National Geographic : 2015 Jun
Marijuana’s Moment More than 20 million Americans used marijuana in 2013. Possession and sale are illegal under federal law, but medical use is legal in 23 states and the District of Columbia. Many states also have reduced or eliminated penalties for recreational use, resulting in a patchwork of restrictions and availability for those seeking medical help or just a casual high. Medical Cannabis was a mainstay of healers in ancient China, India, and Greece. Today its status as an illegal drug under federal law hampers scientists who want to study its medical potential. Only two synthetic medicines have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration; a natural derivative is under review. GLAUCOMA Researchers are developing a drug that mimics marijuana’s ability to reduce pressure in the eye but without the plant’s side effects. MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS An extract that relieves pain and muscle spasms in MS patients has been approved in Europe and Canada, though not in the U.S. AIDS One of the FDA-approved synthetic versions of a sub- stance found in marijuana helps increase appetite and treat weight loss in patients with the disease. CANCER The other synthetic version is used to treat nausea associ- ated with chemotherapy.