Op/Ed: Marijuana Science, a Doobie-ous History

By Kevin Brown
The Guardsman

Current scientific research indicates that ingesting marijuana provides many health benefits and even prevents cancer.

Cannabis science is still in its infant stages because prohibition has made research difficult, but when marijuana gained popularity in the 1960’s, some found it’s way into university laboratories.

Little was known about how pot worked on our brains, and at first scientists just wanted to figure out how it got us high.

In 1964, Dr. Raphael Mecholum from Hebrew University, Jerusalem thoroughly investigated all of the different cannabinoids – marijuana’s unique chemical compounds – and was amazed to discover that the only one that had any psychoactive effect was delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

He had successfully isolated the chemical responsible for producing marijuana’s “high.” This was the first huge breakthrough in our understanding of cannabis, yet how and why it worked the way it did was still unknown.

That mystery was finally solved in 1988 when Allyn Howett, Ph.D. and her graduate student William Devane discovered the receptors in the brain that bind to THC. They named these receptor cites CB1 (cannabinoid receptor number 1).

Surprisingly they realized it was a unique, pharmacologically-distinct receptor specifically for cannabinoids.

This was extraordinary because bodies do not create receptors for chemical compounds that are only found in a plant. Receptor cites are created to interact with compounds created within our own body.

The presence of these special receptors meant that our body must actually create its own cannabinoids. That’s right, the human body makes its own marijuana!

Only four years later, while working in Mechoulam’s lab in 1992, Devane and Lumir Hanus identified a compound in the body that fit the CB1 receptor like a key fits in a lock. They had discovered our body’s own natural cannabinoid and named it anandamine.

Cannabinoids found outside the body, such as THC, are called exocannabinoids, and endocannabinoids are created within our bodies. Both stimulate the endocannabinoid system which helps the body stay healthy by naturally regulating sleep, appetite, physiological well-being and many more vital functions.

According to Dr. Mechoulam, “There is barely a biological system in our bodies in which the endocannabinoids do not participate.”

Cannabinoid receptors influence cell activity by transmitting signals to cells all over the body through the cell membrane.

CB1 receptors are most prominent in the central nervous system but are also found in the stomach, placenta, lungs, uterus and liver.

CB2 Receptors aid the body in digestion, bone strength and pain perception, and they and are found in the liver, the spleen, gastrointestinal tract, heart, kidney, bones, endocrine glands, lymph and immune cells and the peripheral nervous system.

Cannabinoids affect appetite, blood pressure, cerebral blood flow, digestion, nausea, immune function, memory, mood, movement, neurological health, reproduction, stress response and more.

Not only do cannabinoids regulate these systems, which helps our body maintain homeostasis, but they can also help prevent devastating diseases such as cancer.

According to research by Dr. Donald Abrams M.D., “Cannabinoids work against cancer (by) killing mutated cells, slowing their growth or growing new blood vessels.”

Marijuana defends our bodies against cancer in two ways. It helps the endocannabinoid system selectively destroy unruly cells before they are able to spread while protecting the healthy cells, and THC also even kills bad cells itself.

That’s right, the psychoactive substance in marijuana literally has the power to kill harmful cells just by coming into contact with them!

This means that a stimulated endocannabinoid system will kill bad cells anywhere in the body before they become tumorous, let alone cancerous.

So next time you get busted smoking a joint and some authority figure shakes their finger at you and scolds, “What do you think you’re doing?” Just smile and answer politely, “I’m fighting cancer.”

Be sure to grab the next issue where I will continue to examine marijuana’s numerous medical benefits.

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