Endocannabinoids – Beyond the Brain

In 2009 in the United States (US), Neuropharmacology Post-doctoral Nick DiPatrizio was trying to identify exactly where and how endocannabinoids, endogenous molecules that bind to the same receptors as active ingredients in cannabis, were controlling food intake in rats. The young scientist persisted and eventually discovered hunger and the taste of fat led to increased endocannabinoid levels in the jejunum, a part of the small intestine. Endocannabinoid signalling in the gut, not the brain, was controlling food intake in the rodents in response to tasting fats. In 2011 he published his findings in the study, Endocannabinoid signal in the gut controls dietary fat intake‘.

Ever since the first endocannabinoid receptor was identified in the late 1980’s, the field has been overwhelmingly focused on the central nervous system. The main endocannabinoid receptor, CB1, was first discovered in a rat brain and is now known to be among the most abundant G protein–coupled receptors in neurons there. However, the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a family of endogenous ligands, receptors and enzymes, isn’t exclusive to the brain. It is present everywhere scientists have looked, in the body: heart, liver, pancreas, skin, reproductive tract etc. Disrupted endocannabinoid signalling has been associated with many disorders, including diabetes, hypertension, infertility, liver disease and more. “There is so much that’s still unknown about this system. It looks to be regulating every physiological system in the body” said DiPatrizio.

Nicholas V. DiPatrizioNow an Assistant Professor at Riverside School of Medicine, University of California, DiPatrizio has trained his research on the gut, where the ECS appears to be a major player in human health and disease. His lab has suggested endocannabinoid signalling in the gut drives the overeating characteristic of Western diets. In a rodent model, chronic consumption of a high-fat, high-sugar diet led to elevated levels of endocannabinoids in the gut and blood, promoting further consumption of fatty foods. Blocking endocannabinoids from their receptors decreased over-eating in animals as reported in the 2017 study, ‘Peripheral endocannabinoid signaling controls hyperphagia in western diet-induced obesity‘.

Due to the link to appetite, pHARMaceutical companies have sought to target the ECS to create the ultimate diet pill, a drug to reduce appetite or treat metabolic disorders. Those efforts have been subdued by two tragic and highly visible failures. The ECS is a tantalising, elusive target for the pHARMaceutical industry, especially for conditions related to appetite and gut health. Sanofi-Aventis was the first to market an anti-obesity drug targeting endocannabinoid receptors. In 2006, the European Commission approved the CB1 antagonist rimonabant (Acomplia) as a treatment to curb hunger. But as a wider population of people began using it, dangerous side effects emerged. A small percentage of users suffered from serious psychiatric symptoms, including suicidal thoughts, evidenced in a meta-analysis published in 2007, ‘Efficacy and safety of the weight-loss drug rimonabant: a meta-analysis of randomised trials‘.

In 2008, the European Medicines Agency recommended suspension of the drug and the company withdrew it. That halted development of the whole class of CB1 antagonists, said George Kunos, M.D., Ph. D., Scientific Director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAA), in the US. Yet the side effects should have been predictable, he argued, as CB1 receptors play an important role in brain reward pathways. Blocking them, therefore is likely to cause an inability to feel pleasure. Last January, the field was dealt a second blow. In France, six participants in a Phase 1 study of a compound known as BIA 10-2474 were hospitalised with neurological symptoms. Portuguese pharmaceutical company Bial was developing the drug as a candidate to treat a number of neurological disorders, including anxiety. But within days of receiving multiple daily doses of the drug, one participant was declared brain-dead, while others developed severe lesions on their brains.

BIA 10-2474 is an inhibitor of fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), a key enzyme that breaks down endocannabinoids. Researchers had hoped by targeting a downstream part of the ECS, rather than the receptors themselves, they might avoid off-target effects in the brain and elsewhere. That was not the case. “That, again, scared regulators and the industry away from consideration of that system” said the University of Calgary’s Keith Sharkey. There is still potential for drug development in the field, but only under carefully controlled conditions with drugs that can be restricted to specific sites of action. But some scientists still hope that by understanding the true nature of this system, they might identify new treatments, especially for conditions related to gut health and metabolism.

“We are now at a point where you have to understand how endocannabinoids can be so relevant in so many areas – literally everywhere in the body”, said Mauro Maccarrone, Head of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Campus Bio-Medico University of Rome, Italy, who has studied the molecules since 1995. “There must be a reason why these endocannabinoids are always there”. Researchers describe the ECS as the most complicated and most ubiquitous signalling system in our bodies, yet no one knew it was part of human physiology until the 1980’s. And that realisation came from an oft-derided effort to understand how cannabis gets us ‘high’, ‘Multiple Functions of Endocannabinoid Signaling in the Brain‘.

In 1964, researchers seeking to understand the ‘psychoactive’ component of the cannabis plant identified the compound Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. Over two decades later, in 1988, investigators found direct evidence of an endogenous signalling system for THC, a receptor in the rat brain that bound a synthetic version of THC with high affinity. Blocking the receptor with a chemical antagonist in humans effectively blocks the ‘high’ typically experienced after smoking cannabis. The receptor, called CB1, was subsequently identified in other mammalian brains, including those of humans and appeared to be present in similar density to receptors for other neurotransmitters, including glutamate, GABA and dopamine. A second cannabinoid receptor, CB2, was discovered in 1993. This receptor was first isolated in the rat spleen. That surprising finding was an omen of things to come; the ECS functions far afield from the brain, practically everywhere in the body.

The presence of these receptors sparked a quest to find natural ligands that bind to them. The first endocannabinoid identified, a fatty acid-based agonist for both receptors, was named anandamide, based on the Sanskrit word ananda meaning “inner bliss”. A second agonist, 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), appeared to be present at high levels in normal mammalian brains. By 1995, the so-called “grass route” was complete: over three decades, researchers had identified THC, its endogenous receptors and endogenous ligands for those receptors. Maccarrone suspects endocannabinoids are among the oldest signalling molecules to be used by eukaryotic cells. His team recently showed anandamide and its related enzymes are present in truffles, delectable fungi that first arrived on the evolutionary scene about 156 million years ago, suggesting endocannabinoids evolved even earlier than cannabis plants.


Putative mechanism of endocannabinoid-mediated ­retrograde signalling in the nervous system. Activation of metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluR) by glutamate triggers the activation of the phospholipase C (PLC)-diacylglycerol lipase (DGL) pathway to generate the endocannabinoid 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). First, the 2-AG precursor diacylglycerol (DAG) is formed from PLC-mediated hydrolysis of membrane phospholipid precursors (PIPx). DAG is then hydrolysed by the enzyme DGL-α to generate 2-AG. 2-AG is released from the post-synaptic neuron and acts as a retrograde signalling ­molecule. Endocannabinoids activate pre-synaptic CB1 receptors which reside on terminals of glutamatergic and GABAergic neurons. Activation of CB1 by 2-AG, anandamide, or exogenous cannabinoids (e.g., ­tetrahydrocannabinol [THC]) inhibits calcium influx in the pre-synaptic terminal, thereby inhibiting release of the primary neurotransmitter (i.e., glutamate or GABA) from the synaptic vesicle. Endocannabinoids are then rapidly deactivated by transport into cells (via a putative endocannabinoid transporter) followed by intracellular hydrolysis. 2-AG is metabolized by the enzyme monoacylglycerol lipase (MGL), whereas anandamide is metabolised by a distinct enzyme, fatty-acid amide hydrolase (FAAH). MGL co-localises with CB1 in the presynaptic terminal, whereas FAAH is localised to post-synaptic sites. The existence of an endocannabinoid transporter remains controversial. Pharmacological inhibitors of either endocannabinoid deactivation (e.g., FAAH and MGL inhibitors) or transport (i.e., uptake inhibitors) have been developed to exploit the therapeutic potential of the endocannabinoid signalling system in the treatment of pain.

“They are kind of a master signalling system and other signals have learned to talk to these lipids” said Maccarrone. In the brain, endocannabinoids interact with other neurotransmitters; in the reproductive tract, with steroid hormones; in the muscles, with myokines; and so on. But even though researchers have documented the existence of the ECS throughout the body, they still don’t really know what role it plays outside the brain, where it is involved in synaptic signalling and plasticity. In healthy, non-obese animals, there is typically no consequence to knocking out endocannabinoid receptors in peripheral organs. “There is no detectable effect on any important biological function” said George Kunos.

The one exception to this functional black box is the gastrointestinal tract. The idea cannabis, or endogenous cannabinoids, affects the gut is not surprising. Preparations derived from cannabis have long been used to treat digestive conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease and vomiting. Even before CB1 was discovered, scientists had suggested cannabinoids regulate the motility of the gastrointestinal tract, the orchestrated movements of muscles that churn and move food through the intestines. For example, in 1973, Australian researchers showed oral ingestion of THC slowed the passage of a meal through the intestines of mice. Conversely, knocking out parts of the system is associated with increased movement of food through the colon, a common symptom of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). These pathways are conserved among many species.

Both CB1 and CB2 receptors are present and active in the gut, though they appear to be involved in different gut functions. At the University of Calgary, Keith Sharkey and colleagues found increased intestinal motility in the inflamed gut was reversed when CB2 receptors, but not CB1 receptors, were activated. To make things even more complicated, there is a group of non-classical receptors that interact with endocannabinoids in the gut, said Jakub Fichna, Head of the Department of Biochemistry at the Medical University of Lodz, Poland. His lab studies the role of these receptors in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and IBS. Depending on the conditions in the gut, some of these non-classical receptors don’t even need an agonist or antagonist to become active, Fichna says. “It can even be the change in pressure or pH of the neighbourhood. For example, if you have inflammation, most of the time you have decreasing pH and this is already enough for some of the endocannabinoid receptors to be activated”.

Endocannabinoids and their receptors also appear to be involved in gastric secretions, ion transport and cell proliferation in the gut. And then there is appetite. Cannabis users often experience the “munchies”, a sharp and sudden increase in appetite after inhaling or ingesting the herb. Kunos wondered whether endocannabinoids cause a similar increase in appetite. In 2001, with the help of collaborators, he confirmed the suspicion: endocannabinoids acting on CB1 receptors promoted appetite and mice with CB1  receptors knocked out ate less than their wild-type litter-mates. Additional research supported the idea endocannabinoids act as a general appetite-promoting signal and as DiPatrizio’s work showed, endocannabinoids control food intake not exclusively via the brain, but by way of signals generated in the gut. It’s a simple hypothesis with big implications for the management of obesity and other metabolic syndromes.

During his post-doctorate, DiPatrizio found when rodents tasted dietary fats (tasted, not swallowed), endocannabinoid levels increased in the rat small intestine, nowhere else. A CB1 receptor antagonist blocked that signal, leading the rodents to decrease their ingestion of fatty foods. “This suggests to us that this is a very important and critical mechanism that drives food intake” says DiPatrizio. From an evolutionary perspective, having a positive feedback mechanism for fat intake makes sense. When an animal in the wild detects high-energy foods, it is beneficial to stock up. However, that’s not true for people in today’s developed countries. “There’s no period of famine. It’s feast all the time, so now the system can drive us to over-consume” said DiPatrizio.

Sharkey sees the system as a regulator of homoeostasis within the body, especially considering its roles in maintenance of food intake, body weight and inflammation. “It seems to be very important in the conservation of energy. But in modern Western society in particular, those are the things that appear to have been dysregulated” said Sharkey. Although the job of the ECS remains mysterious in healthy tissues outside the brain and gut, diseases reveal clues. In obesity, both CB1 and CB2 receptors are up-regulated throughout the body, including in the liver and adipose tissue. And the activation of CB1 receptors increases food intake and affects energy metabolism in peripheral tissues. In type 2 diabetes, endocannabinoids and their receptors are up-regulated in circulating macrophages and contribute to the loss of pancreatic beta cells, which store and release insulin.

Interestingly, chronic cannabis users have no documented increased incidence of diabetes or obesity. Researchers speculate this is because chronic use results in down-regulation of CB1receptors, a form of pharmacological tolerance. Another possibility, explored by Sharkey and colleagues in 2015, is chronic THC exposure alters the gut microbiome, affecting food intake and preventing weight increase. In liver disease, up-regulation of CB1 appears to contribute to cell death and the accumulation of scar tissue (fibrosis).  The two classical cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, are expressed by enteric neurons, immune cells and other cell types within the gastrointestinal tract. The gut and the liver also synthesise two key ligands, anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), for those receptors. Combined, this signalling system acts locally in the gut and liver, but also communicates with the brain to affect food intake, pain, inflammation and more.

In the liver, endocannabinoids are thought to act almost like hormones, stimulating cell division at some times, cell death at others. In the healthy liver, expression of CB receptors is very low, but in a diseased liver expression increases, and endocannabinoid ligands are released from all four cell types. Many ligands are produced and bind to CB1 receptors, causing lipid accumulation and insulin resistance in hepatocytes and increased proliferation of activated stellate cells, the major cell type involved in fibrosis (scarring) of the liver. Blocking CB1 receptors with drugs decreased the amount of fibrosis in mouse models.

Both CB1 and CB2 regulate the rhythmic contractions of the intestinal tract, called gut motility. In the healthy gut, CB1 predominates, but during intestinal inflammation, CB2 also contributes to motility. Conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease and coeliac disease often exhibit increased prevalence of these receptors, which results in decreased motility. Endocannabinoid signalling has also been shown to reduce inflammation, increase the permeability of gut epithelial cells and signal hunger to the brain.

Yet there remains debate as to whether endocannabinoid receptors are always the bad guys in disease. In some cases, endocannabinoid signalling appears to be therapeutic. Animal studies suggest endocannabinoids are effective pain relievers and the system has anti-inflammatory properties in certain contexts. In IBD, Sharkey’s team found activation of both CB1 and CB2 receptors resulted in reduced inflammation, suggesting the system may be activated as a protective force. Likewise, CBactivation appears to be anti-inflammatory in cases of atherosclerosis, says O’Sullivan, who focuses on endocannabinoids in the cardiovascular system. “It’s a bit of a rescue receptor. In times of trouble, it gets upregulated”, she said. And several tantalising studies suggest cannabinoids from plants or synthetic compounds that mimic botanical molecules and the body’s own directly inhibit cancer growth by inducing cell death in tumour cells.

But the very thing that makes the ECS so interesting, its ubiquity and varied roles in the body, is also what makes it a difficult drug target. Within the last 10 years, two drugs targeting the ECS proved to have dire side effects in humans when the compounds crossed the blood-brain barrier. Off-target effects in other organ systems could also have long-term consequences. In a review of the pharmacology of 18 different CBligands as potential drug candidates, Maccarrone and a large team of European researchers, in collaboration with Roche, concluded just three merited additional pre-clinical or clinical studies. Many of the other compounds engendered too many off-target effects.

Researchers are now working toward second-generation drugs that more specifically target peripheral systems. “If the scientific community faces the challenge of really understanding how to direct certain drugs to the right target, then we could have wonderful drugs for the future” says Maccarrone. Most of those compounds are in pre-clinical trials, though Kunos hopes to have an Investigational New Drug approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) soon for one agent his team has been working on as a possible treatment for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. The compound does not penetrate the brain and is designed to accumulate in the liver, which may explain its efficacy in treating liver disease without causing psychiatric side effects in animal models, said Kunos.

If researchers can figure out how to avoid the devastating off-target effects, there is one more reason why endocannabinoids may effectively help treat disease: they provide an indirect link to the brain. “We’ve known, for some time, that the brain can modulate the gut” said Sharkey. With endocannabinoids, it appears the gut can also modify the brain. It is now clear, for example, there are very active communication pathways originating from peripheral nerves in the gut, able to modulate brain function. Numerous studies suggest the vagus nerve is a major information highway between the gut and brain. DiPatrizio is studying those communication pathways and hopes to identify ways to regulate feeding without ever getting near the brain with a drug. The research complements other evidence showing the gut is able to modulate pro-inflammatory cytokines in the blood and even influence central nervous system disorders. “We believe we can remotely control the brain from the gut, safely” says DiPatrizio. “That’s why, once again, endocannabinoid receptors are very attractive targets”.

Adapted from, Endocannabinoids, a System That Functions Beyond the Brain and Endocannabinoids in the Groove

Cannabis Re-Legalisation, It’s About Freedom and Good Health

What is the difference between ‘recreational’ and ‘medicinal’ Cannabis use? There is no difference, it’s purely semantics. A Cannabis flower’s utility medicinally or recreationally is determined solely by the user, but in the era of re-legalisation and corporatisation of Cannabis, the distinction apparently matters. As across the United States (US), different state governments would give a variety of answers to the question of Cannabis utility. At the end of 2015 in Utah, Cannabis had to be smuggled in from nearby states for those wishing to treat their Crohn’s disease, for example, with no legal production or distribution system within Utah’s borders for the then newly legalised medicine. In the eyes of the Utah state legislature, only severely epileptic patients deserved access to Cannabis ‘medicines’ and even then they had to be so low in delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THCthat they could arbitrarily have been defined as industrial hemp!

Utah was unfortunately the rule not the exception. US national Cannabis laws are a patchwork of majority unscientifically-based assumptions, mostly by anti-Cannabis legislators worried about the imaginary ‘havoc’ that could purportedly be wreaked on society should people secure legal access to a plant they already obtained on the black market. Ask an old school California activist like Dennis Peron, who spearheaded Proposition 215 in 1996 (the first medical Cannabis initiative to pass in California) and he will tell you all use of Cannabis is ‘medical’. Some might know Peron as one of Prop. 215’s authors, fewer people know the personal cost he paid. Once a big dealer in his district, he was shot in the leg by a San Francisco cop who later said he wished he’d killed Peron, as there’d be “one less fag” in town. Peron lost friends and his partner to the HIV/AIDS crisis, which was when America re-discovered Cannabis as medicine.

At the time, AIDS was still a mystery. Researchers, doctors and nurses were baffled and confused, and some refused to treat patients for whom a diagnosis was a death sentence. About the only thing that helped AIDS patients, who were wasting away, to eat, sleep and live in less pain, was Cannabis. Through most of the 1980’s, a former waitress, known as Brownie Mary, handed out brownies, baked with Peron’s pot, to the patients in San Francisco General hospital’s AIDS ward. After his partner, who lived long enough to offer testimony to acquit Peron of his latest pot bust, died, Peron opened up a four-story medical Cannabis dispensary in San Francisco, the country’s very first. Local officials refused to prosecute him, so the state attorney general raided him. Peron was lauded, while the attorney general was lampooned in the comic strip Doonesbury, but that was the end of his major dealing days.

After Prop. 215 passed, Cannabis clubs sprang up around San Francisco and Oakland, and Peron was out of business. While recovering from a stroke in 2010, he was raided again by San Francisco cops, one the partner of the cop who’d shot him 32 years before, and the stress caused a seizure. Talking has been a challenge for Peron ever since, but he still does speak, especially about Cannabis. One of the great ironies is that Dennis Peron, champion of Cannabis, opposed the 2016 efforts to legalise it in California. As the movement became an industry, Peron was seemingly the only voice saying anything negative about the billionaire-bankrolled legalisation efforts. “All use is medical”, he would say, which meant legalisation was unnecessary. He insisted Prop. 215 was all California needed and took the message to Humboldt County (in the heart of the Emerald Triangle), where growers were preparing commercial-sized greenhouses for the impending Cannabis market and told them money was tyranny and taxing Cannabis meant giving up control. Calling Cannabis “recreational” was the worst of all; it trivialised the plant. 

Image result for 1899, Cannabis was America’s number one painkiller.While some may scoff at the notion that all Cannabis use is medicinal, there is plenty of basic science to back up the therapeutic efficacy of Cannabis and cannabinoids. Whether or not the user is treating a diagnosed condition with Cannabis, their choice to use it in place of a more toxic pharmaceutical or recreational drug is a proven healthful choice. Deemed as relatively benign, drugs like aspirin for example, are far more dangerous than Cannabis could ever be. Aspirin can cause gastrointestinal complications and death if too much is ingested. When Bayer introduced aspirin in 1899, Cannabis was America’s number one painkiller. Until Cannabis prohibition began in 1937, the US Pharmacopoeia listed Cannabis as the primary medicine for over 100 diseases. Cannabis was such an effective analgesic the American Medical Association (AMA) argued against prohibition on behalf of medical progress. With Cannabis’ medicinal potency and non-toxicity, the AMA considered it a potential ‘wonder drug’!

In Australia, adoption in 1926 of the Geneva Convention on Opium and Other Drugs imposed restrictions on the manufacture, importation, sale, distribution, exportation and use of Cannabis, opium, cocaine, morphine and heroin, allowing for medical and scientific purposes only. Accounts differ as to how widespread the use of Cannabis as a medicine was at the time in Australia, but it was a main ingredient in various patent remedies, with its therapeutic use initially popularised by Ireland’s Dr William O’Shaughnessy, physician and member of the Royal Society (United Kingdom’s national academy of science). Although Cannabis was mentioned by early botanists and explorers describing their travels, little was actually known about Cannabis therapy in Europe and America until O’Shaughnessy presented a paper to students and scholars of the Medical and Physical Society of Calcutta in 1839. The 40-page paper was a model of modern pharmaceutical research and included a thorough review of the history of Cannabis’ medical uses by Ayurvedic and Persian physicians in India and the Middle East.

O’Shaughnessy conducted the first clinical trials of Cannabis preparations, first with safety experiments on mice, dogs, rabbits and cats, then by giving extracts and tinctures (of his own devising, based on native recipes) to some of his patients. O’Shaughnessy presented concise case studies of patients suffering from rheumatism, hydrophobia, cholera and tetanus (his cousin Richard penned a paper on a case cured by Cannabis preparation), as well as a 40-day-old baby with convulsions, who responded well to Cannabis therapy, from near death to the enjoyment of robust health in a few days. In 1843 ‘On the Preparations of the Indian Hemp or GunjahCannabis Indica Their Effects on the Animal System in Health, and their Utility in the Treatment of Tetanus and other Convulsive Diseases’ was published.

A healthy person who chooses a joint (Cannabis cigarette) over a beer is making a positive health decision (even though vaping would be preferable to smoking). Around 22,000 Americans die per year (and around 3,000 Australians) from excessive consumption (abuse) of alcohol.


Non-toxic Cannabis claims zero lives annually and remains one of the most non-toxic substances humans consume (even water is more toxic than Cannabis)! However, as more states across the US legalise adult ‘recreational’ Cannabis, state-sanctioned ‘medical Cannabis’ programs have come under attack. In an attempt to sell legalisation to anti-Cannabis voters, legalisation advocates emphasised the financial rewards over harm reduction or freedom. Good old-fashioned American capitalism driving legalisation should come as no surprise, although the arguments for freedom and liberty should be more powerful drivers. 

Does there even need to be a distinction between ‘recreational’ and ‘medicinal’? It seems drawing lines in the sand may cause more harm than good. In the case of American states in the era of re-legalisation, it is no longer the user’s right to determine the utility of their use, but government’s. If government thinks you’re just wanting to have a good time they can levy 20% or more in tax which provides states with an incentive to classify more use as recreational rather than medicinal. Most states with ‘medical cannabis’ have a list of conditions for which recommendations are approved. These usually include the most serious and common fatal and chronic illnesses, such as cancer, AIDS, autoimmune disorders and epilepsy. When it comes to mental disorders, and diseases so obscure they don’t fit on the list, or the right to use Cannabis in place of ‘as needed’ drugs like aspirin, US state governments have determined that this use is recreational, not medicinal.

In Oregon, Washington and Colorado state legislators were quite concerned about who could still get access to lower-priced, tax-free, medicinal Cannabis. This led to a ‘decoupling’ of patients from their caregivers and many patients being told they no longer qualified as medicinal. Why? Because the argument for American greed won over the argument for American liberty. As both US conservatives and liberals view freedom as autonomy over one’s body and the medications they choose to use to treat whatever it is that ails them, it would seem most un-American to allow the state to determine the best medical care for patients, rather than the doctors and patients themselves. The heart of Prop. 215 was freedom. Unlike subsequent medical Cannabis bills that passed in other states in the years after, Prop. 215 was vague and created no regulatory structure. Instead, it simply said a person had the right to use Cannabis for any condition for which a doctor saw fit.

Image result for AUMA California 2016The lack of an approved list of conditions was one of the biggest criticisms of Prop. 215. If any condition qualified, essentially anyone could access California’s massive industry. Legislators in other states point to this as what they, as responsible politicians, would not do. Prop. 215 was about allowing doctors and patients the right to determine what worked best for them, even if it was a safe non-toxic substance that happened to be federally illegal thanks to 80 years of lies and propaganda. Further, the state of California never addressed the legislation and the commerce that would arise around it. There was no state medical Cannabis program in California; just a thriving industry among a messy patchwork of regulations and bans across the state’s many diverse regions. Fast-forward twenty years to 2016 and California Proposition 64. The ‘California Marijuana Legalisation Initiative’, on the 8 November ballot as an initiated state statute was approved.

Legalisation passed, 57.13% voted yes as opposed to 43.87% who voted no, in California. Supporters referred to the initiative as the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA). A ‘yes’ vote supported “legalising recreational Cannabis for persons aged 21 years or older under state law, establishing certain sales and cultivation taxes”. Prop. 64 made it legal for individuals to use and grow Cannabis for personal use. However, the sale and subsequent taxation of recreational Cannabis will not go into effect until 1 January, 2018 and the Government, not doctors nor medical professionals, will now determine the route of medical care for patients. Prop. 64 permits Cannabis smoking in a private home or at a business, licensed for on-site consumption, but Cannabis smoking remains illegal while driving a vehicle, anywhere smoking tobacco is and in all public places. Up to 28.5 grams of botanical Cannabis and 8 grams of Cannabis concentrate are legal to possess under the measure.

However, possession on the grounds of a school, day care or youth centre while children are present remains illegal. An individual is permitted to grow up to six plants within a private home as long as the area is securely locked, not visible from a public place, is licensed and has been inspected and approved by law enforcement. The California Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation was renamed the Bureau of Marijuana* Control, responsible for regulating and licensing Cannabis businesses across the state. Counties and municipalities are now empowered to restrict where Cannabis businesses can be located and local governments are allowed to completely ban the sale of Cannabis from their jurisdiction. Moreover, local jurisdictions are allowed to “reasonably regulate” personal growth, possession and use of Cannabis plants.

The majority of citizens across California agreed with Prop. 215, the law that was passed in 1996, so why did they seemingly sit back while the bureaucrats and businessmen redefined personal use for them? Appeasing the obscenely wealthy prohibitionists, or the lying minority, that’s why. Pro-cannabis and concerned patients need to recognise they have huge power; they are the honest majority. More importantly, ‘free’ people (we are supposedly free) have a choice; liberty or greed? With ‘alternative facts’ abounding across the US, Granny Storm Crow in California expressed her amazement and horror at current US and world politics. Her grandfather would be beside himself, “If the truth won’t do, then something is wrong”, he would reiterate most strenuously. Very wrong indeed!

Although they voted to legalise Cannabis in California, local governments are now adding restrictions that make it difficult to grow legally. with no indoor growing, but at the same time, no ‘natural sun’ growing, either. Plants in California must be grown in a hard-sided greenhouse, not visible to the public, fenced, locked, inspected and approved by law enforcement. For which the owner must have a grow license, around US$130, that the county is responsible for but does not yet offer! Granny’s advice is to be sure the right to grow your own is ‘hard-wired’ into law! Unless we are free to grow our own Cannabis, we are merely trading one drug lord for another! I think I’ll just go on like always and quietly keep growing in my ‘very well-lit’ closet in the den. Been doing it for 17 years and haven’t been caught yet.

Australians are being force-fed privatisation, with no offer of decriminalisation nor re-legalisation, driven by unmitigated greed and a complete lack of understanding of even the mechanism-of-action of Cannabis. Australia could learn from the US ‘experiment’ or take a leaf out of Uruguay’s book, where full re-legalisation of all previously illicit ‘drugs’ took place in 2013. Drug consumption is not a crime in Uruguay, state law permits the use of any recreational substance and does not criminalise possession for personal use. Cannabis is the exception when it comes to permissible ways of obtaining substances deemed, ‘drugs’, as Cannabis may be obtained by growing it for personal use, buying it from pharmacies or the Ministry of Health, or by being a member of a Cannabis club. Uruguay gained its prominent position on drug-related issues through vigorous campaigns in political and diplomatic arenas for drug control policies that remain cognisant of human rights, emphasise civil society participation, remain impartial and egalitarian according to principles of mutual and shared responsibility, and avoid the stigmatisation of certain countries.

Image result for australia office of drug control

The Australian Government has rushed to benefit pharmaceutical corporations (who donate to all sides of politics in Australia) without considering their own citizens. They have most certainly put profits before patients which has already led to the demise of at least one former government employee featured in mainstream media. Australia’s Sackville Royal Commission on Non-Medical use of Drugs in South Australia was perhaps the most intelligent and least corrupt of three Australian Royal Commissions during the 1970’s and its recommendations produced South Australia’s decriminalisation model for Cannabis. Decriminalisation is seen as the simplest first step toward re-legalisation, as it merely entails changing regulations surrounding a simple offence or deleting the simple offence entirely. However, decriminalisation is a misnomer, and does not make for less criminals by those in control. Re-legalisation does not support the continued criminalisation of otherwise law-abiding citizens for using a natural, non-toxic, preventative herb. Without complete freedom it is a farce!

Cannabis, in both medicinal and recreational contexts, has now been re-legalised in eight US states. In 2012, the then Chairman of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws’ (NORML) Paul Kuhn stated, The health risks of Cannabis are far less than those of alcohol and tobacco and more akin to those of caffeine. In fact, thousands of studies show Cannabis has potential health benefits in fighting diseases like Alzheimer’s, Crohn’s, MS and even cancer”. He added, Most hard drug addicts start with tobacco and alcohol, not marijuana*. I have friends who consider marijuana* ‘the exit drug’ because it helped them recover from dependence on alcohol and other addictive, deadly substances. Reform of Cannabis laws in the US is, at its core, not a political issue, but one of personal health. That it has become politicised is a testament to how no shortage of ‘civic servants’ seek to manipulate a quintessentially private matter for public gain”.Image result for NORML US

The idea of ending prohibition entirely enjoys strong support across the US. NORML’s Deputy Director, Paul Armentano stated in an interview in March 2017, The ongoing enforcement of Cannabis prohibition financially burdens taxpayers, encroaches upon civil liberties, engenders disrespect for the law and disproportionately impacts young people and communities of colour. It makes no sense from a public health perspective, a fiscal perspective, or a moral perspective to perpetuate the prosecution and stigmatisation of those adults who choose to responsibly consume a substance that is safer than either alcohol or tobacco. Cannabis prohibition was, and still is, an outgrowth of a broader ongoing cultural war engaged in and perpetuated by certain segments of society upon other segments of our society, particularly ethnic minorities and the poor. This policy has never been about Cannabis per se; it is about targeting, stigmatising, prosecuting and disenfranchising particular social or cultural groups who are stereotypically associated with its use”.

If America’s Cannabis policies were guided by science and evidence rather than by emotional rhetoric and cultural stereotypes, we would have enacted an entirely different policy long ago. Most Americans support the enactment of a pragmatic regulatory framework that allows for the licensed commercial production and retail sale of Cannabis to adults, but that also restricts and discourages its use among young people. Such a regulated environment already exists for alcohol and tobacco and has proven effective at reducing problematic use, and especially use among young people, to historic lows. These same principles ought to be applied to regulating Cannabis. By contrast, advocating for continued criminalisation does nothing to offset potential risks to the individual user and to society; it only compounds them”.

1449036336207Australian patients wanting legal access to ‘medicinal Cannabis’ have been told they will need to pay tens of thousands of dollars a year for an imported product, as state and federal governments continue to fight over who should subsidise it. Patients have been quoted up to AU$34,000 a year, or about $93 a day, from an approved importer, leaving them no choice but to continue sourcing Cannabis through illegal channels. The state of Queensland’s Chief Health Officer told a parliamentary committee that just four patients had been granted access to ‘medicinal Cannabis’ through the state’s single-prescriber pathway, plus two patients enrolled in the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital pharmaceutical trial. She said it was hoped the new bulk importation rules introduced by the Federal Government would reduce waiting times, currently averaging four months, and bring down costs for patients. Steve Peek, who fears his eight-year-old daughter Suli will die without access to the Cannabis oil he usually gets for free from a supplier, said he had been quoted $US26,000 a year for a legal alternative. “It’s impossible”, he said.

Expanded from Legalization Is About Freedom And Good Health, Not Greed, with Dennis Peron: A Cannabis Folk Hero Who Never Sold OutBallotpedia-California Proposition 64, Marijuana Legalization (2016)Cannabis Is Safer Than AspirinAntique Cannabis Book – W. B. O’Shaughnessy The Man Who Brought Medical Cannabis to the West, Granny Storm Crow’s ListUN Drug Control Country Information – Latin America, Uruguay, and Australian Medical Cannabis Signpost

*Cannabis sativa L., is the correct botanical term, marijuana is a North American colloquialism 

Australian Law Enforcement Have Lost The “War On Drugs”

“Organised crime in this state and the rest of the country is out of control and cannot be stopped without a radical change”, New South Wales (NSW) Crime Commission.

maxresdefaultAt the end of January 2017, Sydney’s senior law enforcement agency made the admission they had lost the “War on Drugs”. The revelation came that organised crime in NSW was out of control and anti-drug agencies were failing dismally to stem the tsunami of illicit substances flooding the streets. The revelation that 607 drug lords were operating in Sydney and law enforcement were unable to track them, followed a report by the NSW Crime Commission which found the rise of public enemies was “almost entirely driven by the prohibited drugs market. The report revealed part of the problem is the number of drug lords who live overseas. Prosecution of offshore principals is complex, costly and generally beyond the capability of state agencies”.  The white flag followed a series of brazen murders in Sydney, with gangsters gunned down in public. Many drug lords do not live in Australia, operating from Dubai or China, making it virtually impossible for police to bring them down. A senior law enforcement insider said. “We are not losing the war on drugs, we have lost it”.

Only low-level ‘foot soldiers’ are arrested, which is good publicity for police but not making a dent in the problem. The report also warned murder is becoming easier for drug bosses, “The ability to raise vast amounts of cash enables organised crime groups to source weapons and employ persons prepared to undertake murder for profit …”. The Commission’s admission was at odds with claims by the NSW Police Commissioner that crime in the state was going down. “According to statistical reporting, mainstream crime has been slowly reduced over time … however, the observed situation in ­relation to organised crime is considered to be the opposite”, the report said. One senior law enforcement ­officer said, “The chances of having your car stolen or house broken into may have dropped but the chances your children will get hooked on drugs are a lot higher …”

“The money they are making is obscene … runners coming over here from China, Mexico, Dubai and eastern Europe … picking up and laundering millions of dollars a week. And that’s only what we know about or detect”, Crime Commission insider.

IFAustralian drug laws have been established by decree, based on media-generated bigotry and beliefs, not carefully analysed evidence nor scientific facts. Severe punishment for possession and use of outlawed ‘drugs’, many safer than alcohol or tobacco, is cruel and unjust. Governments and regulatory bodies conceal truths and maintain misconceptions to justify hypocritical punishments meted out by the courts. In the eyes of legislators it would seem any ‘drugs’, except alcohol and tobacco, that give a degree of pleasure must be prohibited and defined as ‘a dangerous drug of addiction’, whether or not the substance in question actually causes pharmacological harm! The Howard government (1996-2007) went from ‘harm minimisation’ to ‘zero tolerance’ with a tough on drugs policy. Prime Minister Howard used the phrase repeatedly, unambiguously and emphatically to describe his government’s approach to illicit drugs and often described his personal attitude as ‘zero tolerance’. After a 6:3 majority of the Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy supported a scientific trial of prescription heroin in July 1997, Howard intervened personally to stop the trial on grounds research would ‘send the wrong message’. 

“The key message is that we have 40 years of experience of a law-and-order approach to drugs and it has failed”Hon. Dr Michael Wooldridge, Former Health Minister in the Howard Government

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Under zero-tolerance, some ‘drug crimes’ have gone up in Australia, with methamphetamine use a growing problem for law enforcement and for those addicted to the crystal form of methamphetamine, or more precisely, ice. There is no epidemic, however, as statistics show those in Australia who use ice are in the same numbers who used other forms of methamphetamine before them. Sniff off TriangleRather than basing judgements on an incident or spate of incidents, or on how crime is portrayed in the mainstream media, it’s important to look at trends for crime, or, all reported crime. Surveys conducted by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research show most people think crime is increasing when most crime is not. So with serious crime on the decline why are police arresting and processing more and more Australians every year? Prohibitionists want even more police actions to arrest, charge and imprison users and dealers, conveniently ignoring decades of this failed approach.

“We must show some balls in war on drugs”, screamed the headlines in 2015, followed by an obedient police force in NSW, arresting and charging countless young Australians possessing small amounts of illegal ‘drugs’. Despite strange, expensive and much mocked anti-Cannabis advertisements (Prohibitionists even distanced themselves from the now infamous ‘Stoner Sloth’ campaign), and excessive use of sniffer dogs, party drugs such as ecstasy and ketamine are still widely consumed across Australia. In 2016, ABC TV’s Four Corners showed the failure of current laws to deter ‘drug’ use and even former Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police (AFP), Mick Palmer, AO APM, said mass arresting personal drug users is futile

NSW has lost the war on drugs.

“It is easy to roll out arguments about the harm created by our current arrangements. Young people who are convicted for being in possession of small amounts of Cannabis automatically lose rights to be employed in the public service and in the defence forces and in the police services. They can’t travel …”, Mick Palmer (former Commissioner, AFP)

In early 2016, Australian Greens leader Richard Di Natale was pushing for decriminalisation, arguing drug-taking is a health issue rather than a criminal one. Decriminalisation has been working well in Portugal for over a decade with reductions in drug-related harms, decline in drug use among the most vulnerable (including problematic users) and tremendous increases in the number of drug-dependent individuals accessing treatment. This has been followed by significant reductions in transmission of HIV, tuberculosis and diagnoses of AIDS has also decreased. Unsurprisingly decriminalisation reduced criminal drug offences, which led to a significant reduction in prison overcrowding. Law-enforcement statistics revealed an increase in operational capacity, more domestic drug trafficking seizures and an increase in international anti-trafficking collaborations. Police officers, initially resistant, view decriminalisation as a positive change, with people more likely to cooperate due to less fear of prosecution and improved community relations as a result. In terms of social costs decriminalisation over a 10 year period created a reduction of 18%, as a result of both indirect health and legal costs.

In Uruguay, it’s not legal to buy Cannabis on the street, yet, but the country has legal Cannabis Clubs which pool resources to grow and distribute to registered, paying members with no doctors involved. Legislation passed in 2013 allows Uruguayan residents to grow at home and soon pharmacies will begin selling across the country. Legislators say it is important to get the program right to serve as a model for legalising other substances and end the deadly, unproductive “War on Drugs”. Under Uruguay’s drug law, anyone found in possession of a ‘reasonable quantity exclusively destined for personal consumption’ as determined by a judge, is exempt from punishment. If a judge makes a determination drugs were intended for sale, production or distribution, they must explain the reasoning in any sentence issued. “Latin America is one of the regions which has suffered the most from the politics of Prohibition”, said legislator Sebastian Sabini in Montevideo. “We have a low-intensity undeclared war in Mexico, with 25,000 disappeared and 60,000 killed in recent years; wide-scale impunity and areas where narco-traffickers control daily life. We see drug groups donating to political campaigns, forming alliances with the state and infiltrating our institutions …”. Uruguay aims to avoid the creation of lucrative Cannabis businesses with profits tightly controlled, no brands and no advertising. It’s an approach Sabini would like to see extended to other illicit substances and he hopes by proving careful regulation can prevent increased use, decriminalisation can be extended to cocaine. He would also like to ban all alcohol advertising.

It would take a brave politician to advocate for legalisation of all illicit drugs in Australia, with the large disconnection from more enlightened policies or proposals internationally. In 2015, Irish police backed full decriminalisation of all illicit ‘drugs’ and in January 2017, Irish lawmakers made it known they want government to subsidise the medicinal use of Cannabis, following the United Kingdom, where health authorities determined CBD to be legitimately medicinal. Canada’s government has pledged to legalise all use of Cannabis, and a growing number of US states (28 medical and 8 full, February 2017) are regulating and taxing Cannabis (with authorities taking in nearly US$1 billion in tax). The paucity of sensible public debate over ‘drugs’ in Australia is clear. Major political parties, fearing a tabloid press backlash and loss of funding from other major industries, dare acknowledge the failures of Prohibition while support for legal access to Cannabis for medicinal uses has grown. 

One of the key arguments for legalising ‘drugs’ is the reduction in criminality and violence with evidence from the US that this is happening in Colorado. Although legalising all ‘drugs’ wouldn’t completely remove worldwide criminality, it should make a significant difference, argued Annie Machon, former British intelligence officer and European Director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a global group of former and current police and government officials who oppose the “war on drugs”.

“Decriminalisation is a good start but it wouldn’t remove criminal gangs. LEAP supports legalising, regulating and taxing all drugs”, Annie Machon said. 

After decades of drug-related violence globally, especially in Mexico and South America, another path is essential. Australia and other western nations, markets for illicit substances, should be committed to finding more humane, sensible solutions. Prohibition places the emphasis on law enforcement and criminalisation, whereas other options, including de-penalisation, decriminalisation, legalisation, regulation and taxation would make it possible to focus primarily on the health and social effects. Governments in Australia often use harsh rhetoric when referring to drug use and users, clearly contrasting with two legal psychoactive drugs in widespread use, nicotine and alcohol. Despite creating far more health, social and economic costs than currently illegal ‘drugs’, they are not prohibited. Nicotine use has diminished with regulation, taxation and social control invoked, however, alcohol’s identifiable social harms continue to increase as earlier regulatory and social controls have been relaxed. But neither drug is prohibited, instead, they are controlled by governments, not organised crime.

Costs to Australian society for alcohol (2010)

Governments and the community need to consider the range of available alternatives to current criminalisation, and develop one which is actually effective. The unacceptably high number of drug deaths cannot be allowed to continue, with a particular need to engage parents and young people in considering benefits and costs of a shift away from Prohibition. A bipartisan political approach is highly desirable with the move against Prohibition gathering momentum in other countries across the ideological spectrum as communities around the world place responsibility for the costs of Prohibition where it belongs; with legislators who continue to support the international Prohibition approach. 

HIGH TIMES: Police from Strike Force Hyperion unload cannabis seized from Clouds Creek State Forest south of Nymboida, which had an estimated street value of over $400,000.

Police from Strike Force Hyperion unload Cannabis seized from Clouds Creek State Forest, south of Nymboida, with an estimated (by law enforcement) street value of over AU$400,000.

In December 2016, annual police Cannabis raids across the Northern Rivers (NSW) were put under the microscope by law and Cannabis experts. 3,314 Cannabis plants were seized with an estimated ‘law-enforcement’ street value of AU$6.6 million. After more than two decades of annual eradication operations across the region, Southern Cross University’s School of Law and Justice lecturer, Aidan Ricketts, said the raids haven’t made a dint in supply and was critical of the effectiveness of the busts, saying, “Supply reduction doesn’t work because the laws of supply and demand will always fill any gap”. Nimbin HEMP Embassy President Michael Balderstone claimed the eradication program signifies a cultural war rather than Cannabis search”. Mr Balderstone said a huge percentage of crops in the area are very small, grown for personal or medicinal use that would never get to market or the street”

According to Mr Ricketts, many commentators have suggested the police valuation of Cannabis plants at AU$2,000 a plant is quite inflated”, and Mr Balderstone agrees, with male plants and seedlings seized by police more or less worthless”. Balderstone said it’s ironic the herb is still illegal despite state government trials in ‘medicinal Cannabis’. Mr Ricketts questioned the imminence of Cannabis decriminalisation, “There is the sense that Cannabis decriminalisation is coming internationally one way or another and yet we are sort of operating on a business-as-usual model in Australia …”, he said. “If the herb is decriminalised in Australia, resources from the Cannabis eradication program could be reinvested into cracking down on other illicit substances such as ice. You’ve got things like meth., labs and other drugs which are of much more concern to the community, a lot of people would probably prefer to see the resources going into those operations”.

Australia’s National Drug Strategy:

  1. Supply Reduction – Reducing availability of drugs through legislation and law enforcement
  2. Demand Reduction – Reducing demand for drugs through prevention and treatment 
  3. Harm Reduction – Reducing harms of drugs among the people who continue to use them

Image result for australia's prohibition

The argument most widely used in Australia supporting change in Prohibition is the current approaches are failing to achieve primary goals of reduced drug availability and harms. Instead they produce serious unintended adverse consequences, including corruption and more crime. Demonising substances that can have important health and social benefits results in demonising those who use them, by association, leading to considerable stigma and discrimination. Principal arguments used against changing failed policy tend to be moral, not scientific. The use of the term “war” in reference to drugs mobilises fear as a political asset, being part of a war against the threat of “evil drugs” has been a political vote winner. Being “soft on drugs” is a label used politically about those who question Prohibition. While drugs remain prohibited, there is a hugely lucrative black market committed to promoting them and many people are justifiably fearful of their children becoming exposed and entangled in the drug culture and its illegality. 

“By maintaining prohibition and suppressing or avoiding debate about its costs and benefits, it can be argued justifiably that our governments and other community leaders are standing idly by while our children are killed and criminalised”. Australia21

In Australia, numbers of prisoners grew 8%, 2015-2016, with prisoners exhibiting high rates of recidivism, in large part due to ongoing problems with alcohol and other drugs along with a high rate of functional illiteracy and numeracy among prisoners and parolees. Keeping prisoners engaged with their family and community helps reduce recidivism. So, too, conjugal visits and the ability to be educated in a practical way to engage with the world outside. British Conservative Home Office Minister Douglas Hurd, who served in Margaret Thatcher and John Major’s governments said it best, “Prisons are an expensive way of making bad people worse”. State and territory governments in Australia claim to be anxious to reduce spending, yet currently spend huge amounts of money incarcerating people at a higher rate than any European country and at a rate that is steadily increasing. Victoria’s Ombudsman believed the Andrews Government’s short term headline-grabbing view of crime does nothing to reduce crime or reoffending rates, but contributes to small-time offenders becoming hardened criminals. 

Victoria’s overall crime rate rose by 12.4%, 2015-2016, largely as a result of a spike in property crime committed by young repeat offenders. The Victorian Andrews government fImage result for victoria ombudsmanaced criticism from opposition leader Matthew Guy, “there is a crime wave in this city that is out of control” claiming only his political party was tough enough to stop it. In September 2016 Director of the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research called for a complete rethink of the way crime is dealt with in the face of an exploding NSW prison population. He believed “toning down the political rhetoric” was important for allowing investment to be made in what works, rather than what wins votes. It is hoped political leaders will focus on effective measures to reduce crime, rather than pandering to police associations and engaging in wars of words.

Image result for Victorian Shadow Police Minister Edward O’DonohueVictorian Shadow Police Minister Edward O’Donohue said the rise in crime is directly attributable to insufficient funding of the State’s police force. “As a result of Daniel Andrews’ weakening of our justice system, many of these offenders have little concern for the consequences of their crimes and are soon back out on the street”. Victoria’s Police Association Secretary said crime is caused by a reduced police presence, “When you have police stations that ten years ago put two vehicles on the road now struggling to get one out … of course, criminals will take advantage … it stands to reason that theft and burglaries will rise”. Those claims are not, however borne out by statistics or research, which suggests the most effective way of reducing crime is implementing preventative measures aimed at repeat offenders. If politicians are to move to change this culture they will need to be confident that any change will improve, not worsen, the current situation. A growing body of international evidence demonstrates that such concerns can be alleviated.

Adapted from Are Cannabis Raids Effective?, with Drug Laws By Decree, Not Scientific Fact,  The war on drugs has failed, end it now, Organised crime in NSW at levels not seen previously as state loses war on drugsElection FactCheck: is crime getting worse in Australia?, Recorded Crime – Offenders, 2015-16, Australian crime: Facts & figures: 2014 » Chapter 1: Recorded crime & selected crime profiles, A QUIET REVOLUTION: DRUG DECRIMINALISATION ACROSS THE GLOBE, Uruguay’s Drug Policy: Major Innovations, Major ChallengesCivil Liberties Australia, Bulging prisons? Recidivist politicians, Time for Australia to abandon ‘failed war on drugs’, The prohibition of illicit drugs is killing and criminalising our children and we are all letting it happen., In a first for Latin America, Uruguay rolls out program legalizing marijuana, and, Ombudsman Blasts Government’s ‘Tough on Crime’ Policies


How Cannabis Works to Control Pain and Anxiety

Image result for the limbic system

The Limbic System

Cannabis is well known as a herbal painkiller, but is also increasingly being used in other conditions involving the limbic system, sometimes referred to as the mid or so-called reptilian brain. So, just how does Cannabis cause these effects? Cannabis contains over 500 compounds, 80 of which are cannabinoids. Many of these compounds have medicinal value and research continues to provide more knowledge about how they work. The medicinal effects of Cannabis are mediated by the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). The system includes two neurotransmitters (anandamide and 2AG) two receptors (CB1 and CB2) and two enzymes (MAGL and FAAH). The ECS is responsible for modulating neurotransmission and cannabinoids regulate the ECS. There are two types of cannabinoids, those produced by the human body, endogenous cannabinoids, and those sourced from the Cannabis plant, the phytocannabinoids. An increase in cannabinoids, either endogenous or phyto, increases the amount of the neurotransmitter dopamine to the brain.


Cannabinoids work differently to any other neurotransmitter. Instead of stimulating the next neuron on the pathway up the central nervous system, endocannabinoids actually double back to the presynaptic neuron from the post synaptic neuron they just stimulated and de-polarise the pre-synaptic neuron. This is referred to as retrograde inhibition. This depolarisation of the pre-synaptic neuron occurs by causing release of dopamine, which reverses the concentration of sodium and potassium inside and outside the cell. This depolarisation makes it harder for the pre-synaptic neuron to be stimulated by the next neural impulse being transmitted by the nervous system. The effect of this is a slowing down of neurotransmission which is ideal in pain management and control.

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Endocannabinoid Retrograde Inhibition

Migraines are caused by an overload of the electrical circuits in a certain part of the brain, so slowing down the speed of neurotransmission leads to fewer neural impulses. This in turn decreases the likelihood or severity of a migraine. That is not the only effect, CaImage result for reptilian brainnnabis is an anti-nauseant as well, but probably exerts that effect in some other manner. The same thing is true of people who have panic attacks, if the negative thoughts are moving to the brain at warp speed, the limbic system (emotional control centre of the brain), is overwhelmed and there is little or no time for the frontal cortex to override the more primitive mid or reptilian brain. This makes us more likely to act before we think. That is because the reptilian brain sees things in terms of black and white, life and death. This mechanism may have served our ancestors well in the time of sabre-toothed tigers, but in modern day it is more often not very helpful. Much in modern life is shades of grey and more nuanced than life and death.

Cannabis slows down the speed of neurotransmission, exposing the cerebral cortex to fewer slower moving neural stimuli. This allows the higher centres of the brain to more rationally assess relative danger or the negativity and put a more rational point of view on that sensory input, often taking the edge off anxiety or preventing a panic attack. In medical school, doctors are taught 70% of the brain exists to turn off the other 30%. Dopamine is one of the “off switches” that helps modulate sensory input. One suggestion is that Cannabis and cannabinoids increase the amount of free dopamine in the brain by preventing the dopamine from binding to another neurochemical dopamine transporter. The transporter and dopamine form an electrochemical bond that ties up the dopamine so that it is not free to act as an “off switch”. These cannabinoids replace the dopamine and the amount of free dopamine available to depolarise the presynaptic neuron also increases.


And that’s just pain and anxiety. There are a host of conditions that appear to be tied to an endocannabinoid deficiency syndrome that has been postulated by such scientists as pharmacologist Danielle Piomelli, PhD and neurologist, Ethan Russo, MD. The possible cause of an endocannabinoid deficiency syndrome is most likely genetic and due to the fact that most, if not all, human characteristics are distributed on a bell shaped curve – some of us have less of the constituents of the ECS and some have more. It is not clear that is the explanation or the only explanation for Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency  (CECD), however, if there is a lower amount of free dopamine present in the brain, neural impulses will likely move more rapidly.

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This mechanism of slowing the speed of neurotransmission, retrograde inhibition, contributes to the treatment of many conditions that respond to cannabinoids and Cannabis. Cannabinoids compete with dopamine for the binding sites on the dopamine transporter, and in sufficient quantity they win, which frees up more dopamine to slow down the speed of neurotransmissions. This, according to many cannabinoid researchers, is responsible for much of the therapeutic value of Cannabis in such conditions as migraines, seizure disorder, ADD, ADHD, Crohn’s disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Social Anxiety and Autism Spectrum Disorder, to name some of the more obvious.

Adapted from How Cannabis Works to Control Pain and Anxiety by Dr David Bearman, with Granny Storm Crow’s List and Hemp Edification


Cannabis is NOT a Drug

micemenmonkeysIn laying accusations against Cannabis sativa L., (Cannabis) as a cause of harm, Prohibitionists often produced ‘evidence’ based upon experimentation using concentrated or synthetic tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) upon the likes of mice and monkeys. Such evidence was never scientific and should have been ignored. Whilst there are similarities between mice, men and monkeys (we are all mammals) there is a big difference between the effects of a human being smoking whole-plant Cannabis and the dropping of neat THC onto the inner lining of a mouse’s stomach (the latter ought to be illegal)! To use the results of experiments with just one of many hundreds of compounds in a plant to infer the observed properties (alleged toxicity etc.,) is scientifically unsound. It would be like extracting poisonous chemicals from the human body and inferring the body itself is poisonous, ignoring the counter-balances which nature usually provides.

Image result for hydrochloric acid sodium hydroxideBoth hydrochloric acid, found in a dilute form in our digestive systems, and sodium hydroxide are poisonous but mixed, they produce salt and water. THC is just one of many active ingredients in Cannabis which can be produced synthetically. Organic Cannabis contains over 1,000 other compounds; like any herb it is the use of the whole herb as medicine which is vital, the ‘Entourage Effect’. Any judgement of Cannabis based on the supply of THC alone to patients is unfounded. Cannabis contains THC but Cannabis is not purely THC. It is incorrect methodologically to mix in extraneous, irrelevant THC findings, or data from isolated cannabinoids and then make false claims relating to Cannabis. When The Lancet wrote, in 1995, “The smoking of Cannabis, even long term, is not harmful to health” they meant whole-plant Cannabis only, not mixed with tobacco or anything else. The same applies to United States (US) Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Judge Young who said, over twenty-five years ago, that Cannabis is safer than most foods we eat. Judge Young not only ruled Cannabis as safe, but also that Cannabis in its natural herbal state is non-toxic.

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Scientific evidence from clinical empirical studies (long term, cross-cultural studies in Jamaica, Costa Rica, Greece and Egypt in the 1970’s-1980’s etc.) confirm Cannabis contains no addictive properties in any part of the plant or in its smoke so, unlike and in contrast to tobacco, alcohol and all the legal or illegal ‘recreational’ substances, Cannabis is both non-habit-forming and non-toxic. As such, Cannabis is uniquely safe and does not induce psychological or physical dependence, exonerating Cannabis from causing harm to human beings. We have seen that the majority of studies have found no clinically or statistically significant differences between groups of Cannabis users and controls on commonly accepted neurological and psychological measures of cerebral functioning”, researchers at the State University of New York, Buffalo, New York stated in the paper, ‘The Chronic Cerebral Effects of Cannabis Use II Psychological Findings and Conclusions’ (1986). During testimony on behalf of NORML before US Congress in 1997, Associate Professor, Emeritus Lester Grinspoon, M.D., described Cannabis as remarkably safe, and “… surely less toxic than most of the conventional medicines it could replace if it were legally available. Despite its use by millions of people over thousands of years, Cannabis has never caused an overdose death”. According to the US National Cancer Institute,  “Because cannabinoid receptors, unlike opioid receptors, are not located in the brainstem areas controlling respiration, lethal overdoses from Cannabis and cannabinoids do not occur”. 

Image result for Dutch ‘droge’ herbsThe word ‘drug’ derives most likely from the fourteenth century Dutch / German word for dry, ‘droge’, when used referencing goods or wares (dry-goods, -wares), particularly herbs and spices for culinary or herbal uses and dyeing of textiles. Application to “narcotics and opiates” came in the late nineteenth century with no connotation of addiction over the centuries until the twentieth century, when the meaning was transformed by the specious pseudo-philosophy of Prohibition. To those people in whose (pecuniary) interest it is to perpetuate prohibition of Cannabis the semantically incorrect use of the word ‘drug’ where Cannabis is concerned, is a premeditated misuse of terminology. This serves strategy advantageous to Prohibitionists and comprises a simple but effective mechanism of disinformation, by putting the harmless herb into an unjustifiable association with addictive and harmful drugs. The reality is clear: Cannabis and those pernicious substances, the drugs, are wholly unalike. As the word ‘drug’ is wrong and inapplicable to Cannabis, it is necessary to establish a correct word, veracious vocabulary, which is fitting. From The Report of the Family Council on Drug Awareness (FCDA) (Europe, 2000);

Because Cannabis has been loosely, widely and incorrectly referred to in the past as a ‘drug’ does not mean that this basic untruth can become acceptable. On the contrary, since the introduction of Prohibition the legal situation compels veracity and clarity more than ever, for not to articulate the truth accurately involves perjury. Yet truthful language, the truth, exposes the mendacious basis to the crime that is this prohibition of Cannabis”.

Some argue Cannabis is a drug in any case, as it can be used as a constituent in a medicine. Others argue that parts of the Cannabis plant cannot correctly, semantically be called a drug at all, especially as it is neither physically addictive nor toxic in any conceivably consumable amount. Related imageTell a Rastafarian that his sacrament is a drug and you will find yourself in trouble! Look at a bale of hemp fibre, hemp-seed oil soap, paper, cloth or seed cake, they are all pure Cannabis, and then call it a drug. Drugs are associated with addiction (drugs of abuse) and health and other problems; Cannabis is associated with none of these. From all medico-scientific aspects, harmless Cannabis is not only wrongly defined as a ‘drug’ in any meaningful (semantic) definition of the word but also, by definition and empirical reality, wrongly proscribed as a ‘drug’ (or other substance) under legislation regulations. Although dictionaries vary slightly in their definitions of ‘drug’, virtually all refer to, and rely for definition on, a drug’s habit-forming, addictive properties.

Image result for narcoticWebster’s New World Dictionary, for example, defines ‘drug’ as: “a narcotic, hallucinogen, especially one that is habit-forming”. Cannabis is pharmacologically distinct from the family of opium derivatives and synthetic narcotics, is not hallucinogenic and contains no habit-forming properties in the plant itself or its smoke. Evidence from the most fundamental and widely inferred meaning, by definition based on empirical fact, Cannabis is not a drug. According to the Oxford Pocket Dictionary to intoxicate is to make drunk, excite, elate, beyond self-control. Unlike alcohol, Cannabis users do not lose self-control. Massive amounts just send them to sleep. Intoxicants are potentially toxic, that is poisonous, with a certain overdose level often dependent on the individual. There has never been a single death directly attributed to Cannabis use, in thousands of years of history, with hundreds of millions of users worldwide, as there is no toxic amount of Cannabis. Many substances which are mind-altering or mood changing are also not drugs; hormones, endorphins, adrenaline and endocannabinoids (endogenous cannabinoids). Conscious-altering substances which we consume which are not generally regarded as drugs, either, include sugar, caffeine and chocolate.

Image result for The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for ResearchScientifically, it is now generally accepted that Cannabis is safer than alcohol and tobacco. The question of any risk attached to the use of Cannabis will continue to be a matter for the experts, but irrespective of the answer there exists no justifiable reason to punish Cannabis users or those who grow it. In January 2017 the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released a ground-breaking report, ‘The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research’. The report states there is conclusive evidence Cannabis can be used medicinally with Cannabis treatment recognised for efficacy in treating many medical conditions such as “… chronic pain in adults, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and multiple sclerosis spasticity symptoms”. Michael Collins, Deputy Director of National Affairs at the US Drug Policy Alliance said, “This report is vindication for all the many researchers, patients and healthcare providers who have long understood the benefits”, and, “To have such a thorough review of the evidence conclude that there are benefits … should boost the case for federal reform”. Cannabis has been used for centuries, both medicinally and for what Prohibitionists like to refer to as recreational use, which is actually therapeutic, as well as for rope etc., long before the days of drugs and synthetics.

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A now rescinded Australian Government document from the National Drug Strategy stated, “Cannabis has been erroneously classified as a narcotic, as a sedative and most recently as an hallucinogen. While the cannabinoids do possess hallucinogenic properties, together with stimulant and sedative effects, they in fact represent a unique pharmacological class of compounds. Unlike many other drugs of abuse, Cannabis acts upon specific receptors in the brain and periphery. The discovery of the receptors and the naturally occurring substances in the brain that bind to these receptors is of great importance, in that it signifies an entirely new pathway system in the brain”. The fact that Cannabis is a non-toxic herb means it should not be under any form of legislation, nor tied up in bureaucratic red-tape or included in a Poisons Standard nor a ‘Misuse of Drugs Act’ anywhere on the planet, as a substance has to be harmful to be deemed as belonging there, which Cannabis isn’t. The illegal placement of Cannabis under politically invented standards and acts is a hidden crime against humanity.

In Australia, personal Cannabis use and possession is illegal and penalties vary greatly from state to territory. As from November 2016 however, pharmaceuticalised ‘medicinal Cannabis products’ are dImage result for Narcotic Drugs Amendment Bill 2016eemed ‘legal’ Australia-wide and a federal Cannabis cultivation scheme is being introduced. In February 2016, the Federal Government passed legislation ‘legalising’ cultivation of Cannabis for medicinal purposes. The Narcotic Drugs Amendment Bill 2016 introduced a legislative framework to enable licensed cultivation of Cannabis in Australia and facilitate access to ‘medicinal Cannabis products’ for therapeutic purposes. The then Federal Health Minister said the Government worked closely with the states and territories in developing the legislation and clarified that the legislation did not relate to decriminalisation of Cannabis for general cultivation or recreational use. “If states wish to decriminalise Cannabis, then that’s entirely a matter for them. This product is not one that you smoke, it’s not something that might be out there illegally”.

Image result for twenty-eight US states have medical Cannabis lawsCurrently twenty-eight US states have medical Cannabis laws, and sixteen more states have CBD-only laws. The NAS report notes that “There are specific regulatory barriers, including the classification of Cannabis as a Schedule I substance, that impede the advancement of Cannabis and cannabinoid research”. Cannabis was classified in the US as a Schedule I Controlled Substance decades ago, along with ecstasy, LSD and heroin whilst crack cocaine is a Schedule II substance along with methadone, oxycodone and fentanyl, and other narcotics including morphine, opium and codeine. In the US, the qualifications required for a drug to reach Schedule I distinction are threefold:

  1. High potential for abuse
  2. No currently accepted medical use, and
  3. Lack of accepted safety for use.

Does Cannabis truly meet the requirements of a US Schedule I drug? The answer is a resounding NO! High potential for abuse? Hardly! No currently accepted medical use? No way! Lack of accepted safety for use? Absolutely not!

Over 43% of American adults have smoked Cannabis at least once, but less than 1% smoke on a daily basis. Cannabis use across the US doubled from 7% in 2013 to 13% in 2016 and whereas alcohol is linked to over 75,000 deaths per year (according to the World Health Organisation about 3.3 million net deaths worldwide in 2012, or 5.9% of all global deaths) and tobacco roughly 400,000 per year (around 6 million deaths annually worldwide), the world is still waiting for the first-ever instance of Cannabis fatality. This is a substance on which it is impossible to overdose and does not cause the kind of violent limbic explosions associated with abuse of alcohol, cocaine and amphetamines. Initial studies suggested cannabinoids might increase nucleus accumbens dopamine concentrations, in part, by binding to the dopamine transporter and thereby decreasing uptake into presynaptic terminals, which would be consistent with the pharmacological mechanism of action of other drugs of abuse, such as cocaine. Cannabinoids failed to alter the width of electrically evoked dopamine release events, thereby showing that cannabinoids do not increase dopamine by decreasing uptake. Thus the way Cannabis increases dopamine, through separate pathways to addictive substances, is why Cannabis is not addictive. Cannabis is not a Dopamine Reuptake Inhibitor (DRI) in the way that cocaine, alcohol (0.2% less addictive than cocaine), methylphenidate (Ritalin) or dexamphetamines are; they are all addictive DRI’s. 

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In Australia, down-scheduling of ‘medicinal Cannabis products’, from Schedule 9 (Prohibited Substances) to Schedule 8 (Controlled Drug, alongside cocaine and methadone), took effect from 1 November 2016. Cannabis remains a highly regulated substance in Australia and the use and supply of Cannabis for non-medicinal purposes (for example, recreational use) is illegal, in accordance with applicable Commonwealth, state and territory laws. Poisons for therapeutic use (medicines) are mostly included in Schedules 2, 3, 4 and 8 with progression through these Schedules signifying increasingly restrictive regulatory controls.

Schedule 8 – Controlled Drug – Substances which should be available for use but (according to government) require restriction of manufacture, supply, distribution, possession and use to reduce abuse, misuse and physical or psychological dependence.

Schedule 9 – Prohibited Substance – Substances which may be abused or misused, the manufacture, possession, sale or use of which should be prohibited by law except when required for medical or scientific research, or for analytical, teaching or training purposes with approval of Commonwealth and/or State or Territory Health Authorities. 

Image result for Australia, the country ranks among the highest in the world for Cannabis use

Despite both recreational and medical use of whole plant at present being illegal across Australia, the country ranks among the highest in the world for Cannabis use. According to the Australian National Drug Strategy Household Surveys (NDSHS), 13% of Australians aged 14 and above used Cannabis in the year prior to the survey, with teenagers and young adults in their twenties making up most of the users. Over 40% reported having used Cannabis at some point in the past. In October 2016, only 7% of Australians surveyed for their views said they were opposed to Cannabis being made legal for medicinal purposes. In a poll released by Roy Morgan Research, 91% of Australians polled, aged 14 and above said it should be made legal, while 2% were unsure. The strongest support for legalisation came from the 50-plus age group, with 94% of respondents in favour. The age group least likely to support it were 14-to-24 year-olds, but even so, 85% of that group said it should be legalised for medicinal use. Michele Levine, the CEO of Roy Morgan Research, said that Australians aged 50-plus were the strongest supporters. 

Over the last decade, the proportion of the population who believe Cannabis should be made legal has grown from 26.8% (2004) to 31.8% (2014). In this time, the 65+ age bracket has seen the largest proportional increase in favour of legalisation, rising from 16.9% to 25.5% (a 50% growth rate). However, this is still well behind young Australians aged 18-24 (35.7%), the age group with the most support for making Cannabis legal.

How Australians of Different Ages Feel About Legalising Cannabis, January-December 2014

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia). Base: Australians 14+

Since the 1970’s, the twenty-eight American states that have re-legalised Cannabis for medicinal purposes have done so quite simply because Cannabis has huge medical value, something that has been known throughout recorded human history. Cannabis’ long history of use as medicine dates back to 2737 BCE. The classical Chinese pharmacopoeia described a large number of herbal formulations used for the treatment of a wide variety of diseases and prescribed for a broad range of indications. As such, Cannabis medicine is not a new trend, d
espite what ‘reefer madness’ America and other propagandists might have you believe. About 5,000 years ago, Chinese physicians would recommend a tea made from Cannabis leaves to treat a wide variety of conditions and in Chinese herbology, Cannabis is one of the 50 Fundamental Herbs.

In 2014 across the US, a total of 2.5 million persons aged ≥12 years had used Cannabis for the first time during the preceding year, an average of approximately 7,000 new users a day. During 2002–2014, the prevalence of Cannabis use during the past month, year and daily increased among persons aged ≥18 years. Among persons aged ≥12 years, the prevalence of perceived great risk from smoking Cannabis once or twice a week and once a month decreased and the prevalence of perceived no risk increased. Among persons aged ≥12 years, the percentage reporting that Cannabis was fairly easy or very easy to obtain increased. The percentage of persons aged ≥12 reporting the mode of acquisition of Cannabis was buying it and growing it increased versus getting it for free and sharing it.

Image result for Cannabis use among older Americans is increasing.Cannabis use among older Americans is increasing. Although much of this growth has been attributed to the entry of a more tolerant baby boom cohort into older age, recent evidence suggests the pathways to Cannabis are more complex. Some older persons have responded to changing social and legal environments and are increasingly likely to take Cannabis recreationally. Other older persons are experiencing age-related health care needs and some take Cannabis for symptom management, as recommended by a medical doctor. Cannabis may be a viable policy alternative in terms of supporting the health and well-being of a substantial number of ageing Americans. On the one hand, Cannabis may be an effective substitute for prescription opioids and other misused medications; on the other hand, Cannabis has emerged as an alternative for the under-treatment of pain at the end of life.

One of the biggest components to any narrative battle will be “a fight for civil liberties” versus “lazy twenty-somethings looking for an excuse to get ‘high’”. The increased medicinal use among seniors should demonstrate that responsible Cannabis usImage result for massive underground trade between south-western US and Mexicoe is not only a conceivable practice but one that already exists widely across the US, Canada and Europe. Re-legalisation of Cannabis incurs regulation of Cannabis. Most, if not all current safety hazards associated with Cannabis exist because the substance is illegal and unregulated. Just as alcohol prohibition led to organised crime and poorly-crafted home-made booze (that often led to alcohol poisoning), the continued criminalisation of Cannabis has led to a massive underground trade between south-western US and Mexico. 

It is a by-product of the pursuit of happiness that man has the right to debilitate himself, as long as he does not harm his neighbour while doing so. It is perfectly legal to abuse to any desirable degree, and even to the point of death, the drugs Marlboro, Jack Daniels and McDonald’s, as well as base jumping, cave diving and bull riding. It should come as no surprise that almost all of these are more addictive than Cannabis and cause more deaths per year. What’s more? Many of them cause harm to innocent bystanders. So will those who wish to keep Cannabis illegal also criminalise these dangerous drugs? Cannabis is first and foremost a herb and a medicine, not a drug. The overtones of the words are very different as medicine is a product that treats or prevents disease and drugs are a chemical substance with a biological effect. Importantly, while tobacco, alcohol and prescription pain killers, all legal, kill people by the thousand, Cannabis gives new life to the suffering, and it is past time this natural wonder was made freely legal, worldwide.


Expanded from Cannabis Campaigner’s Guide – Is Cannabis Really a Drug?, with Why Marijuana Is Not A Drug, Cannabis is a medicine, not a drug, The health and psychological consequences of cannabis use, Cannabis is Not an Addictive DrugThe Emperor Wears No Clothes, NORML’s Testimony on Medical Marijuana Before Congress (1997) Lester Grinspoon, MD, The Shocking Facts On Cannabis, National Academy of Sciences Finds Conclusive Evidence That Marijuana is an Effective Medicine, Cannabis Prohibition: A Very Serious Crime , One in Eight U.S. Adults Say They Smoke Marijuana, Schedule 9 Poisons Standard, Schedule 8 – Poisons Standard, National Estimates of Marijuana Use and Related Indicators – National Survey on Drug Use and Health, United States, 2002-2014, Cannabis Is One Of The 50 Fundamental Herbs Of Chinese Medicine and The Increasing Use of Cannabis Among Older Americans: A Public Health Crisis or Viable Policy Alternative?


Cannabis Tinctures: Uses, Effects and Recipes

cannabis-tinctures-1Cannabis sativa L., (Cannabis) tinctures are a simple way for patients to take their medicine and are easy to make at home. Tinctures are one of the oldest methods of consuming Cannabis. In fact, before prohibition began in the United States in 1937, tinctures were the most common type of Cannabis medicine in the US and around the world. While less common today, mostly due to archaic and inhumane laws, Cannabis tinctures are still popular among patients, especially those who need to take regular doses throughout the day. Like other herbal tinctures, a Cannabis tincture is simply a concentrated liquid form of Cannabis. Cannabis tinctures are sometimes called ‘Green Dragon because of the deep green colour that develops as the plant’s chlorophyll infuses with (most commonly) alcohol. But what are Cannabis tinctures? What are their benefits and common uses, how do they differ from other forms of Cannabis and what are some of the best recipes for making them?

(Cannabis Tincture)

Cannabis tinctures are made by soaking Cannabis flowers (buds) in alcohol (leaf trim, hash and kief can also be used). The alcohol extracts the terpenes, cannabinoids and other compounds from the Cannabis (for the full ‘Entourage Effect’), into a liquid that contains a high concentration of active compounds. Alcohol also preserves the compounds, which is important since it takes longer to consume tinctures as opposed to other forms of Cannabis. Cannabis tinctures are usually stored in an amber or dark blue glass, dropper bottle, which helps preserve the tincture for longer by blocking out sunlight. One of the benefits of using tinctures is that the alcohol allows your body to absorb the medicine faster. Most tinctures are taken by placing a few drops under the tongue, known as sublingual administration. When you take a tincture sublingually, the cannabinoids are absorbed rapidly by the blood vessels lining the inner tissues of the mouth, resulting in a quick onset of effects. 

Tinctures can also be ingested orally, such as by swallowing or mixing it with food. If you consume a tincture orally, the cannabinoids must be absorbed through the stomach and gastrointestinal tract and through the liver (in particular) and take significantly longer to enter the bloodstream. Depending on whether the Cannabis is decarboxylated first, tinctures may contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in its active form or non-active form (THCa). Most people choose to decarboxylate their Cannabis before making a tincture, allowing them to take full advantage of the medical benefits of THC. While medical uses of THC are still being researched, there is evidence that it can be helpful in treating a wide range of conditions and disorders, including nausea, vomiting, poor appetite, pain, multiple sclerosis, cancer, Crohn’s disease, PTSD, anxiety, depression, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, sleep apnoea, glaucoma, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and many others. 

cannaplantHowever, if you do not decarboxylate your Cannabis, you will receive the benefits of tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, THC acid or THCa, found in the flowers, leaves and stems of young Cannabis plants. Biosynthesised by the trichomes, THCa plays a critical role in protecting the trichomes, and thus the plants themselves, from insects and other predators. Furthermore, THCa is no more ‘psychoactive’ than CBD, thus allaying parental concerns about getting their children ‘high’ (an unfounded, prohibitionist-driven fear). THCa is one of the cannabinoids primarily found in fresh Cannabis, although in variable amounts, according to CannLabs. Once the Cannabis plant is exposed to heat, such as vaporising, THCa decarboxylates to THC. What happens on a molecular level is that the carbon dioxide in the Cannabis is released; as a carbon atom in the acid is lost, THCa is converted to neuro-active THC. THCa acts as a cannabinoid receptor agonist and in so doing, also provides neuro-protective (brain protection) effects.

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THCa has also been shown to be an anti-inflammatory agent, has anti-proliferative qualities (helps inhibit growth of cancerous cells), as well as anti-spasmodic effects, useful for epileptic patients. THCa works just as well as Cannabidiol (CBD) for seizure control and is cheaper and more accessible than CBD (especially in the speculative environment created by CBD’s sky-rocketing popularity). In contrast to the specialised, low-THC/high CBD plants needed to make CBD extracts, any high-THC Cannabis strain can be used to make a THCa tincture. Prominent Australian Cannabis breeder/researcher, Mark Heinrich, said in 2014;

“As it is THCa, there is no issue of a ‘high’, so that makes strain choice less selective. Truly, this is globally available to even the poorest people. I have sent this simple method to doctors in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, China and more … There is no need to spend big money on CBD if THCa is just as good. We are getting good results with CBDa, CBD, THCa and CBN. Right now, predators and sharks are making a killing from CBD, but make no mistake, THCa works just as well and we have proof. We want everyone to have access to the tutorials to empower them to be able to make their own and not be reliant on CBD merchants. What’s even better, the information is FREE … And think how many folks can now get help – empowerment of parents”.

Image result for strain sativa v indicaThe effect of any tincture does depend on which strain is used to make it. For example, a sativa dominant strain will give you more of an energetic and uplifting tincture which could also be used to stimulate appetite and combat pain. An indica dominant strain however, will give you more of a body ‘high, can aid sleep and reduce nausea, depression and pain. Tinctures made with a hybrid strain will share some qualities of both indica and sativa. Tinctures allow the user to obtain the same medical benefits while avoiding respiratory issues associated with incinerating the plant (smoking). Tinctures also have advantages over edibles, containing fewer calories than most Cannabis-infused baked goods. However, a common concern (particularly among prohibitionists and the downright ignorant) with edibles is someone may accidentally eat the food without knowing it’s infused and get ‘high.

Tinctu(Photo: Marijuana Growers HQ)res are easier to store as they are often in glass dropper bottles and look like medicine (probably because they are), so accidental consumption is usually unlikely. Tinctures can also be kept for longer without spoiling. Unlike edibles, if tinctures are kept in a dark, cool cupboard or fridge, they should last for years. Tinctures can be a good option for patients who need to be discreet about their medication. Unlike smoking or vaporising, which can emit a scent and draw unwanted attention in public, consuming a tincture is quick and odourless. This means tinctures can be taken in the same settings as any typical over-the-counter medication: at the office, in public places or anywhere else Cannabis wouldn’t be considered socially (nor politically) acceptable. Tinctures are safe to use for patients who are prescribed medical Cannabis. Tinctures may be especially helpful to ill children who can’t smoke or vaporise Cannabis.

Unlike edibles, which can take up to an hour or longer to start working, tinctures can be felt as quickly as 15 minutes after dosing. The effects of tinctures also last for a shorter period of time compared to edibles. Tincture efficacy usually peaks about 90 minutes after consumption and can last 4 to 8 hours, depending on the dose. Because the effects can be felt so quickly, dosing with a tincture is easier than dosing with an edible. As with any form of Cannabis, you should start with a small dose to gauge your tolerance and to avoid any possible, initial, unwanted effects of ‘over-consuming’. If you’re taking a Cannabis tincture for the first time, start off with about 1 ml and adjust (upwards or downwards) as necessary.  There are three ways to consume Cannabis tinctures: sublingually, orally or with food. To take a tincture sublingually, drop desired dose under the tongue and hold for 30 seconds before swallowing. This method will produce quicker, stronger effects because the tincture is absorbed into the bloodstream through the inner lining of the mouth.

Find ground cannabis used to make tincturesYou can take Cannabis tinctures orally by adding a few drops to a beverage such as a smoothie, juice or even a ‘mocktail’. Alternatively, you can swallow the tincture on its own like any liquid medicine. When you take a tincture orally rather than sublingually, it must be absorbed through the digestive system, so it will take longer to feel the effects. Tinctures taken orally have a similar effect to edibles and can take up to an hour to start working. Tinctures can also be combined with food to make a tincture edible. The difference between a tincture edible and a fat-based edible is the latter is harder to dose and can produce a longer, more intense effect (including euphoria). If you consume a tincture mixed with food, it will take the digestive system more time to absorb than if you took the tincture sublingually. Cannabis tinctures may be added to a variety of foods such as puddings, ice creams, dressings and sauces.

long steep cannabis tinctureThere are many advantages to taking Cannabis tinctures, with a major one being how easy they are to make at home. You can make your own Cannabis tincture (links below) and, while there are many different recipes out there, these are some of the most popular ones. When preparing a Cannabis tincture, you usually must decarboxylate (or ‘decarb’) your plant material. Decarboxylation is the process of heating Cannabis to activate the compounds in the plant. Specifically, this will convert THCa into THC and allow you to experience all the effects of whole-plant Cannabis. If you choose to skip this step, your tincture will mostly contain THCa. Epsilon Apothecaries, (California, US) has a downloadable Extraction Basics Guide (pdf), the Epsilon Essentials Guide Series, comprises a novice approach to the creation of three special supplements: tincture extract of Cannabis, essential extract of Cannabis, and supplemental extract of Cannabis. Readers can learn how to create therapeutic grade supplements at home, following in the footsteps of Epsilon’s decade-long track record of success in a variety of cases. The Epsilon Essentials Guide is free of charge, the company’s website says, “All we ask is your respect in return”.

North American Recipes

Australian Recipes (Nimbin HEMP Embassy – Medical Cannabis Preparations)

  • Tincture – Cold Method
  • Tincture – Hot Method (Green Dragon)
  • Glycerine Method (Alcohol free)
  • Rick Simpsons Hemp Oil (Dosage information from Phoenix Tears)

Expanded from Cannabis Tinctures: Uses, Effects, and Best Recipes with THC-a Tincture for Paediatric Seizures, Granny Storm Crow’s List – Phytocannabinoids, Potency-101, and Medical Cannabis Preparations 


Cannabidiol (CBD) Claims and Misconceptions

Once a widely ignored phytocannabinoid, cannabidiol (CBD) now attracts great therapeutic interest, especially in epilepsy and cancer. As with many rising trends, various myths and misconceptions have accompanied the heightened public interest and intrigue. CBD is a 21-carbon terpenophenolic (plant metabolite with biological activity important for human health) compound exclusive to Cannabis, after its decarboxylation from a cannabidiolic acid precursor (Figure 1).


Figure 1. Cannabidiol (CBD) Production, Biosynthesis and Metabolism. CBD is biosynthesised in hemp or Cannabis sativa and is produced in greatest concentration in capitate glandular trichomes in the unfertilised female flowering tops of the plant. Its main precursors are olivetolic acid and geranyl pyrophosphate, which produce cannabigerolic acid (CBGa) and then cannabidiolic acid (CBDa) via catalysis by CBDa synthase, an enzyme co-dominant with delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCa) synthase. Subsequently decarboxylation via light exposure, heating or ageing results in CBD. In vivo (in a living organism), first-pass hepatic metabolism produces 7-hydroxy-cannabidiol, whose specific pharmacology has yet to be ascertained. While exposure to strong acids can produce an isomerisation (conversion into an isomer of itself) of CBD to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), this reaction does not occur in humans.

Understanding how CBD exerts its myriad effects on human physiology is a work in progress. Scientists have identified over 60 different molecular pathways through which CBD operates. CBD is the most common phytocannabinoid in hemp and second-most prevalent in Cannabis. It has proven extremely versatile pharmacologically, displaying the unusual ability to antagonise or nullify the action of cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1) in the presence of THC, despite having little binding affinity and supporting its modulatory effect on THC-associated adverse events such as anxiety, tachycardia, hunger and sedation. CBD and THC have similar molecular structures, but CBD does not directly stimulate CB1 and CB2, the canonical cannabinoid receptors, like THC does). 

The history of CBD cannabis or cannabidiolData emerging from international cannabinoid research indicates CBD interacts directly with CB1 in ways that are therapeutically relevant, but CBD parks at a different docking site on CB1, functionally distinct from THC’s orthosteric binding site (the active site; allosteric bind elsewhere on the protein surface). CBD attaches to an allosteric binding site on the CB1 receptor. When CBD docks, it does not initiate a signalling cascade. But it does impact how CB1 responds to stimulation by THC and the endogenous cannabinoids. Allosteric modulation of CB1 changes the conformation (shape) of the receptor and this can have a dramatic impact on the efficiency of cell signalling. 

The effects are mediated by a wide variety of signalling mechanisms including activity on cannabinoid receptors, 5-HT1A (subtype serotonin receptor; involved in mechanism of action of anxiolytic, anti-depressant and anti-psychotic medications), the orphan GPR55 (G Protein-Coupled Receptor 55), GPR18, TRPV1 (the capsaicin receptor or vanilloid receptor 1 which contributes to CBD’s anti-psychotic effect), the nuclear receptor PPAR-gamma (regulates gene expression) and other transient receptor potential (TRP) channels. CBD is a GPR55 and GPR18 antagonist (blocking agent), possibly supporting a therapeutic role in disorders of cell migration, notably endometriosis. CBD is anti-convulsant, anti-nausea, cyto-preservative for normal cells, enhances adenosine (a potent biological mediator that affects numerous cell types) receptor signalling and prevents prion accumulation and neuronal toxicity. CBD and THC are both neuroprotective, evidenced in a 1998 study, Cannabidiol and (−)Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol are neuroprotective antioxidants, and are a treatment and preventative for Alzheimer’sCBD is an analgesic, a neuroprotective anti-oxidant, more potent than ascorbate or tocopherol, acts as a TRPV1 agonist analogous to capsaicin but without noxious effect, while also inhibiting uptake of anandamide (AEA).

Image result for cannabis helps heal bone fracturesIn 2005, it was demonstrated CBD had agonistic activity which may underlie its anti-anxiety activity, reduction of stroke risk and anti-nausea effects. Recent studies demonstrated that CBD has a prospective role as an anti-depressant; inhibits synthesis of lipids in sebocytes and produces apoptosis at higher doses in a model of acne; and, displays powerful activity against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). CBD has been linked to the speedier healing of bone fractures. The Journal of Bone and Mineral Research published a study, Cannabidiol, a Major Non-Psychotropic Cannabis Constituent Enhances Fracture Healing and Stimulates Lysyl Hydroxylase Activity in Osteoblasts, which shows the administration of CBD significantly helps heal bone fractures.

Newfound interest in CBD has been accompanied by an alarming number of mischaracterisations. Across the United States (US), many start-ups and retailers have jumped on the CBD bandwagon, touting CBD derived from industrial hemp as the next big thing, a miracle oil with medicinal properties, without making people feel “stoned”. But along with a growing awareness of CBD as a potential health aid there has been a proliferation of misconceptions. These include apparent confusion as to the correct assignation of CBD’s psychopharmacological activity, where does it belong in the politically correct drug war catechism, alleged sedative effects, its mechanism of action as an antagonist at CB1, its legal status in US commerce, its metabolic fate in human administration, medicinal versus recreational cannabinoids, ‘bad’ versus ‘good’ cannabinoids, effectiveness of single-molecule compounds, state law ineffectiveness in serving patients and, CBD isn’t CBD, as it really does matter where it comes from. Better understanding of these issues will be of great importance for patients, recreational consumers, physicians and legislators as they further consider the role and disposition of this versatile phytocannabinoid.

Misconception: Cannabidiol is non-psychoactive and non-psychotropic – CBD is frequently mischaracterised in lay, electronic and scientific sources as ‘non-psychoactive’ or ‘non-psychotropic’ in comparison to THC, but these terms are inaccurate, given its prominent pharmacological benefits on anxiety, schizophrenia, addiction and possibly even depression. CBD should be re-labelled, perhaps as being less ‘illuminating’ than THC. Lacking associated reinforcement, craving, compulsive use, etc., that would indicate a significant ‘drug abuse’ liability, CBD certainly isn’t a suitable ‘drug of abuse’, nor is THC, for that matter, as neither has the same mechanism of action as drugs of addiction, like cocaine, for example, do. 

CBD Image Source: PubChem

CBD Molecular Formula: C21H30O2

There is serious interest among drug companies in allosteric modulation of the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). In theory, if not practice, allosteric modulators can prime the system for amplification or inhibition by fine-tuning receptor transmission with amazing subtlety. Full-on stimulation of CB1 can deliver therapeutic benefits, but THC’s psychoactivity intrinsically limits its medical utility, according to ‘Big Pharma’ catechism. For the medical constabularies, getting high is by definition an adverse side effect. Allosteric modulation raises the prospect of increasing CB1 receptor activity without causing disconcerting dysphoria or needless euphoria.

Properly used, the psycho- or neuroactivity of Cannabis carries with it many important treatment options. Rev. Dr Kymron deCesare of Steep Hill Lab Inc., said in 2015 that a good friend living with ADHD focussed on sativa strains containing significant amounts of the terpenes, pinene, limonene and terpinolene (in a strain like Super Silver Haze) and their mind became energetic, clear-headed and project-oriented, turning the unfocussed, chaotic ADHD mind into a mildly focussed OCD. Research into allosteric modulaterpene-profile-limonene-the-leaf-online2tion of the ECS is still in its early phases. Allosteric modulators of CB1 were first discovered in 2005 and ten years would elapse before scientists at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada, reported in the British Journal of Pharmacology that CBD is a negative allosteric modulator of CB1 in vitro. This means CBD lowers the ceiling on the ability of THC and endogenous cannabinoids to stimulate CB1. 

THC and CBD work in tandem; they are the power couple of Cannabis therapeutics. Given the intimate synergies between these two plant compounds, how much sense does it make to attribute psycho- or neuroactivity exclusively to one (THC) and not the other (CBD)? Is it really accurate to say that CBD is a “non-psychoactive” substance? Researchers have demonstrated that CBD is a pharmacological agent of wondrous diversity, an absolute archetypal ‘dirty drug’ (a substance used as a medication that may bind to many different molecular targets or receptors in the body with a wide range of effects and reactions), encompassing analgesic, anti-depressant, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-emetic, anxiolytic (anti-anxiety), anti-psychotic, anti-convulsant, neuroprotective, immuno-modulatory and cytotoxic effects (in breast cancer, for example). If CBD can relieve anxiety or depression or psychosis, then obviously CBD is a profound mood-altering substance, even if it doesn’t deliver much by way of euphoria.

Image result for CBD-only’ laws

Perhaps it would be better to say that CBD is “not psychoactive or neuroactive like THC” rather than repeating the familiar and somewhat misleading refrain that “CBD is not psychoactive”. The identification of CBD as a negative allosteric modulator that binds directly to CB1 challenges antiquated assumptions about CBD and sheds new light on its medicinal potential. In turn, as scientific understanding and therapeutic experience deepens, the description of CBD as non-psychoactive or non-neuroactive may fall by the wayside.

Misconception: Psychoactivity is inherently an adverse side effect – According to politically correct drug war catechism, the Cannabis high is an unwanted side effect. ‘Big Pharma’ is keen on synthesising medically active Cannabis-like molecules that don’t make people high, although it’s not obvious why mild euphoric feelings are intrinsically negative for a sick person or a healthy person, for that matter. In ancient Greece, the word euphoria meant “having health”, a state of well-being. The euphoric qualities of Cannabis, far from being an unwholesome side effect, are deeply implicated in the therapeutic value of the plant. “We should be thinking of Cannabis as a medicine first” said Dr Tod Mikuriya, “that happens to have some psychoactive properties, as many medicines do, rather than as an intoxicant that happens to have a few therapeutic properties on the side”.

Misconception: CBD Is Sedating – Image result for cannabis is sedatingSome early anecdotal literature cited a low incidence of sedation after CBD administration, and contemporaneously, this side effect is frequently attributed to CBD. However, low to moderate doses are distinctly alerting, as proven in its ability to counteract sedative effects of THC, delay sleep time as documented via electro-encephalography and reduce THC-associated ‘hangover’. Numerous studies in normal subjects have been free of sedative effects. By contrast, CBD formulated as the pharmaceutical Epidiolex (an investigational Cannabis extract with traces of THC, other cannabinoids and some terpenoids), employed in very high doses of 25 mg/kg/day or more to treat intractable epilepsy has produced sedation under conditions of poly-pharmacy, especially when co-administered with clobazam (benzodiazepine), which resolves after reduction of the dose of clobazam.

Whereas pure CBD is not sedating, many CBD-containing Cannabis and hemp chemovars do display this liability. This is not attributable to CBD concentration per se, but rather to the predominance of high levels of myrcene in many commercial varieties. Myrcene, a monoterpenoid, displays a prominent narcotic-like profile that is seemingly responsible for the ‘couch-lock’ phenomenon frequently associated with modern Cannabis phenomenology. Selective breeding of low myrcene chemovars reduces or eliminates this liability, yielding Cannabis plants or extracts that are more suitable to the patient who must also work or study.

Misconception: CBD Is a CB1 Antagonist Like Rimonabant – Rimonabant (Acomplia) a synthetic CB1 inverse agonist that was marketed briefly in Europe to treat obesity and metabolic syndrome was removed from the market due to numerous serious associated adverse events, including anxiety, suicidal ideation, nausea and even anew cases oImage result for rimonabantf multiple sclerosis. This situation produced a chilling effect on development programs for other CB1 inverse agonists and even extended to harsh scrutiny of the natural compounds, CBD and tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCv), which, in contradistinction, act as neutral antagonists at CB1. The mechanism of action of CBD seems, rather, to stem from negative allosteric modulation of CB1, particularly in the presence of THC and it produces none of the rimonabant-type adverse events.

Misconception: CBD is legal in all 50 US states – In keeping with its versatile pharmacology without associated drug abuse liability or serious side effects, CBD is unscheduled in most nations. This is not the case in the US  (nor in Australia*), where pharmacology notwithstanding, CBD has been a forbidden Schedule I agent with its own Drug Enforcement AdministrImage result for cbd is legal in usation (DEA) number and designation as a THC analogue. In spite of continuing prohibition, domestic commerce in CBD in one form or another is rampant, previously accompanied by claims that its extraction from hemp refuse was a legal process. In 2016 the DEA considered CBD oil to be a federally illegal Schedule I drug, but there were temporary safeguards in place that protected patients in many states from federal prosecution over possession of the oil.

Misconception: CBD Turns into THC in the Body – This false claim has been invoked online and has gained currency and perhaps even credibility, after publication of an article in which it was demonstrated that CBD could be converted to THC after prolonged exposure to ‘simulated’ gastric acid. While this isomerisation reaction has been known for decades, first reported in 1940 and later in the 1960’s, there is no evidence the reaction occurs in humans in vivo. First, no known enzyme exists that can catalyse such a bioconversion. In addition, pharmacokinetic and metabolism studies in human clinical trials refute such a reaction. In a double-blind placebo-controlled study of CBD in Huntington disease, fourteen patients were administered oral doses over six weeks. No plasma levels of THC were found. Similarly, a 2012 randomised, controlled study compared CBD, THC and placebo in sixteen healthy males. Neither THC nor its primary hepatic metabolite, 11-hydroxy-THC, was noted after CBD administration. There seems to be no compelling evidence CBD undergoes cyclisation or bioconversion to THC in humans. A review in 2016, Even High Doses of Oral Cannabidol Do Not Cause THC-Like Effects in Humans, came to the conclusion enough data exists to be reassured the acidic gastric environment during normal gastrointestinal transit does not “expose patients treated with oral CBD to levels of THC and other psychoactive cannabinoids that exceed the threshold for a physiological response”.Image result for cbd turns into thc

Misconception: CBD is medical. THC is recreational – Often people seek “CBD, the medical part” of the plant, “not THC, the recreational part” that gets you high. Actually, THC, “The High Causer” has awesome therapeutic properties and should become known as, THC, The Healing Cannabinoid”. In 2006, Scientists at the Scripps Research Institute (San Diego, California) reported that THC inhibits an enzyme implicated in the formation of beta-amyloid plaque, the hallmark of Alzheimer’s-related dementia. The US federal government recognises single-molecule synthetic THC (Marinol) as an anti-nausea compound and appetite booster, deeming it a Schedule III drug, a category reserved for medicinal substances with little abuse potential. Side effects of synthetic THC include;

  • mood changes;Image result for THC is the bad cannabinoid. CBD is the good cannabinoid
  • dizziness, trouble concentrating;
  • feeling high;
  • weakness, lack of coordination;
  • anxiety, confusion;
  • stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea;
  • warmth or tingly feeling; or,
  • sleep problems (insomnia).

But whole plant Cannabis, the only natural source of THC, continues to be classified as a dangerous Schedule I drug in the US with no medical value.

Misconception: THC is the bad cannabinoid. CBD is the good cannabinoid – Cannabis Yin YangThe drug warrior’s strategic retreat: Give ground on CBD while continuing to demonise THC. Diehard Cannabis prohibitionists are exploiting the good news about CBD to further stigmatise THC with CBD framed as the good cannabinoid. Why? Because CBD doesn’t make you high like THC. This demonisation is moralistic, reefer madness. In 2014, Project CBD penned a foundational science paper, A Tale of Two Cannabinoids, in favour of whole plant Cannabis therapeutics.

Misconception: CBD is most effective without THC THC and CBD as the power couple of Cannabis compounds work best together. Scientific studies have established that CBD and THC interact synergistically to enhance each other’s therapeutic effects. British researchers have shown that CBD potentiates THC’s anti-inflammatory properties. Scientists in San Francisco, California determined that a combination of CBD and THC has a more potent anti-tumoural effect than either compound alone when tested on brain cancer and breast cancer cell lines. Extensive clinical research has demonstrated that CBD combined with THC is also more beneficial for neuropathic pain than either compound as a single molecule.

Misconception: Single-molecule pharmaceuticals are superior to ‘crude’ whole plant medicinals – According to the US federal government, specific components of the Cannabis plant (THC and CBD) have medical value, but the plant itself does not have medical value. Uncle Sam’s single-molecule blinders reflect a cultural and political Image result for CBD is most effective without THCbias that privileges Big Pharma products. Single-molecule medicine is the predominant corporate way, the FDA-approved way, but it’s not the only way and it’s not necessarily the optimal way to benefit from Cannabis therapeutics. Cannabis contains several hundred compounds, including various flavonoids, aromatic terpenes and many minor cannabinoids in addition to THC and CBD. Each of these compounds has specific healing attributes, but when combined they create the “Entourage Effect”; the therapeutic impact of the whole plant is greater than the sum of its single-molecule parts. The FDA, however, isn’t in the business of approving plants as medicine.

Misconception: CBD-only’ laws adequately serve the US patient population – Image result for Cannabidiol, a Major Non-Psychotropic Cannabis Constituent Enhances Fracture Healing and Stimulates Lysyl Hydroxylase Activity in OsteoblastsFifteen US state legislatures have passed CBD only (or, more accurately, “low THC”) laws and other states are poised to follow suit. Some states restrict the sources of CBD-rich products and specify the diseases for which CBD can be accessed; others do not. Ostensibly these laws allow the use of CBD-infused oil derived from hemp or Cannabis that measures less than 0.3% THC. But a CBD-rich remedy with little THC doesn’t work for everyone. Parents of epileptic children have found that adding some THC (or THCa, the raw unheated version of THC) helps with seizure control in many instances. For some epileptics, THC-dominant strains are more effective than CBD-rich products. The vast majority of patients are not well served by CBD-only laws. They need access to a broad spectrum of whole plant Cannabis remedies, not just the low THC medicine. One size doesn’t fit all with respect to Cannabis therapeutics and neither does one compound or one product or one strain.

Misconception: CBD is CBD—It doesn’t matter where it comes from – Hemp versus cannabisYes it does matter. The flower-tops and leaves of some industrial hemp strains may be a viable source of CBD, but hemp is by no means an optimal source. CBD-rich products should be made using only organic, whole plant Cannabis because this offers the best safety profile and superior medicinal benefits. Industrial hemp typically contains far less CBD than CBD-rich Cannabis. Huge amounts of industrial hemp are required to extract a small amount of CBD, thereby raising the risk of toxic contaminants because hemp is a “bio-accumulator” that draws heavy metals and other toxins from the soil. Single-molecule CBD synthesised in a lab or extracted and refined from industrial hemp-derived CBD and refined CBD powder lack critical medicinal terpenes and secondary cannabinoids found in Cannabis oil. These compounds interact with CBD and THC to enhance their therapeutic and medicinal benefits. In the US it’s against federal law to use hemp leaves and flowers to make medicinal products.

In conclusion, CBD is an intriguing agent of unparalleled pharmacological diversity that is nevertheless surprisingly benign in all its observed effects. Its use has become widespread in certain geographical areas, particularly in ‘legal’ states in the US and it is on the threshold of becoming an approved pharmaceutical agent in intractable epilepsies (even though whole plant works at least twice as well, without side-effects that pharmaceuticals seem to inherently attract). Given this current nouvelle richesse (new wealth) following its long history of obscurity, it is incumbent upon the scientific and medical communities to understand better the mechanisms of action of CBD, its limitations and particularly the myths and misconceptions that its meteoric rise in popularity have engendered.

Expanded from Cannabidiol Claims and Misconceptions, with Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects, Are cannabidiol and delta-9- tetrahydrocannabivarin negative modulators of the endocannabinoid system? A systematic review, Effect of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol on nocturnal sleep and earlymorning behavior in young adults, Neural basis of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol: effects during response inhibitionCannabidiol in patients with treatment-resistant epilepsy: an open-label interventional trial, Cannabidiol is a negative allosteric modulator of the cannabinoid CB1 receptorCurrent therapeutic cannabis controversies and clinical trial design issuesIdentification of psychoactive degradants of cannabidiol in simulated gastric and physiological fluid, Even high doses of oral cannabidiol do not cause THC-like effects in humansAcute effects of a single, oral dose of d9 -tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) administration in healthy volunteers, Therapeutic Effects of Phytochemicals and Medicinal Herbs on Chemotherapy-Induced Peripheral NeuropathyIs CBD Really Non-Psychoative?Cannabidiol (CBD), Even High Doses of Oral Cannabidol Do Not Cause THC-Like Effects in Humans: Comment on Merrick et al. Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research 2016, and CBD Misconceptions

*CBD was added to the Australian Government Poisons Standard (the SUSMP)Standard for the Uniform Scheduling of Medicines and Poisons, under Schedule 4 in June, 2015;

CANNABIDIOL in preparations for therapeutic use containing 2 per cent or less of other cannabinoids found in cannabis.

Additionally, in the SUSMP of November 2016, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) updated the entry for Tetrahydrocannabinols in Schedule 8 (Controlled Drug – Substances which should be available for use but require restriction of manufacture, supply, distribution, possession and use to reduce abuse, misuse and physical or psychological dependence) to read;

# TETRAHYDROCANNABINOLS when extracted from cannabis for human therapeutic use, when:

  1. a) included in products manufactured in accordance with the Narcotic Drugs Act 1967; and/or
  2. b) imported as therapeutic goods, or for use in therapeutic goods, for supply, in accordance with the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989; and/or
  3. c) in therapeutic goods supplied in accordance with the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989,

except when:

  1. i) it is in a product to which item 4, 8, 10, 11 or 12 of Schedule 5A to the Therapeutic Goods Regulations 1990 applies; or
  2. ii) in hemp seed oil, containing 50 mg/kg or less of tetrahydrocannabinols when labelled with either of the following warning statements:

(A)            Not for internal use; or

(B)             Not to be taken; or

iii)    in products for purposes other than for internal human use containing 50 mg/kg or less of tetrahydrocannabinols; or

  1. iv) separately specified in the NABIXIMOLS entry in this Schedule.

Formerly, THC had sat in Schedule 9, Prohibited Substance – Substances which may be abused or misused, the manufacture, possession, sale or use of which should be prohibited by law except when required for medical or scientific research, or for analytical, teaching or training purposes with approval of Commonwealth and/or State or Territory Health Authorities.