ABSTRACT: This overview covers a wide range of cannabis topics, initially examining issues indispensaries and self-administration, plus regulatory requirements for production of cannabis-based medicines, particularly the Food and Drug Administration “Botanical Guidance.” The remainder pertains to various cannabis controversies that certainly require closer examination if the scientiﬁc, consumer, and governmental stakeholders are ever to reach consensus on safety issues, speciﬁcally: whether botanical cannabis displays herbal synergy of its components, pharmacokinetics of cannabisand dose titration, whether cannabis medicines produce cyclo-oxygenase inhibition, cannabis-drug interactions, and cytochrome P450 issues, whether cannabis randomized clinical trials are properly blinded, combatting the placebo effect in those trials via new approaches, the drug abuse liability (DAL) of cannabis-based medicines and their regulatory scheduling, their effects on cognitive function and psychiatric sequelae, immunological effects, cannabis and driving safety, youth usage, issues related to cannabis smoking and vaporization, cannabis concentrates and vape-pens, and laboratory analysis for contamination with bacteria and heavy metals. Finally, the issue of pesticide usage on cannabis crops is addressed. New and disturbing data on pesticide residues in legal cannabis products in Washington State are presented with the observation of an 84.6% contamination rate including potentially neurotoxic and carcinogenic agents. With ongoing developments in legalization of cannabis in medical and recreational settings, numerous scientiﬁc, safety, and public health issues remain.
Move over 420. August 28th should be a national cannabis holiday.
On that day in 1964, folk legend Bob Dylan ascended the elevator of the Delmonico Hotel on Park Avenue in Manhattan for a momentous first meeting with the Beatles, who were touring the United States. Beatlemania was then at its peak, and twenty police stood guard in the corridor as Dylan and his entourage entered the Beatles’ sixth-floor hotel suite.
After an exchange of courtesies, Dylan suggested that they all smoke some grass. He was surprised to learn that the Beatles were marijuana virgins. Dylan had a bag of weed with him and he tried to roll a joint. But Bob was all thumbs, so his driver and close friend Victor Maymudes did the deed. Blinds were drawn and towels carefully placed before locked doors to hide the smell. Dylan lit a reefer and a few minutes later everyone was laughing uproariously.
“We were kind of proud to have been introduced to pot by Dylan,” Paul McCartney later remarked. “That was rather a coup.”
Cannabis was quite different from the purple hearts and other uppers that the Beatles had taken to keep pace with the rigors of the late-night club circuit in Germany and the UK. Marijuana eased them into a soft yet lively space, a cushioned reprieve from the bizarre fishbowl sensation—the hysterical fans, the constant media attention—that accompanied their vertiginous rise to rock stardom. From that day forward, the Beatles would consume cannabis on a regular basis. And whenever John Lennon felt like getting stoned, he would say, “Let’s ’ave a larf!”
After the Beatles got into grass, they began to think of themselves as artists, not just performers. The herb triggered a creative surge that altered their approach to writing and recording songs. (“We were smoking marijuana for breakfast,” Lennon jibed.) Cannabis opened the door to new dimensions of popular music, and the Beatles carried the youth of the world with them across the psychoactive threshold.
Numerous Beatle songs contained subtle and not-so-subtle allusions to cannabis. “Got to Get You into My Life,” one of several weed-inspired tunes on the Beatles’ Revolver album, was “entirely about pot,” according to McCartney, who acknowledged that marijuana had a huge impact on the Fab Four in the mid-Sixties.
Drug references on the Beatles next album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, were more explicit. Ringo Starr rhapsodized about “getting high with a little help” from his friends. McCartney “had a smoke” and “went into a dream.” And Lennon cooed: “I’d love to turn you on.”
“Do you know what caused Pepper?” McCartney told a reporter. “In one word, drugs. Pot.”
“But you weren’t on it all the time.”
“Yes, we were. Sgt. Pepper was a drug album,” McCartney insisted.
The BBC proceeded to ban several of the songs from its playlist, including “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” on the grounds that they promoted the use of illegal drugs. This ungainly attempt to censor the Beatles, who were at the zenith of their influence, underscored Britain’s befuddled — some might say schizoid —attitude toward marijuana and its most influential proponents. The Beatles, after all, had recently been honored by the Queen of England. Lennon would later say they smoked bud in the bathroom at Buckingham Palace.
Cannabis had been banned in Great Britain since 1928, and recreational reefer remained on the margins, confined mainly to Caribbean migrants, until flower power blossomed in Merry Olde England. The Beatles were at the forefront of efforts legalize cannabis. In 1967, they paid for a controversial, full-page advertisement in The Times of London, which criticized Britain’s marijuana laws as “immoral in principle and unworkable in practice.”
Specifically, the ad called upon the British government to:
- allow scientific research into cannabis
- remove cannabis from the list of dangerous drugs and make possession punishable by a fine
- permit the use of cannabis in private premises
- and release everyone imprisoned for marijuana possession.
The ad was signed by sixty-five British dignitaries, including two members of Parliament, a dozen prominent physicians and clergymen, numerous writers and artists, a Nobel laureate scientist, and the four Beatles.
The following year, the British Parliament’s Advisory Committee on Drug Dependence released a comprehensive study, known as the Wootton Report, which sparked a heated public debate by giving cannabis something very close to a clean bill of health. Headed by Baroness Wootton of Abinger, a social scientist of great repute, the advisory committee concluded that “the long-term consumption of cannabis in moderate doses has no harmful effects” and “the law is socially damaging, if not unworkable.”
Marijuana is “very much less dangerous than opiates, amphetamines, and barbiturates, and also less dangerous than alcohol [and] it is the personality of the user, rather than the properties of the drug, that is likely to cause progression to other drugs,” the Wootton Report asserted.
Those who had become habituated to viewing marijuana as a beastly menace were mortified by the report. As soon as Baroness Wootton presented her study, stodgy British officials denounced its findings. For the Beatles and millions of their pot-smoking fans, it was just another day in the life.
This article is adapted from Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana -- Medical, Recreational and Scientific by Martin A. Lee, director of Project CBD.
Copyright, Project CBD. May not be reprinted without permission.
Between seven and eight percent of people will develop PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) in their lifetime. Among military veterans, the rates are higher.
Care By Design recently surveyed 300 patients on their use of cannabis and other medications to treat PTSD. The survey asked what medications patients had been prescribed for their PTSD-related symptoms and what impact these medications—and cannabis—had on five telltale symptoms of PTSD: anxiety, depression, pain, anger or irritability, and sleep problems.
Among the findings of the survey:
- Respondents reported that cannabis was the most likely to improve PTSD symptoms and the least likely to make symptoms worse.
- Veterans reported being prescribed more pharmaceutical medications than civilians. They were also more likely to be prescribed medications that generally worsened their symptoms, including anti-psychotics, narcotic pain meds, and so-called mood stabilizers.
- The most common medication prescribed for the treatment of PTSD among survey respondents was anti-depressants. Yet, few report these were effective. Only 18% of respondents said their depression got better on anti-depressants. Half reported that their depression got worse on anti-depressants.
- Roughly half of respondents reported they had been prescribed narcotics for PTSD, and a majority of them reported that their anger and irritability, depression, and sleep problems got worse while they were on narcotics.
- Half of the respondents reported using CBD-rich cannabis to treat their PTSD symptoms.
- 80% of respondents reported that they consume less alcohol when using cannabis.
While largely anecdotal and limited in scope, this survey offers hope for PTSD sufferers. A growing body of research suggests that there is a strong connection between the endocannabinoid system and PTSD, and that cannabis therapy may help address the root causes of PTSD, including impaired fear extinction, poor memory consolidation, and chronic stress.
Miguel Molina recalls growing up in a rural Sonoma County home where his parents kept a jar of cannabis tincture on the kitchen shelf. Cannabis stems, leaves and roots steeped in alcohol were packed inside a big container next to other home-brewed herbal remedies. And when someone in the family needed it, the cannabis tincture was applied as a liniment on sore joints and muscles.
Miguel’s coming of age with cannabis was not unusual for a child in a poor Latino community in California. Cannabis concoctions had long been a staple of Latin American folk medicine, and every part of plant was utilized for therapeutic purposes in Molina’s household. The grownups kept the psychoactive flower tops for themselves. “My father let me grow cannabis in the garden, ” Molina explained, “because he didn’t want his son dealing with criminals out in the street.”
The familial connection to the herb has stayed with Molina, whose bold, baritone voice is heard regularly on KPFA’s “Flashpoints,” an award winning investigative radio show, which he cohosts and produces in Berkeley. Molina’s on-air broadcasts cover a range of social justice issues, including the underrepresentation of Latino voices and other minorities within the rapidly evolving cannabis industry
Emboldened by California’s recent decision to implement state regulations for medical marijuana commerce, Molina and several colleagues announced in November 2015 the formation of La Raza, a multifaceted, aboveground support network for Latino farmers, trimmers, and other cannabis laborers.
In Spanish, "la raza" means race. It signifies pride for Native American and Latino heritage. Coincidentally, the word raza can also refer to “strain,” as in cannabis strain, the plant of focus for Molina’s advocacy organization. Much of Latino culture, he tells Project CBD, is rooted in agriculture. Cultivating cannabis and other plants is woven into Latino society, along with a history of subsistence farming and sociopolitical upheaval. La Raza’s T-shirts prominently feature an image of Poncho Villa, the Mexican revolutionary leader, smoking down on his mota.
“People think marijuana smoking came out of the 1960s when hippies discovered it. We [Latinos] have been smoking marijuana since the 1920s,” said La Raza director Molina, who knows all too well the racist roots of Reefer Madness and the repressive years that followed. Cannabis prohibition in the United States began as an anti-Mexican smear campaign and punitive anti-marijuana laws have functioned as an instrument of social control that continues to disproportionately target ethnic minorities, especially youth.
La Raza attorney and cofounder Jonathan Melrod says that La Raza will provide legal services for cannabis farmers and agricultural laborers, many of whom are undocumented. These are among the most vulnerable and exploited workers in the cannabis industry. They are in need of legal protection and expert counsel on complex immigration and employment matters.
But according to Molina, groups that advocate for rights of immigrants and migrant laborers are apt to overlook those who work with California’s largest cash crop. La Raza has reached out to the United Farm Workers and other Latino farmers in search of alliances that will boost union membership and empower Latino cannabis growers at a time when the cannabis industry as a whole is in transition.
Under new regulations adopted by the state government, California farmers can apply for a license to grow cannabis. La Raza offers assistance to Latino farmers who want to get a legitimate business license. But many Latino growers “are deterred from seeking a license because they don’t have papers,” says Melrod, “or they are fearful of being on watch list or they don’t have access to correct information about the law and what their rights are.”
As the green rush picks up speed, La Raza reminds us not to forget those who are doing the heavy lifting.
For more information, visit: www.larazacannabis.com
Copyright, Project CBD. May not be reprinted without permission.
Adapted from the forthcoming book, The Thinking Patient’s Guide to Cannabis & Cancer (vol. I) by Jonathan Treasure, which Project CBD highly recommends. A free download of the complete 2nd chapter (partially excerpted below) is available here.
The Mechanic and the Gardener
Seeing herbs as either poison or panacea is unhelpful, but so is vilifying either modern mainstream or traditional herbal medicine. A more useful way to illustrate the differences between the two would be by comparing the approaches of a gardener and a mechanic.
Mainstream medicine tends to see the body as a machine—albeit a complex one. A machine is understood in terms of basic principles of engineering design, where the assembly of component parts follow predictable rules of organization and behavior; a malfunction can usually be fixed by logical fault-finding (diagnosis) and mending or replacing the defective part—a mechanical approach.
For herbal medicine, the body is more like a garden—an ecosystem unto itself, a complex network of inter-relating and interdependent systems in which the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Malfunction can arise from stressors or perturbances which, if uncorrected, lead to imbalances that, over time, manifest as patterns of disease. Fixing problems therefore involves adjustments to the terrain or ground . . . much like the job of a gardener.
Put another way, when things go wrong, mainstream medicine tends to focus on the problem in terms of the pathology and the disease, whereas herbal medicine tends to look at the person who has the disease.
In terms of cancer, this is classically described as the polarity between tumor and host, the latter being the terrain or ground in which the tumor develops. Extending our horticultural theme, cancer could be likened to an invasive weed. Weeds thrive in disturbed and neglected ground, so amending the soil (checking its pH, mineral content and feeding it with appropriate micronutrients) can prevent invasive weeds from taking root. Similarly, creating an internal "anti-cancer" garden or terrain within the body is one of the more important ways in which herbs can be used to prevent cancer and inhibit its progression. And, as is the case with chemotherapy and other heroic cancer treatments, killing weeds with poisons and herbicides that cause collateral damage to the surroundings is not necessarily the best way to clear them from a garden—although at times it may be the only way.
In any event, there will always be gardeners who have a mechanical approach, and mechanics who can be as artistic as gardeners. In practice, especially with cancer where the situation is rarely simple, the smart patient will seek out gardeners who understand mechanics and mechanics who are gardeners.