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The rise of marijuana

Updated on December 8, 2016
Newspaper clipping evident of the marijuana scare of the times.
Newspaper clipping evident of the marijuana scare of the times. | Source

A short history

Some sources say marijuana was banned shortly after the Mexican Revolution, and the U.S. government used the ban to demonize Mexican immigrants during the early 1900s. Others claim that a man named Henry Anslinger is ultimately to blame — he was the head of the U.S. Department of Prohibition during… well, the Prohibition, and claimed alcohol was the real culprit, not marijuana. But when the Prohibition failed and alcohol became legalized again, Henry became desperate not to lose his job and, despite the opinions of 29 out of 30 leading specialists, became an anti-marijuana activist, creating the panic of “reefer madness” that subsequently gripped America. Still yet other sources say that marijuana was banned because it posed a threat to the paper industry (claims others report is least true of all).

Whatever the reason for marijuana’s ban in the U.S., one thing is clear. It wasn’t made illegal because the government feared for the citizens’ health. Instead, they were looking out for their own best interests and, thanks to developments in science presenting factual benefits from the plant and countless testimonies from marijuana users, 58% of Americans now support marijuana legalization. These statistics are evidenced by the fact that marijuana has been legalized for both recreational and medicinal purposes in four states: Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington.

The truth about Mary Jane

In this age of information, it’s near impossible to keep people under the notion of oppressive lies and ideas. In the “reefer madness” days, people accepted what they were told as fact because sources reporting otherwise weren’t as widespread as they are today. Still, Big Pharma doesn’t want too many people getting good ideas about marijuana because if word got out that multiple ailments could be treated with one natural, organic plant, well, what point would there be in supporting a pharmaceutical industry that produces medications often with lists of harmful side-effects outweighing the benefits?

Simply arguing that marijuana grows in nature isn’t really going to convince anyone of its worth, although I’ve used this argument myself because the fact that governments can and do outlaw Mother Nature in whichever capacity is absurd to me. But just because something grows in nature doesn’t make it good, or healthy, for us — take apples for example. Eating apples reaps many benefits for your body but eating too many of the seeds (about 200) could literally kill you.

The most effective arguments are those that show how science has validated marijuana’s benefits on the human body, and how those benefits outweigh the potential risks. The most important thing everyone must know is that ingesting marijuana in any form has thus far produced zero fatalities. Meanwhile, cigarettes have taken more than 20 million Americans alone since 1964. Excessive alcoholism claimed 88,000 victims in just four years, between 2006-2010.

Probably one of the most fascinating discoveries emerged in 2009 when scientists in the U.S. and Brazil learned “that the brain manufactures proteins that act like marijuana at specific receptors in the brain itself.” These receptors are found in the brain and are appropriately named cannabinoid receptors — they are part of a complex system of receptors (called endocannabinoid receptors) found in the human brain and throughout the nervous system. According to Dr. Dustin Sulak, founder of cannabis therapy education and research site healer.com, this receptor system is ultimately responsible for one key thing: homeostasis. It maintains this state by mediating new cell growth, managing pain, and minimizing damage to the body, among other things.

How do cannabinoid receptors have anything to do with marijuana?

Oh, not much… only the fact that marijuana also uses a cannabinoid receptor called THC which does for it what our cannabinoid receptors do for us.

Research has shown that small doses of cannabinoids from cannabis can signal the body to make more endocannabinoids and build more cannabinoid receptors. [x]

Known health benefits & risks of marijuana

Health benefits

  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services legally owns the method of using “cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants” (US 6630507 B1). Why? Because, according to the patent,cannabinoids can limit the damage caused by strokesand can treat neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, HIV-associated dementia, Down’s syndrome and heart disease.
  • Used in the treatment of Crohn’s disease.
  • Used in the treatment of children with severe epilepsy (also in decreasing the symptoms of Dravet’s Syndrome).
  • Of course, it’s no secret that marijuana has long treated glaucoma. Even so, medical marijuana is still not a recommended treatment option for most people suffering from glaucoma because of its “side-effects, short duration of action, coupled with a lack of evidence that its use alters the course of glaucoma” [x].
  • Some evidence suggests marijuana usage can increase lung capacity.
  • In regards to cancer, Cannabidiol, a medicinal compound found in marijuana, inhibits a gene called Id-1, which aggressive breast cancer cells use to spread throughout the body. In 1998, a biologist at Complutense University in Madrid, Spain published a paper documenting findings that the THC in marijuana caused apoptosis, or cell death, in C6 glioma cells (cancerous cells from a rat brain tumor). A 2006 study from Harvard showed that THC slows tumor growth. Of course, these are but a few of the studies conducted demonstrating the adverse nature of marijuana to many types of cancers. Furthermore, marijuana stimulates appetite and reduces the pain and nausea of chemotherapy.
  • Marijuana treats a number of mental health disorders, namely depression, anxiety, chronic stress, PTSD (including PTSD-induced nightmares) and even schizophrenia.
  • Marijuana is an organic pain reliever, especially to those suffering from multiple sclerosis.
  • It eases the symptoms of treating hepatitis C while simultaneously increasing the effectiveness of the treatment.
  • Marijuana use regulates your metabolism and keeps it healthy while also keeping your fasting insulin levels low [x].
  • Not only does marijuana treat HIV-associated dementia, as stated above. It’s also effective in treating autoimmune disorders in general, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, probably because of its anti-inflammatory properties [x].
  • It can be beneficial in treating children with autism.
  • Using marijuana can be used to reduce alcohol consumption and usage of other harder drugs.
  • Marijuana can protect the brain after a traumatic head injury.

Health risks

Thus far, the only documented risks of marijuana are:

  • the smoke damage to your lungs; and
  • the effect on your short-term memory while impaired.

So neither of those are appealing. But compare those two to the list of general side-effects most other prescription medications have, which are:

  • cancer,
  • heart problems,
  • physical deformation,
  • strokes,
  • and common side-effects, like dizziness and nausea. [x]

To summarize, marijuana is a plant, and like any other herbal remedy, has been used, recreationally and medicinally, for as long as humanity has been alive. If you aren’t comfortable with its use, don’t use it, but don’t try to impede others’ right to use it. Accept the growing marijuana culture as another milestone our diverse society must respect and normalize.

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