Growing up in the ’60s, marijuana was the preferred recreational drug of my generation. While beer and other alcohol may have been the choice of the fraternity crowd, the cool kid’s recreational drug of choice was marijuana.

Living close to Santa Monica Bay, my wife and I frequently stroll the Venice boardwalk to soak in the flavor of the beach and witness the antics of the wacky local Venetians.

For the last several years, we couldn’t walk the boardwalk without being approached by a local vendor inviting us to meet with a local doctor to get our marijuana prescription filled.

“Whatever ails you, marijuana will cure you.” I always considered the prospect of decriminalization of marijuana as a positive step since its use was no worse than alcohol or cigarettes, and enforcement of antiquated marijuana laws was a waste of resources.

I really didn’t believe that marijuana had a legitimate medical use but, with a wink and a nod, I supported initiatives designed to legalize its use. Well, it looks as though current marijuana research may be changing my original opinion of its medical benefits. According to an L.A. Times article, recent research points to the following benefits and risks of marijuana consumption:

THE GOOD

Pain: Marijuana has been shown to be effective against various forms of pain, ranging from chronic low-grade pain to severe pain and seems to be effective against nerve pain that’s resistant to opiates.

Cancer: While no one is arguing that marijuana will cure cancer in humans (at least not yet), it has been shown to be effective in combating pain, nausea, and loss of appetite in cancer patients undergoing traditional cancer treatments.

According to an October 2003 review article in the journal Nature, marijuana may even have a positive effect on blocking the growth of tumors in lab animals.

Other Potential Benefits:

  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • AIDS wasting syndrome
  • Muscle spasms
  • Tourette’s syndrome
  • Glaucoma

THE BAD

Addiction: The same National Institute on Drug Abuse that has yet to determine whether marijuana increase the risk of lung and other cancers, says that repeated use could lead to addiction and heavy users may experience withdrawal systems such as irritability and sleep loss if they stop suddenly.

Respiratory disease: Several studies in New Zealand and Australia have concluded that smoking one marijuana joint is at least 2.5 times more harmful to the lungs than one cigarette and that pot smoking can lead to one type of lung disease 20 years earlier than cigarette smoking.

Psychological effects: It appears that heavy pot smoking affects the parts of the brain that controls memory, attention, and learning. (Those readers who have partaken in this herb can relate to that last sentence). Also, studies have shown the loss of tissue in two areas of the brain, the hippocampus, and the amygdala, which are areas of the brain that are rich in receptors for marijuana and are a vital memory and emotional region of the brain.

THE ANSWER

Perhaps a way to overcome the adverse health concerns that will allow consumers to reap the benefits of marijuana is to not smoke marijuana (as a joint or in a pipe) but to inhale its vapor.

According to a study published in 2007 in Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, vaporizing is a safe and effective way of getting THC, the active ingredient, into the blood-steam and does not result in consuming toxic carbon monoxide.

While inhaling marijuana vapor and not its smoke will help alleviate the adverse physical effects, regular, heavy nonmedicinal pot smoking or THC vapor ingestion should be avoided.

It’s not good for your brain.

Otherwise, contrary to the original conventional wisdom, for some of us, marijuana may offer more benefits than risks.

UPDATE: For those Southern California readers who are interested in finding a doctor to prescribe medical marijuana, they can check out this Cannabis center site.

By Sam Rangers~

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