Melanie Dreher, PhD

Melanie Dreher, PhD

Discusses How Cannabis Is Used As Medicine in Jamaica

Transcript – Video Below: I’m Melanie Dreher; I’m dean of nursing at Rush University Medical Center. I’m a nurse and I’m an anthropologist. I think the medicinal properties of cannabis are just beginning to be explored systematically. But cannabis has existed as medicine for centuries.

My first exposure to cannabis as medicine was working in Jamaica. And where it is known as the king of herbs. One of the consistent ingredients in most of the preparations they gave to their patients was cannabis. And subsequent to that, my major professor at Columbia University was funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse, to do a regular study of Cannabis in Jamaica, marijuana in Jamaica. Mainly in response to all the research that was going on looking at the immediate effects of marijuana, this is in the late ’60s early ’70s.

And people were concerned about the acute effects, what happens when you smoke.

Does it affect your driving, your thinking, your coordination or whatever? And no one had really looked at what happens to people when they smoke consistently every day for a long period of time, what was the health impact of that.

So he was funded to do that, I was a graduate student, and he said “you had such a great summer in Jamaica last year working on this other project would you come and be the main ethnographer for this part of the project”. I’ve been involved in several projects, that project which was perhaps the most famous project coming out of Jamaica, is a study of working class men in Jamaica, 30 of whom were chronic users, that means smoked at least one or two splifs everyday, usually more than that, for the past 10 years. They were matched with men from the same socio-economic status, same age, and who didn’t smoke at all.

And then we compared them to every possible medical variable there is. I was not so much involved in the medical side of it, I was really looking at how do these men compare socially in their communities. Who are they? What is the, sort of social milieu or context around ganja use and ganja smoking? And then comparing these groups men, the users and non-users and their fit with their communities. So one of the things we found in this study for example, was that ganja users performed significantly better than non-users on the psychiatric and physiological battery of tests

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