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The Straight Dope: Marijuana's Miracle Compound Contains Weed's Medical Benefits Without the High

Tired of the euphoria, anxiety and crash from being stoned? Nonpsychoactive cannabidiol supplies health benefits without the typical effects of THC.

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 Lee’s book describes how during the Great Depression the newly created Federal Bureau of Narcotics found itself without budget or scapegoat, inspiring the agency’s director, Harry Anslinger, to fashion himself into a righteous anti-pot crusader, erroneously classifying the plant as a narcotic and fabricating the reefer madness propaganda that today is lampooned on T-shirts and posters. 

Anslinger gave his government-sanctioned agenda a blatant racist topspin. “Reefer,” he said, “makes darkies think they are as good as white men,” causes “white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes,” and inspires the creation of “Satanic music of Jazz and Swing.” The bureau linked the herb with insanity and claimed a direct correlation between marijuana and violence, and even death.

The U.S. government’s policy on cannabis has hardly budged in eighty years, despite numerous committees, here and in Britian, such as the La Guardia and Wootten reports, and results from the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse, headed by Raymond Shafer in the early 1970s. All confirm what generations of marijuana users have always known: that there is no connection between pot and any illness or disorder (other than a tendency among some slackers towards excessively vegetal behavior).


Modern research in medical marijuana began in 1964, with the isolation and synthesis of marijuana’s controversial molecule, Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabidol-- better known as THC-- by Israeli scientist Rafael Mechoulam, who also discovered a vital chemical signaling system in the body with which THC interacts. Composed of naturally produced molecules called endocannabinoids (often called “the body’s own marijuana”) and their corresponding receptor sites, this unique system influences appetite, mood, memory and pain sensation. 

Here’s the magic: Marijuana contains its own inherent cannabinoids that mimic and enhance those in the body with potency and complexity. Like a pantheon of superheroes, these phytocannabinoids and their sidekicks-- the terpenes and flavonoids-- create an “entourage effect,” a team effort that regulates, modulates, stimulates and protects virtually every cell in the body. 

While THC has been shown to have powerful biological effects-- especially in the areas of pain and inflammation-- cannabidiol is now taking center stage. Recent findings based on preclinical and human studies show that CBD has anti-inflammatory, antipsychotic, anticonvulsant, anti-tumorigenic and analgesic properties. Cannabidiol kicks serious booty against cancer, as well as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and Multiple Sclerosis. It helps prevent and treat heart disease, diabetes and stroke, and appears to improve such psychological conditions as schizophrenia, social anxiety disorder, depression and ADHD, often working better than the drugs typically prescribed, and with virtually no side effects. Cannabidiol has even been shown in-vitro to be effective against the difficult-to-treat bacterial infection, MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aurelius).

One of those on the forefront of CBD science, Dr. Sean McAllister, PhD, works at California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute, where his studies have shown cannabidiol’s devastating effect on human cancer cells. Like a ninja assassin, CBD targets these renegade cells and systemically weakens, starves, stops them from spreading and reproducing, and, McAllister reports, ultimately kills them off. 

“What’s different here [versus] conventional cancer drugs,” says McAllister, “is that cannabinoids have a very low toxicity profile, so they cause few side effects.” 

McAllister found that CBD behaves differently than THC in the body. “The CBD molecule itself does not interact efficiently with endocannabinoid receptors,” he explained. “However, it does interact with other biological pathways.” 

In his cancer studies McAllister used synthetic CBD produced by a British firm for research purposes, but he is interested in continuing his work with a whole plant extract. Currently, he testing the hypothesis that THC and CBD work in concert, and mentions evidence showing that the terpenes and flavonoids in whole cannabis also have a modulating effect. 

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