Cannabis is known for effectively treating a wide variety of ailments, from cancer to epilepsy to multiple sclerosis. Marijuana and its collection of cannabinoids and terpenes — the active and therapeutic chemicals found in the plant — seem to work at a higher level than the needs of a single disease or condition.
Due to the entourage effect, whole-plant cannabis seems to adapt to the particular needs of an individual’s endocannabinoid system, sometimes performing the simple miracle not of directly fighting a disease, but instead allowing the body’s natural immune system to better do so itself.
Crohn’s disease (also known as inflammatory bowel disease) is one of the most cited conditions within the medical marijuana community. It afflicts the digestive tract of more than half a million people in North America, resulting in abdominal pain, diarrhea and bloody stool, severe vomiting, and extreme weight loss (as seen in wasting syndromes). It can also result in skin and eye conditions and arthritis.
Israeli Study: High Remission Rates
Those who suffer from Crohn’s report that not only does cannabis effectively treat pharmaceutical drug side effects and produce a cessation of many symptoms, but often results in a complete remission of the disease.
Although most of these miracle stories are based on anecdotal evidence, a 2013 study conducted in Israel at the Meir Medical Center has shown that most participants experienced either a significant reduction or full remission of their ailment after only eight weeks of smoking two joints per day.
Because this study was conducted outside the United States, potent samples of cannabis that are high in THC were able to be used. Cannabis given to participants contained herb that was 23 percent THC and 0.5 percent CBD. The study involved a control group that was given a placebo. All participants suffered intractable forms of Crohn’s that did not respond to conventional treatments.
Of the participants given real cannabis, half experienced a “complete remission,” while the other subjects enjoyed a 50 percent decrease in Crohn’s symptoms. Not surprisingly, the study reported:
“[Crohn’s] subjects receiving cannabis reported improved appetite and sleep, with no significant side effects.”
Schedule I: Preventing Research
A complete remission in 50 percent and significant relief for 100 percent of study participants who received cannabis (instead of a placebo) signals that the herb is likely an amazingly effective treatment for Crohn’s — especially for patients who don’t respond to conventional treatments. With efficacy levels so high, it questions whether Crohn’s sufferers should use cannabis as a first resort instead of after all other conventional treatments have failed.
However, until the United States federal government changes the classification of marijuana to Schedule II or lower on the Controlled Substances Act, any of the half million Crohn’s patients in the U.S. who medicate with cannabis will be categorized as criminals and subject to prosecution by the federal government.
Schedule I status for marijuana also prevents such studies from occurring in the U.S. The argument that prohibitionist forces are fighting to retain this highly restrictive classification is logical. Based on the Meir Medical Center study, research in the U.S. would likely also reveal high efficacy of cannabis for Crohn’s (and many other diseases), enticing voters to embrace medical marijuana and a political backlash against prohibition.
Fortunately, 23 states now offer some form of medical cannabis that allows many patients to avoid use of the black market and to gain safe access to medicine on a regular basis. While prohibitionists for years have said that pot use is “stupid” and results in brain damage, for those with Crohn’s, it appears that the only stupid decision is not to employ cannabis to fight an otherwise deadly disease.
Such amazing remission percentages for Crohn’s beg the question: Why aren’t more sufferers using cannabis in an effort to put their disease into remission? Does the Schedule I status of cannabis unfairly punish innocent sufferers who could otherwise live disease free?
This post was originally published on June 18, 2015, it was updated on October 5, 2017.