Marijuana, also known as cannabis, has certain medical properties. For that reason alone, many states have since passed legislation allowing for the use of marijuana to help aid in the relief of a host of elements. These changes continue to spread across the country to the point where nearly half the states now allow medical marijuana. To that end, we’ll take a look at what you need to know about medical marijuana.

Prescribed Care

There are a number of ailments that can benefit from the use of medical marijuana. One of the more common reasons it is prescribed is to combat nerve damage, specifically neuropathic pain. Given that it is less habit forming than many drugs, it is the logical medicine of choice to combat pain.

Cannabis has also provided relief for people with multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, a concussion, Alzheimer’s disease, and bipolar disorder. The chemicals in marijuana have also been proven to battle nausea. No, cannabis is not ideal for pregnant women, but it can be used to offset the ill feeling people feel following their cancer treatments.

Where it is Legal

California was the first state to allow for medical marijuana. Golden State voters approved a ballot measure in 1996, proposition 215, that opened the door to cannabis use for medical purposes.

Since then, nearly two dozen more states plus the District of Columbia have also legalized medical marijuana. Colorado, New York, Hawaii, and Illinois are among the states that have passed laws that provide for limited legal protections from arrest for marijuana users. Other states are considering legislation as well, what could provide a tipping point in the greater conversation.

Physician Legality

Despite state passage of legislation allowing for medical marijuana, physicians are not allowed to prescribe cannabis. Federal law overrules the practice, thus physicians can have their license stripped and find themselves prosecuted. Clearly, no doctor is willing to have everything she or he has worked with to be ripped away notes Cannabis World Congress & Business Exposition.

However, physicians are permitted to recommend marijuana therapy to patients per a 2000 U.S. District Court decision. Furthermore, three states — Maine, Colorado and New Mexico — also allow the production and distribution of medical marijuana. The federal government could shut this down, but it hasn’t done so yet. At present, it is a gray area where states can continue with their own programs while the Department of Justice stands to the side.

Reforming Marijuana

Cannabis consumption hasn’t always been illegal in the United States. Indeed, it wasn’t until 1911 when Massachusetts became the first state to ban its use. In 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed legislation banning cannabis use and industrial hemp. That latter restriction was lifted four years later as part of the war effort to produce rope, cordage and canvas made from hemp.

While some contend that cannabis is not a medicine, there is growing understanding and acceptance that its beneficial properties should not be easily dismissed. Indeed, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a neurosurgeon and CNN’s chief medical correspondent pushed beyond his earlier research to announce in 2013 that he had reversed his earlier opposition to marijuana.

Gupta found examples of people who were helped by medical marijuana, including a child who started having seizures soon after she was born. By age 3 she was having more than 300 per week, but once she was prescribed medical marijuana, here seizures dropped to just 2 or 3 per month.

Gupta also found that there has long been a political bias against marijuana, with that opposition based not on science, but on ill-founded policy reasons. Unfortunately, that approach has kept millions of people from seeking relief with the very substance that could help them.