Our bodies are riddled with receptors for the class of molecules, known as cannabinoids, that are found in large concentrations in marijuana. While it may be that our own endogenous anandamide-like substances are the reason for the presence of these receptors, it seems that in the plant world marijuana is the only source of cannabinoids we have available. Co-evolution, anyone?
Regardless, a preliminary investigation by Michael Camilleri, M.D. (Mayo Clinic), who has spent the last decade researching drugs, neurotransmitters, receptors and pharmacological pathways involved in irritable bowel syndrome and other spasmodic conditions of the lower bowel, shows promise for using cannabinoid receptors in the gut to help modulate these distressing conditions. Doctor Camilleri's plan: feed folks with sensitive digestive systems over a pint of chocolate milkshake after giving them a pill of Marinol, a synthetic THC (tetra-hydro-cannabinol). Without getting into what a pint of chocolate milkshake would do to me (or anyone really) if taken on an empty stomach, and whether that represents cruel and unusual punishment for someone with colitis or irritable bowel, it seems that the synthetic cannabinoid is one of the most effective remedies the good doctor has ever seen for the cramping and pain people experience after pounding said milkshake. The next step: back to the lab, to find a synthetic cannabinoid that "does not have psychoactive properties".
If you ask me, that seems like a time-consuming, expensive proposition. Over and over, folks who have used cannabinoids as medicine (for glaucoma, wasting syndrome, chemo-induced nausea, and bowel trouble) complain that the pharmaceuticals are not as effective as a crude, inhalable folk-preparation of the marijuana plant (a.k.a. "the joint"). One puff may not be psychoactive, but it still seems to be quite medicinal if you trust the reports of those who have tried. But the feds might not appreciate that (nor the pharmaceutical companies, for that matter). And we all know the best way to fund research is to come up with a good, actionable, patentable pharmaceutical, not some devil-weed - regardless how cheap, accessible, or useful it may be.