Marijuana big business: legalization bridges divides between business and consumer
Cannabis is a flowering plant with a long and varied history of use by humans. Today, it is used to make hemp fibers (for clothe and rope), consumed for the nutritional value of its seeds and seed oils, medicinal purposes, and as a recreational drug.
There are 3 strains, or subspecies, of cannabis: Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. Indica and sativa strains contain the greatest amounts of cannabinoids and THC—the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Therefore indicas and sativas are the strains considered for cultivation in the recreational and medicinal marijuana industry.
Marijuana is not a narcotic. It is pharmacologically distinct from opiates and synthesized narcotics. However, many state, provincial and federal laws still classify marijuana as a narcotic. Historically, marijuana has been regulated by the same boards and/or governing bodies that dealt with statutes around much harder drugs like opiates. For example, in Canada in 1923, marijuana was added to a list of controlled substances under the Narcotics Drug Act Amendment Bill. Shortly after, cannabis was outlawed in Canada under international pressure and direction from the Federal Division of Narcotic Control.
Marijuana is not addictive; there is no physiological/chemical dependence developed from marijuana use. However, a small percentage of people who use marijuana can develop a psychological dependency after frequent and high quantity usage. People who develop a psychological dependency to marijuana are usually predisposed in some way: with a family or personal history of drug abuse, existing personality defect, or existing and/or recently onset of psychotic disorder.
Marijuana is illegal for a number of reasons, though the legal status of marijuana is changing, becoming more open, due to a shift in public perception, scientific research, and greater transparency and access to marijuana information.
Marijuana had long been perceived as addictive, linked with narcotics and classified alongside hard drugs, those with high abuse potential and low medicinal value, such as cocaine, heroine and methamphetamine. For a long time, the medical benefits of marijuana were unknown, then outright refuted by cannabis prohibition activists and conservatives. Due to strict cannabis regulation, medical marijuana studies were difficult to set up and conduct. Since the legalization of medicinal cannabis, scientists have been able to help those who are suffering and form a compelling body of evidence in support of the health benefits of medicinal cannabis.
Historically, marijuana was also associated with disadvantaged and underrepresented groups. Negative majority sentiment—based in part on xenophobic and racist ideas—were projected onto marijuana. For example, when marijuana arrived to the U.S. in the late 19th and early 20th century, it was associated with Mexican immigrants and Mexican Americans, and later other ethnic minorities. In the 1960s and 70s marijuana was tied to anti-authority activists, hippies, and those who lived an alternative lifestyle. The white culture majority co-adopted the marijuana movement’s struggle, and so the movement was able to begin making headway toward legalization.
There is very little evidence to support marijuana doing any harm to your brain cells—or neurons. In fact, given the body of scientific literature, it probably does more good.
But where did this idea come from? A study in New Zealand followed subjects ranging in ages from 13 to 38, and did find that chronic users, with some kind of dependence before age 18, dropped 8 IQ points by the time they turned 38. What usually isn’t cited in anti-marijuana propaganda, is only 3.8 percent showed an IQ decline, participants were heavy users (about 4 times per week), and had been using marijuana for over 20 years.
Depending on how frequently you use marijuana, and your unique metabolism, you may test positive for a urinalysis marijuana screening. Occasional users are typically fine (testing negative) after 4 days, while frequent users can test positive for up to 10 days. In some cases and studies, however, users of cannabis tested positive after an entire month since they had last used marijuana. In the same study a participant was found to test positive after 3 months.
Marijuana blood tests are less common than urine tests, but used to detect more recent marijuana use—if under suspicion of driving under the influence, for example. Blood tests for marijuana use can test positive (for THC) for up to 3 to 12 hours if a low dose has been ingested and up to about 24 hours if a higher dose is ingested.
The level of detectable THC also varies based on the method of ingestion. Smoking marijuana will leave your system clearer sooner than oral ingestion, as with marijuana edibles.
Marijuana remains in your system for several days and up to three months after use, depending your metabolism and how frequently you use marijuana; or, more accurately, the metabolite THC-COOH, produced when the liver breaks down the THC in marijuana, remains at detectable levels within the body.
Marijuana health benefits can vary depending on the form in which the plant is ingested. Smoking cannabis, for example, can expose your lungs and body to harmful tar and toxins produced by burning the flower, while marijuana vaporizers and marijuana edibles, oils and tonics can be a healthy—tar free—way to consume cannabis.
Marijuana’s therapeutic value is founded on a growing body of medical studies and empirical science. Marijuana contains 60 active ingredients called cannabinoids. THC is the main psychoactive cannabinoid in marijuana, which also occur naturally in the human body (in much lower quantities) where it acts on cannabinoid receptors to modulate pain.
Cannabis has a wide range of therapeutic applications, and, where medicinal marijuana is legalized, it is treatment for different diseases and ailments. Marijuana can alleviate pain for patients with AIDS/HIV, cancer, MS, arthritis, fibromyalgia, migraines and spasms. Marijuana is used to treat gastrointestinal disorders such as IBS and Crohn’s Disease. It is a muscle relaxant, appetite stimulant, and antiemetic (effective against vomiting and nausea).
Medicinal cannabis has also been used as an alternative treatment for those suffering mental health issues (ADD, ADHD, PTSD and eating disorders).
It is virtually impossible to overdose on marijuana due to its low toxicity. Cannabinoid receptors are not located on the brainstem, unlike opioid receptors, but throughout the entire body. Overdosing on opiates (i.e. narcotics, painkillers) is possible (i.e. leads to cardiac arrest) because the receptors/pathways sit on the brainstem—where the body controls respiration.
So, taking an excessive amount of marijuana will not in itself cause you to stop breathing.
However, even though you can’t die from marijuana, you can still take too much—especially if you don’t allow yourself to “catch up” and feel the effects before taking more. This is a common situation for people using edibles for the first time, since the onset of marijuana’s effects takes longer when orally consumed versus inhaled. Some adverse side effects of marijuana “overdose” are acute psychosis, paranoia, over sedation, and accelerated heartbeat.
Cannabis for medicinal purposes is available in Canada. Recreational marijuana is not legal in Canada. Officially, according to the Health Canada website:
“Dried marijuana is not an approved drug or medicine in Canada. The Government of Canada does not endorse the use of marijuana, but the courts have required reasonable access to a legal source of marijuana when authorized by a physician.”
In other words, if you meet the requirements under Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR), and are deemed eligible and approved by your health practitioner, you can purchase dried cannabis directly from licensed producers of marijuana for medical purposes. Patients are restricted to possessing a quantity (in grams per day) of no more than a 30 day supply, or less than 150 grams.
Under MMPR, it is illegal for approved patients to grow their own cannabis at home or have designated individuals grow for them; they must purchase from licensed producers. However, as the result of a Federal Court injunction, persons previously authorized to grow marijuana under MMAR can continue to do so on a “interim basis,” until the court reaches a final decision.
Drug prohibition began in Canada in 1903. Then, in 1923, under the Narcotics Drug Act Amendment Bill, marijuana was added to the Confidential Restricted List, partly due to pressure at home as well as internationally. Cannabis Prohibition extended through the 20th century, though accounted for only a fraction (two percent) of drug arrests in Canada.
In 2001, Health Canada established regulated access to medicinal cannabis through Medical Marihuana Access Regulations (MMAR). Marijuana decriminalization bills were introduced in 2002 and 2004, failing each time. In 2014, the existing MMAR was revised by Health Canada, which introduced a new set of regulations, Marihuana for Medical Purpose Regulations (MMPR). MMPR is designed to further regulate the medicinal cannabis industry, by preventing illegal transport and ensuring legitimate use by approved patients only.
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