Welcome, class. Today in Weed 101, we’re going to take a comprehensive look at cannabis as a medicine and see if we can arm ourselves with some important knowledge to carry forward.
First of all, a bit of review: Yes, this is, without a doubt, a “real thing,” not some sort of shenanigans perpetuated by stoners in an attempt to take their beloved wacky weed from illegal back-alley status to respectability. The fact is, cannabis happens to be a plant that promotes overall human wellness and contains chemical compounds that treat certain diseases and maladies more effectively than any other substances known to medical science. Two of the primary chemicals found in cannabis, THC and CBD, are being shown, through research, to be highly effective medicines and they loom large in the treatment of ailments from pain and nausea to cancer and seizure disorders.
When Richard Nixon decided to classify cannabis to the Drug Enforcement Agency’s Schedule I, he halted domestic research on a substance that has a record going back millennia as being one of the most consistently effective folk remedies in human history. Combined with the international Single Convention Treaty, an anti-drug measure that took hold in 1975, research into potential medical avenues of use for cannabis was effectively stalled out for a quarter century.
OK, now that we’ve assimilated all of that weed history, let’s get a look at where we are today when it comes to medical marijuana and try to bend our gazes around the corners of the future to see where this might take us.
In the following decades, when cannabis was forced underground, amazing advances were somewhat unwittingly made by illegal breeders worldwide that have become important factors in the development of the plant as a base for important medical advances. With all research effectively halted, breeders of marijuana were left with only one avenue to distribute their plant: recreational use by illegal channels. As a result, plants were selectively bred for higher content of delta-9 tetrohydracannabinoid or THC, the psychoactive chemical compound present at more moderate levels in all cannabis plants. The THC content of plants from the 1970s, according to a University of Mississippi study, averaged 1.37 percent; in the ’80s, it had risen to 3.59 percent, and by 2008, this longitudinal study showed an average of 8.49 percent; in 2015, any one of us can walk down to the neighborhood weed shop and grab a strain with THC levels above 20 percent; the winner of the Mile High Cannabis Cup, a strain called Chem D.O.G. bred by Next Harvest, measured 32.13 percent THC content. A Colorado breeder who goes by the moniker RB-26 recently provided a sample of Gorilla Glue #4 that tested a dozen consecutive times between 30 to 33.5 percent in potency at multiple laboratories.
The offshoot of this selective breeding three decades down the line is that THC has been discovered to be one of the potentially best substances available for the treatment of cancer. Laboratory testing has shown that THC has the ability to cause cancer cell death without negatively affecting other nearby cells, an advantage over all preceding cancer treatments. This is the status of medical cannabis in the laboratory.
In the real world, there are people who have claimed to have been cured of cancer by using an extremely concentrated whole-plant cannabis extract. Rick Simpson is the leading advocate of this use of the plant and if it is a topic that interests you, I suggest reading his account of how cannabis saved his life.
The use of cannabis to cure cancer is among the most amazing and headline-worthy claims forwarded by this wonderful plant’s proponents, but it is far from the only one. In the next couple weeks we’ll take a look at its efficacy with treating seizure disorders and its amazing success rate with certain juvenile conditions and the laws that have changed as a result and at the overall uses of marijuana as a health tonic. Until then, have a great week, do a bit of reading on the topic (because you never know when it might be you who is next to be helped), and be well, DGO.
Christopher Gallagher lives with his wife and their four dogs and two horses. Life is pretty darn good. Contact him at [email protected]