At the dawn of a new decade, it is more important than ever to be educated about marijuana. No longer believed to be a “gateway drug” that always leads users down a dangerous path, marijuana is now seen as a near-miracle cure for a wide variety of illnesses, from epilepsy and schizophrenia to anxiety and depression, arthritis and chronic pain and more. Every year, more states permit medical marijuana usage and even pass recreational marijuana laws, which allow anyone over the age of 21 to partake in the good green herb.
Yet, even as the cannabis revolution winds down, many Americans remain unsure how to talk about weed. Hopefully, this guide will help anyone and everyone navigate the new cannabis culture, which is painting the world an earthy shade of ganja green.
Is Marijuana Good?
These days, marijuana is not the devil’s weed; it isn’t even seen as particularly bad for young people to experiment with the drug — as long as they are of legal age in a region where recreational use is permitted. Whether or not cannabis is “good” or “bad” is a matter of personal perspective, but it is safe to say that culturally, marijuana’s reputation is improving.
Thanks to revolutionary studies of the drug, we are beginning to understand that THC and CBD do have medical applications, unlike other Schedule I narcotics. As a result, it isn’t necessarily fair to immediately vilify anyone who uses marijuana, as they might be doing so to treat an otherwise unmanageable condition, like glaucoma or multiple sclerosis. If people are finding relief from the drug, it cannot be all bad, and it might be time to consider that the devil’s weed is causing some good in the world.
What’s in Marijuana?
Unfortunately, because cannabis remains illegal at the federal level, it remains difficult for labs across the nation to study marijuana. Thus, we only know bits and pieces about the drug and its effects. Fortunately, we do know that marijuana has active compounds, called cannabinoids, which provide all the physical and psychological effects.
The first and most plentiful cannabinoid is delta-9-tetrahydocannabidinol, or THC for short. THC is the cannabinoid that produces all the psychoactive effects of the drug — in other words, THC is what gets users high. Until the 1960s, growers could only produce marijuana plants with about 8 percent THC, but once breeding methods improved, growers generated strains with upwards of 19 percent THC. THC isn’t often discussed with regards to medicinal applications of marijuana, but the truth is that THC could be medically beneficial. Some studies indicate that THC is useful in cases of gastrointestinal distress as well as muscle control — but more research needs to be done before THC can be prescribed. Here are some links to published studies on THC:
The other major cannabinoid is called cannabidiol, or CBD. CBD doesn’t produce any psychoactive effects in users — in fact, researchers aren’t entirely sure what CBD does. Studies on CBD have found that it seems to reduce inflammation and pain and affect mood and mental function. Already, CBD has been applied to a prescription drug for epilepsy and a similar medicine is in tests for schizophrenia; meanwhile, sufferers of migraines, chronic pain, depression and anxiety have found relief from various CBD products. Researchers believe that CBD encourages the body to produce its own natural cannabinoids, called endocannabinoids, which bolster the immune system, but further research is certainly needed. Those interested can find more information about endocannabinoids, CBD and products at the following links:
What Are the Consequences of Legal Marijuana?
This isn’t the first time in American history that marijuana has been legal. In fact, many of the U.S.’s founding fathers grew hemp (and likely psychoactive marijuana) on their plantations; it wasn’t until the 1930s — when American authorities wanted an excuse to search and detain citizens and immigrants of Mexican descent — that marijuana became illegal to grow, sell and possess.
Despite marijuana’s continued designation as a Schedule I drug, most research indicates that it is all but impossible to overdose on the drug and that true addictions or dependencies are rare. In fact, marijuana does not produce a physical dependency like alcohol, nicotine and caffeine do, meaning it could be safer than these legal and more socially acceptable drugs.
It is impossible to predict for certain about the ramifications of legalizing marijuana, but most likely, the states that have passed medical and recreational laws will see little difference — maybe see some additional tax money coming in. Those who continue to abhor the idea of marijuana use can continue to abstain from it, and those who enjoy partaking can do so without fear of criminal prosecution. The green herb is likely here to stay, so the more everyone knows about it, and the more everyone talks about it, the better.