The always helpful doc Peter Grinspoon reminds us in a post on Harvard Health of some foundational facts about cannabis: that it’s far from being a singular entity and because of that the plant offers a staggering array of potential health benefits – all due to the endocannabinoid system:
Cannabis … consists of about 600 different molecules, some 140 of which are called cannabinoids because they work on our body’s endocannabinoid system — a vast system of chemical messengers and receptors that help control many of our most critical bodily systems such as appetite, inflammation, temperature, emotional processing, memory, and learning. It was only a matter of time until new cannabinoids were discovered and commercialized.
In looking at just four cannabinoids – CBG, THCV, CBN (all non-intoxicating) and Delta-8-THC – Grinspoon chronicles cannabis’s potential to treat major league illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, and inflammatory disease, as well as chronic pain and anxiety.
Notice, though, his two cautionary notes: Much of the evidence for these compounds comes from animal studies, so we’re not yet sure if the benefits will extend to us. And second, it’s political: “we need to be smart consumers who can find the true benefits amidst the complexity of political agendas [e.g. from the anachronistic war on drug people] and marketing claims that seem to accompany all things related to cannabis.”
One more thing: When you see cannabis’s unique potential to relieve human suffering, how to you square that with the fact that it’s still illegal federally, that the illegality hamstrings the ability to conduct research, and that we’re still arresting some 40 000 people a year on the rationale that cannabis has “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse”?