In the last decade, the use of marijuana as a medical treatment has become more and more widespread, offering respite from the pain suffered by those struggling with conditions including multiple sclerosis, dementia, Parkinson’s and even cancer.
In 1971, President Nixon declared a war on drugs, pushing for a zero-tolerance approach to their production and use – an approach widely considered to be a failure, with a 126% increase in drug-related offences by 1980. As a result, research into the medicinal qualities of certain drugs was stymied and the social stigma of being a drug user has continued to this day.
Then when scientists first began trials for the use of cannabis as a treatment – despite sceptics voicing their dismay – peer-reviewed studies began uncovering medical benefits that were considered just as effective, yet much cheaper than competitive pharmaceutical medicines.
Medical research is changing attitudes
Flash forward to 2016, and 24 US states have legalised medical marijuana, with several more due to do the same before the end of the year. The social stigma of being a ‘stoner’ however still remains – but that may be about to change thanks to scientists at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland.
The researchers have found a way to extract the cannabinoids (the active ingredients in cannabis) from the plant, and distil them into concentrated butane hashish oil which contains all the medical benefits of cannabis – but none of the downsides associated with smoking. Once loaded into an e-cigarette, the oil can be ‘vaped’ by users without producing odour, and without getting ‘high’.
Critics believe the research could lead to people finding a way to use e-cigs for recreational purpose, but Dr Vincent Varlet, toxicologist at the University of Lausanne and co-author of the study regarding cannavaping feels differently:
“In our opinion and according to other scientists, recreational ‘cannavaping’ remains possible with e-cigarettes. However, its poor efficiency makes the risk of observing a new recreational cannavaping trend unlikely.”
For those suffering from conditions which can be aided by medical marijuana, this research could be a huge leap forward in the incorporation of previously vilified drugs into effective treatment programs, without the negative effects of getting ‘stoned’.
“Cannavaping appears to be a gentle, efficient, user-friendly and safe alternative method for cannabis smoking for medical cannabis delivery,” said Dr Varlet. “Today, we have set the cat among the pigeons. This is just the first step, and we need to see how the scientific community is going to welcome this kind of possibility.”