Maine’s Republican Governor Paul LePage got together with House Republican Leader Ken Fredette this week, to try and delay the sale of recreational marijuana until January 2019. Maine was 1 of 4 new states to legalize recreational marijuana in last November’s ballot. All year, a committee of lawmakers lead by Republican Senator Roger Katz of Augusta and Democrat Representative Teresa Pierce of Falmouth have worked to create the best regulations for the new industry. They claim to have invited input from various state agencies and lawmakers including Fredette and LePage, only to be ignored and pushed to the sidelines. Now those lawmakers seek to delay the process so that they have more time to look over the legislation.
“Obstructionism for No Good Reason”
“The 11th-hour attempt to wreak havoc is obstructionism for no good reason,” Katz said. “Their unwillingness to problem-solve is irresponsible to the voters, the businesses and the communities of Maine.” According to the Press Herald, Pierce was equally frustrated saying that LePage and Fredette were disrespecting voters and that stalling the process of setting up a regulated legal industry was handing the market over to criminals. Both have expressed frustration over the proposed delay and fear it adding more chaos to an already complicated session.
In Search of the Simplest Route
Fredette is vying for the moratorium, however, hoping that the legislative voters will opt for the easiest and safest route which he sees as delaying the committee’s bill and taking more time to look it over. The committee’s bill is 76 pages long and lawmakers will need to take the time to read through it before voting on it. “A moratorium is the least lousy option,” Fredette said. “It gives the Legislature time to come back in regular session in January and debate this bill right. It is a major change for Maine. It shouldn’t be rushed.”
In order for the committee bill to pass, at least 100 of the 150 legislators would need to approve it. The bill has received bipartisan support and even those who did not approve it didn’t vote along any specific party lines. While Fredette is counting on legislative voters to choose the safest option, Katz and Pierce are relying on the solidity of their work to pass the committee’s bill.
Impact Only Reaching Sales
The delay would only affect the implementation of retail marijuana in the state. Adults over the age of 21 would still be allowed to grow up to 6 mature plants and possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana. However, marijuana sales would continue to be handled by the black market. This is something the committee has leaned upon to urge legislative voters not to allow delays. On top of this, experts are predicting that the legalization of marijuana in Maine would relate in an extra $20 million in sales tax revenue coming in annually which would go a long way to supporting the state and its needs.
Either way, Maine voters have made their will known. As lawmakers decide on the timing and details, progress towards implementing the recreational marijuana industry is being made, at least.
The medicinal benefits of cannabis have been coming to light more and more in recent years with astounding results. Some of the facts that are surfacing are surprising to say the least. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association exemplifies this. When we think of smoking, the increase of health doesn’t generally come to mind. We think of tar filled lungs, coughing and wheezing to name a few. We certainly don’t think of it as a treatment for breathing problems. Yet this new study suggests that marijuana smoke may actually increase lung capacity and may even be beneficial in protecting the lungs.
The CARDIA Study
The Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (or CARDIA study) looked at the effects of marijuana smoke over an extended period of time to evaluate the long term effects of cannabis. Researchers evaluated the lung function in 5115 found adults over the course of many years, starting when they were 18 up until they were 30. Those who smoked cannabis tended to do so 2 to 3 times a month on average. Those who smoked tobacco had an expected drop in lung function over time but those who smoked cannabis had quite a different result.
Improved Lung Capacity in Marijuana Smokers
There was an increase in lung capacity in those who were low to moderate users compared to nonsmokers. 2 different tests were used to accumulate the results. The first, FEV1, is a test used to determine the amount of air a person releases in the first second after they’ve taken a deep breath. The second, FVC, measures the volume of air released after taking the deepest possible breath. For those who smoked heavily, however, the FEV1 results were similar to those who were nonsmokers while the FVC remained high, even in the heaviest of smokers.
“Marijuana may have beneficial effects on pain control, appetite, mood, and management of other chronic symptoms,” states the report. “Our findings suggest that occasional use of marijuana for these or other purposes may not be associated with adverse consequences on pulmonary function. It is more difficult to estimate the potential effects of regular heavy use because this pattern of use is relatively rare in our study sample; however, our findings do suggest an accelerated decline in pulmonary function with heavy use and a resulting need for caution and moderation when marijuana use is considered.”
Why the Difference Between Tobacco and Marijuana Smoke?
Researchers weren’t able to determine exactly why there is such a vast difference in the effects of tobacco and marijuana smoke on the lungs. Some researchers hypothesize that it has something to do with dose. Those who smoke tobacco generally smoke a lot more than those who smoke cannabis. Still this does not explain the increase in lung capacity compared to nonsmokers.
Dr. Donald Tashkin, professor of medicine at UCLA is a leading scientist in this field. He suggests that it’s the THC in cannabis that may be responsible for the benefits of marijuana smoke on the lungs. He explains that THC has anti-inflammatory and immune suppressing properties that may have an advantageous effect on the lungs. These aspects may stop lung irritation from turning into chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which is a disorder that often develops in tobacco smokers. THC is also known to have anti-tumoral effects.
Another study published in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics measured the ability of cannabinoids to inhibit bronchoconstriction induced by inflammatory proteins. The study evaluated the cannabinoids THC, CBD, CBG, CBC, CBD-A, and THC-V. Of these, only THC and THC-V were able to inhibit the contractions with THC being the stronger of the 2. Even adding CBD to the THC made no difference. It was therefore concluded that THC is the cannabinoid that has anti-inflammatory and antitussive activity. This is considered to be due to its effects on the CB1 and CB2 receptors.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is made up of CB1 and CB2 receptors located all through the body and organs. These are considered to be responsible for creating homeostasis in the body, regulating mood, sleep, appetite and the functions of the organs and systems of the body. THC and CBD in particular activate the ECS, regulating and healing body functions, in particular when illness or age impair the body’s ability to activate these receptors on their own. While these days the positive effects of CBD have been well documented, it’s interesting to note the importance and benefits of THC on the body.
A Study Showing the Benefits of Vaping
Another interesting study conducted in 2015, done by Emory University, looked at cannabis smokers and nonsmokers between the ages of 18 and 59. Once again, the exhalation was studied to determine the health of the lungs. The cannabis users reported smoking a joint a day for 20 years. The results showed no difference between the cannabis smokers and the nonsmokers. Researchers concluded that; “Lifetime marijuana use up to 20 joint-years is not associated with adverse changes in spirometric (exhalation strength) measures of lung health.”
Despite the study’s conclusion, those who smoked reported some personal adverse effects on the body, such as sore throats and coughing. Those who used vaporizers had no adverse effects to report. Tashkin agreed that regular marijuana smoking “causes visible and microscopic injury to the large airways”, but the damage subsides and “does not appear to lead to significant abnormalities in lung function.” He agrees that these injuries can be avoided altogether by using a vaporizer.
Research seems to indicate that, at minimum, smoking marijuana in moderation doesn’t appear to have any negative effects on the lungs though much more research on the subject is necessary. Inhaling smoke caused by combustion is never going to be as smooth or effective as consuming the vapor released through a vaporizer. For those who consume marijuana smoke and are concerned about its effects on the lungs, using a vaporizer is the healthiest and most effective way to consume cannabis. As for its effects on the lungs, much more research is necessary to understand exactly how the effects of marijuana smoke on the lungs work. Nonetheless, we are closer to understanding more with every study done.
On Monday, the NFL announced its plans to support the Grassley-Durbin criminal justice reform bill. This bill, which was introduced and failed in 2015, was reintroduced on October 4th. It seeks to create a fairer system for prosecuting those with no level criminal offenses. It reduces mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent, low level drug offenses as well as removing the 3 strikes rule that would generally sentence a person to life in prison after they obtain a 3rd drug offense. The bill offers more flexibility to judges, giving them the means to distribute reduced sentences for those who commit low level crimes.
Other Controversies for the NFL
The support for the bill comes at a time when the NFL is fending off controversy regarding players kneeling during the national anthem in protest to police brutality and racial inequality. The protest started when former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat down during the anthem. He then moved to kneeling. Many other players followed his lead. President Trump has referred to the act as “disgraceful” stating that players who don’t stand for the national anthem should be fired. He criticized owners, calling them afraid of the players and urged them to take a stand on the issue. Public opinion on the matter is split although many veterans have expressed support for the protest. The owners are meeting to discuss whether or not standing during the national anthem will be mandatory for players. In the meantime, they are making their own statement by supporting the bill that seeks to create criminal justice.
An Issue of Importance
According to the Washington Post, NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart told reporters “we felt that this was an issue over the last months, as we have continued to work with our players on issues of equality and on issues of criminal-justice reform, that was surfaced for us, and we thought it was appropriate to lend our support to it.”
Fighting Racial Profiling
According to statistics, Caucasian and African Americans smoke cannabis in equal numbers. Despite this, the majority of cannabis related arrests go to black citizens. The disproportionate arrest rate is a grave concern in many states and cities across the country. For this reason, there are many cities including Nashville, Atlanta and New Orleans that have decriminalized cannabis in small quantities. In these cities, those caught with under an ounce of cannabis will receive a civil fine, the same as getting a parking ticket, as opposed to a criminal charge with jail time and a tarnished record. This is one aspect of racial inequality that may be remedied somewhat with this bill as it would give judges the right to hand down reduced sentences.
Unfortunately, the bill has been blocked somewhat and it’s unclear whether or not the NFL support will be enough to pull it through. There are Senate Republicans who have opposed the bill and Senate Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to bring it to the floor. The NFL support behind this bipartisan bill may assist although it is too early to tell.
The California wild fires have left a world of devastation in their wake. With so many lives and homes lost, the damage is irreparable. Almost 200,000 acres of land has been affected in Northern California, even clearing out the vineyards in Napa and Sonoma counties. For the marijuana industry and those who have invested their life’s work and money into it, the fires have wreaked havoc on their crops. With only a few months left before California launches its legal recreational marijuana industry, the wild fires have wiped out acres of land in Sonoma County and in Mendocino County which are at the center of California’s marijuana industry. Mendocino is one of 3 counties in Northern California that makes up the Emerald Triangle, a region where a lot of the country’s marijuana is grown.
A Lack of Insurance
According to CNN, Derek Peterson, CEO of Terra Tech, a company that grows and sells marijuana in California, said that many marijuana farmers invest approximately $5 million just to set up the cultivation facility and then up to $3 million just to grow the plant. Due to the fact that marijuana remains illegal on a federal level, there is no legal banking or insurance offered to those in the industry and cash is the only legal way to operate. This means that, in the event of a fire, there is no insurance or means for recovery offered to the farmers that have invested in cultivation. The repercussions are devastating and, for many, may be too high to recover from.
“If their facilities burn down, a lot of these people won’t be able to get any economic relief for them from an insurance claim,” says Peterson of the cannabis farmers affected by the fires, many of which were owned by his friends. “There’s no mechanism for recovery to repay them for their loss. It’s a tremendous risk for these people.”
Crop Damage Outside of the Direct Blaze
The 22 blazing fires that continue to burn throughout the state have already killed 23 people while hundreds remain unaccounted for. With acres of cannabis already burned there is still an issue of damage done to the crops that were not so directly affected. Smoke damage may have destroyed more plants, destroying quality, flavor and possibly safety. Inspections will need to be done to ensure that the damage caused to crops didn’t lead to any chemical contamination. On top of this, soot and ash may have also damaged the quality and flavor of many crops so that they become difficult to sell.
Farms Still in Operation
There are many farms still functional across the state despite the devastation. According to Peterson, there are enough scattered cultivation facilities across the state at this time that stores should be unaffected and well stocked at the time that recreational marijuana is set to launch in January 2018. The state is already considered a hub for cannabis as it was the first place in the country to offer legal medical cannabis in 1996. As of January 2018, adults over the age of 21 will be able to possess up to an ounce of cannabis for personal use.
The medical marijuana industry has found itself in an insecure state recently thanks to long time prohibitionist and recently appointed Attorney General Jeff Sessions. A provision called the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which has been active since the later part of the Obama Administration, protects the rights of states to institute their own medical marijuana laws, so long as problematic issues such as underage sales or interstate smuggling are not triggered. It essentially prevents the department of Justice from spending money on prosecuting medical marijuana users and the industry itself, so long as state law is being followed.
Tactics to Block Progress
In September the amendment was blocked by GOP leaders in the House who refused to allow the committee to vote on the issue. The Senate on the other hand has expressed continued support for the amendment, however both houses will need to agree in order for the measure to be approved. Sessions has been campaigning all year to take action against the marijuana industry, writing letters to Congress to plead his case. “The Department must be in a position to use all laws available to combat the transnational drug organizations and dangerous drug traffickers who threaten American lives,” Sessions wrote. He talked about the current opioid epidemic and how important it is to crack down on drugs.
Marijuana’s Effectiveness in Fighting the Opioid Epidemic
An important fact was omitted from his letter however. In states where medical marijuana is legal, opioid use and its associated deaths and hospitalizations is down from anywhere between 23 and 33 percent. Opioids are prescribed for a number of conditions that are associated to pain and many users have found that medical marijuana is a safer, healthier, non-addictive alternative that is more effective at treating the pain than the dangerous prescription drugs. Thousands of people die every year from prescription opioid use while there has never been a case of anyone dying from marijuana use. Medical marijuana appears to be the first plausible, safe remedy for the opioid epidemic according to all the proof documented by researchers across the country.
On top of his misleading stance on marijuana and the opioid epidemic, Sessions also did not appear to have a clear understanding of what the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment was. He stated that lawmakers had passed legislation “that said no federal money could be used to bring federal law enforcement against people who are using marijuana in states where it had been either legalized or where it had been authorized for medicinal purposes.” The amendment, however, specifically refers to medical, not recreational marijuana, where it is legal in 29 states and District of Columbia. Users and the industry must adhere to state law and the amendment also states that if federal factors such as underage sales or smuggling is triggered, then federal law enforcement will step in.
An “Almost Obsession with Marijuana”
Former Attorney General Eric Holder spoke at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, where he referred to Sessions as having an “almost obsessions with marijuana.” He stated “I think the policy we had in place was a good one: Let the states experiment with the notion that again we have these 8 or 9 federal factors and if you trigger one of these 8 or 9 factors the feds are going to be coming in.”
For now, the amendment remains blocked with many lawmakers across the country working to remedy the issue and create legislation that will protect the industry and the millions across the country with life threatening and debilitating disorders that benefit from access to the plant.
Anxiety is a state that is no stranger to the average person living in this fast paced time. The demands of the modern are many. Between work, traffic, relationships, politics and the like, anxiety is expected. For many who use cannabis, anxiety is the number one state they are trying to avoid. Yet ironically, it is a state easily achieved through the consumption of cannabis as well. So how does this work? What is the tipping point that takes a person from a comfortable, relaxed state into paranoia and anxiety? There are a couple of factors that are important.
Balancing THC and CBD
The first thing to note when contemplating using marijuana for anxiety is that cannabis has 2 specific compounds for which the plant is most commonly used. THC is the compound in cannabis that can produce the sense of euphoria. It is the psychoactive compound that makes you high. CBD on the other hand produces more of a body high. It is not a psychoactive compound but has the ability to simply relax the body and mind. It is known to act on the serotonin receptors and may even regenerate brain cells that are lost due to chronic depression or anxiety. It does not necessarily produce the euphoria produced by the THC that many enjoy from cannabis consumption but it will relax the entire body and mind. A combination of these 2 compounds for the purposes of treating anxiety is ideal.
The Endocannabinoid System
A 2014 study from Vanderbilt University found that the effects of cannabis on the endocannabinoid system (ECS) plays a huge role in its ability to treat anxiety. The ECS is a system that is made up of CB1 and CB2 receptors that are found in the brain and organs throughout the body. These receptors are triggered by naturally occurring endocannabinoids created in the body and regulate homeostasis. This means they affect sleep, mood, anxiety, blood pressure, blood sugar, and just about every function of the body and the nervous system. Researchers believe that chronic stress and aging can reduce the amount of naturally occurring endocannabinoids the body produces. THC and CBD both activate the CB1 and CB2 receptors, replenishing the body’s endocannabinoids and thereby reducing anxiety while having a beneficial effect on the entire body.
Using Marijuana for Anxiety Instead of Benzodiazepines
In Canada, Canabo Medical Corp also conducted a study on the effects of marijuana for anxiety. In Canada, approximately 10 percent of the population are using prescription benzodiazepines daily, which are highly addictive anti-anxiety medication. Side effects include fatigue, dizziness, impaired memory and loss of concentration. They may ultimately also lead to accidental overdose and death over long term use. “We wanted to take a close look at the likelihood of continued benzodiazepine usage after commencing medical cannabis treatments and to be perfectly honest, the results are extremely promising,” said Dr. Neil Smith, Executive Chairman of Canabo. “When conducting this type of research, experts are typically encouraged by an efficacy rate in the neighborhood of 10 percent. To see 45 percent effectiveness demonstrates that the medical cannabis industry is at a real watershed moment.” Within 90 days. 40 percent of the participants were able to stop using benzodiazepines.
Using Cannabis for Specific Anxiety Disorders
Research indicates that cannabis may also be effective at treating a number of anxiety disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), paranoia, panic disorders and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). While much more thorough research is needed on the subject, many sufferers of PTSD have reported experiencing relief from the disorder when using cannabis. In fact, many have been able to cease the use of dangerous prescription opioids by using cannabis to treat the disorder.
When Marijuana Use Causes Anxiety
There is clear evidence that indicates it is beneficial to use marijuana for anxiety, although there is still a line that can be crossed when using the plant that could increase anxiety. The latest research indicates that this may be all a matter of dosage. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago and University of Illinois at Chicago and published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, evaluated the effects of THC on anxiety levels in an attempt to understand how the compound affected anxiety levels.
Measuring the Effects of Marijuana on Anxiety
42 subjects between the age of 18 and 40 who, although not daily consumers, had all used cannabis before, were split into 3 groups. One group was given 7.5 milligrams of THC, another was given 12.5 milligrams and a third group were given a placebo. Participants were then asked to complete a series of stressful tasks. In the first visit they were asked to complete a job interview where they were being videotaped. They were given 5-digit numbers and asked to subtract 13 from the total. The next time they were required to talk about a favorite book or film and then play solitaire.
Favorable Results for Low THC Dosages
Those who were given the low dose of THC were the most relaxed of the 3 groups. Their stress levels returned to normal the fastest. Those who were given the highest dose reported finding the tasks challenging, stressful and threatening. The low THC group clearly experienced the least amount of anxiety, indicating that it was effective to use the THC compound found in marijuana for anxiety in low doses.
While CBD is known to produce a relaxed state without the euphoria, the small amount of THC was also able to be effective and it would seem that a CBD dominant plant mixed with a tiny bit of THC could act as an effective combination. At any rate, the low dose seems critical in using marijuana for anxiety without inducing any unwanted negative effects. The low dose is considered to be approximately 18 percent of an average joint, or just a few puffs of a joint or bowl. The method of delivery is an important factor, however, as eating marijuana may increase its effects. Tolerance is also a factor as those who are used to consuming high doses may need to consume a little more than a few puffs to achieve the same desired effects. In any case, less is more when it comes to using marijuana for anxiety. While much more research is needed, it appears that when used in this way, the plant is a highly effective treatment for anxiety.
While cannabis remains illegal at a state level in Georgia, the city of Atlanta took a brave step forward on Monday when it unanimously passed a bill to decriminalize possession of small quantities of cannabis for personal use within city limits. Many cities across the country, such as Kansas City, Dallas, St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Nashville, have all passed similar laws that would decriminalize the possession of small quantities of cannabis, allowing those caught to simply be given a civil fine equivalent to a parking citation as opposed to an enormous fine, jail time and criminal charge that could negatively affect a person’s entire family, housing, education and employment.
Disturbing Racial Profiling Trends
City Council Member Kwanza Hall, who is also running for mayor in Atlanta, is responsible for pushing the legislation. He pointed out alarming statistics from the Racial Justice Action Center in East Point, illustrating a major law enforcement injustice. While the consumption of cannabis is the same across races, both black and white, there is a disproportionate amount of arrests made to African American males. While the African American population make up a little bit over half of Atlanta’s population, statistics show that between 2014 and 2016, 92 percent of those arrested for cannabis possession were black and 85 percent of them were male. This kind of disproportionate law enforcement is what led to the legalization of cannabis across many of the other cities across the country who also voted to decriminalize the plant.
The Reduction in Penalties
For those arrested for cannabis possession in Atlanta in the past, a $1000 fine was handed out along with a 6 month jail sentence. This meant loss of income and maybe even employment and the inability to support families financially and emotionally, complete studies or maintain housing. The repercussions of this are too many to count. Now for those found with under an ounce of cannabis, there will simply be a $75 civil fine given.
Progressive Views on Cannabis
8 states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for recreational use now. This includes Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts, making up approximately 20 percent of the country’s population. 29 states have legalized the plant for medicinal use. On top of this, many major cities have decriminalized the plant. Studies have found it to be both safer and healthier than alcohol and cigarettes and in many states, this is how it is regulated. According to the most recent polls, 60 percent of the U.S. population is in favor of legalizing recreational cannabis across the country. For the consumption of a plant that many are using as medicine, it seems unfavorably harsh to enforce jail time and its consequences; especially in such a racially disproportionate manner.
It would seem that the City Council members and Mayor Kasim Reed agree with this idea as the law was voted in 15-0. Now comes the task of implementing it and educating Atlanta residents about its existence and how this updated law works so that residents are clear about their rights.
The marijuana industry across the country has faced some threats this year with the implementation of long time prohibitionist Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. Sessions has taken a much different stance on the plant than his predecessors in the Obama administration who allowed states to create their own marijuana laws and regulations. Sessions, on the other hand, has suggested a crackdown on the medical marijuana industry, sending out a letter to Congress urging them to allow him to use federal funds in this endeavor. With more scrutiny being placed on the industry in general, California has forged their own crackdown on the black market in the hopes of avoiding federal intervention in this future.
California’s Marijuana Excess
California has had an active marijuana industry since the legalization of medical marijuana in 1996. Now it appears that farmers are growing more than what the state can consume. According to the Los Angeles Times, Californian marijuana cultivators produced 13.5 million pounds of the plant last year yet only consumed 2.5 million pounds. The extra cannabis appears to be traveling to other states, in particular along Interstate 40, which connects west to east. Over a 2 day period in August, $2.5 million in marijuana was confiscated along this highway.
California Highway Patrol Involvement
The California Highway Patrol (CHP) appears to be the main law enforcement involved in stopping the export of the plant. “If we want to avoid intervention from the federal government, we need to do everything we can to crack down on illegal activity and prevent cannabis from being exported out of state,” Assemblyman Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale) said. Lackey is a former CHP sergeant who has an understanding of the role the CHP can play in preventing the export of the plant. He announced a bill last month, suggesting that the CHP be named the leading state law enforcement agency investigating black market marijuana. There is currently no other agency dedicated to this role.
FDA Threats Against Marijuana Products
According to Bloomberg, the FDA also appears to be in the process of contemplating a crackdown on marijuana companies who are producing products that claim that marijuana contains health benefits. “I see people who are developing products who are making claims that marijuana has antitumor effects in the setting of cancer,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb. “It’s a much broader question about where our responsibility is to step into this.”
A Lack of Research
The FDA are concerned that there is no official government approved evidence that marijuana has medical benefits. Up until last August there was no official means for scientists to research the plant. The classification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug places it in the highest risk category alongside heroin and LSD. The criteria for this category is that a substance is highly addictive, has no medicinal benefits and is not safe to be tested on humans. This made the plant impossible to study in any official capacity for medical reasons. Last August, the DEA lifted the ban on studies, so long as researchers submitted the correct paperwork for the application and got approval. The Department of Justice has not approved any of the applications. They are at a standstill on the matter.
Diabetes is a dangerous condition that is affecting Americans in epic proportions. In the last 10 years alone, the number of people affected rose by nearly 50 percent. This amounts to over 29 million Americans living with diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is often related to a sedentary lifestyle with minimal exercise and the consumption of too much sugar or too many carbohydrates which break down into sugars. The World Health Organization is predicting that the number of people living with diabetes will double by 2030. Already at epidemic proportions, this condition kills more people than AIDS and breast cancer combined. The condition can lead to blindness, kidney failure, amputations, heart failure and stroke and Americans spend over $245 billion a year trying to treat the condition. For this reason, researchers have been investigating the connection between marijuana and diabetes.
The Primary Cause of Diabetes
Diabetes occurs when your blood sugar or blood glucose levels are too high. Glucose is a main source of energy for the body and it’s derived directly from food. What you eat gets directly converted into glucose. Insulin is the hormone produced by the pancreas that helps your cells to absorb that glucose to give you energy. If your cells can’t absorb the glucose, then it stays in your blood and your blood sugar level is raised. If your body isn’t able to produce any or enough insulin or just simply doesn’t use the insulin in a healthy way, then your blood sugar level rises. This is essentially how diabetes strikes.
Differences Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes
Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are both caused by problematic insulin levels. Type 1 diabetes, which usually begins when a person is a child or young adult, is when your body cannot produce any insulin. In Type 2 diabetes, which usually develops in adulthood although it could develop anytime, your body struggles to produce insulin or it may produce insulin but your cells refuse to process it, thus becoming insulin resistant. If they won’t absorb the insulin, they also can’t absorb the glucose. This is the most common type of diabetes diagnosed and it appears to be on the rise.
How Marijuana and Diabetes Can Relate for Positive Results
For some time now, researchers have been evaluating the relationship between marijuana and diabetes and have found that cannabis does seem to be very effective at treating and possibly even preventing the onset of Type 2 diabetes. The American Alliance for Medical Cannabis (AAMC) did a 2005 study on the relationship between marijuana and diabetes. They said that anecdotal surveys indicated that marijuana seemed to stabilize blood sugar levels. It was also such an effective anti-inflammatory that it served to reduce arterial inflammation which is often brought on by diabetes. It is effective at treating some of the painful symptoms of diabetes including “restless leg syndrome” which can affect the sleep of many people with diabetes.
“Cannabis is also neuroprotective,” explains the AAMC website. “It is believed that much of neuropathy comes from the inflammation of nerves caused by glycoproteins in the blood that deposit in peripheral tissues and trigger an immune response. Cannabis helps protect the nerve covering (myelin sheath) from inflammatory attack. Cannabis also lessens the pain of neuropathy by activating receptors in the body and brain. Some components of cannabis (perhaps cannibidiol) act as anti-spasmodic agents similar to the far more toxic anti-convulsants like Neurontin. This action of cannabis helps relieve diabetic muscle cramps and GI upset.”
The study also revealed that cannabis helps to keep blood vessels open and improve circulation. It works very well to improve blood flow and over time it will lower blood pressure in the user. Both actions are extremely beneficial when it comes to treating diabetes.
Evaluating the Body’s Fasting Insulin
A 5 year study published in 2013 in the American Journal of Medicine also found that marijuana and diabetes had a powerful relationship. The study evaluated 4,657 participants. Of these 2,554 had used marijuana at some point, 579 were current users and 2,103 had never used the plant. The researchers measured the amount of fasting insulin in the body. If the number was too low it could be seen as indicative of an issue producing insulin but if the results were too high it was seen as an indicator that there is insulin resistance and the insulin isn’t being used, creating a higher blood sugar level in the body.
Tests showed that the current users had 16 percent lower fasting insulin levels than those who hadn’t used marijuana. Those who were not current users also had lower insulin levels but not as low as those who were still consuming it. The current users had lower insulin resistance and fasting insulin, showing that diabetes could be prevented by those who consumed marijuana.
The Insulin Resistance Level of Cannabis Users
Insulin resistance (IR) is the rejection of insulin by the cells. Modern science allows for the measuring of the body’s insulin resistance levels. The authors of the 2013 study revealed that those who have never used cannabis had an IR level of 2.5. Those who had used it in the past had an IR level of 2.2 and those who were still consuming it had an IR of 1.8. Blood sugar levels were lower in current users with a mean blood sugar level of 99.7 mg/dL, compared with 100.6 mg/dL for past users and 103.5 mg/dL for those who have never used the plant. Nobody exactly knows what causes the reduction, however, and much more research is still needed before the full relationship between marijuana and diabetes can be understood.
Marijuana and diabetes are not often put together by many but the research indicates that it may be a key plant to study, to find a way to curb the epidemic and treat the millions suffering with the condition. Much of marijuana’s healing ability comes from its ability to trigger the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the body. These receptors are part of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) that governs healthy homeostasis in the body. It affects blood pressure, appetite, sleep, mood and so much more. Much more research is needed to acquire the full benefits and understand how the plant can work as a powerful medicine.