For the last 80 years, cannabis has been identified as Public Enemy Number 1, said to promote lude behavior, encourage violence, and drive people into states of rage.

Fortunately, these social and political arguments have yet to be backed by any real science.

The cannabis plant has been a part of human history for millennia.

As one of the oldest agricultural and economic crops, the human species has used the plant to fulfill just about every basic need, food, medicine, clothing, and shelter included.  

While the herb has long been blindly considered a public health enemy, recent epidemiological research has found that public access to the plant may have several meaningful benefits.

According to the latest research, here are 7 ways cannabis reform can benefit public health:

1. Cannabis consumers binge drink less

whisky in glass
More than 88,000 people die from alcohol in the U.S. each year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rates of binge-drinking in the United States have gone up over the past decade. Loosely defined, a night of drinking is considered a binger when at least four glasses of alcohol are consumed within a two-hour period. In fact, research published in the American Journal of Public Health found that between 2005 and 2012, binge drinking increased by 8.9 percent. While it’s easy to get carried away in social situations, drinking too much in one sitting can have some serious consequences.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, binge drinking has been associated with a wide variety of public health problems, including increased violent behavior and sexual assault. Fascinatingly, research suggests that cannabis may be able to combat some of this behavior. A report published by the Wall Street investment firm Cowen & Company found that states with adult-use cannabis laws saw a reduction in binge drinking rates by 9 percent below the national average.

Compared with non-legal states, rates of binge drinking fell by a whopping 11 percent. Why? Cowen & Company suggest that cannabis acts as a substitute for alcohol as a social lubricant.Unlike alcohol, however, the herb is not associated with debilitating long-term side effects.  

And there’s actually more to the story here:

2. Swapping cannabis for alcohol may reduce risks of dementia

cannabis for dementia
Another example of how heavy drinking can destroy your life.

Speaking of binge drinking, a 2018 study from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health has found that heavy alcohol consumption is one of the primary risk factors for dementia, particularly early-onset dementia.

“The findings indicate that heavy drinking and alcohol use disorders are the most important risk factors for dementia,” says study co-author Jürgen Rehm, “and especially important for those types of dementia which start before age 65, and which lead to premature deaths.”

As Rehm mentions, dementia and brain damage caused by alcohol are entirely preventable at the individual, community, and policy level.

While meaningful public health research is sorely needed, cannabis reform may be a major policy contender when it comes to reducing the occurrence of alcohol-induced brain damage.

Not only is binge drinking down in legal cannabis states, but preliminary rodent and cell line research suggests that cannabis has potent neuroprotective properties.

These neuroprotective properties include reduced inflammation in the brain and can potentially protect against the death of brain cells in patients with neurological diseases.

Should these findings continue to hold true in human trials, the cannabis plant may one day play an important role in the future prevention of neurological diseases. And that’s not all...

3. It is impossible to fatally overdose on cannabis

overdose
Even though cannabis has an incredible safety profile, we must still respect it.

Unlike many other recreational substances, including alcohol and other drugs, it is impossible to fatally overdose on cannabis.

While cannabis compounds actively affect cells in the brain and throughout the body, the receptor sites responsible for the herb’s intoxicating effects are mysteriously missing in the brainstem. Why is this important? The brainstem holds the machinery that controls respiration.

Cannabis is often referred to as a “drug” when discussed in policy and public health settings. However, unlike most substances of abuse, it is impossible for the herb to slow breathing to the point of death. As a result, there have been no known fatal overdoses from the cannabis plant. The harm reduction potential here is vast...

4. States with medical cannabis laws have fewer opioid overdose deaths

death by overdose
Cannabis won't stop your breathing like opioids will.

Already, cannabis policy reform has had several profound effects on opioid addiction in states that allow medical consumption. A well-known 2014 study found that that access to the herb reduced rates of opioid overdose by a whopping 25 percent.

In a more comprehensive follow-up study, researchers discovered that having easy access to the plant via dispensaries decreased overdose rates even further. A 25 percent reduction translated to an incredible 40 percent reduction in opioid deaths when consumers had access to cannabis dispensaries. Here’s another important health challenge cannabis can help address:

5. Cannabis consumers are less likely to develop diabetes

diabetes
Highly addictive and no medical value -- why isn't sugar a schedule I substance?

While there has been significant public health focus on cannabis and drug addiction, early research suggests that the herb may have other benefits as well. Epidemiological research published in 2011 found that cannabis consumption was correlated with reduced rates of obesity. Research published in the British Medical Journal a year later discovered that cannabis consumers were less likely to develop diabetes.

Adding more fodder to the fire, a study published in the American Journal of Medicine found that those who partake in the herb show lower levels of fasting insulin and improved glucose metabolism. Exactly what causes this correlation is unknown. However, rising rates of diabetes are among the biggest public health concerns across the globe. Not only does diabetes itself contribute to over 1.5 million deaths annually around the world, but the health and economic impacts of high blood sugar are immense. Diabetes is a prime contributor to heart disease, stroke, obesity, and other major metabolic ailments. Cannabis can also help people already suffering from diabetes. It’s amazing how much just one plant covers and hard to believe it’s been illegal for so long. Here’s another great example:

6. Medicare costs on many prescription drugs have declined in medical cannabis states

Medicare Part D prescription
No wonder why pharmaceutical companies have been lobbying to keep cannabis illegal.

It’s official. Medical cannabis consumers are swapping their prescription drugs in exchange for the natural herbal remedy.

A 2016 study published in Health Affairs found that Medicare Part D prescriptions for painkillers and antidepressants decreased shortly after states enacted medical cannabis laws. On average, daily doses of antidepressants per physician per year fell by 265. For pain, prescriptions fell by 1,826 daily doses per doctor per year.

Compared to the overwhelming rate these medications are prescribed, these numbers may not seem that significant. However, reduced prescriptions per doctor equate to some major health care savings in the long haul. According to the study, medical cannabis laws were estimated to have saved taxpayers over $165.2 million as patients forwent their pharmaceutical medications and picked up the plant instead.

What other ways is cannabis helping us live happier, healthier lives?

7. Cannabis consumers have lower rates of domestic violence

domestic violence
Domestic violence is one of those things we don't talk about enough.

The phrase “vape together, stay together” might have some weight after all. A 2014 study published in the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors followed 634 couples during their first nine years of marriage. The study’s researchers were hoping to test whether or not cannabis consumption had any impact on rates of intimate partner violence during marriage.

Overall, the research found that couples who consumed cannabis together during the first year of marriage were less likely to experience domestic violence during the first nine years of wedlock. However, the research also found that if women alone smoked cannabis, they were more likely to be victims of domestic violence. Yet, these women were already more likely to report experiencing intimate partner violence prior to marriage. Will cannabis put a stop to domestic violence? No. But given that the herb can act as a replacement for other violence-inducing substances, cannabis reform is certainly worth considering. 

Content Sourced from Green Flower.

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1 month ago

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1 month ago

Massachusetts to ban sale of all vaping products for 4 months in toughest state crackdown

Massachusetts will place a four-month ban on all sales of vaping products, the state’s governor announced Tuesday, ushering in the most extensive state-level crackdown on e-cigarettes after a mysterious illness has afflicted hundreds and killed nine people. The move is the latest response from policymakers to growing alarm about the popularity of e-cigarettes among young people and fears that the products, which have yet to be vetted by the Food and Drug Administration, pose unknown health risks. Bans on sales of flavored vaping products took effect this month in New York and Michigan, and the Trump administration said it plans to enact a similar regulation at the federal level. Flavored products have attracted particular scrutiny from policymakers who say they are getting children hooked on nicotine. But Massachusetts would go beyond a flavor ban to also temporarily eliminate tobacco and marijuana e-cigarettes from the market. 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2 months ago

The Grass is Greener where it’s Sun Grown

There is something special happening in Northern California’s cannabis community. In one of the most unique growing regions in the world, farmers have been living off the land and growing this country’s cannabis for decades. Now, this inherently sustainable, craft cannabis movement is rising to the forefront of California and the United State’s cannabis industry, setting the landscape that promises to set the standard of sustainable, ethical, and natural agricultural practices. Cannabis is rooted deep in human culture: its earliest written reference stems from Western China about 500BC. Traditionally grown outdoors in the lush environment where the plant naturally thrives, growing indoors is a relatively new, energy intensive method of cultivation. As Michael Steinmetz, CEO of FlowKana, states: “Indoor is simply a relic of prohibition and a cultural phenomenon that emerges when farmers have to go into hiding to protect their livelihoods while they cultivate this amazing plant. Indoor cultivation produces 25 times more CO2 than outdoor grows, and are 70 times more energy intensive than commercial office buildings. To produce just one kilo of cannabis indoors is equivalent to driving across the country five times!” Even though outdoor grows are clearly more energy efficient, the divide between sustainably cultivating cannabis in California’s ubiquitous Emerald Triangle and industrial farming practices (think massive, industrial indoor grows, sucking energy and water out of the desert in Southern California) is growing ever deeper. This is at odds with consumer behavior: trends are showing that consumers want to invest in sustainable, authentic, and local businesses, leading us to question whether hefty investments in these desert grows harkens the impending doom this burgeoning industry. Why go vast and vacuous when consumers crave niche and nostalgia? The California cannabis industry is like no other. Though there’s millennia of history behind the plant, the process, and the people whose livelihoods depend on it, the corporatization of cannabis is still very much in its infancy. This is equally thrilling and daunting. There’s promise and potential to correct social stigmas and injustices, to negate environmentally harmful agriculture practices, and to promote a plant with universal healing qualities. There’s also ample opportunity for big companies to elbow in: corporations are oozing in, focused on the bottom line with little regard for honoring the plant’s history, purpose, and potential. Surprising no one, the California cannabis industry is picking up steam to become a race to the quickest buck, abandoning the rich history, potent healing potential and complex social realities of the plant to dry up in the desert dust.   It is time to get back to the roots of this industry.    I had the privilege of spending a hot August day with the Humboldt County Grower’s Alliance (HCGA). My goal was to absorb all that Humboldt County and its cannabis community had to offer — to talk to farmers, to smell their flowering plants, to indulge in the abundance of natural beauty that is their every day. As it goes, we started the day at the HCGA office in Eureka. Walking out the offices’ white wooden door, we readied ourselves to tour cannabis country. Driving down the 101 past Ferndale, we made our way towards the coast on Mattole road. There, we were treated to some of the most spectacular views along the Lost Trails of the Pacific Ocean. It felt like we had been transported to another world. From there, we cut back inland towards Petrolia. The grandeur of the Mattole Valley became more apparent with every sharp turn and steep hill we climbed in the Subaru. This valley has been the epicenter of California’s cannabis industry since it’s community fled north from San Francisco in the 1960s and 1970s to live off the land. It was incredible to witness it for the first time with my own eyes. “This wasn’t a profiteering machine, it was getting back to the land, being self sufficient, and growing some cannabis to help promote and fund a vision of community.” — Terra Carter, Executive Director of HCGA says.  During one of the loudest and most volatile times in this country’s history, Humboldt County cannabis flourished in a community built on a back-to-the-earth ethos. Cannabis, among seasonal vegetables, herbs, and animals provided these communities and families the resources to live in such remote locations.  What transpired over the next few decades in this valley sounds like it was ripped from a summer blockbuster. With the ineptly named War on Drugs came military aircraft humming over the valley. The US government flew two U2s[1] over Humboldt to build their battle plan against farmers. This is the same spy plane they flew over the USSR. Helicopters buzzed through the valley searching for plants. Sometimes, they came so low that their noise and resulting vibrations would break windows and knock down houses. Humboldt was like a war zone, complete with a few farmers holding their ground by gun. Others hid in the woods or fled from their property with their families- some temporarily, and others permanently.  As the raids continued farmers developed innovative ways to keep their community and livelihoods going: some started to grow their plants on platforms high in the trees, others constantly scanned the skies, ready to pull their plants back from the fields and under the cover of the forest at a moment’s notice. As we drove deeper into the valley, I began to see the lengths to which farmers went to set their roots, both familial and agricultural, as far out of reach as possible. Seclusion protected these families from the National Guard and from the bad players in the area taking plants, money, and whatever else they fancied by force. Though I met with people who were ostensibly breaking the law, I did not get the sense I was surrounded by criminals — because I wasn’t. Humboldt (like the rest of California, the USA, and the world) definitely has had their fair share of criminals in the industry, but for the most part this is a community of outlaws. They were never criminals. They simply did not have the legal infrastructure in place to run their business. It’s important to remember this distinction, especially since every person in the cannabis industry today is a federal outlaw. After driving for miles on dirt roads wrapped tightly around the mountain, we came across a signless intersection. We turned left up a steep one-lane road that we followed for a mile. At the peak we found cleared land and a single structure atop. “Welcome to DewPoint,” crowed the fearless, smiling Andelain. She and her husband are second and third generation farmers. They grew up overlooking the Mattole Valley and now live on a sustainable mountain property they built themselves. Nestled amid the mountains for a decade, their property relies entirely on solar energy for all of their electrical needs. Andelain likes to boast that her cannabis is fully sun-grown. Meaning, not only do they grow without any artificial lights, but even the water irrigation pump is powered by the sun. Andelain and her husband remember this mountain as a thriving community since their earliest days in the area. “It wasn’t just your parents raising you, but your neighbors, and the people at the school and fire department. This was the community our parents started building with their cannabis businesses, and the one we continue to invest in today.”- Andelain During the years of quasi warfare in the Mattole Valley, Andelain remembers the fear she felt helping in her family’s garden, where they grew vegetables, fruits, and cannabis. “My earliest memory was being in the garden and hearing the ‘copter coming down the valley and my dad running through the garden thinking ‘That’s weird I never heard my dad move like that’. I remember my dads arm swooping around my body and pulling me up and running into the bushes with his hand around my mouth. Men in armor with rifles repelled down, cut our plants, and flew away. After that, my family moved into town. We lost everything we had on that mountain” Now, Andelain has the opportunity to carry out her life’s long purpose and passion: to bring high quality medicine and peace to those who need it, legally. Pure as her mission is, it is accompanied with bureaucratic side effects.   Unsurprisingly, California has some of the most extensive environmental laws in the country. To touch the land costs thousands of dollars in permitting and licensing. This is for good reason. California produces 17% of the country’s food and is constantly on the verge of drought. A state that is already reeling from the planet’s warming and is responsible for feeding nearly 1/5 of the country, it’s a sobering reality to consider placing an added burden on a state that’s already stretched thin on agricultural resources. Thankfully, California is taking some small but meaningful steps to abate this disaster. “Regulation has now given us the opportunity to be the most sustainably grown agriculture product in the world” says Carver. Most farms we saw in Humboldt have set up rain capture and storage containers to have water available throughout the dry months without needing to suck it out of aquifers.  The special sauce of Humboldt County Cannabis that can’t be replicated or matched is it’s heritage. This growing region not only sprouted on off-the-grid farms- where all energy had to be produced on site and trash had to be at a minimum, with the closest garbage drop is sometimes 45 minutes away. But, it has also survived and evolved through military raids and environmentally disastrous moments.  Humboldt has suffered. Their Redwood forests were indiscriminately leveled by industrial logging companies, while their rivers were overfished by commercial fishing companies. The community that lived off these lands did not stand for it. Several organizations, inside and outside the cannabis industry, banded together to protest these industries and their actions- one of which being the infamous 738-day tree-sit by Julia Butterfly. These industries decimated the environment- pushing the river’s salmon population close to extinction and polluting its waters with industrial runoff.  After years of fighting for and implementing corrective policies and regulations, we were able to take a break in the heat of the day to go swimming in the now clear, crisp, and cool Mattole river. While the river and surrounding environment is healing itself, so to speak, this time around, there are no guarantees that nature can continually bounce back from the impact of big industry. I could see it in the way everyone talked about being able to swim in the river, that being able to dunk our heads into its crisp water, is a luxury that should never be taken for granted. To me, it was a sign that with dedicated advocates, smart policy, and responsible farming and business practices, supporting a cannabis industry in the region without impacting the environment is possible. With the California cannabis industry blooming in a world where the Amazon is burning, communities experience systemic water shortages, and corporations prioritize profit over people, there has never been a time where being an educated and active consumer is more important.  Being a conscious consumer does make a difference: we are sowing the seeds from which the cannabis industry will continue to grow.