Marijuana, Yes Or NO
Right now, marijuana (cannabis) is a Schedule 1 drug along with peyote, heroin, fentanyl and LSD. With other 113 chemical compounds in the plant, it’s almost impossible to get permission to study the ones that are proven to help epilepsy and multiple sclerosis patients.
With more than one hundred effects that impact the whole body, the drug is best known its recreational use and the continued popularity of Led Zeppelin. Smoking pot can ruin your life if you’re abusing it in order to get high and ignore your problems, but it can be freedom for people who need to trick their body into suppressing a low appetite, or to relieve very specific forms of pain including arthritis.
Even with the good possibilities of using marijuana to treat all sorts of ailments, it’s hard to say that pot smoking has the worst ambassadors. But let’s talk about the good, the bad and the ugly.
Advisory to FDA Votes to Recommend Cannabis Drug Testing
On Thursday, an advisory council to the Federal Drug Administration voted unanimously to recommend to approve a first-of-its-kind cannabidiol medication meant to treat a rare form of epilepsy. The drug, named Epidiolex is derived from cannabis. According to the CEO of the Epilepsy Foundation Philip Gattone,
“Epidiolex represents hope for the many individuals living with intractable seizures and rare epilepsies, who every day face incredible challenges and disabling seizures, and live with the continual risk of serious injury and death.”
The manufacturer of the product says that it’s “not something you can get by smoking marijuana” but is rather a “very specific pharmaceutical grade product derived from marijuana.”
Similarly, Vaseline — first known as petroleum jelly, having been discovered forming on the first oil rigs ever made — is derived from petroleum, but you can’t get baby soft lips by rubbing straight petroleum on your face.
Chemistry of Cannabis
There are at least 113 cannabinoid in cannabis. A cannabinoid is a type of chemical compound that acts on body’s cannabinoid receptors. These receptors are located throughout the whole body and cause changes in the brain’s release of neurotransmitters.
When cannabinoid receptors are activated, the most common bodily processes that are affected are appetite, pain, mood and memory. The stereotype exists for a reason: Smoking pot can give you the munchies and turn you into a numb moody person with a bad memory. But, there are at least 113 different chemicals causing this full reaction. Since cannabis is a plant, you can breed out the parts that get you high and since there are so many chemicals you can isolate the ones that give the result you want.
For example, a person undergoing chemotherapy might be interested in activating the receptors that repress nausea and give them their appetite back. Since it can be so difficult to get medical marijuana or the isolated chemicals, many people simply buy it from the streets.
Generally, recreational pot smokers want a plant that has more THC because they want to get high.
Generally, medical pot smokers want a plant that has less THC because they don’t want to get high.
Recent Studies on Use
One of the main reasons to push for taking cannabis off of Schedule 1 status is to make it easier to study in the United States and to make it easier for drug companies to develop better treatments.
According to a 2013 study entitled Oral fluid/plasma cannabinoid ratios following controlled oral THC and smoked cannabis administration:
Around the globe, cannabis is the most widely consumed illicit drug with an estimated 119–224 million users in 2010 . Cannabis consumption is increasing in the US where the prevalence of current (past month) cannabis use increased from 5.8 to 7.0% between 2007 and 2011 . In Europe and Australia, 3.6 and 5.6% of the general population reported using cannabis in the past month from 2008–10  and 2010 , respectively.
Why So Many Cannabis Studies Are Bad
With the poor legal standing of weed, many of the studies that attempt to cover its properties are not useful in the long run because there is a wide variety of plant strains and it is very difficult to tell how much is being absorbed by each subject.
“Scientists led by Penny Whiting from University Hospitals Bristol in the U.K. report in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) that there is only moderate-quality evidence supporting the benefits of medical marijuana, and only for certain conditions. The majority of studies involving medical marijuana are of lesser quality and therefore more likely to be biased and provide unreliable results.”
The certain conditions are usually MS and epilepsy.
Which is what really bothers me — the people who are the loudest for legal weed are the exact worst people you want trumpeting it. They’re the wake ‘n bake stoners who can’t go a few hours without their fix. Personally I believe this is because people who use medical marijuana, like people who legitimately use legal opioids don’t want to be associated with the movement and just want to get on with their lives.
Similarly, I think that’s why we conservatives are careful on the pot issue. Most conservatives I’ve talked to think it should be legal, but nobody wants to be the guy who stands up and says it out loud first. Nobody wants to be known as the “weed guy” in the House.
In 2010, treatment for cannabis use was 18% of total admissions to clinics for substance abuse, which was only behind alcohol and opiates. There is no doubt that the drug can be abused, and there is still a lot of work that must be done in order to ensure companies can continue to run drug tests on employees responsible for heavy equipment.
“Cannabis intoxication may induce a wide range of physiological and behavioral changes that can disrupt normal daily performance, including altered time perception, mood alteration, impaired learning, memory, and motor coordination, and lack of concentration . As a result of these effects, cannabis is associated with loss of productivity in the workplace [6–7] and increased risk of work-related and road traffic accidents.”
Right now, the most promising work seems to be in using saliva tests to quickly determine if someone has recently smoked pot. Colorado has been at the forefront of legal weed, and the state has seen a dramatic rise in the number of car accidents linked to drivers who tested as high.
Coming Soon: High, Canada
Starting on July 1st this year, a national holiday to the north, recreational marijuana in small amounts will be legal and available for purchase at government-sanctioned stores. My advice is to let the Canucks figure out how it plays out in social situations, in medical situations and with the police for a year first before making an American decision.
Sources: US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, NBC, ATT