Yes, I am writing yet another post on cannabis.
It’s not that I necessarily want to keep writing about cannabis or that I think it’s a good way to build a following. In fact, I’m concerned that I’ve already freaked out several of my Christian readers with my last two posts. You might be thinking that I’ve already said all there is to say about cannabis and that now I’m just beating the issue to death. I get it. I should move on to a different topic. But there is more to say, and it is so important to gaining a full comprehension of the issue that I believe I’d be doing my readers a disservice to not discuss these further considerations.
These considerations are essential to discerning the properly-ordered use of cannabis, as I suggested we Christians do in my last post, and those considerations are the different cannabinoid ratios contained within each strain of cannabis and the industrial uses of hemp. However, for the sake of space, I am only going to discuss the variations in medicinal cannabis in this post.
To be honest, I have an interest in the subject because I would like to be able to use cannabis medicinally for (trigger warning) PMS-related anxiety and depression, as well as for back pain. (By the way, did you know there are now cannabinoid-infused tampons to ease menstrual cramps?) Unfortunately, I live in Indiana where cannabis is still illegal. Although I have suggested that it is up to each individual whether he or she wants to take the not-inconsequential risks associated with breaking the law (being that it’s an unjust law that violates natural rights), there are other negative consequences of cannabis prohibition to take into account. These consequences make using cannabis medicinally nearly impossible while making sure that the only type of cannabis available is extremely intoxicating – much, much more intoxicating than it needs to be – and intoxication is about all it’s good for.
Prior to the passing of the Marihuana Tax Act in 1937, cannabis was used both medicinally and industrially in the United States. And just like alcohol prohibition before it, it has proved to be a complete and utter failure for a plenitude of reasons. You may have heard people discuss how marijuana prohibition has led to state violence against non-violent “criminals,” but I suspect that you haven’t heard how it led to a change in the quality of cannabis that people are using.
When our federal government managed to convince Americans that cannabis had no beneficial use whatsoever and that it was simply a highly dangerous intoxicant that would lead to devastating social ills, they crushed the market for medicinal and industrial cannabis (which is what certain special interest groups wanted, of course). Believing that marijuana was good only for getting high, only people interested in getting high were using it and growing it. And so in the 1980s and 90s, they bred it to dramatically increase the levels of THC while reducing the levels of CBD to almost nothing. As CBD is one of the major cannabinoids that provides health benefits while also tempering the intoxicating effects of THC, marijuana lost the bulk of its therapeutic qualities while the intoxicating effects shot its users into the stratosphere.
Thus, the powers that be have created a convenient and self-serving feedback loop: by declaring cannabis to be a substance good only for intoxication, cannabis became largely a substance good only for intoxication and smoked to excess by stoners. Cannabis use is criminalized, and therefore those who smoke cannabis become criminals for committing no crime but using cannabis. If any use is defined as abuse, then all users are abusers. If any effects are defined as “intoxication,” then cannabis serves only to intoxicate. And so the anti-legalization activists argue that cannabis prohibition must endure lest we turn into drug-abusing criminals.
In an excerpt from Brave New Weed: Adventures into the Uncharted World of Cannabis by Joe Dolce, the author presents the position of Michael Backes, “a founding member of Phytecs, the first company devoted to making plant-based medicines and nutraceuticals to treat the endocannabinoid system.” As Dolce writes, Backes is “convinced of cannabis’s untapped potential, but he’s unconvinced that stoners will be leading the way to uncovering it.”
According to Backes, marijuana is like alcohol and other drugs in that it is dose-specific: too little THC and you receive no benefits; too much and you suffer adverse effects such as paranoia or anxiety. Dolce explains:
“The problem with THC-only pot is that it’s not what nature, in her infinite wisdom, intended. THC is a tricky chemical. It can be trippy, imparting sunny feelings of joy, but too much can create a trifecta of unpleasantness: paranoia, anxiety, and nausea. Here’s why: When administered together, THC and CBD play Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robots in the battle to fill receptors. But THC is much more adhesive than CBD; it’s Superglue compared with CBD’s old tape. THC usually lands first, but CBD will run interference, which tempers THC’s effects. Even though they are often described as antagonists, they are more like old lovers. Yes, they fight, but overall they get on best when they’re together.”
Thanks to the legalization of medicinal marijuana in several states, CBD-dominant strains of marijuana are making a comeback. And as users of such strains can tell you (and I am regrettably not one of them), they possess virtually no intoxicating effects. That’s right, Christians and other social conservatives: you can smoke marijuana and reap many of the therapeutic benefits without getting stoned. Of course, if your medical condition is best treated with higher doses of THC, your cannabis will, of course, be more intoxicating; however, if it contains a higher CBD to THC ratio, it will not be as potent as the strains with high THC and minimal CBD content.
In addition to the levels of THC and CBD, among many other cannabinoids, a strain’s terpene profile also determines the sort of effects a user will receive. Terpenes, as Dolce writes, are “powerful smell molecules” which “occur [in cannabis] in pharmaceutical-grade concentrations.” It is these variations in cannabinoids and terpenes that produce each individual strain available in legal cannabis shops. Cannabis isn’t all created equally, and using it medicinally isn’t simply a matter of rolling a joint of whatever happens to be available. The idea that legalization is the initiative of a bunch of potheads who just don’t want to be arrested is a gross mischaracterization.
If the idea of smoking your medicine offends you, there are a variety of alternate modes of consumption. Of course, there are marijuana edibles of all kinds such as candy, cookies, crackers, and drinks. You can also vaporize your cannabis or concentrate instead of smoking it. You can swallow capsules of ingestible oils or place tinctures under your tongue. You can also apply topical ointments or balms or even eat cannabis raw, both of which produce no or minimal intoxicating effects while providing substantial health benefits or therapeutic effects.
I hope that this article has clarified the issue and convinced you that it is very possible to use cannabis in ways that are socially and personally responsible and which respect the plant’s medicinal purposes. In order for the proper use of cannabis to become possible, cannabis must be legalized so that it can be cultivated and sold in a variety of strains and forms to suit people’s individual needs. It must also be legalized so that more research can be done on its medicinal uses. People must be educated in how to use their medicine responsibly and effectively, and that cannot happen as long as research is limited and cannabis is treated as useful only for intoxication. It is not enough to have it legalized on a state level; it must be descheduled altogether so that it is legal on the federal level as well.
In addition to what I have already mentioned, there are many, many more ways of using cannabis without becoming intoxicated – thousands of potential uses, in fact. Those would be the industrial uses of hemp, which is simply a different variety of Cannabis sativa L. which contains less than 1% THC. Although it cannot get anyone high from smoking it, nevertheless it is classified along with its intoxicating cousin as a schedule I controlled substance by the DEA and FDA. And so government agents routinely uproot and destroy wild hemp while “U.S. retailers and manufacturers annually import approximately 1.9 million pounds of hemp fiber, 450,000 pounds of hemp seeds, and 331 pounds of hempseed oil from Canada and other nations that regulate hemp farming.”
But I promised that I would not make this post too terribly long, and so until next time I leave you here to ponder the unfathomable depths of our government’s ineptitude.
You could also leave me a comment and tell me if any of the three posts I’ve written on cannabis have helped change your perception of it.
*R.J. Ryder, a Christian, Libertarian, wife, and mother. She has two master’s degrees in theology and Christian history, and has an article published in an academic journal. Follow R. J. Ryder on Facebook and Twitter.