Cannabis Revolution Update

“I have been to the mountaintop…” — Martin Luther King Jr, April 3, 1968


Wednesday, April 4th, 2018, the 50th anniversary of MLK’s assassination, also marked the first meeting representing another ongoing revolutionary front: the inaugural CannaHealth Forum, presented by local Cannabis delivery services consultants, CoastDrive Management. Several knowledgeable speakers lectured and answered questions, beginning with Sam Humeid, new president of the La Jolla-based San Diego Cannabis Delivery Alliance (SDCDA).

Mr Humeid explained that among the several negatives resulting from the California’s long overdue legalization breakthrough of Jan 1, 2018, is that most of the Cannabis delivery services that operated before 2018 are no longer in operation due to changed licensing laws and the new legal ability of entire cities to ban the presence of Cannabis sales, manufacturing, and distribution within their civic boundaries. This means that many medical Cannabis patients who may be disabled, elderly, or preferring stealthful use of their medications, must either endure difficult trips to brick-and-mortar dispensaries far from their homes, or enlist the black market and its frequent accompanying lack of reliable information and quality control regarding Cannabis products sold.

This is obviously detrimental to the well-being of some medical Cannabis patients, so the SDCDA is currently celebrating its first success in overturning this delivery-service inhibiting aspect of Prop 64: recently SDCDA lobbied the Chula Vista City Council and propelled the approval of the first ‘Type 9’ independent delivery service license, allowing Cannabis delivery services to once again operate independently of storefront dispensaries. Because of this recent victory, there is now another introduced bill (SB1302) at the CA state level which, if passed by the legislature, will outlaw any CA city’s ability to ban medical Cannabis delivery to approved patients. Go SB1302! Following Mr Humeid to the podium was Terrie Best, president of the San Diego chapter of Americans for Safe Access (ASA). In 2017, ASA began their “End Pain, Not Lives” campaign, ensuring that federal and state governments are educated on the wisdom of using medical Cannabis to help prevent and treat the surging opioid addiction and overdose epidemic currently challenging the US and many other countries.

Ms. Best stated that San Diego has the most (or close) active ASA chapter in the state, and encouraged all to attend their monthly meetings. Next up: Tuesday, April 24th (and every fourth Tuesday) at Elijah’s Restaurant, 7061 Claremont Mesa Blvd, San Diego. She also mentioned that of 18 municipalities in the city of San Diego, the majority have banned Cannabis dispensaries and delivery services, along with Cannabis growing and manufacturing. Because of the importance of changing this unhelpful trend, it is vital that in 2018 we elect a San Diego City Supervisor that is pro-Cannabis. Fittingly, the liberal and fervent Cannabis advocate, and former CA State Assemblyperson, Lori Saldana, was next up to the podium to implore us all to register and vote in the upcoming June 2018 primary. A decade ago, Ms Saldana sponsored bills that would have allowed CA State police to legally ignore federal agents when it came to prosecuting Cannabis related crimes, and that would have allowed employees to legally use Cannabis at work if they held a medical Cannabis recommendation. Both bills failed, and she has since redoubled her efforts to press for Cannabis justice — including delivery services for all CA patients, and state-approved medical Cannabis for treating pain and excess opiate use. Go Lori!

The same topic of using Cannabis to reduce the negative effects of opiate overuse was the main rubric for this inaugural CannaHealth forum, and brought to the stage the evening’s main speakers: Michelle Sexton, ND, adjunct professor at UCSD; and Jamie Carroon, ND, medical director of the Center for Medical Cannabis Education. Both of these Naturopathic Doctors are experts in the Cannabis realm, and both utilize within their private practices the many modalities by which Cannabis products are helpful for the treatment of acute and chronic pain; anxiety; depression; more severe mental illnesses; prevention and treatment of inflammatory diseases; Alzheimer’s Syndrome, and many more disease states. However, because they are NDs, not MDs, they are not legally allowed to even discuss Cannabis with their patients — much less recommend it in an official manner.

First up was Dr Sexton, and she began by reminding the audience that Cannabis and opium are ancient medicines that have been used for a great variety of ills. For example, the herbal Chinese narcotic remedy, “Sagacious Sleep Powder”, is believed to be the world’s first anesthetic. Yet, while opiates have continued as pain relieving superstars within the official US Pharmacopeia from the 1820’s until the present time, Cannabis entered the US Pharmacopeia only in 1851 and dropped out around 1940 — leaving the opiate extract, morphine, as the allopathic medical world’s primary pain reliever. In 1851, this was the US Pharmacopeia’s Cannabis description of Cannabis:

“Extract of hemp is a powerful narcotic [here meaning sleep-producing drug], causing exhilaration, intoxication, delirious hallucinations, and, in its subsequent action, drowsiness and stupor, with little effect upon the circulation. It is asserted also to act as a decided aphrodisiac, to increase the appetite, and occasionally to induce the cataleptic state. In morbid states of the system, it has been found to cause sleep, to allay spasm, to compose nervous disquietude, and to relieve pain. In these respects it resembles opium; but it differs from that narcotic in not diminishing the appetite, checking the secretions, or constipating the bowels. It is much less certain in its effects, but may sometimes be preferably employed, when opium is contraindicated by its nauseating or constipating effects, or its disposition to produce headache, and to check the bronchial secretion. The complaints in which it has been specially recommended are neuralgia, gout, rheumatism, tetanus, hydrophobia, epidemic cholera, convulsions, chorea, hysteria, mental depression, delirium tremens, insanity, and uterine hemorrhage.”[2]

Despite this weighty description, the disappearance of Cannabis from the US Pharmacopeia likely occurred because the major pain reliever in Cannabis, THC (CBD, isolated in 1940, has not shown consistent pain reducing research results), was not isolated until 1964 — the year that MLK won the Nobel Peace Prize! By that time the western medical world had become attached to using ‘isolates’ from herbs, versus whole herbs, in order that doses could be better standardized and research more easily accomplished. Thus, by 1940, whole Cannabis was considered a gross, unrefined medicine compared to opium’s morphine molecule, which had been chemically isolated a full hundred years earlier in 1840.

Cannabis use was, of course, also linked to Mexican and African-American cultures, both populations of which were considered the main diabolical introducers of recreational Cannabis into the white, racist, mainstream American culture north of the Rio Grande. This combination of chemical and cultural factors led to the demonization of Cannabis and resultant “Reefer Madness”, whilst morphine, cocaine, and amphetamines were given a much longer free pass as medical molecules chemically isolated by the Eurocentric ruling white elites. Finding ourselves in 2018, we are now reaping some of the hellacious results of our recent historic over utilization of opiates for pain treatment; and great underutilization of Cannabis (whole and refined) for not only pain and addiction treatment, but for an even longer list of medical issues than was reported above in 1851. And these results can read as tragic:

Dr. Carroon reported that, in the US, drug overdose is now the most common form of accidental death, with 60% of such cases being related to opioids. There are approximately 64 thousand deaths per year from drug overdose, compared with 38 thousand per year from motor vehicle accidents and 37 thousand per year from gun violence. Forty percent of opiate overdoses are via prescription pills, and of the remaining 60% of overdoses, 80% of the deceased had switched from prescription pills to street opiates due to easier access and much lower cost of the latter compared to OxyContin and its chemical cousins.

Some good news of the week is that THC has been shown in research to be not only an effective adjunct to pain relief, thus allowing doctors to prescribe fewer opioids and patients to experience less narcotic addiction. https://www.leafly.com/news/health/medical-marijuana-research-studies-spring-2018. Beyond this, CBD was just reported to significantly reduce the rate of drug relapse for those already addicted, to opiates or most any other drug. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/03/180323104821.htm

One would think that such great news (worst drug epidemic ever in US finds already existing, low toxicity treatments already used safely and successfully for thousands of years!) would lead to immediate ‘fast track’ research for quick rescheduling of Cannabis at the federal level.

However, treatment of addiction in the US is a funny thing. While lip service is given to the importance of curing addiction, at the same time there is an undercurrent of punishment that much of our society feels is important to deliver to addicts as well. There is still a great stigma attached to being an addict, and there has been almost no attempt by pharmaceutical companies to produce, and especially to market, drugs that can treat this ongoing scourge upon humanity. An ideal example to illustrate this concept is the intensely psychedelic molecule, ibogaine, derived from the west African shrub named Iboga. Ibogaine binds to opiate receptors in such a manner as to greatly reduce withdrawal symptoms in opiate addicts. Just one week (and sometimes just one day) of ibogaine treatment will eliminate the majority of withdrawal symptoms from almost every opiate user and set them on a path toward recovery. And the western world has known about ibogaine’s effects since 1962!

Yet there has only been one brief US medical study of ibogaine, quickly ended following the death of one patient. Instead, opiate (and other drug) addicts must travel to Canada or Mexico if they want non-illegal ibogaine treatments, all while tens of thousands of addicts die each year within US borders, and many thousands more struggle with harsh debilitation. Now that Cannabis is becoming more and more legal within almost half of the United States, and also because Cannabis does not carry the extra psychedelic stigma of ibogaine within the medical world, it is possible that it will be used for addiction relief long before ibogaine is accepted. Unlike ibogaine, THC does not bind strongly enough to opiate receptors to fool the addicts brain into thinking they have had their recent drug fix. Instead, THC is believed to ‘prime’ opiate receptors through chemical contact so that opiates can bind more strongly and reduce pain more effectively. This effect, plus THC’s own pain relieving binding to its endogenous cannabinoid receptors, can allow a patient to lower their opiate dose, and hopefully to result in the switch from opiates to Cannabis entirely.

Another type of pain lowered by cannabinoids THC and CBD is the moody pain of anxiety and depression. Given that anxiety and depression in the US are at least as epidemic as is opiate addiction, Cannabis can also be much more fully utilized for removal of patients from reliance on synthetic drugs — such as the antidepressant Prozac, and anxiety lowering drugs such as Valium, Xanax, and other benzodiazapines (themselves a huge and ever-increasing overdose risk in the US). The question isn’t whether Cannabis, ibogaine, and other naturopathic remedies can be effective for the treatment of addiction, mood disorders, and a cornucopia of other issues. The deeper, more frustrating, question is when will our culture re-embrace the healing attributes of plant remedies that have been revered for centuries by native cultures now conquered and nearly obliterated — obliterated and scoffed at by the very colonizing peoples who now suffer from maladies cureable by the same plants demonized by the ignorant and close minded invaders.

While of course these colonizers, my ancestors, have also brought many noble attributes and inventions to peoples across the globe, one great irony is that many of the worst ills on the planet can be cured or greatly reduced by remedies long since invented or discovered by native peoples yet ignored by the world’s ‘superpowers’. Hemp for paper and plastics, anyone?

Some medical points to remember:

Approximately 60% of THC is bioavailable when smoking Cannabis; only 6% is bioavailable when eating Cannabis, with much greater variations between ingestors because of the far greater difference in digestion function, liver enzymes, etc, versus much more similar respiratory function across the spectrum of human smokers.

Also, while the main active THC molecule active in smoking Cannabis is the famous ‘delta 9-THC’, the main active molecule in digestively processed Cannabis is ’11-hydroxy-THC’ — a much more potent version. This results in a much greater variety of psychoactive response with Cannabis edibles, and underscores the importance of finding your correct edible THC dose before beginning medication or recreational pursuits, lest unpleasant side effects ensue.

The lecturing Naturopathic Doctors also mentioned that only a 5% THC content is needed in a Cannabis medicine in order to reliably produce a significant reduction of pain. No studies have apparently been done on products with 30% THC, much less the 95% THC content that is common with current Cannabis extracts. So might it be possible that scientists discover that, once again, ‘Less is More’ when it comes to ideal balanced living? Might we discover that Cannabis treatment exists on the common ‘U-shaped curve’, in that both a too low potency or a too high potency Cannabis are unhelpful for most health conditions, but that a moderate potency is just right? It would certainly not be the first or last time humans realize that moderation usually rules….

In summary, the first world is just reawakening to the medical wonders of Cannabis, a plant that evolved in Asia over a hundred million years ago, and that humans began using as medicine at least 12 thousand years ago. Though we have experienced a type of collective and enforced amnesia regarding the power of Cannabis in human life, the symbiosis between Cannabis and Homo sapiens is proving impossible to suppress for long. As positive research begins to flow down our Cannabis information pipeline, let’s reflect with gratitude on the mutually beneficial relationship between the plant and animal (and other) kingdoms, and imagine how far our new found cultural appreciation of all things Cannabis will take us towards a more ideal world.

“I have seen the promised land.” — Martin Luther King Jr, April 3, 1968

– Nathan Gabriel, ND

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Jay Iza

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