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Book Review Medical Cannabis

By Denise Elliot

If you want to understand the difference between cannabis and hemp, and the different active constituents of them both, then this is the book for you. It was an ideal book for many to read prior to the referendum and is helpful for lay people and medical professionals alike. This book is not written to sway someone’s beliefs one way or the other but educational in an easy to read manner. It will help you understand the terms used, details on product safety and explanations of 18 medical conditions that medical cannabis has been shown to help in some way. It is based on what little recent research is available.

Current research is based predominantly on isolated constituents of the plant mainly because you cannot patent a natural product. Pharmaceutical companies will isolate a particular part, or a process of preparation, to isolate a component (in cannabis’s case an individual cannabinoid) so they are able to patent it. A plant, being a natural living organism, is quite variable in its active components, this makes it difficult to comply with standard pharmaceutical methodology.

A lot of the testing is based on isolated components extracted from the plant, rather than a ‘whole of plant’ product. Being a naturopath I would expect much better results from a more natural ‘wide spectrum’ plant based product.

Cannabis was only made illegal in
New Zealand in 1927 with the passing of the Dangerous Drugs Act, and it remains a controlled substance only available by prescription under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975, which makes unauthorised possession of any amount of non-medically manufactured cannabis illegal.
Medical cannabis has been legal in New Zealand since April 2020 and hopefully will soon become easier to access through our health system.

On the first page of this book it states that when Sir Richard Branson visited New Zealand in 2017, he urged New Zealand to become leaders in cannabis production. He said “You should legalise it, grow it, tax it and regulate it” - and went on to say how profitable it could be for our farmers. This could have been a big earner for our government, but at what cost?

Our recent referendum nearly made recreational cannabis legal, with 50.7% voting no and 48.4% voting yes – there were only 70,000 votes between yes and no - perhaps the drafters of the legislation just asked for too much. New Zealand had an opportunity to create a regulated environment, or at the least it could have been decriminalised but that question was not asked, who knows what the result would have been if it was.

The book is a great read as it takes you through the history and chemistry of cannabis - a remedy used in many ways. The cannabis plant naturally occurs in Central and Southern Asia and found its way to Britain in 1842 with William Brook O’Shaughnessy who brought it back after his role as a medical officer in India. During his posting he studied it after becoming convinced of its therapeutic applications. On his return to England he showed its effectiveness for relieving pain with rheumatism and painful muscle spasms. It is unclear in what way he administered the cannabis, it appears to be by way of cannabis tincture.

There are strong opinions both for and against the use of cannabis, whether for medical or recreational use. Scientific evidence and research on medical cannabis is ongoing and improving all the time around the world, but it really has only just begun.

If you want to know more about the current scientific evidence then this book will provide you with this information in an easy to read format.