Cannabis: Should It Be Legalized?

2014-02-28 09:32

Introduction                                                                                                                                                                                                               Cannabis, popularly known as Marijuana, is by far the most enigmatic plant ever known to man. No other single plant is known to impact so many illnesses as Cannabis. Cannabis is often confused with its non-psychoactive sister plant Hemp, but the two are particularly different.

Cannabis is widespread in human culture as a recreational drug which is ingested through smoking. Medical Cannabis on the other hand is consumed orally, either as a tea, or as oil, or in its raw form. Medicinal Cannabis is said to have anti-tumour properties, and to have the astounding ability to target and kill cancer cells without hurting the non-transformed cells, as can happen with common cancer treatment like chemotherapy.

It is stated Cannabis can treat Depression, Traumatic Stress Syndrome, AIDS, Glaucoma, Eye Infection, Diabetes, Chronic Pain, Migraines, Multiple Sclerosis, Nausea, Asthma, Bronchitis, Sinuses, Brain Tumours, Cerebral Palsy and is also a notable Bone Stimulant.

History                                                                                                                                                                                                                In the 1800’s, Medical Journals had published hundreds of articles on the therapeutic use of the drug, then known as Cannabis Indica/Sativa. It was a popular treatment for labour pains, menstrual pains, asthma, and nervous disorder. Almost every qualified doctor in the West is said to have had Cannabis in their medical bag until 1937, when its use was banned by US Federal Law, which prohibited any qualified doctor from prescribing Cannabis (Marijuana) under threat of prosecution. This was done through fear mongering publicity and pressure from Congress and Pharmaceuticals, who favoured toxic manufactured drugs which generated high profits.

It was a man named Harry Anslinger who led the campaign which vilified and criminalized the substance to complete banishment. Harry Anslinger worked for the Federal Narcotics Bureau and served under President Franklin D. Roosevelt until JF Kennedy. Among other spurious accusations, he claimed most cannabis users are “…Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz, and swing, result from Marijuana use. This Marijuana use causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.” By 1942, even with the objection of the American Medical Association, all Cannabis products were removed from the U.S Pharmacopeia.

This insidious ban continued until only recently, when California became the first US State to finally pass a Medical Marijuana Law in 1996. The intention was to provide relief to many people suffering from Chronic Pain, Cancer, AIDS, and other Illnesses. Since then, 20 other States have passed similar laws, and more are still pending. Although Federal Agencies continue to associate the smoking of Marijuana with Cancer or Lung Disease, extensive scientific research has totally disproved this, even under excessive smoking. In fact, it has been proven that heavy smokers have fewer Cancers than common non users.

Criticism                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Although concerns have been raised, Cannabis has been proven not to be Toxic and to affect memory only temporarily – during a high that is. There has never been a documented fatality associated with overdosing THC or Cannabis in its natural form. This is because the absorption of Cannabis by the body is limited by Serum Lipids, which can become saturated with THC, mitigating toxicity. According to scientists, to die from marijuana overdose, one would need to smoke 680kg worth within 15 minutes, and any resulting death would be from asphyxiation (suffocation) at that.

Research has also shown that past claims of brain damage from Cannabis use have failed to hold up to the scientific method. Countless studies have recently proved the chemicals in Cannabis actually have a significant impact on almost all cancers, including Brain Cancer, Breast Cancer, Prostate Cancer, Lung Cancer, Skin Cancer, Colon Cancer, Thyroid Cancer, Leukaemia/Blood Cancer, etc. They do this by targeting and killing Cancer cells, which are ‘dead’ cells, while leaving healthy cells untouched.

Cannabis has also been criticized for instigating schizophrenia in smokers or users. But owing to its therapeutic nature, based on the balance of psychoactive THC and relaxant CBD in Cannabis, the opposite may actually be the case. For a subject in a state of suppressed trauma or paranoia, the consumption of Cannabis may suddenly highlight the emotions to the surface, which may be uncomfortable but still advantageous in the long run. The effect of Marijuana intake will normally depend on the environment and the mental state of the consumer. Depending on these factors, transition or the intoxication may be either comfortable or not. This does not make Cannabis bad or good.

Cannabinoids                                                                                                                                                                                             We’re all born with a form of Cannabis already in our bodies, called the Endo-Cannabinoid System. Cannabis treats disease by its ability to interact with this Endo-Cannabinoid System (ECS). The ECS influences multiple physiological processes. It modulates energy intake, nutrient transport, metabolism and storage. Endo-Cannabinoids are said to be our own bodies’ form of Marijuana. They control a variety of functions in the Nervous, Heart, Reproductive and Immune Systems. Endo-Cannabinoids are like messengers which help the cells to communicate. Typically, they protect our good cells while killing the bad ones.

In all animals, the Nervous System is made of the same components – large number of nerve cells carrying electrical signals. Wherever these cells meet, these signals are passed to a receptor in the next cell, by a chemical messenger called a Neurotransmitter (Cannabinoids). Inside the brain there are different types of transmitters, including Dopamine and Serotonin. It is this chemical messenger (Cannabinoids) in-between cells that is found to be similar in structure with the compound in the Cannabis plant – Tetra-Hydro-Cannabinol (THC).

After scientists discovered and isolated THC in the 1960’s, they found it could bind to specific receptors in the brain and area around it, and this is specifically what makes us high. Cannabis as a plant directly interacts and activates Cannabinoid Receptors in the Central Nervous System and the cells of the Immune System. This means our natural bodies have been made to respond and react to the Cannabis plant. It was discovered that Endo-Cannabinoids are also mood regulators, with the ability to make us euphoric, or when suppressed, depressed.

Rimonabant                                                                                                                                                                                            Scientists therefore thought if Cannabinoids could arouse appetite, then suppressing them could result in loss of appetite. So they created a diet drug called Rimonabant, which could suppress Cannabinoid activity in the body. This resulted in Depression, loss of appetite, Insomnia, Seizures, Aggressive Impulses and Anxiety in patients tested. The intake of this drug is alleged to have also resulted in suicide in several patients. Mice which had Cannabinoids blocked were found to be more susceptible to Cancerous Tumours, which led scientists to realise Cannabinoids were not only mood regulators but Tumour Regulators too.

Italian doctor, Di Mazzio, is said to have summarised Cannabinoids function as aiding us to ‘relax, eat, sleep, forget and protect’. While a significant amount of Cannabinoids are not found in breast and prostate cells, the homes of two leading forms of Cancer, they begin to show up in large numbers after Tumours are found developing in these specific areas. This could be attributed to the body’s own desperate attempt to control these Tumours by releasing large doses of Cannabinoids. For thousands of years, Cannabinoids have been our bodies’ natural regulators of health. But in this age of chemical food, polluted air and toxic medicine, the body’s natural Cannabinoids have been overwhelmed and rendered almost ineffective. Enter Cannabis the plant.

Cannabis                                                                                                                                                                                              Cannabis contains 483 chemicals, more than 60 of which are cannabinoids, which are a unique class of compounds not found anywhere else in nature. With its anti-oxidant properties, the cannabis plant is subject to few predators, and has been utilised by farmers as an insect/pest repellent. Due to its high THC content, it is also known to be very resistant to ultra violet rays, which are known causes for skin cancer. There are four key cannabinoid compounds which are of utmost importance to scientific research on treatment within the cannabis plant: Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), Cannabidiol (CBD), Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), and Cannabichromene (CBC).

v)  Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)>is the principal psychoactive ingredient which creates euphoria in the consumer and exerts a wide spectrum of biological effects similar to the body’s own natural Endo-Cannabinoids. It is also known to reduce aggression in certain subjects.

v)  Cannabidiol (CBD)>is the non-psychoactive component of cannabis that gives a sedative effect to the high. It has anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects (antibiotic) and helps fight diabetes, bacterial infections and malignant tumours. It’s also a nerve protectant and furthermore has anti-psychotic and anxiety reducing effects. CBD is believed to be a major anticonvulsant which helps multiple sclerosis and epilepsy patients.

v)  Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV)>is the component which has been found in significant amounts mostly in South African and some Thai strains of Cannabis. High concentrations of this chemical makes the high come quicker but last less time also. It may be effective in the treatment of type 2 Diabetes and is believed to have a protective and preventative effect against malignant tumours.

v)  Cannabichromene (CBC)>is a low level cannabinoid. Based on the little research on this component, it may have an anti-depressant effect, as well as the ability to reduce inflammation and inhibit tumour growth in leukaemia and breast cancer.

Decriminalization                                                                                                                                                                                                Although related agencies and scientists have spoken against the criminalization of Cannabis, it remains classified as a Schedule 1 Drug, along with toxic drugs like Heroin. A derivative of Cannabis (Marinol) has over the years been shifted from Schedule 1 to 3 of the Controlled Substances Act. Petitioner Jon Gettman has argued: “Cannabis is a natural source of Dronabinol (THC), the ingredient of Marinol, a schedule 3 drug. There are no grounds to schedule Cannabis in a more restrictive Schedule than Marinol.” GW Pharmaceuticals, a company specialising in the study and commercialisation of Cannabinoids has already advanced experimental operations on the Cannabis plant in an undisclosed location South of England. The US government has also been actively but secretly researching medical marijuana for decades now.

At its 33rd meeting in 2003, the World Health Organisation Expert Committee on drug dependence recommended transferring THC – not Cannabis altogether – to schedule 4 of the convention, citing its medical uses and low abuse potentials. The reason why a drug made from Cannabis may be shifted from schedule 1 to 4 while natural Cannabis is in Schedule 1 may be because the latter cannot be regulated. Marijuana is a natural substance, which cannot be patented. Its production could be in the hands of the people and not the multi-billion dollar global Cancer Corporations.  The same Corporations have already begun extensive research on Cannabis based medicine, aiming to cash in on this breakthrough treatment. But other scientists have criticised the dissection and isolation of cannabis compounds, stating it is rather beneficial to use Cannabis in its natural form with regulation.

Regulation                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Besides the fact that many people primarily use Marijuana for its psychoactive properties, the fact is it’s beneficial for the body’s wellbeing also. As much as the body might be prone to releasing cannabinoids when under cancerous attack, people might be attracted to Cannabis consumption when under either mental or physical strain. Rather than question people’s attachment to the substance, one should therefore rather question the environment or circumstances which catalyse such behaviour. It’s hard to deny that we live in a highly psychologically and emotionally stressful culture, which may justify the so called recreational use of Cannabis. Unlike alcohol, Cannabis has the ability to induce both calm and alertness at once. The medicinal use of Cannabis becomes highly essential in our disease bedridden society, where conventional medicine is both expensive and ineffective.

It should be noted that the smoking of Cannabis has little or no medicinal value, owing to the burning of otherwise medicinal chemicals like THC in the process. For its medicinal value, Cannabis is boiled and inhaled, or boiled and drank as a tea, or eaten raw or mixed into common food, or heated and drained of its oil for external or internal use. By the nature of it being a banned substance, it becomes the responsibility of its users to control how they use Cannabis altogether. Although Cannabis is known to have very low withdrawal symptoms, it could still take some will to stop using it for recreational purposes, especially if one is accustomed to mixing it with other substances. But for its medicinal value, Marijuana may be a necessity as opposed to a choice. For those who may be interested in its healing properties minus the ‘high’, it may be advisable to consume it in any preferred form right before sleep.

(Compiled and Written by Matome Letsoalo for @JustSmartRage. Primary Sources: Len Richmond: What If Cannabis Cured Cancer? Wikipedia.com/THC/Cannabis/Cannabinoids/Endocannabinoid System/Nervous System/Harry Anslinger/Rimonabant/Marinol/WHO.)

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