Cannabis and cannabis extracts have been used for medical and recreational purposes for thousands of years, being utilised as a patent medicine and listed in the 1850 United States Pharmacopoeia. Restrictions were placed on cannabis and cannabis-based medicines in 1937 leading to the deletion of all cannabis-based medicines from the Pharmacopoeia in 1942, disregarding substantial opposition from the medical fraternity. 

In spite of the prohibition, limited research continued with Raphael Mechoulam isolating two primary compounds from the cannabis plant in 1964, cannabidiol (CBD) and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Allyn Howlett’s discovery of a cluster of THC receptors in the brain in 1988 convinced Mechoulam that there had to be natural compounds made by the body to interact with the identified receptors. Four years later Mechoulam discovered a compound produced by the body interacting with THC receptors, now known as Anandamide, followed shortly by 2-Archidonoylglycerol (2-AG) similar to CBD leading to the discovery of receptors in every organ, gland, immune cell and connective tissue known as the endocannabinoid system. 

“Modulating the endocannabinoid system activity may have therapeutic potential in almost all diseases affecting humans.”


George Kunos

Scientific Director, NIAAA & National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA


Over the years there have been calls to legalise and re-introduce cannabinoid-based medicines into the Pharmacopoeia and have them available for inclusion in modern day medical treatments.

November 2016 the Australian Federal Government passed legislation enabling a range of cannabis-based medicines to be prescribed by registered healthcare professionals. Access to prescribers and affordable cannabinoid-based medicines has been difficult over the pursuing years and is slowly improving as the approval processes have been streamlined; the number of medicines on offer has increased leading to greater competition in pricing; healthcare professionals and patients are educated about cannabinoid-based medicines and their use in managing a range of health conditions. 



Clark C.S, (2021), Cannabis Handbook for Nurses, Wolters Kluwer Health, Philadelphia. ISBN 9781 975144265

Goldstein B.S, (2020), Cannabis is Medicine, Headline Pub. Group, London. ISBN 9781 47227662 9 

Nazarenus C, (2020), The Endocannabinoid System in Medical Cannabis handbook for Healthcare Professionals, Springer Pub. Co. New York. doi:10.1891/9780826135735 


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