Prenatal Exposure and Adolescent Cannabis Use

Today we have a more sobering topic to discuss: the issue of early-onset cannabis use and pre-natal cannabis exposure. Before beginning, we’d like to clarify that the following information applies specifically to cannabis containing primarily THC. The jury is out as to whether CBD-heavy strains, which are not nearly as psychoactive, are harmful for adolescent brain development. In many such situations, treating children with CBD cannabis is the last resort for serious, debilitating conditions that have not responded to pharmaceuticals and pose greater detriment to the child’s health than the possible ramifications of cannabis use. In these cases, the isolation of CBD from THC to avoid any psychoactive byproduct is typically seen. Hence administering cannabis to children might be the best option available to avoid heavy narcotic-based drugs. This article, on the contrary, is about pre-natal exposure and unregulated use of  THC dominant cannabis by adolescents. While research has indicated some limited neural-protective effects of cannabis for adults, the picture seems very different for adolescents, particularly children. Until the age of around 16, major brain structure developments continue to occur, often brought about by hormonal changes in the body. The endocannabinoid system is linked to the endocrine system that controls those hormones, which means that cannabis is capable of affecting brain development during adolescence. The degree and in what way that effect occurs is still being investigated and has not been elucidated as clearly as early-onset alcohol use has. Thus far, we have yet to come across a study that…

How Cannabis Might Be Used to Target Melanoma

After years of negative propaganda from uninformed politicians, it is tempting to jump at evidence indicating cannabis could miraculously cure cancer. In fact, even well educated members of the cannabis community may tout this point as a reason for legalization. This mistake is understandable; the person may have read a report showing cannabinoids capable of killing tumor cells. The problem is that saying “CANNABIS CURES CANCER” without additional information is like saying, “MONEY CURES POVERTY”. Either statement could technically be argued to be true, but both statements are such reductive, simplistic views that they are entirely misleading on their own and actually very unhelpful to genuine progress. The truth is that smoking cannabis or using topical cannabis extract almost certainly has no impact on preventing or curing cancer. Where the real progress is happening involving cannabis and cancer actually rests in the consideration of the endocannabinoid (eCB) system as a chemotherapy target. Currently, many different types of drugs are used as chemotherapy agents. Unfortunately, a lot of these drugs also exhibit friendly fire and kill non-cancerous cells or deplete other body resources to the extent that the process of chemotherapy is arduous and difficult for the patient. As a result, doctors must carefully aim to give patients as much chemotherapy as they can safely accommodate and no more. The eCB system and cannabinoids show promise as new chemo drugs, because they exhibit anti-tumor properties while at the same time are very gentle and natural to the human body. Currently, many…

The Endocannabinoid System Part II

In the last article we guided you through the history of modern medicine’s understanding of the endocannabinoid system. We were met with a rather strange surprise ending for both the scientific and medical cannabis communities. Put simply, the focus of the entire medical cannabis movement had been cannabis itself; the plant and medicines produced via refining that plant. Yet, the underlying reason that cannabis is such an effective medicine is found in the body’s own endocannabinoid system. This system is activated not only through externally applied exocannabinoids, such as those in smoked or vaporized cannabis, but also the body’s own naturally-produced endocannabinoids, and finally by artificially produced cannabinoid receptor activators. The star of the show is not cannabis at all but the endocannabinoid system, which is activated through numerous pathways. Cannabis just happens to have been mankind’s first interaction with being able to affect, manipulate, and repair the body’s own endocannabinoid system. In that way, humans are very lucky for this unlikely intersection of evolution, where a chemical group a plant produces for its own benefit coincides with a chemical group that the human body uses to regulate itself. The cannabis plant still remains one of the cheapest and most energy efficient ways to produce cannabinoids that would require more complex and costly resources to produce in a laboratory setting. Because of this efficiency, the cannabis plant will likely continue to play a large role in the medical community even after more direct, more controllable means of directing the endocannabinoid…

How far we’ve come: A History of Endocannabinoid Research

Like many scientific developments, the elucidation of the endocannabinoid system required development in several fields at once. The first developments naturally came in the field of chemistry since in the early 1900’s very little was understood about the actual function of various parts of the brain. Scientists were aware that cannabis must contain a principal active ingredient that creates the psychoactive effects observed. As a result, researchers experimented with ways of isolating that ingredient with manual and chemical methods. Unfortunately, many of these efforts failed and the structure of the chemical now known as THC remained elusive. We now know why this was so complicated for early researchers. Imagine sorting through a box of small, nearly identical objects from twenty feet away. Many of the cannabinoids found in cannabis are almost identical in structure, making it difficult to find a method that only extracts the particular cannabinoid being sought after. This difficulty was compounded by not knowing which, of the over 80 cannabinoids, was responsible for the observed psychoactivity. As a result, for the first half of the 1900’s, separation techniques were too rudimentary to allow progress. This period ended in 1964 upon Raphael Mechoulam’s identification and isolation of THC, which led to a process of manufacturing it synthetically. Just prior, Mechoulam’s research group had also identified the specific structure of cannabidiol (CBD). Mechoulam, like any other scientist prior to his research, had been forced to obtain cannabis and hash samples from police through non-standard and semi-established protocols. This not…