By Wes Annac, Canna Words
Originally written for Wake Up World
What comes to mind when you hear the word “marijuana”? Do you envision a drug that makes people lazy, or a medicinal herb that could potentially save lives?
Although the Marihuana Tax Act 1937 effectively outlawed the plant in the 30s, a campaign to taint its image began in the U.S long before it was outlawed. It was a slow and steady process, beginning with individual states outlawing it and leading to a nationwide ban. (1) Yet, despite its slow progress, the criminalization of marijuana didn’t take much effort. The public was mostly indifferent to it until a flood of propaganda from the media, much of which was racist, convinced them it was dangerous and led to crime, violence, and hedonism. (1) Today, the accepted rhetoric is that marijuana dulls the mind, ensures you don’t contribute to society, and leads to harder drugs — a stereotype that still prevails.
What most people don’t know, however, is that the plant provides countless uses for mankind and, because of this, has been used by ancient cultures throughout history, for medicine, agriculture and much more. Many are also unaware that Big Pharma lobbies our lawmakers (successfully) to keep cannabis illegal in its natural form, which allows them to make huge sums of money from synthesizing and patenting its compounds. (More on that later.) Yes, the U.S. government and its corporate sponsors have been lying to the public about cannabis for nearly a century. So, in the interest of fighting propaganda, here are 8 scientific and cultural facts about the cannabis plant that defy its stereotype.
1. Humans have consumed cannabis for thousands of years (case in point: India)
Cannabis has been used in India, China, Japan, Iran, Europe, and Africa for thousands of years. For this first point, we’ll focus on India.
SPARC reports that Ayurvedic and Indian medicine has included cannabis for “at least three thousand years”. It’s been used to treat countless conditions, including “nausea and wasting syndromes”. Today, many bodybuilders in India include it in their regimen to build strength, promote digestion, and gain muscle mass. (2)
It’s still widely used in India, SPARC reports. It’s made into a drink, known as bhang, that’s consumed by locals and believed to be the favorite drink of the king of Indian Gods, Indra. Bhang is also offered to images and statues of Shiva throughout India. This happens most notably during the Festival of Shivratri. (2)
2. Cannabis is important to ancient Chinese history
SPARC reports that hemp maintains a long and notable history in China. In fact, at one time, the Chinese referred to their country as “the land of mulberry and hemp”.
According to ancient Chinese beliefs, SPARC reports, emperor Shen Nung began teaching the cultivation of hemp in the 28th century B.C. Shen Nung was revered by the people and even deified. He’s known as the father of Chinese medicine, because he pioneered the development of medicine from plants. (2) Clearly, he was onto something.
SPARC reports that records show Taoists recommended adding cannabis to incense burners as early as the first century A.D. It’s believed one could use the resulting euphoric effect to achieve immortality or enlightenment. The “fumes and odors” were known to produce a sense of wellbeing and “mystic exaltation”. (2)
Cannabis was also considered a “symbol of power” over malevolence in China, as well as a “liberator of sin”. (2) Religious cannabis users today would probably agree with this viewpoint, although both religious and non-religious users can relate to the feeling of wellbeing and expansiveness the herb is known to provide.
Before we learn more about the spiritual uses of cannabis, let’s look at it from a medicinal perspective.
3. Cannabis can improve lung health and reverse tobacco’s carcinogenic effects
Business Insider reports that a Journal of the American Medical Association study, published in 2012, stated cannabis does not impair the way the lungs function and can, in fact, increase lung capacity. Researchers were initially looking for risk factors of heart disease. To do so, they tested 5,115 young adults’ lung function over a 20-year period. (3)
Although tobacco smokers lost lung function, Business Insiderreports, cannabis users’ lung function had increased. This might not be the result of a therapeutic ingredient in the plant, but of the deeper breaths taken when inhaling cannabis smoke versus tobacco. (3)
According to Benefits of Marijuana, a Costa Rican study found that chronic marijuana smokers who also used tobacco had less of a chance of developing cancer than cigarette smokers who never tried marijuana. The herb dilates the alveoli and eliminates toxins, whereas nicotine constricts the alveoli. Cannabis use could neutralize or overwhelm this constriction. (4)
4. Cannabis can help control epileptic seizures and decrease symptoms of Dravet syndrome, a disorder that brings severe seizures
Business Insider reports that a 2003 study displayed that cannabis use can prevent epileptic seizures. Robert J. DeLorenzo at Virginia Commonwealth University gave marijuana extract, as well as synthetic marijuana, to epileptic rats. Thanks to the drugs, the rats were rid of seizures for around 10 hours. (3)
Business Insider reports that this is because cannabinoids such as THC, the most psychoactive compound, bind to the brain cells that control excitability and “regulate relaxation”, thus controlling seizures. DeLorenzo’s findings were published in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. (3)
But that’s not all! As Business Insider reports, while researching for his documentary “Weed”, Dr. Sanjay Gupta interviewed parents treating their daughter with a strain of medical marijuana high in cannabidiol (CBD). CBD is a non-psychoactive yet highly medicinal cannabinoid. (3) Business Insider reports that Charlotte, the daughter, has Dravet Syndrome. This causes “severe developmental delays”, as well as seizures. It’s stated in the film that the CBD-high strain has decreased Charlotte’s seizures from “300 a week to just one every seven days”. This same strain is working wonders for forty other children in the state who suffer from similar disorders. (3)
You can’t make this stuff up.
But how does it work? Business Insider reports that CBD quiets the excessive brain activity responsible for the seizures by interacting with brain cells. Despite this, Gupta notes that the DEA, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and a hospital in Florida that specializes in Dravet Syndrome don’t endorse marijuana for it or other disorders that cause seizures. (3)
In the face of evidence that cannabis can drastically reduce seizures and help with a condition that causes them, is the best course of action really to look the other way?
5. Research suggests cannabis can kill cancer cells
Collective Evolution reports that research conducted by scientists at St. George University of London found that THC and CBD “weakened the ferocity of cancer cells” while making them more susceptible to radiation treatment. The study was published in the journal Molecular Cancer Therapies in 2014. It details incredible reductions in the more fatal variations of brain cancer when THC and CBD are used along with radiation therapy. (5)
CE reports that Dr. Wai Lu, the study’s lead researcher, wrote in a November 2014 op-ed for the Washington Post that they’ve found cannabinoids can “play a role in treating one of the most aggressive cancers in adults”. The “promising” results, he wrote, could provide a way to break through tumors and ultimately save lives. (5)
If you think it’s strange that mainstream medicine fails to recognize marijuana’s cancer-killing potential, consider that Big Pharma is already aware of it. As we’ll learn, a natural cure would make pharmaceutical companies lose money, which is why they’re focused on synthesizing and selling everything.
6. Research suggests cannabis can treat depression
This probably varies from person to person, but many find marijuana to be an effective treatment for depression.
International Business Times reports that USC and SUNY Albany published a study on addictive behaviors in 2005. With 4,400 participants, it was the biggest investigation to date on the link between marijuana and depression. (6) The study found that occasional and even daily marijuana use can bring lower levels of “depressive symptoms” than those experienced by people who’ve never tried the herb, International Business Times reports. It also found that weekly users exhibited a “less depressed mood”, a “more positive effect”, and “fewer somatic complaints than non-users”. (6)
As I mentioned, this, along with marijuana’s effect on seizures and cancer, is the reason…
7. Pharmaceutical companies are invested in keeping cannabis illegal
If, as the stereotype suggests, marijuana is nothing more than a “slacker’s drug” that keeps you glued to the couch, then why would Big Pharma be so intent on ensuring it remains illegal? The answer is that this plant is not what they want you to think it is.
It’s a miraculous medicinal plant that can grow almost anywhere, and treat almost any condition. Big Pharma does not want people to use it freely.
International Business Times reports that marijuana’s countless medicinal uses, combined with the fact that it can be grown freely, would cause pharmaceutical companies to lose profit if it were legal. Thus, they see it as a threat. (6) According to Dr. James Hudson, Big Pharma is intent on recreating marijuana’s compounds and selling them in the form of a synthesized pharmaceutical drug. For obvious reasons, they’d rather do this than let the public use the natural version already available. Profit is the prime motivation for any drug company. (6)
Plants can’t be patented. Therefore, International Business Times reports, Big Pharma aims to keep cannabis and hemp illegal while recreating in a synthetic form the “same drug with the same effects”. It’s all about money. (6)
For our final fact, we’ll talk more about the plant’s spiritual benefits.
8. Cannabis is well-known for expanding consciousness.
Cannabis is stereotyped as a useless, mind-numbing drug, but history suggests it can serve as a vehicle for the expansion of consciousness.
SPARC reports that marijuana’s spiritual benefits are considered profound in South Asia. Thus, various religious groups including Buddhists, Naths, Shaivites, and Goddess Worshippers have made it a part of their meditation practice. They use it to enter Samadhi, a state of “profound stillness”. It’s also prominent today among Tantrics in Nepal, India, Sikkim, and Tibet. (2)
The Mahayana tradition of Buddhism, SPARC reports, states that the Buddha subsisted for six years on hemp seeds alone. The Buddhist Tara Tantra and plenty of other spiritual texts list cannabis as important to meditation and similar practices. In the Himalayas and Northern India, cannabis still maintains a “significant” role for Tantric Buddhists in meditative rituals and the facilitation of heightened awareness and “deep meditation”. (2)
SPARC reports that cannabis is closely associated with worship of Shiva and is even considered Shiva’s favorite herb due to its meditative effects. Shaivite Yogis, ascetics, and Shiva worshippers consume it as an aid to their sadhana (spiritual practice). Sadhus, also known as wandering ascetics, often smoke it out of a clay chillum during their sadhana. (2)
Marijuana’s spiritual use is so widespread in India that the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission arrived at this conclusion in their report on the subject:
“It is inevitable that temperaments would be found to whom the quickening spirit of bhang is the spirit of freedom and knowledge. In the ecstasy of bhang the spark of the Eternal in man turns into the light the murkiness of matter.
“…Bhang is the Joy-giver, the Sky-filler, the Heavenly-Guide, the Poor Man’s Heaven, the Soother of Grief…No god or man is as good as the religious drinker of bhang…The supporting power of bhang has brought many a Hindu family safe through the miseries of famine.
“To forbid or even seriously restrict the use of so gracious an herb as the hemp would cause widespread suffering and annoyance and to large bands of worshipped ascetics, deep-seated anger. It would rob the people of a solace on discomfort, of a cure in sickness, of a guardian whose gracious protection saves them from the attacks of evil influences…” (2)
As we’ve learned, reverence for cannabis extends beyond the simple “stoner” mindset. Despite this, we’re expected to believe it has no value and we should stay away from it. It’s as if the thousands of years it was beneficially used now mean nothing to a government subservient to powerful pharmaceutical companies.
So, if a useless or dangerous drug comes to mind when you think of cannabis, it might be time to reconsider this viewpoint. If you decide to dive down the rabbit hole of information on marijuana’s medicinal uses, I recommend starting with the history of mankind’s relationship with the plant. You’ll find that it’s an important part of our history and, as it did in the past, it can help us prosper if we’re open to it. Now that we know it has so many uses, let’s create a new era of acceptance for this amazing plant.
- Stephen Siff, “The Illegalization of Marijuana: A Brief History”, Origins, May 2014 – www.origins.osu.edu/article/illegalization-marijuana-brief-history
- “Spiritual Use of Cannabis”, Sparc – www.sparcsf.org/learning-center/spiritual-use-canabis
- Jennifer Welsh and Kevin Loria, “23 Health Benefits of Marijuana”, Business Insider, April 20, 2014 – www.businessinsider.com/health-benefits-of-medical-marijuana-2014-4/#it-can-be-used-to-treat-glaucoma-1
- “Marijuana Use Can Have Physical, Psychological, and Spiritual Benefits”, Benefits of Marijuana – www.benefitsofmarijuana.com/benefits.php