Medical marijuana has been used to treat various illnesses and conditions for thousands of years. It's well known as an effective anti-nausea and analgesic substance, and over the years, marijuana has been used to treat dozens of different conditions and illnesses.

The use of medical marijuana probably originated in ancient China, but in the 19th Century its pain-relieving properties were researched by William Brooke O'Shaughnessy, leading to a surge of public interest in marijuana for medical purposes. The drug became exceptionally popular, but was banned in 1937 in the United States and elsewhere in the world at around the same time. However, interest in medical cannabis continued, and many physicians and scientists kept researching the potential benefits of the drug. In the 1970s, a synthetic version of marijuana was approved for use with glaucoma patients.

Legalization of medical marijuana occurred in several states in the 1990s, including California, Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Nevada. Federal law continues to ban medical marijuana use, but in some states (particularly California), medical marijuana use is controlled and is commonplace.

In many cases, medical marijuana is described to relieve pain or to counteract some of the effects of a serious illness. For example, cancer patients who have taken chemotherapy often lose their appetite, and medical marijuana can sometimes be an effective way to restore hunger for these people. AIDS patients often report reduced levels of pain and nausea when taking medical marijuana in any of its various forms. However, the use of medical marijuana is by no means restricted to these serious illnesses – it has also been effective at treating chronic pain, nausea, excessive eye pressure (as is the case with glaucoma) and various other symptoms. There have even been some studies which suggest that medical marijuana may be an effective way to treat addiction to opiates and other "hard" drugs.

The use of medical marijuana is controversial, as is any type of cannabis use. Opponents of medical marijuana often claim that other drugs can replicate the effects of cannabis without the "high" of THC, the main active compound in marijuana. However, synthetic cannabanoids have been available in the United States and in other developed countries for years, and many of these have shown reduced efficacy in comparison to naturally grown medical marijuana.

Local law is very important for legal medical marijuana distribution and use. Laws on medical marijuana vary greatly from one city to the next, and lawmakers often restrict the number of medical marijuana dispensaries in a town or a part of a town. Medical marijuana users are usually required to have a special card from a doctor that indicates the need for cannabis for medical reasons in order to receive medical marijuana from a dispensary or to grow a private supply of cannabis.

Medical marijuana can be smoked, eaten, vaporized, or taken in pill form. For many people with serious illnesses and chronic pain, medical marijuana serves a vital purpose and dispensaries are an important resource.

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