Cannabis and hemp, a close cousin to cannabis, have a long history, with hemp being used for textiles and food in such far-flung places as China, Mesopotamia, and Egypt. The flowers of the plant were used in everything from medicine to religious ceremonies, such as that of Zoroastrianism, a Persian religion predating Islam. Ganjha was mentioned in Indian Vedic texts dating back to the second millennium BCE.
As you can see, the use of cannabis is as old as civilization itself, if not older. In fact, until the 1900s, hemp production was encouraged by the US government in the making of ropes, clothing, and other everyday items. Cannabis extracts were sold openly in pharmacies until the early 20th century for the purpose of treating a variety of ailments including headaches and digestive disorders.
So why is it that, in some places, possession of even minuscule amounts can be grounds for an arrest and a possible jail sentence?
For that, we will need to go back to the year 1910 and the Mexican Revolution. The start of the revolution saw a massive wave of immigration from Mexico into the southwestern states of the US. The plant became associated with these newcomers who were far from welcomed by all. Different in appearance and language from most of the U.S. population, the immigrants were a convenient scapegoat for the troubles of the time.
In fact, prior to 1910, cannabis was never referred to as “marijuana”. Branding it by its Spanish name served the dual purpose of demonizing both the drug and the Spanish-speaking migrants flooding into the southwestern portion of the country. These newcomers, some of whom used the herb recreationally, were painted as deviant, immoral, and even violent. It was even said that the plant could give the user superhuman strength!
Regardless of the baselessness of these beliefs, the scare campaign worked: by 1931, cannabis had become outlawed in more than half of the states in the country.
Part of the reason the push for this new prohibition was successful was propaganda. After the successful start of the prohibition regarding alcohol, attention turned to narcotics which were seen as a serious threat. Mary Jane, a mostly unknown entity that had been unfairly stigmatized, was swept into the same category as cocaine and opiates. Of course, there was no evidence that the plant could dramatically alter one’s personality or even kill them, but the power of the press to sensationalize should never be underestimated.
These campaigns would continue well into the 1920s and beyond. Stemming from fear of the demographic changes that were taking place, allegations continued that the drug caused insanity and death. One example of such is a 1927 New York Times article claiming that a mother and her four children had become irreversibly insane after ingesting the marijuana plant.
This prejudice would intensify in the 1930s with the start of the Great Depression. During times of economic hardship, people search for a scapegoat for their suffering which often turns out to be a racial or ethnic minority. In this case, fear and mistrust of Mexicans grew along with unemployment.
This decade would see the creation of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, headed by Harry J. Anslinger. Although this newly formed department would not commit to federal legislation, it pushed states to criminalize this new boogeyman, now blamed for everything from unemployment to deviant behavior.
Initially averse to the criminalization of cannabis due to the difficulty of enforcement, Harry J. Anslinger was able to encourage the passing of anti-narcotics legislation. Testifying before Congress, he read off a number of cases involving rapes, arsons, assaults, and murders, all supposedly committed under the influence of pot. So it was that in 1937 that the Marijuana Tax Act was passed by a Congress largely uneducated on the issue. Without media interest, the public as a whole was kept in the dark about these proceedings.
Furthermore, Anslinger worked to discredit research that disproved his views that cannabis caused violence and encouraged information that reinforced them. The 1936 film, Reefer Madness, would draw from Anslinger’s ideas, which included, “Reefer makes darkies think they are as good as white men” and “marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes”. However, this distortion of facts would not end with Reefer Madness and would continue into subsequent decades.
Fast-forward to the 1950s. Under the Eisenhower administration, the Narcotics Control Act of 1956 set mandatory sentences for drug-related offenses, including marijuana. A first offense now carried a minimum sentence of up to ten years! There was no distinction between cannabis and other drugs such as cocaine or opium; all were dope and were therefore considered dangerous.
Much changed in the 1960s, both politically and culturally. An awakening of sorts swept the country, and the face of cannabis changed from the scheming, murderous gangster to that of the doe-eyed flower child, often a white college student from a middle-class family. Although this so-called epidemic of drug use made front page news, few were interested in jailing college kids for something that seemed relatively harmless. By now, even Anslinger had conceded that the penalties for possession were too harsh.
In 1968, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics would merge with the FDA. President Nixon was sworn in the following year and almost immediately recruited journalists for a propaganda campaign of his own. Nixon also enlisted help from TV executives who would insert anti-drug themes into popular television shows such as Hawaii Five-0. During this administration, powers of law enforcement were extended and anti-drug agencies were placed directly under White House control. In 1970, marijuana was labeled as a Schedule I drug, meaning that it could not be used legally for any purpose, medicinal or otherwise.
In 1973, a report was released by the Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse, calling for an end to the new prohibition. Although Nixon himself had appointed the members of this commission, he refused to accept this report in public. He even threatened to fire the director of the Narcotics Treatment Administration if he did not keep the plant criminalized.
Nixon’s domestic policy chief, John Ehrlichman, would later attest to the real reasoning behind the Nixon administration’s desire to clamp down on facts and keep stringent penalties in place: “The Nixon White House had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people,” Ehrlichman is quoted as saying. “You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be black or against the war, but we could get the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and the blacks with heroin. By criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt these communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up meetings. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
Nixon’s War on Drugs would gain steam in the years to come. Ronald Reagan had not supported decriminalization as governor of California and would continue to support harsh penalties during his time as POTUS, starting with his signing of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act which raised federal penalties for dealing, basing penalties on the amount involved. The fear-mongering would continue with anti-drug ads on TV, the establishment of D.A.R.E. in schools, and Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign.
It would not be until 1996 that the chains would start to fall off at a painfully slow pace when Prop 215 in California would allow for medical use for patients with cancer, AIDS, and other terminal diseases. More states made such concessions in subsequent election cycles.
Here we are in 2018. By now, nine states have legalized cannabis for recreational use.
Medical marijuana is allowed in more than half of the states. Yet many conservative representatives continue to oppose legalization, citing family values and morality as their reasons for doing so. Although the idea that cannabis is a gateway to harder drugs has been thoroughly debunked, this argument refuses to die. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has stated plainly, “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.”
However, there are also a number of former opponents of legalization, such as former Speaker of the House John Boehner, who profess to having “evolved” on the issue as they cash in on this booming industry. It is my belief that once our traditionalist governors and congressmen see the money being raked in by states that have embraced the green trade, they too will evolve.
With each election cycle, we are watching history in the making as more and more dominoes fall. As you have seen, prohibition is rooted in racism, greed, and fear. I, for one, think that it is high time to do away with those laws forever, don’t you?
Medical cannabis, currently legally prescribed in 30 states, has long been used to treat insomnia, anxiety, epilepsy, PTSD, tremors, and a plethora of pain disorders. Another common and little-known use of this wonder-drug is that of combating the symptoms of premenstrual symptom, or PMS.
PMS is a cluster of symptoms that include cramping, pain or discomfort in the back, joints, breasts and muscles, mood swings, water retention, increase in appetite, fatigue, irritability, and an inability to focus, among others. While these symptoms are not present in everyone, over 90% of menstruating women report one or more of the aforementioned symptoms.
Although information pertaining to the historical use of the plant for this affliction is scarce, cannabis was widely prescribed for menstrual cramps during the Victorian Era, with even Queen Victoria herself making use of nature’s most well-known remedy.
Cannabidiol, or CBD, the non-psychoactive constituent of cannabis, has well-documented analgesic (pain-relieving) properties. For those monstrous monthly cramps that plague so many of us each month, there is hope. Topical solutions and concentrates containing CBD are available if you do not wish for a psychoactive high. However, if you would like a touch of euphoria to brighten up your day, tinctures and concentrates are an option for those who do not wish to ingest the herb the traditional way.
Although the analgesic properties are reportedly stronger in THC-heavy strains versus CBD, high-CBD strains such as Ringo’s Gift or Cannatonic have been reportedly beneficial in the relief of monthly menstrual pain. This is thought to work by suppression of inflammation as well as relaxation of the muscles of the uterus.
Lavender is an excellent go-to strain for menstrual cramps; this indica is high (no pun intended) in sedative properties. It is also quite beautiful to look at it, but that is neither here nor there. Dynamite is an indica strain popular for its pain relieving qualities and citrusy taste. A High Times favorite, it is known for its ability to “melt the pain away”, as well as assist with nausea and insomnia that accompany many cases of Premenstrual Syndrome.
Headaches are another common symptom of PMS and can negatively impact every aspect of a person’s life, at times becoming so severe that the only option is to lie in a dark room, isolated from sound and other stimuli. Cannabis has a long history of alleviating headache pain, dating all the way back to the medical texts of ancient Assyria. Unfortunately, research into the effects of cannabis on headache pain halted with the spread of propaganda and the ensuing criminalization in the past century, but with more recent and progressive legislation, such as the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2018, more data is sure to become available from the medical community in the days to come.
The mechanism by which ganja works on headaches is unknown, but the endocannabinoid system, a system of transmitters and receptors responsible for maintaining an environment of stability within the body, are thought to suppress activation of pain receptors, thereby reducing or eliminating pain altogether. It may also relieve headache pain by decreasing intracranial pressure; smoking is the most effective way to achieve this as this is the fastest method by which the effects of cannabis may take effect within the body.
In one Colorado pharmacological study regarding cannabis as a treatment for migraine headaches, the frequency of the migraines decreased by an average of over 50% with the use of medical cannabis over the course of 4 years. 103 of 121 patients reported a decrease in the pain caused by the migraines.
A study of 9 California clinics reported relief in up to 40% of patients using medical cannabis for headaches.
Purple Kush, a hybrid strain well known for producing a relaxing high, even numbing the pain entirely in some, has a stellar reputation for relieving the discomfort of migraines as well as even the most stubborn menstrual headaches. If you are looking for pain relief with minimal psychoactive effects, ACDC is a strain containing about 15% CBD with a negligible amount of THC.
ACDC’s medicinal properties extend beyond head pain, however. Mood swings, a symptom that anyone who is not an automaton has been familiar with at some point in their lives, can disrupt a person’s life as surely as the more “physical” symptoms, like cramping, fatigue, or joint pain, and can be just as hard, if not harder, to combat.
For this, there is hope in the form of strains such as Frank’s Gift. This sativa-dominant strain, a phenotype of Skunk Haze, is high in CBD and remains a trusted friend of countless medical marijuana patients. Aside from its beneficial effects on physical discomfort, if provides a mood boost which some describe as “euphoric”, quieting negative thoughts as it relaxes body and mind. The woody aroma can act as a calming incense, separating you from the irritability and agitation that rises to a crescendo during that time of the month. Cannatonic, Harlequin, and Blue Dream are other strains known to reduce stress, boost energy, and alleviate the depressive symptoms that precede and accompany the dreaded visit with Aunt Flo.
In conclusion, there is ample evidence that the inevitable cramping, headaches, mood swings, and fatigue that precede and accompany the Crimson Tide can be substantially reduced or altogether alleviated by one of humanity’s oldest herbal remedies. It is my hope that a clinical trial spanning the course of several thousand years might offer the wary and skeptical a measure of reassurance. Perhaps with this trusted panacea, what is often an unpleasant and even agonizing time can be made bearable. With careful and meticulous use, it might just be over before you know it! I think that it’s worth a try, don’t you?
Top 5 Reasons Why Cannabis is Superior to Pharmaceuticals
Using cannabis medicinally dates back thousands of years. Humans beings have recognized the plant for its many benefits since its usage by ancient Chinese emperors.
From Parkinson’s Disease to Psoriasis; Cancer to Multiple Sclerosis; the list of ailments cannabis can help to treat is near endless. Many of the harsh symptoms shared across the board by these diseases, like pain or nausea, are usually treated by a variety of pharmaceuticals. The case for choosing marijuana over prescription drugs is vast. Here we will discuss just five reasons why cannabis is the better option.
Less Side Effects
Those dealing with chronic diseases have enough going on without having to worry about a slew of additional effects being brought on by their medications. Some cancer drugs, for example, bring on episodes of severe nausea. Marijuana can help to bring back cancer patients’ appetites. It can also help with pain and other lasting effects of the illness without the need for additional prescriptions that could in turn just cause more side effects.
One particular disease that cannabis is great at treating is anxiety. Anxiety is one of the most overprescribed ailments currently afflicting the United States. Benzodiazepines are doctors go-to answer for those with the troubling problem.
Between 1996 and 2013, the number of adults filling a prescription for a benzodiazepine increased from 8.1 million to 13.5 million, while the total quantity of pills given out through prescription more than tripled in number, according to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health. This means benzos are being prescribed more, and taken more.
This is likely because benzos can be extremely addictive – a problem you won’t run into with marijuana. Although you might instead become “addicted” to your favorite kind of munchy.
When we speak of prescription drug usage, the topic of overdose deaths has to follow.
According to the US Department of Justice’s 2017 National Drug Threat Assessment, “every year since 2001, CPDs, specifically opioid analgesics5 have been linked to the largest number of overdose deaths of any illicit drug class, outpacing those for cocaine and heroin combined.”
In its entire known history, marijuana has never been the cause of a single overdose death, since you can’t technically overdose on it. The biggest problem you’d have to worry about here is possibly ingesting so much that you fall asleep.
In some cases, marijuana may actually better treat some diseases.
In a recent study on cancerous mice, researchers found that a combination of CBD and chemotherapy actually led to longer lives than treatment of just chemotherapy on its own. The study was conducted on mice with pancreatic cancer.
This particular form of cancer has seen little progress in treatment in the last 40 years and the five-year survival rate is still at about 5 percent, according to the study. The researchers used a combination of CBD and GEM (one of the most common medicine in treating Pancreatic Cancer) and found survival rates tripled compared to the mice given just GEM alone.
Take on Big Pharma
One of the greatest reasons to choose cannabis over prescription drugs is the great challenge it proposes to the pharmaceutical industry. In 2016, the US share of the global pharmacy market was valued at over $446 billion. This is money that goes straight into the pockets of shareholders and is very rarely turned back around into communities.
On the other hand, Colorado is a great example of how tax revenue on marijuana can be used to fight other social issues such as homelessness. In fact, the total revenue was just under $250 million in 2017. This money was used to fund all kinds of social government programs and is likely to continue to increase in future years.
Wouldn’t it make more sense if the bigger number was going towards the more moralistic distribution? With more states looking to follow this example, this could be an actual reality.
As if all this weren’t enough, the list of reasons why cannabis is superior to prescription drugs can continue to include things like reduced gang violence and less cost to government healthcare with programs such as Medicaid.
Current data published in JAMA Internal Medicine, has shown that states who have easier regulations on marijuana tend to also have lower prescription drug use. So maybe the answer is more de-regulation and the choice will be clear to many others.
Whatever your choice, please be safe and don’t abuse any drugs.