Have You Ever Wondered How and Why Cannabis Ever Became Illegal In the First Place?
Today, marijuana is used by hundreds of thousands of people across America for many different reasons. Whether you suffer from PTSD or Irritable Bowel Syndrome, medical marijuana could likely help you.
Cannabis has been used for thousands of years all over the world. In order to fully understand the usefulness of cannabis, one must understand what plants are considered Cannabis.
Cannabis is a genus that belongs to the scientifically classified family of plants known as Cannabaceae. There are three species of Cannabis in the genus. These are:
- Cannabis Indica
- Cannabis Sativa
- Cannabis Ruderalis
Hemp is the term used for any variety of these cannabis plants that have less than .03% THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).
Ruderalis plants contain next to no THC and CBD; effectively rendering them useless for medicinal marijuana or CBD products.
They can, however, be used for hemp fiber and creating textiles.
In fact, the ropes of the ships that brought the very first pilgrims to the shores of America were most likely made of hemp fiber.
Ruderalis plants can also be bred with Sativa and Indica strains of cannabis to form hybrids. There is some debate over whether Ruderalis is a separate species entirely or a subspecies of Sativa.
“Cannabis is a genus that belongs to the scientifically classified family of plants known as Cannabaceae. There are three species of Cannabis in the genus. These are:
- Cannabis Indica
- Cannabis Sativa
- Cannabis Ruderalis”
Our purpose is not to debate this point, only to bring to your attention that there are clearly three forms of Cannabis.
This All Brings Us Directly to THC and CBD.
Why Are they important?
Let’s start with THC.
THC is one of the many cannabinoids, found in cannabis plants. In fact, they have discovered 112 cannabinoids in cannabis plants so far.
Don’t let the name cannabinoid fool you though. They are actually found in many other plant species around the world and you’ve likely consumed them.
Some common plants containing cannabinoids:
- Black pepper
If you’ve eaten anything with carrots, added pepper to your meal, or enjoyed a supplement with ginseng or echinacea, you’ve consumed cannabinoids.
Should you be arrested? Of course not. Did they make you high? Again, the answer is no. THC is the reason. There was no THC in these things you ate.
So what’s the deal with THC? Why is it so important to the reason cannabis was banned?
The Endocannabinoid System
You’ll need a quick biology lesson here. The human body contains a system that wasn’t discovered until 1992 at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem by Doctor Lumir Hanus and Dr. William Devane.
This system is called the Endocannabinoid System (ECS).
In the most recent twenty years, it has become very important and highly researched.
Because you might think of it as the computer that runs your fancy new automobile. It appears to control everything in your body.
In your car, when something isn’t running correctly, the computer brain of the car attempts to correct the issue and when it can’t, it alerts you by sending a signal — in the form of a light on your dashboard.
The ECS controls, or supervises, all the other systems in your body. When you feel pain, for example, it is the ECS that tells the body where to send the plasma that carries white blood cells with it for healing.
The ECS can regulate pain, send extra blood to the digestive system when it needs help with digestion, and it can also play a role in sleep regulation.
In fact, very little happens in your body without the involvement, and the direction, of the ECS.
In order to perform its duties, the ECS needs fuel. It produces its own fuel with the help of specialized enzymes. The enzymes promote the production of endocannabinoids.
“Wait,” you say, as it slowly sinks into your brain, “my body makes cannabinoids?” Indeed it does.
Endo simply is a Latin prefix that means ‘within.’ Cannabinoids made within, are endocannabinoids and they are just like the cannabinoids made by plants. We can now differentiate those as phytocannabinoids; phyto meaning plant.
We know that the body uses endocannabinoids to fuel the ECS so that it can perform the functions of maintaining balance in the body.
You may remember this term from high school biology as something called homeostasis?
The ECS is made up of three things:
- Cannabinoid Receptors
We’ve talked about two of the three things above. What are the Cannabinoid Receptors? The easiest way to envision them is to think of them as a lock that needs the right key to open.
Cannabinoid Receptors are attached to the exterior of cell walls, but they are not found on all cells. In fact, scientists are not 100% sure what triggers them to be placed on which cells.
There is a theory that when a cell is in trouble or needs something, the way in which it lets the body know is to form this receptor on the outside of its wall; thereby, inviting an endocannabinoid to come along and unlock it so that it can enter and promote healing at a cellular level.
This theory is, as of yet, not proven. Science is playing a game of catching up, you see. Why? Because for many years it was illegal to even possess any form of cannabis in the United States.
Research, tragically, wasn’t possible. Who knows how many years this may have set our society back? This all brings us back to THC.
So Why Was Cannabis Banned?
One reason only. Cannabis, the one we commonly refer to as marijuana, has THC in it.
Marijuana is almost always a hybrid of Indica and Sativa, with possibly some Ruderalis in its genetics as well. It is impossible to now find a pure form of either plant.
Marijuana has changed since the days that your grandmother was a hippie.
Why is THC so bad? Well, simply put, it messes with the brain. There are two types of cannabinoid receptors that we talked about earlier.
There is also some mounting evidence from all the research happening that there are more types as well.
These known receptors are:
While THC might bind to either type, it is more inclined to bind with the receptors that are most commonly found in the brain. These are the CB1 receptors.
THC, also called tetrahydrocannabinol, is a psychoactive agent that can impair cognitive function. In some people, it may even be the cause of hallucinations.
Sadly, this is what got Cannabis (all lumped in together, even though hemp never had enough THC in it to cause a high) to be part of the Nixon administration’s War on Drugs.
In 1970, Nixon signed into policy what is known as The Controlled Substances Act. This document declared marijuana to be a schedule I drug. This act put Cannabis in the same category as narcotics.
Hemp was just an innocent bystander. No textiles could be made, and hemp, which was also rich in CBD, was not available for the many uses that early settlers had enjoyed it for.
This is also a good time to mention that CBD, as far as we know right now, is only found in Cannabis. This is unlike the other cannabinoids that can be found in other plant species.
It’s likely that your great-grandparents used hemp in tea or in oils to help with pain, headaches, and other things.
Now that much research has been done, it is well-known that CBD, also known by its scientific name of cannabidiol, is very useful in its own right.
More extensive research is now finding that the other cannabinoids in Cannabis plants are purposeful and useful.
With this new knowledge, medical marijuana growers are using technology to create new strains of cannabis that have just the right amount of THC and CBD to target specific audiences.
This has become possible since California took bold action, following the discovery of the ECS. They legalized the use of medical marijuana. This flung open the doors for scientists to begin research once again.
Cannabis Walked Through The Open Door
After California, Colorado also took action, as did many other states. At the time of this writing, more than 20 states have either legalized medical marijuana or decriminalized it in their states.
In 2018, The Farm Bill Act was signed and it legalized, once again, hemp all across America. It is a highly restricted industry but you may now purchase hemp products in all fifty states.
Thanks to CBD-rich hemp, with less than .03% THC in it, the CBD oil blew open doors and began creating products to fill the gap in states that had not legalized marijuana yet.
Since the signing of that bill in 2018, hemp growers have expanded by more than 300% and the industry growth is climbing so exponentially that it cannot be accurately tabulated.
New products are introduced daily. Dab, slab, isolate, oil, tinctures, and amazing products such as soaps, fabric, even biofuels are being made with hemp!
Hemp uses less water to raise than other similarly used crops, such as cotton, which can use up to three times as much water and require more labor to grow and cultivate.
Hemp grows to full-sized plants in a matter of a few weeks, It can be planted and harvested within four months.
It is also naturally pest-resistant because of the natural terpenes in the plant that give cannabis its characteristic pungent odor. This means that hemp is a relatively easy crop to grow organically, leaving the environment happy as well.
We’ve Grown Wiser, Thankfully
Today, you can get a medical marijuana card in most states. In the states that don’t yet offer that form of cannabis, you may use CBD products from hemp which also serves many purposes.
Epidiolex is a medication, the first of its kind, to be approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) to be used for seizures by those afflicted with Epilepsy.
The active ingredient of Epidiolex is Cannabidiol, aka CBD. This opens the door to more research and consequently more knowledge about Cannabis and all the amazing things it can do.
And all those other cannabinoids, the other 110? We have learned that when they are all present in the formulation of products together, they work together as a team.
This has been dubbed The Entourage Effect and it appears to be very powerful. As more is learned about the other cannabinoids, you will certainly hear about new products that feature them in the future.
The future looks very bright for Cannabis. It took 48 long years, but Cannabis is back and helping more people every day. No one can argue the positive benefits of it.
There are still many legalities to be worked out, however. Many states, for example, have added laws that include driving under the influence of marijuana.
Insurance companies have changed rates for drivers that are prescribed medical marijuana in some states and in most states if you use medical marijuana you cannot own a gun.
Some of these are argued as extreme, particularly when alcohol seems to have the same impacts on the brain as medical marijuana. These things will be sorted out, no doubt, over the next 50 years.
Where we are led from here remains to be seen, but one thing is certain:
Cannabis is back for good.