felt throughout the body. These strains are commonly used for reducing pain, relieving muscle tension, increasing relaxation, and helping patients rest. Indica strains are often recommended for nighttime use, because many patients find them helpful for promoting sleep.

Sativa strains tend to produce a more cerebral effect, which impacts mood and emotion. These strains are popular for increasing energy levels, improving focus, and combatting depression. Sativa strains are often recommended for daytime use because many patients find them helpful for providing symptom relief without interfering with daily activities.

Hybrid strains are varieties that contain similar levels of indica and sativa. These “best of both worlds” strains offer a balance between the benefits of both types.

It’s important to understand that these categories aren’t written in stone, but rather offer general guidance based on our experience with the product. They offer a useful reference point for patients seeking a particular experience, but patients often find noticeable differences between strains even within these categories. As we note below, factors such as cannabinoid and terpene content may offer more specific clues towards how an individual strain may affect you.

THC Isn’t the Whole Story

The cannabis plant’s best-known component is THC, an important cannabinoid that plays a prominent role in stimulating both the psychoactive and medicinal effects of the flower. For this reason, medical cannabis is tested for THC content and patients sometimes regard THC levels as the beginning and end of any conversation regarding the quality of an individual flower. The reality, however, is more interesting and advantageous to patients willing to look beyond THC content alone in their quest to discover the best medicine for their needs.

While it’s true that relative THC content does provide some guidance towards anticipating the strength of a given flower’s effect, it doesn’t tell you the whole story. THC is just one of several dozen cannabinoids commonly occurring in the cannabis plant, which collectively impact its mental and physical effects. CBD-rich cannabis, for example, is rapidly rising in popularity as a treatment for anxiety, seizures and inflammation, yet lacks the psychoactive effects of THC. Patients seeking symptom relief paired with milder cerebral effects may find that elevated CBD levels are an important indication that a strain will work well for them.

Other common cannabinoids include CBN, which may treat pain and insomnia, and THCv, which may have neuroprotective properties. Many other cannabinoids can be found in varying percentages within specific strains and we expect that continuing research will yield new treatment applications for cannabinoid components whose potential remains to be fully understood. Paying attention to the cannabinoid content of the strains you sample will you identify what works best and may help guide future purchasing decisions.

Darker colors may suggest a more sedative, indica-dominant effect.

Following Your Nose

Modern cannabis genetics exhibit an almost impossible array of aromas, ranging from sugary sweet citrus to pungent diesel fuel. What many don’t realize is that the smell an individual flower releases is actually an important clue towards anticipating its effects. These distinctive aromas are created by terpenes, a wide-ranging group of oils produced by the cannabis plant that determine the smell of an individual strain. Like cannabinoids, the terpene content of an individual strain impacts its effects, but with the added benefit of being detectable through flavor and aroma. For example, strains that smell strongly of lemon and pine are exhibiting the terpenes Limonene and Pinene. This tells you that flower is likely to have more energizing, sativa-dominant effects. In contrast, strains with a musky and earthy aroma may be rich in the terpene Myrcene, which is associated with more sedative indica-dominant effects.

Understanding terpenes can vastly enhance your ability to identify strains with particular attributes, but it takes time and experience to become familiar with the incredible variety of terpene combinations cannabis can express. Cross-breeding often results in multiple rich aromas co-existing within individual strains. For patients, it’s important to pay close attention to the aroma and flavor of the strains you sample, which will help you develop a stronger instinct for predicting the experience you’re seeking. You may also want to take advantage of resources like Leafly.com that provide information on the terpene profiles of popular strains.

What’s in a Name?

Although it is the cannabinoid and terpene profiles that truly determine the unique characteristics of individual varieties, strain names serve as an important reference point on the vast map of modern cannabis genetics. Becoming familiar with the most common strains and educating yourself about your prefered genetics will help steer you towards products that work for you and away from those that don’t. Product names often include valuable clues you’ll want to pay attention to. For example, anything with “Purple” in its name will likely have a more sedative effect, while “Haze” suggests a more energizing experience. Making notes of what you like and sharing that information at the counter will help us customize our recommendations. Learning the history of your favorites will also help you discover other strains with similar qualities.

Conclusion

Ultimately, the factors that determine which product will best meet your needs are determined by both your individual symptoms and the unique characteristics of the strain you select to treat them. The diversity of the dispensary menu is designed to provide a range of selections even within specific categories like indica or sativa, enabling patients to explore options and customize their treatment plan. As always, our staff will be eager to assist and share their knowledge to help you find what you’re looking for.