More and more jurisdictions around the world are either decriminalizing the use of cannabis, with particular focus on the potential health benefits of the product. While this will always be an issue that is as complex as it is controversial, nothing can ever be gained by talking as though cannabis and other controlled substances are either inherently good, or inherently bad. Informed comment will always be preferable, and so it is worth knowing the definitive facts about cannabis and its healthcare potential. Below, we’ll look at the realities, and defog the issue at least a little more than it is right now.

First of all, what are the health benefits of cannabis?

Studies have indicated that there can be pronounced benefits in using cannabis for a range of health issues, with chronic pain being among the most prominent. It’s also understood to have benefits for insomnia, anxiety and depression.

Is this true of all types of cannabis?

Peer-reviewed research is hard to find, because the bodies capable of funding extensive research aren’t crazy about the idea of being associated with cannabis culture. Anecdotally, however, it is extensively indicated that indica strains of cannabis are best for issues like joint pain, headaches and neuropathy, while sativa has better impacts on mood and confidence. As for questions such as joint vs blunt, opinions differ, but there are plenty of good resources online.

What about the side effects from cannabis?

Of course there is the potential for cannabis use to have side effects. That’s true of literally any medication. The potential side effects of cannabis look worrying written down, and include dependency, impaired reaction times and loss of concentration. But if you pull the leaflet out of a box of OTC painkillers, you’ll see a similar list. You should take care when using cannabis for pain or mental health issues, but the same is absolutely true of any medication you might take. If it doesn’t have the potential for side effects, it doesn’t have the potential for effects at all.

Is it legal to use cannabis for medical reasons?

The only true answer to this is that it depends where you are. Some jurisdictions have passed laws to decriminalize or legalize cannabis, for medical or even recreational use. Some others have blanket illegality, and will not accept the reasoning that it was for medical use if someone is caught with a controlled substance. It is always wise to research the law before you attempt to treat a medical condition with cannabis. The effectiveness of a medical treatment and its general safety are not always going to be taken into account by law enforcement.

Should I consult with my doctor on using cannabis?

There are many people you should talk with before embarking on treatment with cannabis, and your doctor is one of them. Be aware that they might be against the idea: there is not a real consensus on the effectiveness and safety of cannabis, and it has the potential to interact with other treatments. Your doctor may be of the opinion that you should steer clear, or they might be positive about the idea – the more information they can offer to stand up their position, the more helpful their advice will be.