Comment: We're compiling here parts 1, 2, 3 and 4 of this article (published on July, October, November and December 2017 respectively)

CBD oil
If you had mentioned "cannabis" in a room of people two decades ago, you would have seen an immediate, violent schism between those who believed it was the gateway to opiate hell and depravity and those who felt it was a safer and gentler alternative to alcohol. Today, science is beginning to understand that there are many "layers" to the issue of marijuana use.

In this paper, we will attempt to start a dialog, a discussion which has been too long in coming. We will explore the available information (and even more misinformation), dispel the myths, and examine the role this plant can play in promoting health. Our ultimate goal is to clarify waters that have been long muddied by political, financial, and economic concerns totally unrelated to and unconcerned with the real properties of this "humble herb."

Laws against the use of marijuana are perhaps one last vestige of our puritanical heritage. (If it feels good; it is bad/immoral. Suffering is noble.) With the knowledge that we have today, continuing to insist people suffer and die unnecessarily through legally restricting access to hemp products and their curative or at least palliative properties is tantamount to intentional cruelty.

Cannabis, hemp, marijuana, or whatever name by which you know it is the most maligned, commonly referenced, commonly grown, and diversely used plant today - and has been throughout the history of the world. Take any culture where hemp has been available, either as a cultured crop or as an imported product, and go back in history as far as written records allow. You will find cannabis has been used as food, medicine, rope, fabric, oil, livestock feed, and currency. Today, in our chemical age, cannabis can be used for the following:
  • To provide a quickly renewable and sustainable source for paper pulp;
  • To make engineered building products (fiberboard, pressboard, and hempcrete, which is stronger, lighter, and more environmentally friendly than regular concrete);
  • To make plastics;
  • As a source for biofuel.1
  • In addition, growing hemp can provide bioremediation for contaminated soils (including radiation cleanup).1
Nutritionally, hemp seed is about 25 percent protein and higher in omega-3s than walnuts. It is a good source of iron and calcium and can be made into iced tea, brewed into beer, fermented into wine, distilled into other alcoholic beverages, or made into hemp milk.1

For the purpose of simplicity, rather than using the various botanical, common, and colloquial names for the hemp plant (cannabis, marijuana, "weed," hashish, tampi, ganja, etc.) we will use the term cannabis (its Latin name) to refer to those components that are used medicinally and hemp when we are discussing the fiber. We will also be talking about cannabinoids, which are the family of chemicals/biochemicals that occur naturally and almost exclusively in the hemp plant, and a few minor players with one important exception . . . but we will get to that later.

The Ancient and Not So Ancient History of Cannabis

Cannabis has been widely distributed for millennia. References to the plant show up on ancient Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets and in Egyptian hieroglyphics on palace and tomb walls. The earliest known woven hemp fabric was found in Northern China and dates back to 7000 BC. The Chinese emperor, herbalist, and writer, Chen-Nung, wrote about the medicinal use of hemp 5,000 years ago.2

Dating back to 600 BC, the Zend-Avesta, a sacred book of the Zoroastrian3 faith in India, mentions hemp's intoxicating properties. In Africa, hemp was used medicinally for dysentery, fevers, snake bite, and to ease the discomfort of childbirth.2

In the early part of England's Age of Exploration (15th through 17th centuries), England's sailing ships needed hemp for rope and sails. To meet this need, Henry VIII (1491 to 1547) required landowners to grow a quarter acre of hemp for every sixty acres of cropland.2 As England expanded colonization, it found new places to grow hemp.

The British began cultivating hemp in its Canadian colonies in 1606. The colony of Virginia started cultivating hemp in 1611. As early as 1632, the Pilgrims grew hemp in New England after learning about it from Native Americans.2

In 1619, America's first marijuana law was imposed on Jamestown Colony, Virginia, by King James I, who decreed that every colonist was required to grow 100 hemp plants for fiber for English export.4 The colonists were forbidden to spin or weave hemp and were told to buy the "finished product" of their agricultural labor, fabric . . . from England. Over the next 200 years, other laws were enacted to enforce the growing of hemp.4 These demands increased hemp production throughout Virginia and Maryland, but England saw little of it. New England merchants were a ready market for any hemp that was available. Hemp served as legal tender at the time and was an acceptable means of exchange for paying taxes.4

Our Founding Fathers considered hemp to be economically important to the new country; it was one of the three main crops George Washington grew at Mount Vernon.5 He was a hemp enthusiast and wrote, "Patriotic farmers should make the most of the Indian hemp seed, and sow it everywhere."6 Thomas Jefferson commented, "Hemp is of the first necessity to the wealth and protection of the country."6

The United States Census of 1850, which recorded information about people and their occupations, listed 8,327 hemp farms with a minimum of 2,000 acres, which provided hemp for the nation's production of cloth, canvas, and the cords used to bale cotton.7

Cannabis as Medicine: Early Research

In 1833, William O'Shaughnessy, an Irish physician, joined the British East India Company and took a position as professor of chemistry at the Medical College and Hospital, Kolkata (Calcutta). A member of the Medical and Physical Society of Calcutta, O'Shaughnessy observed the use of cannabis in Indian folk medicine.8 In 1839, he published the first of his articles on the use of cannabis, A Case of Tetanus, Cured by a Preparation of Hemp (the Cannabis indica).9 That same year, he also publishedan article with a broader focus, "On the preparations of the Indian Hemp or Gunjah," which discussed the benefits of cannabis for the treatment of "rabies, rheumatism, epilepsy, and tetanus."2

Although there is no cure for tetanus (except waiting until the effects of the toxin wear off),10 O'Shaughnessy discovered that cannabis relieved the wrenching spasticity (which can break bones and lock the jaw in a closed position [lockjaw is a common name for tetanus]), eliminated the excruciating pain, and increased the likelihood of survival (tetanus victims can die within four days of the onset of the disease). He found cannabis effective for relieving rheumatoid arthritis pain and controlling seizures, and conducted extensive research to find new applications. After he returned to England in 1841, he popularized its use there and introduced Cannabis indica to the Western world. American pharmacies started offering cannabis preparations in the 1850s.8

Pivotal Times

We are at a time in our history that can be compared to that when doctors and British seamen discovered the cause of scurvy, a disease with symptoms which include fatigue, spongy gums, skin spots, and bleeding from the mucus membranes followed by tooth loss, jaundice, neuropathy, and death by hemorrhage.11 (Could it be that many cases of the "plague" were simply extreme manifestations of scurvy?)

Scurvy is an ancient and ubiquitous disease. The classical Greek physician Hippocrates (c. 460 BCE-c. 380) wrote about its symptoms. Even before the Age of Exploration (early 15th century and until the early 17th century), a time when Europeans sailed across the oceans to find new trading partners, commodities, and trade routes, native cultures around the world had developed various herbal cures for the condition.11

Early evidence from the voyages of Vasco da Gama and James Lancaster suggested that citrus fruit cured scurvy, but the information was not widely disseminated nor applied. Ignorance of this meant that long distance voyages and a consequent lack of fresh food led to endemic and often fatal scurvy in both sailors and passengers.11

In 1753, James Lind, a Scottish surgeon in the Royal Navy published his book, A Treatise of the Scurvy, promoting the idea that citrus fruit was an effective treatment for the disease. At the time, the words "lime" and "lemon" were both used to describe any citrus fruit. Sadly, Lind's findings did not agree with the era's prevailing medical theory and were not applied until 40 years later.11

It was not until the early 19th century that lemons, a European import, and, later, British-colonies-grown limes were added to sailors' daily rations. (Unfortunately, the vitamin C level in limes was too low for them to be effective in preventing scurvy.) Nonetheless, limey became a nickname for British sailors.11,12 Scurvy remained a risk during long voyages and in wartime until the middle of the 20th century.11

Interestingly, two weeks of high vitamin C (ascorbic acid) supplementation is enough to cure scurvy, but people back then were ignorant of that fact. In the same way, ignorance of the benefits of cannabis exacerbated by unbridled self-interest has led to decades of unquantifiable and unnecessary suffering. As of September 2016, the United States government still held that cannabis was an illegal drug, while half of the states in the country and the District of Columbia, the seat of the Federal government, have legalized it in one form or another.13

The Danger of Federal Legalization

The US government continues to drag its feet on legalizing cannabis, ostensibly for concerns about its dangers. More likely, the concern is that Big Pharma, hand in hand with Congress, has not yet figured out how to lock out the "little guy" and appropriate something that has already started to slip past their fingers. When, in recent history, have we ever had a prescription medicine that is not manufactured by a drug company, not required to meet production standards, not standardized in dose or strength, and not dispensed through a chain of corner pharmacies? This precedent has to be terrifying to Big Pharma.

Cannabis is something different. It's a plant. Unpatentable - not because you can't patent plants. You can.
A plant patent is granted by the Government to an inventor (or the inventor's heirs or assigns) who has invented or discovered and asexually reproduced a distinct and new variety of plant, other than a tuber, propagated plant, or a plant found in an uncultivated state.14
The cannabis we have today is unpatentable because the plant is illegal at the federal level.

Although legalizing cannabis at the federal level sounds desirable, the end result may not be what we would like to envision: easy access to an affordable, effective medication for some of the worst diseases in our county. Universal, minimally restricted legalization at the state level, tempered with a true sense of fairness and compassion, would be ideal. Federal legalization bears with it a terrible risk. Why?

Legalizing cannabis at the federal level will open up the potential for patenting different strains. Monsanto and Big Pharma have the legal clout to push patents through, regardless of who actually develops the seed. Even if the "little guy" gets his patent, these companies have enough money to make it tempting to "sell out." And, as we have seen in the cases where doctors practicing alternative medicine get too strong a following, the government has a good number of ways to crush people and activities it is otherwise having difficulty in controlling.

Once all the various cannabis strains we have today have been "reallocated," once the patents have been "reassigned," and once Big Pharma has appropriated every kind of cannabis with any medicinal value, developing new strains will be in the hands of those who have stolen and now own the patents on the existing genetic strains. Any attempts to develop new strains independently will only work if enough individuals manage to reserve their own stocks of seed before the takeover, seeds that will never bear Monsanto's genetic markers.

A video on Netflix, GMO OMG,15explored the risk of GMOs and presented this following information, which gives readers some idea of the interlock of big agrochemical industry and the risks to our seed inheritance:
Monsanto and the other major agrochemical companies are also the world's biggest seed companies. The top three companies control 53 percent of the worldwide proprietary seed market.15
I would hate to have to figure out how to genetically engineer cannabis to be Round-up resistant. I would hate it even more if Monsanto used such a strategy to corner the cannabis seed market as they have done with corn - suing small farmers who replant seed because the seedsaving farmer's crop has been genetically damaged by pollen "blowover" from the Monsanto seed planted the next farm over. Monsanto argues that it does not go after farmers whose crops have trace amounts of Monsanto genetic material. But what if you are the small hemp farmer living next door to a big Monsanto-friendly hemp farmer and you save your seeds year after year? Eventually, your hemp is going to have a pretty high proportion of Monsanto genes. What then?

An example: The small cannabis farmer nurtures his crop. His big neighbor with Monsanto's Round-up-resistant cannabis seed sprays Round-up to kill the weeds around his plants (even though that would hardly be necessary because cannabis grows vigorously enough that other "weeds" are seldom much of a problem). Blowover from the Round-up spraying damages the small farmer's crop.

The next growing season, the small farmer plants some of the seeds he has saved from his surviving plants ... which due to pollen blowover come up bearing some of the Monsanto genes. Not a lot, but each year the proportion of Monsanto genes will increase, (especially if his neighbor is still spraying Round-up since plants with blowover Monsanto genetics will more likely survive the toxic assault). And eventually? The small farmer will get sued.

There is a BIG problem when Big Pharma has too much control. Drug costs escalate faster than any other marketplace commodity. Beyond all reason.

Sodium oxybate is a prescription medication used for patients who suffer from narcolepsy, cataplexy, and excessive daytime sleepiness. Gamma hydroxybutyrate sodium (GHB) used to be a sleep aid people could pick up in health food stores - at a cost that would not kill the wallet (maybe five or ten dollars a month). Because of concerns that it was being abused as a date rape drug, the FDA forced it off retail store shelves and gave the rights to distribute it as a pharmaceutical drug to one company. Since it has become a Schedule 1 "controlled substance" available as a Schedule 3 drug (Xyrem) from one provider, the price has gone up every year. Eight years ago, the price was $3,500 a month. As of summer 2016, the price was $10,000. By September, $12,500 a month - and higher again by the end of the year.

The ingredients to make GHB are inexpensive, and production is not complicated. However, because GHB is a Schedule 1 drug, people who possess, manufacture, or sell GHB or its precursors can be imprisoned for up to 20 years.16

The Politics of Cannabis
Cannabis and cannabinoids have been considered illegal for fewer than a hundred years, a minute period of time compared to the nine millennia for which we have evidence of its use by man. For the better part of human history, people have freely grown and used this plant to supply them with food, cloth, cordage, and medicine. Unfortunately, the United States government's policy regarding cannabis has affected the legality of hemp in almost every nation of the world.17
~Peter Guither. Why is Marijuana Illegal
In 1930, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics was established as a new division of the treasury department. The new director, Harry J. Anslinger, was an ambitious man. When he perceived that the scope of his position, which was to control illegally-used cocaine and opiates, did not meet his personal objectives for power, he chose to take advantage of his new position "to define both the problem and the solution."17Cannabis was used far more broadly than were cocaine or the opiates. Adding cannabis to his job description guaranteed that the organization beneath him would have to be substantial and visible. The fact that cannabis was used to a greater extent by more-or-less disenfranchised factions of the population (blacks, Mexicans, Latin Americans, musicians, political dissidents) made it even easier to gain support in targeting cannabis as an "enemy of the state."17

In 1933, the 21st Amendment to the Constitution repealed the 18th Amendment, ending prohibition. Four years later, the United States passed the first law in the world to outlaw cannabis, the United States Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. The American Medical Association completely opposed passage of the Act because it would place onerous demands on physicians, requiring them to pay a tax for prescribing cannabis, utilize special order forms to get it, and keep detailed records of its use. The AMA knew cannabis had value for the treatment of a number of conditions, held that objective evidence proving cannabis was harmful was insufficient, and expressed concern that the Act would obstruct subsequent research into its medicinal value.17

A Corrupt Legislative Process

Anslinger conducted two years of preliminary legislative meetings in secret. By the time the bill was presented to Congress, earlier pro-cannabis comments made by Dr. William C. Woodward, Legislative Council of the American Medical Association, were corrupted in such a way as to make it appear that the AMA was in full support of the law. Dr. William C. Woodward spoke to the committee on May 4, 1937, expressing his displeasure with the legislative process and the misinformation upon which it was based. A partial transcript, as recorded in the Shaffer Library of Drug Policy, follows:
Dr. Woodward: Unfortunately, I had no knowledge that such a bill as this was proposed until after it had been introduced. Before proceeding further, I would like to call your attention to a matter in the record wherein the American Medical Association is apparently quoted as being in favor of legislation of this character....

We are told that the use of marihuana causes crime.

But yet no one has been produced from the Bureau of Prisons to show the number of prisoners who have been found addicted to the marihuana habit. An informed inquiry shows that the Bureau of Prisons has no evidence on that point.

You have been told that school children are great users of marihuana cigarettes. No one has been summoned from the Children's Bureau to show the nature and extent of the habit, among children.

Inquiry of the Children's Bureau shows that they have had no occasion to investigate it and know nothing particularly of it.

Inquiry of the Office of Education . . . and they certainly should know something of the prevalence of the habit among the school children of the country, if there is a prevalent habit . . . indicates that they have had no occasion to investigate and know nothing of it.

Moreover, there is in the Treasury Department itself, the Public Health Service, with its Division of Mental Hygiene. The Division of Mental Hygiene was, in the first place, the Division of Narcotics. It was converted into the Division of Mental Hygiene, I think, about 1930. That particular Bureau has control at the present time of the narcotics farms that were created about 1929 or 1930 and came into operation a few years later. No one has been summoned from that Bureau to give evidence on that point.

Informal inquiry by me indicates that they have had no record of any marihuana or Cannabis addicts who have ever been committed to those farms.

The Bureau of Public Health Service has also a Division of Pharmacology. If you desire evidence as to the pharmacology of Cannabis, that obviously is the place where you can get direct and primary evidence, rather than the indirect hearsay evidence.

But we must admit that there is this slight addiction with possibly and probably, I will admit, a tendency toward an increase.

So that we have to raise the question at the present time as to the adequacy or the inadequacy of our present machinery and our present laws, to meet the situation. Those laws are, of course, of two kinds, the Federal laws and the State laws.

As to the State laws, you have been told that every State has a marihuana or Cannabis law of some kind.

My own inquiry indicated that there are two States that had not; but at least 46 States have laws of their own, and the District of Columbia, contrary to what has been told you, has a law that has been in force since 1906 and even at an earlier date.

The District of Columbia law, insofar as it relates to Cannabis, is a part of an act passed by Congress in 1906 entitled "An act to regulate the practice of pharmacy and the sale of poisons in the District of Columbia, and for other purposes," approved May 17, 1906, and originally published as 34 Statutes, 175, which is now to be found in the District Code, section 191 and following.

It limits the sale of Cannabis, its derivatives and its preparations to pharmacists and persons who are authorized assistants to pharmacists.

And in the case of sales by pharmacists and their authorized assistants, there must be either a prescription from an authorized physician, or there must be due inquiry and a proper record made so as to assure the proper use of the drug.

No one, whether a pharmacist or not, under this law, has any right to sell any preparation of Cannabis indica to any person under 18 years of age except on the written order of an adult. The penalties are rather heavy and the direct duty of enforcing the law is placed on the major and superintendent of police and the corporation counsel of the District of Columbia.

More interesting possibly is the Federal law relating to the matter. You have been told, I believe, that there is no Federal law. The Federal law is a very direct and positive law and I shall be glad to indicate what seems to me to be the basic principle of it.

To go back, if you will, to about 1929 or 1930, when a bill was before Congress proposing to require every physician in the United States who desired to prescribe or dispense narcotic drugs to obtain a Federal permit before he did so. The medical profession objected to any such Federal control, even if it had been possible. It was not only impracticable, because of the size of the country and the number of physicians, but clearly, I think, most of us will admit, a law of that kind is clearly beyond the power of Congress.
At that time there was incorporated in the act this provision:

'The Secretary of the Treasury shall cooperate with the several States in the suppression of the abuse of narcotic drugs in their respective jurisdictions and to that end he is authorized (1) to cooperate in the drafting of such legislation as may be needed, if any, to effect the end named, and (2) to arrange for the exchange of information concerning the use and abuse of narcotic drugs in said States and for cooperation in the institution and prosecution of cases in the courts of the United States and before the licensing boards and courts of the several States.

The Secretary of the Treasury is hereby authorized to make such regulations as may be necessary to carry this section into effect.'
Mr. Vinson: What statute is that?

Dr. Woodward: That is the United States Code, 1934 edition, title 21, section 198. It is the statute of June 14, 1930.

Mr. Vinson: To what does it refer?

Dr. Woodward: To the statute that created the present Bureau of Narcotics. If there is at the present time any weakness in our State laws relating to Cannabis or to marihuana, a fair share of the blame, if not all of it, rests on the Secretary of the Treasury and his assistants who have had this duty imposed upon them for 6 and more years.18
With a boatload of inflammatory articles from William Randolf Hearst's yellow journalism publications, Harry J. Anslinger railroaded the bill through Congress in almost record time, with passage on October 1, 1937.17

The United States Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 was not so much a reaction to the true dangers of the drug as it was the product of a corrupt and insidious agenda, which included the following:
  • Racism - Marijuana was more heavily used by the black population, Mexicans, and Latin Americans, so the law was a tool designed to penalize these groups of people.
  • Fear - Marijuana was linked with violent behavior and the fear that marijuana users (see Racism) would hang around school yards, expose (white) children to marijuana, and the children would be enslaved by the drug. Or that marijuana users (see Racism) would become crazed by marijuana, rape (white) women, and go on murderous rampages.
  • Protection of Corporate Profits - Marijuana was effective for many conditions and impinged on the corporate profits of the pharmaceutical companies.
  • Yellow Journalism - William Randolf Hearst was friends with DuPont, who had just developed nylon, which competed with hemp. Hearst published extensive diatribes against marijuana, salacious fabrications designed to terrify and titillate his audiences (see Racism and Fear).
  • Ignorant, Incompetent, and/or Corrupt Legislators - Those who wanted to appear to be tough on crime did so by passing this rigorous drug legislation.
  • Personal Career Advancement - Harry J. Anslinger, newly-named director of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, used the opportunity "to define both the problem and the solution," adding the more widely used cannabis to build the scope of his agency's responsibilities.
  • Greed - The lurid stories William Randolf Hearst invented about the dangers of cannabis sold newspapers, made him rich, and forced cannabis underground for the better part of a century.17 These stories and the passage of this law also protected the interests of his good friend DuPont and the profits of the pharmaceutical companies.
At the 1936 Convention for the Suppression of the Illicit Traffic in Dangerous Drugs, the American government tried to get participating countries to criminalize the non-medical and non-scientific "cultivation, production, manufacture, and distribution" of opium, coca ... and cannabis. The majority of the countries present wanted to keep the focus on illicit trafficking. When the final version of the agreement only called upon the countries to severely punish drug traffickers, the US refused to sign it. In short time, the US exerted enough political and financial pressure to push through its agenda, establishing cannabis as a deadly narcotic drug.19

More recently, the Controlled Substances Act established federal US drug policy regulating "the manufacture, importation, possession, use and distribution of certain substances."20 Passed by the 91st United States Congress as Title II of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, the statute was signed into law by President Richard Nixon.20

As defined by this statute, a Schedule 1 drug is the following:
  • A drug or other substance that has a high potential for abuse.
  • A drug or other substance that has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.
  • A drug or other substance which is unsafe for use under medical supervision.21
It is illegal to write prescriptions for Schedule 1 drugs.21

Cannabis and its medicinal compounds have often been perceived as a threat to "organized" medicine, as have other non-toxic healing modalities such as homeopathy. Classifying cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act was highly effective in making cannabis unavailable for pharmacological applications or even research.

Cannabis, Research, and Big Pharma
To conduct clinical drug research with Cannabis in the United States, researchers must file an Investigational New Drug (IND) application with the FDA, obtain a Schedule I license from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and obtain approval from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.22
The legalization of cannabis still struggles today, with a patchwork of 25 state laws superseding its illegal status at the Federal level. Cannabis first became illegal, in part, because the pharmaceutical companies could not figure out how to quantify it or measure it. Today, at best, they can offer synthesized imitations of specific cannabinoids, but many researchers suspect that the effectiveness of natural cannabis may depend on the symbiotic and synergistic interrelationship of several or even many of the more than 100 cannabinoids in the plant.

Cannabinoids are the chemical constituents in the cannabis plant, some of which can produce specific and powerful effects on the human body. The most familiar of these is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (more commonly called THC), known for its psychoactive effects. The second cannabinoid researchers have worked with extensively is cannabidiol (also known as CBD), an immune system modulator. Many more, which to date are considered to be "minor in effect," remain untested.23

To further confuse the issue, different strains of cannabis have different "formularies." We use the term formulary loosely. In modern use, a formulary is "a list of prescription drugs covered by a prescription drug plan or another insurance plan offering prescription drug benefits."24 Traditionally, however, a formulary contained "a collection of formulas for the compounding and testing of medication"25-that is, it was a recipe book. And it is in that sense that we use the word, although the formularies of the different varieties of the cannabis plant are not recipes for laboratory-synthesized chemicals, but descriptions of what is observed or discovered through chemical analysis.

For Big Pharma, the fact that different strains of cannabis have different amounts of each of the over 100 cannabinoids makes synthesis and testing of each to the degree required by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) a Herculean job of almost incomprehensible complexity. With the potential need for testing pairs of cannabinoids, triplets of cannabinoids, and all the permutations of cannabinoids, the task becomes impossible, especially when we consider that what needs to be tested is not only the combinations of cannabinoids but the combinations at various strengths and ratios.

Doctors who specialize in pain management or any of the conditions for which cannabis provides benefits and the experts who run cannabis dispensaries will often have the wisdom that comes from experience and will be able to recommend the strains of cannabis most effective for the symptoms and conditions being treated. Patients and caretakers of patients using dispensary-provided cannabis are faced with the need to self-titrate their medication-which is not necessarily a bad thing.

Too often, commercial pharmaceutical drugs are available in specific doses. Physicians prescribe the dose they believe best suits the patient and the condition. If the dose is not enough, the physician can only prescribe a different amount in the increments in which the drug is manufactured. If the patient has a "bad day" and feels the need for just a little bit more of the medication, that extra bit is not an option. If the patient feels that s/he is getting too much of the drug or the side effects become overwhelmingly uncomfortable, the choice may be to either keep taking it until such time as s/he is able to get in to see the doctor to get the dose adjusted, or not to take the drug at all. The difference between a commercial (prescription or over-the-counter) pharmaceutical drug in pill form and a self-titrated medication is like the difference between a light operated by a standard on-off switch and one run off a rheostat, where the light level can be dialed up or down depending on the need for illumination.

Liquid prescription or over-the-counter medications afford the opportunity to adjust dose. One of the authors of this paper kept a leftover bottle of prescription codeine cough syrup in her refrigerator. If she came down with a screaming sore throat, she took the maximum recommended dose to alleviate the pain until she could get into a doctor to get a prescription for an antibiotic. As the sore throat abated, she cut back on the dose until her throat had healed and kept the rest of the bottle so she would have it available for the next sore throat. Probably not the best idea, but it worked . . . for five years.

In the same way, a cancer patient using cannabis for cancer pain can adjust the amount used to find the "sweet-spot" where the pain is sufficiently alleviated and the side effects not overwhelming. The epileptic can experiment to find the right amount to keep seizures under control, but not limit functioning. Yes, finding that sweet-spot can be difficult because of the delay between cannabis administration and drug action, but who better to figure out the "right" amount than the subjects who know what they are experiencing.

The same author noted above recently visited Colorado and talked with a woman who worked in a resort shop. The woman said she and her daughter had moved from Minnesota in the past year because doctors failed to stop or even slow the daughter's almost daily epileptic seizures. Within a week on Charlotte's Web, a high-CBD-content Cannabis sativa L. strain with less than 0.3% THC,26 which she supplemented with another cannabis preparation, the daughter's seizures stopped. The 28-year-old was able to get a driver's license and hold down a job for the first time in her life, and the mother was freed to work because she no longer had to serve as a caretaker.

The "Big Pharma"/governmental regulatory alliance, where heads of the regulatory governmental agencies and the heads of the largest pharmaceutical companies play a never-ending game of "musical chairs," puts "the foxes in charge of the henhouse." The argument for placing top-level drug company executives in top-level regulatory agency positions is that these executives are the people who best know the drug industry. The argument against it is that any rational human being has a hard time setting aside personal interests in favor of the general welfare, especially when prioritizing the general welfare could financially impact the company where s/he last worked, where his/her pension is vested, his/her cronies work, and where s/he might be hoping to return to employment in a high-status, cushy job sometime in the future-to the tune of millions of dollars.

Big Pharma would like nothing better than to squelch cannabis legalization or to control cannabis distribution, neither of which is in the best interests of the American people or any other peoples on this planet. With "last season's" Big Pharma CEOs heading the regulatory agencies charged with governing the drug manufacturers, is it little wonder the drug industry and its regulation are rife with problems?

All too often, we have seen dangerous and deadly prescription drugs foisted on the public at obscenely high prices (then later recalled after physical/mental functions and even lives have been lost); prescription drugs prescribed to ameliorate the uncomfortable side effects of other drugs; prescription drugs that blunted cognitive function and mimicked dementia-depriving patients of years of their lives; prescription drugs taken by parents that destroyed the lives of their children (thalidomide); and misdiagnoses resulting from the identification of drug side effects as new diseases rather than as accumulations of toxic chemicals in bodies more stressed by the treatment than they were by the disease.

Why does this happen?

It all has to do with money, the misuse of governmental authority, and nepotistic favors focused on sending an ever heavier stream of chemicals to the market, regardless of how those chemicals fared in the FDA's requisite safety and efficacy testing.

In order for a new prescription drug to be brought to market, the pharmaceutical company has to run trials to demonstrate "the drug's ability to produce the desired result (efficacy) and the type and likelihood of adverse effects (safety)."27 The FDA-required testing is rigorous and expensive. Yet, all too often, the "red flags" are ignored. Warning voices are shushed. Problems are dismissed as aberrations or labelled as study flaws. Incriminating evidence is "shuffled to the bottom of the stack," just so the product can be rushed to the market, advertised to the masses, and sold to people who believe that, in spite of repeated failures, the FDA "has their backs."

The pharmaceutical companies will argue that, even with millions of dollars of testing, mistakes are made. All too often, the telltale evidence was obvious but either overlooked (no one was competent enough to see it), ignored (someone was competent enough to see it, but was too irresponsible to say anything about it), or dismissed (someone was competent enough to see it, someone who was responsible enough to say something about it, but nobody was willing or ethical enough to do anything about it). The price the consumer pays for these "mistakes" (now more accurately defined as lapses in competence, responsibility, and ethics) is high. Consider, for instance, the drug Fosamax, introduced by Merck in 1995, for the treatment of osteoporosis.

Within several years, women started reporting thighbone breaks and jawbone death, although the FDA continually overlooked the problems. It wasn't until 2004 that the FDA found that long-term Fosamax use was conclusively linked to osteonecrosis (bone death) of the jaw, which causes the jawbone to deteriorate. Then, in 2008, the FDA warned that bisphosphonates were also linked to debilitating bone, muscle, and joint pain.

By 2009, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine linked long-term Fosamax use to esophageal cancer. In 2010, the FDA required Fosamax and other drugs in its class to include warning labels about the increased risk of thighbone fractures. In addition, medical researchers were making clear connections between Fosamax and irregular heartbeat and painful eye disorders that cause inflammation and distorted vision.28

Yes, Fosamax helped lay down new bone. But the bone it built was brittle and tragically prone to fracture. In older people, a broken hip is often a death sentence. You fall, your hip breaks, and you end up in the hospital, where you contract pneumonia from laying around, and then you die.

Just as tragic is the high incidence of breast and reproductive cancers in the daughters of pregnant women who took diethylstilbestrol (DES) to prevent pregnancy complications and miscarriages. From the 1940s to the late 1980s, the FDA approved DES as an estrogen replacement therapy. Not only was the drug not effective for what it claimed to do, it left a legacy of fear, tragic disease, and deaths from breast cancer, cervical cancers, and virtually-impossible-to-detect-until-it-is-too-late ovarian cancers in the daughters of the mothers who took the drug.29

Thalidomide was prescribed to pregnant women in the 1950s to alleviate nausea and morning sickness. The result? The children of these women were born with shortened, malformed limbs, stumps, or no limbs at all. Worldwide, over 10,000 children were born with thalidomide-caused limb malformation and other internal abnormalities. Of these affected infants, fifty percent died. The FDA never approved thalidomide in the U.S. However, the drug was tested here, with the result that 17 US children were born with thalidomide-induced malformations.30

It is obvious, if you are big enough and rich enough, you can get away with murder.

Discovery and Functions of the Endocannabinoid System

Up until the 1980s, the National Institute of Drug Abuse subsidized cannabis studies with the objective of proving that the drug was toxic. What actually came out of those studies was a new understanding of how the human brain functions on the chemical level. As noted by Martin A. Lee, the breakthroughs which resulted were "among the most exciting developments in brain chemistry of our time (and) spawned a revolution in medical science and a profound understanding of health and healing."31,32 Studying the plant led to the discovery of a previously-unknown, immensely-important physiological system.32

In 1964, Raphael Mechoulam, an Israeli organic chemist and professor of Medicinal Chemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, and his colleague, Yechiel Gaoni, identified and synthesized tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Up until then, scientists had learned a lot about the pharmacology, biochemistry, and clinical effects of cannabis, but no one understood how it worked in the brain at the molecular level. How could one herb "alter consciousness, stimulate appetite, dampen nausea, quell seizures, and relieve pain"? How did marijuana smoke stop an asthma attack instantaneously?32

In 1973, American researchers at Johns Hopkins University found the sites in the human brain, receptors, where opioids fit, each one like a key in a lock. These receptors, "specialized protein molecules embedded in cell membranes,"32 are locations in the brain to which specialized chemicals (neurotransmitters) attach, triggering brain cells to start, stop, and/or regulate functions within the body and the brain.33

A neurotransmitter is a chemical messenger used by the body to transmit a signal from one neuron (nerve cell), across a chemical synapse (gap) to a "target" neuron, muscle cell, or gland cell.34 Conventional neurotransmitters are water-soluble. They are stored in high concentrations in little packets (vesicles) at the tips of neurons. When a neuron fires, an electrical signal travels down its axon to its tips (pre-synaptic terminals), releasing the neurotransmitters. The neurotransmitters jump the gap (the synaptic cleft) to receptors on the next (postsynaptic) neuron.34

Why would the human brain have these sites that were seemingly custom-designed for such strong and often dangerous drugs as morphine and heroin? The answer appeared the following year, when two independent groups of researchers identified endorphins-endogenous (produced naturally in the body) morphine.35,36

Immediately after discovering endogenous endorphins, scientists began the search for similar receptor sites for cannabis. The answer to whether such sites even existed required the development of a potent synthetic cannabinoid, which Allyn Howlett, William Devane, and associates then used to test rats-scientifically proving, in a study at the St. Louis University School of Medicine, that rats' brains had cannabinoid receptors. The following year, at the National Institute of Mental Health, Ross Johnson and Lawrence Melvin, past associates of Howlett and Devane, localized cannabinoid receptors in the brains of humans and other species.32

Interestingly, there are more cannabinoid receptors in the brain than there are of any other class of neurotransmitter receptor. But, where were they located? After Pfizer developed a potent, synthetic THC, researchers radioactively tagged the molecules. This THC bonded to the cannabinoid receptors, providing a detailed map of their locations. Concentrations were found " regions responsible for mental and physiological processes: the hippocampus (memory), cerebral cortex (higher cognition), the cerebellum (motor coordination), the basal ganglia (movement), the hypothalamus (appetite), the amygdala (emotions) and elsewhere."32

The cannabinoid receptor, which appears in all animals except insects, is a protein made up of a scrunched-up chain of 472 amino acids zigzagging seven times in a transmembrane weave set on a cell's surface.37 "Cannabinoid receptors function as subtle sensing devices, tiny vibrating scanners perpetually primed to pick up biochemical cues that flow through fluids surrounding each cell."32

In contrast to endorphins, endocannabinoids are fat based. Upon stimulation of a cell, the endocannabinoids are quickly synthesized from their precursors located all over the cell membrane and then released.32 The neurotransmitters the body produces are referred to as endogenous ligands. Some of these endogenous ligands partner with the cannabinoid receptors, and some pharmaceutical drugs mimic the endogenous ligands and can be used to boost the body's function in a desired direction.32

At the July 18, 1990, meeting of the National Academy of Science's Institute of Medicine, Lisa Matsuda reported that her team at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) had identified the DNA sequence of a rat's THC-sensitive receptor and "had successfully cloned the marijuana receptor."32 The cloned receptor enabled scientists to design molecules to fit the receptor, building agonist "keys" to turn the receptor on and antagonist "keys" to turn it off.32

This key-lock analogy gets hijacked when we ask, "Why do different strains of cannabis cause different psychoactive responses?" The receptors stay the same. It would seem that, if a key fits, it would unlock the door, period. The answer is in the type of agonist fitting the lock. Each type of agonist will distort the transmembrane in a distinctive way: each specific reshaping of the transmembrane stimulates a cascade of a different set of chemicals. It is as if "an assortment of keys unlocks the same lock, but the door opens into different rooms" depending on the key used.37

Genetically engineered mice lacking the CB1 receptor failed to respond to THC, proving that THC brought about its effects through cannabinoid receptor activation in the brain and central nervous system.32

In a short time, researchers discovered a second cannabinoid receptor and named it CB2. This receptor resided in the brain but was more heavily and widely distributed in the immune and peripheral nervous systems, and "in the gut, spleen, liver, heart, kidneys, bones, blood vessels, lymph cells, endocrine glands and reproductive organs,"32 on leukocytes, where they may modulate cell migration at a higher than normal cannabinoid dose,38 and on the microglia in the brain (which has implications for the treatment of Alzheimer's).38 While the CB1 receptor mediates psychoactivity, CB2 exerts a powerful influence on the body's immune system.32

In 1992, Raphael Mechoulam, in collaboration with NIMH research fellow William Devane and Dr. Lumir Hanus, discovered a naturally-occurring "endocannabinoid" (a cannabinoid produced within the body) that attached to the same mammalian CB1 brain-cell receptors as did THC. They named it "anandamide," using as its basis the Sanskrit word for bliss39 (anandin: blissful, making happy40). In 1995, Mechoulam's group discovered a second major endocannabinoid, 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). This one formed bonds with both CB1 (THC) and CB2 (CBD) receptors.39

Mechoulam found that the body builds anandamide and 2-AG at the time they are needed, using localized fatty acid precursors. These endocannabinoids then act in unique and characteristic ways, primarily in the area of the body where they were "assembled." However, local action does not mean that anandamide and 2-AG are limited within the body; the precursors are located throughout the body and "are involved in most physiological systems that have been investigated."32,39

As noted above, most CB2 receptors are located on immune cells and tissues. The primary nonpsychotropic cannabinoid, cannabidiol (CBD), appears to be an inverse agonist because it dampens the psychotropic effect of THC. Although it does not appear to directly affect CB1 or CB2 receptors, it may boost anandamide (an endogenous CB2-receptor-friendly cannabinoid) activity. Stimulating CB2 receptors alters the body's inflammatory and immunosuppressive activities.32

For the CB1 receptor, the full agonist is HU-210 (synthetic), partial agonists are delta-9- tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) (found in cannabis) and anandamide (made by the body). The antagonist is rimonabant (a synthetic used for weight control); the inverse agonist cannabidiol (CBD) does not directly interact with CB1 but appears to influence it "from a distance." The exact combination of agonists, antagonists, and inverse agonists in cannabis is unknown.41

Thus, in researching THC metabolism, scientists made the amazing discovery of a molecular signaling system that controlled diverse biological functions. The endocannabinoid system, named for the cannabis plant that brought it to light, is ancient and began its evolutionary journey over 600 million years ago, a time at which the most highly-evolved organisms on earth were sponges.32

Today, endocannabinoids and endocannabinoid receptors are present in every animal lifeform, aquatic or terrestrial, with the exception of insects. The fact that the endocannabinoid system took so long to evolve and the fact that it is uniformly present in so many species (both vertebrate and invertebrate) suggests that the endocannabinoid system in animals is essential to basic physiological functioning.32

Endocannabinoids and their receptors modulate a variety of physiological processes in the brain: movement, nociception (the nervous system's response to harmful or potentially harmful stimuli42), brain reward, learning and memory, feeding, and emesis (vomiting). Peripheral processes impacted include those involved in immune regulation, the cardiovascular system, the reproductive endocrine processes, and energetic metabolism control.43

Three types of cannabinoids can trigger responses in CB1 and CB2 receptors: endogenous-fatty-acid cannabinoids, which are produced in the body; phyto-cannabinoids, which are present in an oil on cannabis plant leaf and bud surfaces; and laboratory-produced synthetic cannabinoids.23 The strength and purity of synthetic cannabinoids facilitated experimentation on a whole new scale. With synthetic cannabinoids, experimenters know the exact chemical composition and precise quantity of the drug they are testing, and they do not have to be concerned with whether the effect is the result of the drug they want to test or of some other cannabinoid or combination of cannabinoids in the cannabis. Phyto-cannabinoids do not exist in isolation in the cannabis plant.

Big Pharma genetically engineered a mouse with no CB receptors, and created an animal model of osteoporosis in both the No-CB-receptor and the normal mice. A synthetic cannabinoid was given to both groups of mice. The cannabinoid relieved the osteoporosis in the normal mice (those with intact CB receptors), but did nothing for the No-CB-receptor mice, proving that "CB receptors are instrumental in regulating bone density."32 Human bone is constantly broken down by cells called osteoclasts44 and rebuilt by cells called osteoblasts.45 A German research team eventually discovered that activating the CB2 receptor "down-regulated" osteoclast precursors; with fewer osteoclasts formed, the osteoblasts gained an advantage and bone was restored.32

We now understand the mechanism by which cannabis affects the body, modulating pain and analgesia, inflammation, appetite, gastro-intestinal motility, sleep cycles, glucose metabolism, and the ebb and flow of immune cells, hormones, and other mood-altering neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and glutamate.41

When a CB1 receptor is "keyed" by THC or one of the body's endogenous doppelgängers, cannabinoid receptors activate a series of cellular level biochemical changes that dampen physiological hyperactivity. Most neurotransmitters incite body responses, creating a reaction to the stimulus applied. Endocannabinoids are unique amongst neurotransmitters in that their effect is in the opposite direction; their interactions calm cellular and system activities, downshifting other neurotransmitters when they are "firing too fast," a "retrograde signaling" that reduces immune response, inflammation, and blood pressure; relaxes muscles; dilates bronchial passages; and stabilizes overstimulated nerves.32

Biologist Robert Melamede describes the endocannabinoid system, in his lectures and articles, as the "master modulator," triggering the human immune system to fight off viruses or bacteria with fever, and then signaling the immune system to reduce the fever when the threat is past. "Cannabinoids-endo, herbal, and synthetic-are anti-inflammatory; they literally cool the body," a response that may be beneficial: If the immune system is out of control-hyperactive-it may overreact and attack itself, opening the door for the development of an autoimmune disease or condition of chronic inflammation.46

Endocannabinoids play a significant role in embryonic development, particularly in promoting neural cell proliferation and differentiation in the embryonic brain. Surprisingly, CB receptor signaling also regulates adult neurogenesis (brain cell growth) and stem cell migration.46 High brain endocannabinoid levels follow strokes, head trauma, and other neurological "accidents" and appear to be the endocannabinoid system's attempt to protect the brain. Mechoulam believes the endocannabinoid system is "part of the body's 'general protective network, working in conjunction with the immune system and various other physiological systems.'" 46 His Nobel-worthy discoveries challenged the long-held beliefs that brain cells never grew and dead brain cells could never be replaced once a person reached adulthood. We now know that, as Mechoulam so insightfully noted, "The brain has a natural repair kit, an in-built mechanism of protection and regeneration, which can mend damaged nerves and brain cells."46

The Endocannabinoid System

The discovery of the endocannabinoid system not only changes our understanding of human body physiology, it is a game-changer in altering our approach to treating diseases and conditions we previously considered difficult or even impossible to control. Dr. Mauro Maccarrone, University of Teramo, Italy, describes the endocannabinoid system as the "guardian angel" of mammalian reproduction, with the endocannabinoid signaling system controlling the reproduction process-governing spermatogenesis, fertilization, transport of the zygote through the oviduct, implantation, and fetal development. Prolific placental CB receptors "pass messages" between the embryo and the mother. In maternal milk, endocannabinoids activate the newborn suckling response. A dysfunctional endocannabinoid system can be the underlying cause of colic. Israeli neuroscientist Ester Fride noted that No-CB-receptor mice suffered the same fate as human babies with "failure to thrive" syndrome-they weakened and died prematurely.46

Cannabinoid Therapies

PubMed, the US National Library of Medicine, National Institute of Health, lists over 1,200 research papers related to delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, 7,800 related to tetrahydrocannabinol, almost 15,600 referencing cannabis, over 21,000 which talk about cannabinoid, and over 1,500 with the term cannabidiol.

One example of a study that had both the terms cannabis and cannabidiol (CBD), "Cannabidiol rather than Cannabis sativa extracts inhibit cell growth and induce apoptosis in cervical cancer cells," reached the conclusion that both concentrated cannabidiol (CBD) and crude (unrefined) Cannabis sativa extracts (the latter of which would have the full range of cannabinoids) "were able to halt cell proliferation in all cell lines (types of cervical cancers) at varying concentrations," meaning that the cancer cells stopped growing and multiplying. They further revealed that apoptosis (cell death) was induced bycannabidiol.47 Stop the cancer cells from making new cells and kill the ones already there? Sounds like a great idea.

Researchers at St. George's Hospital, University of London, evaluated the in vitro effect of six cannabinoids (two forms of cannabidiol [CBD], two forms of cannabigerol [CBG] and two forms of cannabigevarin [CBGV]), separately and in combination, on cancer (leukemia) cells. Conclusions:
  1. Cannabinoids reduce cell number by being cytostatic. (stopping cell processes)
  2. Cytotoxicity can be achieved through a break in treatment (recovery phase).
  3. Cannabinoids alter cell signaling proteins.
  4. CBD acts non-antagonistically with other cannabinoids to reduce cell number.
  5. Cannabinoid activity is influenced by drug combination and treatment schedule.48
Cannabinoids, an amazing complex of biochemicals, support the homeostatic system of the human body. Homeostasis is defined as "A state of equilibrium, as in an organism or cell, maintained by self-regulating processes."49 We can think of a human's homeostatic system as a "regulator" that keeps the body's physiological, chemical, and electrical systems in balance. Thus, we can see how a nutritional deficiency that affects the body's homeostatic system can impact the entire body, causing problems ranging from aberrations at the cellular metabolic level (e.g., cancer and autoimmune diseases) to gross changes in physiological, mental, and emotional functioning. Cannabinoids provide vital nutrients necessary for the normal functioning of the human body and the prevention of disease.

Whether the result of poor diet, lack of exercise, drug abuse, environmental toxins or genetic factors, endocannabinoid deficits are associated with a reduced ability or inability to adapt to chronic stress. Prolonged exposure to stress depletes endocannabinoid tone, and this, in turn, has an adverse impact on a plethora of physiological processes. Ironically, the US government's unending search for marijuana's harmful properties yielded not only information about one of the human body's most critical systems but also astonishing scientific insights that validate the herb's therapeutic utility.

Sources of External Cannabinoids

Traditionally, hemp was grown for fiber and oil, but what is often overlooked is that hemp was used as livestock fodder for farm animals, including chickens, cows, goats, and pigs. Cannabinoids are lipids-fat soluble-and, once consumed, would be retained in the animals' meat, dairy products, and eggs. People who ate animal products would get these residual cannabinoids.

A second source prior to 1937 were the many over-the-counter and prescription medicines that included hemp/cannabis products. A third source for those who grew hemp would have been through physical contact. Farmers who worked in the hemp fields would invariably brush against the plants, and, in all likelihood, absorb some of the terpenes, flavonoids, and cannabinoids through the oils that clung to their clothes and skin.

Interestingly, a centuries-old method of harvesting these oils, used in the Chu Valley between Kyrgyzstan and Kazkhstan, involves sending a clean and naked rider on a well-washed horse through the fields of an extremely potent variety of cannabis for a few hours, then scraping off the oily, sticky residue from both horse and rider. One might expect that, by the end of the ride, after breathing and wearing the oils for four hours or more, both horse and rider would be feeling no pain.50

The primary natural sources of cannabinoids are the two phytocannabinoid-rich botanicals, Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica. A third variety of cannabis, Cannabis ruderalis, appears to be unimportant as a source of cannabinoids.51 Aside from cannabis, some other plants have small amounts of cannabinoids, which may or may not have affinity for human cannabinoid receptors. Four members of the Asteraceae flower family-Echinacea purpurea, Echinacea angustifolia, Helichrysum umbraculigerum, and Acmella oleracea (common name-toothache plant)-and a liverwort, Radula marginata,bear minor amounts of phytocannabinoids, predominantly, but not exclusively, in the roots and flowers. Yangonin, a chemical in the Kava plant, has a significant affinity for the CB1 receptor. Both human cannabinoid receptors respond to tea (Camellia sinensis) catechins, and black truffles contain anandamide. Whether the body has any way to use the cannabinoids in these herbs/mushrooms is not known, and it is unlikely that these alternative cannabinoid sources will be researched until all of the cannabinoids in cannabis have been thoroughly profiled.52

Transdermal Application

Because cannabinoids are lipophilic, transdermal application is an effective way to take cannabis, at least for some conditions.

Dr. Mark Sircus, Ac., ODM, DM(P), (acupuncturist, doctor of oriental and pastoral medicine and a well-known online doctor of alternative medicine) practices what he refers to as natural allopathic medicine. Allopathic medicine is what we think of as traditional medicine: where a doctor will treat a medical problem by writing a prescription for an FDA-approved chemical compound. Natural allopath? Natural prescriptions. Dr. Sircus, who claims 45,000+ followers, links his website ( to the source of a time-lapse video clip about covering skin sarcoma with a CBD oil patch and curing it in 35 days ( Melanoma took longer - 60 days.8

The skin is more permeable to cannabinol and cannabadiol than it is to THC, so patients who apply cannabis products to the skin are not likely to experience a dramatic THC high. Dr. Audra Stinchcomb, a researcher at the University of Kentucky, holds that transdermal patches are a preferred treatment method for a number of conditions; they reduce side effects, keep drug levels stable, and control the release of cannabinoids. Rubbing CBD oil on the skin can ease arthritis, muscle and joint pain. Cannabis salves, lotions, and ointments effectively treat most skin conditions (burns, itching, infections, and rashes). However, transdermal cannabinoid studies using hairless guinea pigs showed it was difficult to get a high enough plasma level to resolve systemic problems.8

Endogenous cannabinoid deficiency can result from not having sufficient cannabinoid receptors, or from not enough of either or both of the two known endocannabinoids - anandamide and/or 2-AG. An individual's need for and ability to produce an endocannabinoid will vary, depending on congenital factors, age, activity level, general health, diet, substance abuse, environmental challenges, and, almost always, the inability to adjust to chronic stress. Chronic stress exhausts endocannabinoid tone; when the endocannabinoid system is broken, physiological problems follow.9

In a landmark paper, "Clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CECD): can this concept explain therapeutic benefits of cannabis in migraine, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome and other treatment-resistant conditions?," University of Washington neurologist Ethan Russo postulated that "clinical endocannabinoid deficiency" was the underlying factor in migraines, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel disease, and a cluster of other degenerative conditions. He observed that many recalcitrant neurotransmitter diseases (pathological conditions) were due to systemic deficiencies: Alzheimer's disease is marked by loss of acetylcholine activity, Parkinson's disease is due to dopamine deficiency, and depression follows lowered levels of serotonin, norepinephrine or other amines. Russo then questioned whether a clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CECD), either congenital or acquired, could explain the etiology behind migraine headaches, fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel syndrome, conditions which are all characterized by hyperalgesia, an abnormal sensitivity to pain out of proportion to any underlying causation. And if the cause were endocannabinoid deficiency, could cannabinoid therapy correct the imbalance?9

Fast forward to 2016. Russo's most current paper, "Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency Reconsidered: Current Research Supports the Theory in Migraine, Fibromyalgia, Irritable Bowel, and Other Treatment-Resistant Syndromes," documents a wealth of studies that support his hypotheses from 2004. Not only did he find that fibromyalgia, migraine, and irritable bowel syndrome shared comorbidity, they had a unified set of pathophysiological conditions:
  • All manifest hyperalgesic states [that] must be clinically diagnosed based on subjective criteria as all lack characteristic tissue pathology or easily accessible, objective laboratory findings;
  • All are diagnoses of exclusion that often generate extensive negative diagnostic work-ups;
  • They display elevated incidence of anxiety and depression...and have been labeled psychosomatic in origin or worse, wastebasket diagnoses, at one time or another by skeptical clinicians;
  • Comorbidity is quite clear in the three diagnoses. Primary headaches co-occurred in 97% of 201 fibromyalgia patients; 35.6% of chronic daily headache subjects also fit clinical criteria of fibromyalgia, 31.6% of IBS subjects were also diagnosable with fibromyalgia and 32% of fibromyalgia patients also fit for IBS.
  • While some patients suffer from only one of these syndromes, lifetime risk to develop another or all three is quite common.10
Other disorders that may fall under the CECD rubric include neonatal failure to thrive, cystic fibrosis, causalgia, brachial plexopathy, phantom limb pain, infantile colic, glaucoma, dysmenorrhea, neremesis gravidarum, unexplained fetal wastage (repetitive miscarriages), post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disease, and possibly many others.10

Where Russo had merely questioned the idea of endocannabinoid deficiency 15 years prior, he now had data. One study, which compared the cerebrospinal fluid of 15 migraine sufferers versus twenty controls, showed phenomenal, statistically significant differences in endogenous cannabinoid system chemicals. Migraine attacks are correlated with depletion of beta endorphins in the central nervous system and extremely low levels of the endogenous cannabinoid, 2-AG.10

To validate Russo's endocannabinoid hypothesis, a cannabis-oriented clinic in Colorado recommended cannabis prophylaxis for 120 migraine sufferers. Headache frequency dropped from 10.4 to 4.6 headaches per month, 85 percent of the sufferers had fewer headaches, 19.8 percent reported that headaches had been prevented or reduced in intensity, with 11.6 percent of the headaches aborted.10 Another study, this one comparing the effectiveness of cannabis against standard pharmaceutical fibromyalgia treatments, favored cannabis over the "poorly effective prescription medicines."10

Studies over the past decade have proven the effectiveness of cannabis for ameliorating difficult-to-treat conditions. Russo noted that some problems may not be the result of an absolute endocannabinoid deficiency; imbalances between the endogenous cannabinoids could also cause problems. Russo supports integrating lifestyle approaches to the endocannabinoid support regimen, including dietary manipulations with probiotics and prebiotics to enhance health.10

Now almost 80 years after the illegalization of cannabis, we still have minimal or no cannabinoids in our food or medicines. Many of us suffer a variety of conditions that researchers have linked to cannabinoid deficiency - although it is not for lack of cannabinoids in our diets that we are afflicted with endocannabinoid deficiency. Endo- refers to the cannabinoids our bodies produce - not the ones we eat. So, if eating is involved, we may not be eating the right "building blocks." Our endocannabinoid deficiency is probably more a result of chronic stress, physiological and environmental factors, and a diet far removed from that which sustained our forefathers--which was probably not particularly healthy most of the time, but at least it was real food.

When human beings get even a little sun exposure, they manufacture vitamin D. What if we were missing some chemical link so that our vitamin D "factory" were broken? Wouldn't it make sense to supplement our diets with a vitamin D tablet or vitamin D fortified food?

Broken System, Broken Health

Most populations worldwide, particularly those in North America, Europe, and the "West," have suffered a severe nutritional deficiency for close to 100 years. This nutritional deficiency is just now being recognized by medical science.

The cause of the deficiency is not so much simple ignorance, as was the case with scurvy (a disease caused by vitamin C [ascorbic acid] deficiency), as it is the result of scare tactics, propaganda, a political agenda, and unnecessarily restrictive legislation promulgated by the US government. The United States government policy regarding cannabis has affected the legality of cannabis and cannabinoids in virtually every nation of the world.

When the US demonized cannabis and passed knee-jerk political legislation created and imposed to satisfy the greed, racist agendas, and desire for power of a few wealthy and elitist individuals, knowledge of its health benefits all but died. Most Western nations followed suit in trying to stamp out the "evil weed." Ignorance of the body's need for cannabinoids and vehement, almost hysterical propaganda permitted, no, even forced cannabis to be "sent underground." People who had nothing more in mind than their own vested interests were allowed to control the health of nations.

Of the over a hundred cannabinoids thus far identified, the two most researched are phytocannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). After the illegalization of cannabis, those who grew the plant were growing it to meet the demand of the illicit market - people who were looking to get high. They selectively bred their plants to increase THC, the cannabinoid best known for its psychoactive properties. The benefits of cannabinoids were no longer available to law-abiding citizens. And for those who partook of the more psychoactive cannabis, the reduction in CBD probably altered its health benefits and exacerbated its risks.

Over the past two decades, word of cannabis's almost miraculous properties leaked out, first in a trickle and then in an ever-stronger flow, as a few brave and desperate souls defied the law and risked imprisonment, trying to alleviate intractable pain and even to cure their "untreatable" cancers with cannabis. At the same time, scientists began to discover the role that cannabinoids play in human health. Health benefits, known for millennia and then lost, are being rediscovered and verified through application of the scientific method.

Research has lifted the curtain on the endocannabinoid system, revealing that it is not just a strange, vestigial appendix our bodies no longer need. No. What we are discovering is that the health of the endocannabinoid system, at its root, is critical to the health of the whole human organism. We find ourselves amazed that "tickling" these tiny endocannabinoid receptors can awaken an internal defense system intelligent enough to seek out and reverse inflammation (which some researchers believe to be the root of almost all illness), precise enough to restore blood sugar balance, and strong enough and discerning enough to destroy cancer cells and to leave healthy cells undamaged.

People have long dreamed of finding the one drug that will cure everything. That one drug will not be found in a medicine cabinet or a laboratory. Drugs are chemicals and, in and of themselves, chemicals are not intelligent. They cannot independently change and adapt to their environment. They cannot identify a disease, decide what they need to do, or plan and execute an attack. No, there will be no magic bullet miracle drug. And no, we are not claiming that cannabinoids are that miracle drug.

Cannabinoids are no more intelligent than any other chemical. We are not sure if they have the ability to cure cancer directly. We suspect that they trigger the cannabinoid receptors and if our bodies did not have cannabinoid receptors, we would be like the no-cannabinoid-receptor rats. No receptors. No response. But with receptors, cannabinoids become tools - keys - for activating the receptors and starting the chemical cascades that restore immune balance. The ubiquitous stress we face today - from the constant media stream of disaster, terrorism, and unrest; the phenomenal number of synthesized chemicals to which we are exposed; our highly-processed, unbalanced diets; and, for most of us, our sedentary lifestyle divorced from nature (and this list is by no means comprehensive) - drains our endocannabinoid reserves.

Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency Syndrome is endemic and manifests as autoimmune disorders, neuro-degenerative diseases, migraines, cancers, arthritis, allergies, and a high number of other inflammatory diseases. In fact, a growing number of physicians and researchers are hypothesizing that all diseases are at least in part related to an endocannabinoid deficiency.

The Pharmacologic and Clinical Effects of Medical Cannabis

A growing number of states are passing laws to legalize cannabis. Patient use is increasing as people discover the benefits of cannabinoid therapy. As this drug becomes more "mainstream," it is increasingly important that physicians, other medical professionals, pharmacists, hospitals, and clinics understand the benefits and risks associated with medical cannabis.6

In 1851, the United States Pharmacopeia listed marijuana as a legitimate medical compound. In 1937, the US went against the American Medical Association's vociferous objection and passed the United States Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. It was not until 1941 that marijuana was "de-listed" from the Pharmacopeia.6

Today, a strange, quixotic schism exists. Cannabis is considered to be a schedule 1 drug at the federal level; but, in half the states in this country it is prescribed, orally sprayed, vaped, inhaled, and eaten ... and, in some cases, sold, not through pharmacies, but through government-sanctioned and licensed dispensaries. Some patients grow their own. And some patients participating in US medical cannabis studies receive "a cannabis strain or blend grown and created under contract at a federal research farm at the University of Mississippi."6

Two prescription cannabis-derived medicines marketed in the United States and Canada are dronabinol (schedule III - sold in the US as Marinol) and nabilone (schedule II - sold in the US as Cesamet). Both are delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-based (the component of cannabis best known for its psychoactive properties) and were approved in 1992 to treat cancer chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. In 1993, the FDA approved dronabinol for a second condition - to reverse acquired immune deficiency syndrome anorexia.6

Starting around 2010, nabiximols11 (brand name Sativex), a combination of THC and CBD derived from two strains of Cannabis sativa, was approved in Canada, New Zealand, and eight European countries for treating unresolved cancer pain, and the pain and spasticity of multiple sclerosis pain. The oral spray delivers a dose of 2.7 mg THC and 2.5 mg CBD. Sativex is getting a "fast track" review from the FDA for treating cancer pain in the US.11

A number of studies have shown that nabiximols is highly effective for multiple sclerosis patients for the treatment of spasticity, spasms, bladder problems, tremor, and/or pain. Of patients treated with nabiximols, 40 percent achieved more than 30 percent improvement in symptoms, with only mild intoxication and no significant adverse cognitive or mood effects.11 However, the annual cost of Sativex in the countries where it has been approved is high, around $16,000 US.12

The pharmacologic responses patients experience with natural cannabis vary based on strain and quality of the herb (how fresh is it, how was it processed, and how has it been stored), formulation (the ratio of various cannabinoids and terpenoids will vary by strain and by quality handling issues; some of the components are more volatile and more easily destroyed or degraded), dose, method of administration, and patient physiology. Cannabis has proven effective for treating a wide variety of pain: neuropathic, chronic, and postoperative, and pain related to specific medical conditions such as fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, cancer, and human immunodeficiency virus-associated sensory neuropathy.13

Cannabis Pharmacokinetics

(THC and CBD)

THC is highly lipophilic (meaning, it tends to bind with fat in the body, which will slow its elimination). The pharmacokinetic half-life of the distribution phase is 0.5 hour; half of the drug taken will be disseminated throughout the body within half an hour. The half-life for the terminal phase varies substantially by patient with a mean of 30 hours; half of the drug taken will be eliminated within 30 hours. Cannabidiol is also lipophilic, but its terminal half-life is nine hours.6

Medical cannabis users most commonly ingest the drug through smoking. Cannabis smokers inhale about 50% of the THC in the herb. The rest is lost to heat or not inhaled, and up to 50% of inhaled smoke is exhaled. Some of the smoke retained in the lungs is metabolized locally. With all these "losses," the estimated bioavailability of a smoked dose of THC falls somewhere between 10 to 25 percent of the total THC in the cannabis. The absorption of smoked THC, the half-life of the distribution phase, and the half-life of the terminal phase parallel those of intravenously administered THC.6

Cannabis vaporization is growing in popularity among medical cannabis users because it is perceived as a cleaner, safer way to take the drug. Cannabinoids are volatile and vaporize at a far lower temperature than that required for burning plant matter. Heated air drawn through the cannabis aerosolizes the cannabinoids so they can be inhaled without the user having to inhale smoke.6

In clinical studies, the bioavailability of orally-administered THC ranges from 5 to 20 percent. Users often receive even less than that because stomach acids can degrade the drug and the liver will metabolize a significant portion of the drug before it ever reaches circulation (first pass effect). Compared to intravenous or inhaled administration, peak THC concentrations are delayed in oral administration, taking as long as one to three hours. This can make it difficult to determine the appropriate dose.6


Attempts to normalize THC dosage have been challenged by dosage variations and aberrations, routes of administration, and the high likelihood of developing tolerance in as few as four days of daily use (a risk practically nonexistent in intermittent use).6

Different patient populations respond to medical cannabis in different ways - based on individual hormonal variations, lifestyle differences (e.g., smoking), other health issues (e.g., cannabis can increase morbidity and mortality for patients with cardiovascular issues; cannabis can exacerbate psychiatric problems), and the interactions of cannabis with other medications the patient is taking.6

Consistent effects of THC, regardless of the route of administration, include heart rate increases of an average of more than 19 beats a minute, a feeling of being "high," decreased alertness, and decreased motor stability. However, due to unpredictable delays between serum (blood level) concentrations and the onset of the physiological effects (impairments), the two cannot be directly correlated, as is so often done with alcohol consumption.6

Further studies are needed to develop dosing regimens that produce more consistent and predictable results.

Clinical Effects of Medical Cannabis

Medicinal cannabis has been used to treat cachexia, cancer, glaucoma, human immunodeficiency virus infection/acquired immune deficiency syndrome, muscle spasms, seizures, severe nausea, and sleep disorders.6

Cachexia, a devastating metabolic disorder that affects some 9 million people worldwide, involves excessive weight- and muscle-loss. It is seen in the late stages of almost every major chronic illness and affects 16-42% of people with heart failure, 30% of those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, up to 60% of people with kidney disease, and as many as 80% of people with advanced cancer.14

Adverse Effects, Drug Interactions, and Contraindications

In reviewing 31 medical marijuana trials, Borgelt, et al noted that researchers reported 4,779 adverse events in patients receiving a medicinal cannabinoid for 8 to 12 months. Of these, 96.6 percent events were not serious (most common: dizziness - 15.5%). There were 164 serious events, the most common being multiple sclerosis relapse (12.8% of the events), vomiting (9.8% of the events), and urinary tract infection (19.1% of the events).1

Other mild-to-moderate adverse effects included "somnolence, ataxia, blurred vision, headache, dry mouth, sedation, dizziness, conjunctival irritation/dry eyes, hypotension, feeling intoxicated, nausea, and difficulty with concentration and/or memory." Most of the reported adverse effects are typically not serious, with the most common being dizziness.1

But, what of the effect of exogenous (outside) cannabinoids on the brain?

A study by Giovanni Battistella, et al investigated brain structure changes in a group that smoked cannabis on a regular basis and a group that smoked it only occasionally. All subjects were between the ages of 19 and 21, had no psychiatric disorders, used only cannabis - no other drugs, and were split into two groups based on age of first cannabis use, in order for the investigative team to evaluate effect of cannabis on the developing brain2:
In normal adolescents the volume of cerebellar gray matter starts to decrease around puberty and continues to do so until early adulthood ... (probably) due to the pruning of the (unused) synaptic connections ... (by) endogenous cannabinoids.2
This may be the first study showing temporal pole gray matter atrophy in regular cannabis users with the degree of atrophy directly correlated with drug use frequency three months before the study began, as well as medial temporal cortex changes (a common finding associated with cannabis addiction and regular cannabis use). However, another possibility is that abnormal pruning may result from a genetic predisposition: The researchers would have no way of knowing whether the brain changes were present before or were the result of cannabis use.2

This study on the effects of long-term exposure to cannabis on brain structure integrity found the following:
  • An association between regular cannabis-reduced gray matter volume in cannabinoid-CB1-receptor-rich regions "functionally linked to motivational, emotional, and affective processing";
  • A correlation between the magnitude of these changes and frequency of cannabis use; and
  • The magnitude of these changes was modulated by the age at which an individual started smoking cannabis.2
Of interest is that past studies have shown that the body may be neuroadaptive: Cognitive changes and CB1 activity may become normal after a period of cannabis abstinence. The researchers could not reach a conclusion as to whether the structural changes were permanent or temporary and recommended longitudinal studies.2

One of the things we need to remember is that what we have today "ain't your mama's marijuana." Over the past 40 years, cannabis growers have concentrated on increasing the THC content and reducing CBD because a better "high" meant more money for the grower. CBD steps down the psychoactive effect of THC, which is of no help if you are trying to get high or trying to sell a premium psychoactive product. Since CBD is attracted to both CB1 and CB2 receptors, it may also serve in a protective capacity. THC is close to a perfect fit for the CB1 receptor. CBD (cannabidiol) is not a perfect fit for either the CB1 or the CB2 receptor; "it stimulates both types of receptors without actually binding to them."3

Project CBD research has shown that CBD counteracts the psychoactive effects of THC by inhibiting its effects on CB1 receptors. CBD also causes an increased release of 2-AG, one of the endogenous cannabinoids. Like CBD, 2-AG stimulates both CB1 and CB2 receptors, which enhances the overall effect on the body. Studies published by the National Institutes of Health have shown that cannabidiol also inhibits the activity of fatty acid amide hydroxylase, or FAAH. This slows the deterioration of anandamide,3 the aforementioned "bliss" endocannabinoid.

Psychiatric Issues

Marijuana's chief psychoactive component, THC, is an agonist of the CB1 receptors, which function to modulate appetite, mood, and motivation. An individual's response to marijuana depends on dosage level, the strain of marijuana, and frequency of use. Typically, marijuana will induce "mild euphoria, sedation, relaxation, hunger, and enhanced sensory input." It will also impair "attention, balance, cognition, judgment, memory, and sense of time." Some less fortunate users experience "anxiety, disorientation, paranoia, and psychosis." A higher relative level of cannabidiol may be protective and reduce the frequency of psychotic symptoms.1

Cannabis use does not cause schizophrenia, but adolescents who use marijuana heavily can have earlier onset of and double the risk of developing this chronic neurodevelopmental disorder. Ongoing use of cannabinoids after the onset of schizophrenia increases psychosis severity, fragments attention, and makes impulse control difficult, if not impossible.1 Physiologically, cannabis use interferes with adolescent neurodevelopment, with imaging studies showing compromised hippocampus and cerebellum maturation.1
Cannabis use is associated with memory and cognition impairment; heavy use, in particular, is associated with deficits in the encoding, storage, and retrieval of memory. The latter correlates with the visible brain structure atrophy in memory areas: the amygdala and hippocampus. Typically, executive function, information processing, and visuospatial perception suffer with marijuana use.1

Researchers have found a modest association between frequent cannabis use and depressive disorders, impulsivity, and suicidal ideation and attempts. And there are concerns about dependence:
Cannabis is the most commonly used and abused illicit substance in the world. In the United States each year, approximately 6500 individuals begin to use marijuana daily, of whom 10-20% will develop cannabis dependence. Among people admitted to substance treatment facilities in the United States, marijuana is the most frequently identified illicit substance.1
Pediatric Issues

Calls to the National Poison Data Center have increased with the increased availability of medical marijuana. Symptoms of acute cannabinoid toxicity include such neurologic symptoms as "decreased coordination, decreased muscle strength, lethargy, sedation, difficulties concentrating, altered psycho-motor activity, slurred speech, and slow reaction time ... tachycardia, and dry mouth." Pediatric patients may exhibit more severe symptoms such as apnea and cyanosis. Common symptoms include ataxia, somnolence, lethargy, altered mental status, severe hyperextension, and spasticity. Although no deaths related to marijuana have been reported to national poison centers, there can be significant morbidity.1

The increased availability of cannabinoids increases the risk for exposure in children and adolescents, which often results from consumption of cannabis-laced foods. This is complicated by the lack of safety or regulatory packaging. Best practice for cannabis products, as for all prescription and over-the-counter drugs, is to always secure drugs in a safe place with child-proof locks.1

The Entourage Effect

In 1999, Raphael Mechoulam co-authored a paper with Shimon Ben-Shabat, et al, "An entourage effect: inactive endogenous fatty acid glycerol esters enhance 2-arachidonoyl-glycerol cannabinoid activity," that changed the way cannabis researchers would approach future studies. Mechoulam administered the endocannabinoid 2-AG (2-arachidonoylglycerol) with two related inactive compounds to mice. The result? The 2-AG endocannabinoid bound more easily at the receptors, and the mice exhibited a greater behavioral response than when 2-AG was used alone.4

Scientists had searched for years to find the active chemical component in cannabis. What Mechoulam, et al, discovered was that certain compounds, which themselves were biologically inactive, facilitated and enhanced the effect of active components, and that the presence of these inactive constituents could alter the results from those observed when the active component was applied in isolation.4 In Mechoulam's words:
Biologically active natural products, from either plant or animal origin, are in many instances accompanied by chemically related, though biologically inactive, constituents. Very seldom is the biological activity of the active constituent assayed together with the inactive 'entourage' compounds. In view of the results described above investigations of the effect of the active component in the presence of its 'entourage' compounds may lead to observations of effects closer to those in Nature than investigations with the active component only.4
In 2001, John McPartland and Ethan Russo published a paper, "Cannabis and Cannabis Extracts: Greater Than the Sum of Their Parts?" in the Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics. In this work, they applied the "entourage" concept to the cannabis plant itself, noting "Good evidence shows that secondary compounds in cannabis may enhance the beneficial effects of THC ... Cannabis terpenoids and flavonoids may also increase cerebral blood flow, enhance cortical activity, kill respiratory pathogens, and provide anti-inflammatory activity."5

A decade later, Russo substantiated the molecular-teamwork hypothesis and expanded on it in a paper published in the British Journal of Pharmacology, "Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects," which contains an amazing 304 citations.6 At a Fall 2010, Israeli-sponsored medical conference, he discussed the role of "minor" phytocannabinoids, including tetrahydrocannabivarin, cannabigerol, and cannabichromene, in synergistically enhancing the therapeutic effects of THC and CBD. His presentation also covered evidence that "phytocannabinoid-terpenoid interactions" enhanced the therapeutic effects of cannabis.6

Cannabinoids, themselves, are odorless. Terpenoids, which are made up of repeating 5-carbon molecule chains (isoprene), provide fragrance in aromatic bark and wood, citrus peel, and smelly herbs (eg, sage, mint). Researchers now suspect that these very volatile and very potent terpenoids (of which there are over 200 in cannabis) may have a role to play in providing synergistic support and biofunctional enhancement of cannabinoid benefits. In their 2001 paper, McPartland and Russo had gone so far as to explore the role terpenoids played in expanding the "medicine chest" cannabis provides, detailing the terpenoids that would most augment each of the cannabinoids in practical use.5 The addition of terpenoids and flavonoids to the cannabinoid "medicine chest" complicates the genetic development of new strains of cannabis exponentially but impacts the potential for even greater therapeutic results.7


A century ago, medical science did not know of the existence of the endocannabinoid system or the role cannabinoids played in the health of the human body. No longer. D Sulak, in his discussion of the endocannabinoid system on the Norml website, dedicated to reforming marijuana law, noted, "The endogenous cannabinoid system, named after the plant that led to its discovery, is perhaps the most important physiologic system involved in establishing and maintaining human health."8 Cannabinoid deficiency has consequences as insidious as any parasitic disease or cancer, laying low and silently destroying health for decades; as consuming as any bacterial or fungal enemy; and as treacherous as any virus hijacking its host's DNA.

The saddest fact is that the cause of this condition is man-made and politically induced. But, this is nothing new. Even in the 21st century, it is a fact that those who are not medical professionals can be jailed for practicing medicine if they provide advice on health issues, no matter how accurate or helpful. It is also well-known that proponents of alternative medical treatments are often hounded by the government until they willingly stop promoting their ideas, get arrested and incarcerated, or suffer financial destruction through the actions of its agents. Yet, how much of the "conventional" medical care people receive worldwide is dictated by political convenience, powerful individuals with "agendas," megalithic chemical corporations, and profit-crazed insurance companies? If I were not a medical professional, I could be arrested for recommending or denying appropriate medical treatment. Yet, every day, insurance companies decide what treatments patients can or cannot get. Is this not practicing medicine?

Even the government can decide, not only whether Medicare will or will not cover a procedure, but whether a patient can or cannot get a desired procedure, even if the patient is willing to pay for it out of his or her own pocket. Is it any wonder that in the years 2014 to 2016, Forbes, Time magazine, WebMD, NBC News, CBS News, and The Washington Post reported that the United States had the worst, most expensive healthcare in the developed world?

Greed, which stems from illogical, infantile, and irrational fear of privation; obsession with controlling others; and an unbridled hunger for power combined with medical ignorance produced legislation that should never have been enacted. The prohibition of hemp and its related compounds created consequences that have produced needless pain and suffering, unnecessary hardship, and the destruction of the lives of millions of people. The time is long overdue for this criminal act that has been imposed upon humanity to be reversed, and the injustice and needless suffering be brought to an end.

It is time we take a second look at what makes sense and move away from the hysterical "Reefer Madness" mindset. Cannabis has hundreds of chemical components, including some which are exclusive to that plant and that plant alone. We already know of the powerful effect of some of these on treating pain, inflammation, and even cancer. We need to look more closely at everything this plant has to offer and to make it available to those people whose lives it can rebuild and restore. To do anything less is inhumane. To deny hope for a cure is evil.

If we can clarify a complex, emotionally and politically charged subject using unbiased, science-based information; if we can enlighten minds with facts and a new understanding of how the human body works; and if we can demonstrate the wisdom of using a simple God-given plant our bodies were designed to use to restore health; then perhaps we can set in place legislation that is fair and sensitive to peoples' needs, that does not place profits above human welfare, and that frees people from unnecessary pain and disease.