| Our secret stash of|
|Highs and lows|
| Against allopathy|
|—"Bush Doctor" Peter Tosh, "Legalize It" lyrics (1976)|
Marijuana woo is an umbrella term for various claims regarding the positive effects of marijuana cultivation and use. These generally fall into three basic areas:
- Claims concerning psychoactivity (occasionally extending all the way to Terrence McKenna-esque soul-babble)
- Health claims (often promoted as a panacea, sometimes amounting to a quack cancer cure)
- Ecological claims (positive instead of negative predictions from the same scientific illiterates who detest GMO's)
In the United States, marijuana currently falls into a legal gray-area: illegal at the federal level, legal in some states (e.g., Colorado), quasi-legal in other states ("medical marijuana", e.g., California), and illegal in still others (e.g., Texas).
Marijuana fans claim a startling assortment of things that marijuana is just about the best thing ever for, and none of this is because they want to get high as hell, nonono.
- 1 Health claims
- 1.1 Pain and spasticity
- 1.2 Nausea
- 1.3 Glaucoma
- 1.4 Mental health
- 1.5 General
- 1.6 Cannabinoids
- 1.7 Terpenoids
- 2 Psychoactive claims
- 3 Ecological claims
- 4 Some patent medicines
- 5 External links
- 6 See also
- 7 Notes
- 8 References
Health claims, particularly in the medical marijuana jurisdictions, tend towards the dietary supplement realm even though marijuana is not covered by the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA) because it is illegal at the Federal level. Some health claims even have the Quack Miranda Warning, which was a byproduct of DSHEA.
Let's start with some background on marijuana chemistry. Relevant chemicals in marijuana fall into two broad classes: cannabinoids (which in plants are specific to the Cannabis genus) and terpenoids (which are widespread in many plants). Humans and other animals, produce endocannabinoids, which are different than but in the same chemical class as those cannabinoids found in marijuana. The main psychoactive chemical in marijuana is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Another important cannabinoid is cannabidiol (CBD), which is not psychoactive but has many health claims. Terpenoids in marijuana include ocimene, myrcene, β-caryophyllene, limonene, pinene, myrcene, linalool.
There are two major problems with evaluating medical claims for marijuana:
- There is a large variability of the chemical content of marijuana, particularly since marijuana has been bred for different pharmacological properties. From the medical marijuana supplier perspective, this ranges from plants with high-THC/low-CBD to low-THC/high-CBD, as well as variations in terpenoid content. These chemicals may have either synergistic or antagonistic effects with regard to a particular medical treatment, so assessing the effectiveness of medical marijuana as a whole is difficult due to the quantitative chemical variability.
- In general, the quality of medical evidence forms a scale ranging from in vitro cell studies (lowest evidence) to animal bioassays (in vivo) to human retrospective studies to human prospective studies to meta-analyses and reviews of all direct evidence. It is difficult and expensive to conduct large-scale, long-term human studies, and the ability of researchers to conduct these has often been hampered by marijuana's illegality. Marijuana advocates may make claims based on in vitro studies of single chemicals, but this is never convincing evidence for human health — it is merely suggestive for further research.
Another problem with research on the medical effects on marijuana is that for the rare cases of US Federal Government-funded research, the marijuana is required to be sourced from the Federal Government. Such marijuana by today's commercial marijuana standards is considered to be low-grade (ditch weed), and is not comparable in terms of chemical content to what most people actually smoke.
Pain and spasticity
A 2015 review of human studies in The Journal of the American Medical Association found that there was high-quality evidence for treatment of chronic pain, neuropathic pain, and spasticity from multiple sclerosis (MS). The author also concluded that "Medical marijuana is used to treat a host of indications, a few of which have evidence to support treatment with marijuana and many that do not."
A large, multi-faceted literature review by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) also concluded:
The review also concluded that the effects were modest. However, separate studies have shown that US states with medical marijuana have reduced opioid prescriptions and 25% fewer opioid-related deaths.
A 2015 review of randomized controlled trials in humans found that the majority of the studies were at risk of bias due to not being double blind, or from attrition of test subjects. Nonetheless, the authors concluded that marijuana-based medications may be useful for treating nausea. The NASEM report also concluded, "In adults with chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting, oral cannabinoids are effective antiemetics," and that the effects were modest.
Marijuana treatment for intraocular pressure from glaucoma is widely cited as effective, particularly because the first authorized usage of medical marijuana since its criminalization was based on a court case by Robert Randall in 1976. There is some supporting scientific evidence that marijuana is efficacious for at least some types of glaucoma, based on small studies on humans. The effect on intraocular pressure is relatively brief, and there are other pharmaceutical treatments available for glaucoma which have been tested for safety and efficacy. The American Glaucoma Society and the Canadian Ophthalmological Society oppose medical marijuana usage due to extensive adverse effects.
The 2017 NASEM review concluded:
Claim: "The combination of THC and terpenes modulates each strain to have its own effect, flavor, energy and medical uses."
Research findings: This is sufficiently vague that it is basically true.
Because of the evidence above from studies on whole marijuana, the focus below on specific chemicals will be on claims other than for treatment of pain, nausea, glaucoma, depression and MS. There is reasonable evidence of marijuana efficacy for these claims, though the efficacy regarding a specific chemical may be another matter. Furthermore, the focus below will be on claims regarding specific diseases (e.g. cancer) or implying the treatment of diseases (e.g., anti-proliferative implies cancer treatment), rather than vague disease-related claims (e.g., antimicrobial).
Claims: treatment of anxiety and stress, anti-viral, cancer, bone growth
- Anxiety: see above
- Stress: no studies in PubMed
- Anti-viral: no studies in PubMed
- Cancer: CBC had some effect against breast tumors in vitro. The evidence is suggestive further research.
- Bone growth: no studies in PubMed
Claims: treatment of MS, epilepsy, diabetes (by lowering blood sugar), stress, insomnia
- Diabetes: CBD was effective in lowering the incidence of diabetes in mice in two studies. Two studies in humans showed a possible protective effect from marijuana on diabetes onset (association but not necessarily causation).
- Epilepsy: A 2015 review found that purified CBD showed promise in uncontrolled studies, but that controlled studies were lacking. Questions remain about safety and efficacy. A 2017 trial study of 120 patients found that children with a type of childhood epilepsy known as Dravet Syndrome had a greater reduction in convulsions when treated with CBD than placebo.
Cannabidiolic Acid (CBD-A)
Claims: treatment of inflammation and cancer
- Cancer: There are a few in vitro studies, so the evidence is only suggestive that more research is needed.
Claims: stimulates the growth of new brain and bone cells, antibacterial, anti-tumor (cancer), treatment of insomnia
- Brain growth: Ordinarily, one does not want to stimulate cell growth because it could increase the risk of cancer. The idea that this is a good thing seems to imply that the claimants (Steephill Labs) are referring to Huntington's disease, a progressive disease of the brain that causes degeneration of nerve cells. A CBG derivative — not CBG itself — was tested in mice with a Huntington's-like disease — not Huntington's itself, and the results showed promise. A different study of CBG itself in mice that did not have any disease also showed some neuroprotection. No studies have been conducted on humans, the evidence of CBG being effective on Huntington's is weak.
- Bone growth: no publications on CBG and bone in PubMed between 1966 and 2016
- Cancer: a study of CBG on a mouse model of colon cancer (in vivo) showed that CBG hampered tumor progression. No studies have been conducted on humans.
- Insomnia: No studies in PubMed
Claims: treatment of insomnia, nausea and convulsions
- Insomnia: A 2014 review of cannabinoid administration on sleep found that there were "various effects of cannabinoid administration on several aspects of sleep", and that because of methodological issues, it was not possible to make a conclusion.
- Convulsions: Only 1 reference was found in the US National Library of Medicine PubMed database (between 1966 and 2016) on CBN and convulsions in humans: a single page in an obscure journal. A study on CBD on induced seizures in rats showed that it was an effective anticonvulsant. One would have to conclude that the evidence is weak.
- Nausea: see above
Claims: "THC has been shown to be effective in the treatment of a variety of ailments and disorders including pain, tumors (cancer), nausea and ADHD." Kelly Hauf claimed to have cured herself of oligodendroglioma brain cancer by treating herself with cannabis oil. She now runs a website that reports testimonials, a single case study, and in vivo studies. The website is also anti-chemotherapy.
- Cancer: The best evidence of treatment of cancer with marijuana chemicals is suggestive but not convincing, because it relies on in vitro studies. A phase 1 clinical trial on a THC-CBD mixture for treatment of brain (and spinal cord) tumours is currently underway.
- ADHD: In humans, marijuana exposure to the developing embryo and fetus "is associated "with a plethora of neurobehavioural deficiencies…" There is evidence that the deficiencies are due to THC. The deficiencies include anencephaly, ADHD, memory impairment, and learning disability.
- Pain: see above
Claims: antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory
- Cancer: A small, short study of injected tumor cells in mice found some inhibitory effects of α-humulene. Given the shortcomings of this study (injected tumors, small number of animals), the relevance to humans is minimal. In vitro studies on humulene have also been conducted.
- Gastric reflux: a single, small unpublished study reported positive results in humans. This is not convincing evidence because the study was not peer-reviewed (e.g., the study methods could have been defective, or there could have been bias in the study).
- Cancer: d-limonene was tested in a small phase I trial and a limited phase II for treatment of cancer patients; effectiveness of the treatment was not reported as only tolerance of d-limonene was tested. d-limonene inhibited a liver carcinogenesis mechanism in vitro, but this is only suggestive of further research. Furthermore, d-limonene caused kidney tumors in male rats at high doses.
- Depression and anxiety: see above
- Psychosis: A 2015 review found that marijuana containing high levels of THC was associated with psychosis in users. Linalool may or may not counteract the psychotic effects of THC, but it would seem to be wise to avoid marijuana (and THC) as a psychosis treatment.
- Depression and anxiety: see above
- Pain: see above
- Cancer: β-Myrcene inhibited a liver carcinogenesis mechanism in vitro, but this is only suggestive of further research.
- Pain: see above
Claims: inhibits growth of leishmaniasis, antiparasitic, antifungal, antimicrobial
- Leishmaniasis: A mixture of cis- and trans-nerolidol was effective at inhibiting the growth of Leishmania spp. in vitro. The results would only warrant further research.
Claims: antiviral, antifungal, antiseptic, decongestant, antibacterial
Claims: treatment of asthma and inflammation
Claims: anticancer, antioxidant, sedative, antibacterial, antifungal
Reality: Cannibinoid receptors are activated by endocannabinoids, i.e., cannibinoid chemicals that are naturally produced by the human body (e.g. arachidonoylethanolamine). Activation of cannibinoid receptors cause several physiological functions including gastrointestinal activity, cardiovascular activity and bone growth.
So, why then are there cannabinoids in marijuana; did God put them there because he liked stoners? No. The most likely answer is that wild Cannabis species with higher levels of THC deter grazing by herbivores. Yes, cannabinoids are one of many natural pesticides produced by plants.
Marijuana has sometimes been greenwashed as being particularly ecologically sound, either explicitly or implicitly (e.g., just by associating it with the word "green"). While this may be true of ditch weed (e.g. uncultivated marijuana with low THC/CBD content) or commercial hemp, it is not very likely for what you're buying for psychoactive and/or medical purposes. Commercial marijuana is either farmed outdoors (often requiring synthetic pesticides), or indoors (requiring large amounts of electricity for lighting). In California, outdoor marijuana is often grown illegally on public land, which both deprives the public of access (since it's heavily guarded) and destroys ecosystems with clearing and pollution.
Some patent medicines
Images from the Hash, Marihuana & Hemp Museum, Amsterdam
- Examine.com: Marijuana — an independent review of the medical effects of marijuana
- National Multiple Sclerosis Society: Medical Marijuana (Cannabis) — includes guideline from American Academy of Neurology on medical marijuana
- The last "disease" has been variously reported as "numara thrombosis" or "umara composis", but your guess is as good as anyone's. A live version may have been "glaucomia" [sic].
- Legalize It lyrics
- International Classification of Diseases 9 - CM 1996 Chronic Conditions Treated With Cannabis Encountered Between 1990-2004 by Tod H. Mikuriya, 2004 (The American Alliance for Medical Cannabis).
- Terpenes: The Flavors of Cannabis Aromatherapy Leafly: The World's Cannabis Resource
- Patient's Care Collective. The PCC7
- Patient's Care Collective. Introducing: The PCC7 system
- Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects by Ethan B. Russo. Br. J. Pharmacol. 2011 Aug; 163(7): 1344–1364. doi: 10.1111/j.1476-5381.2011.01238.x.
- Cannabis and Cannabis Extracts: Greater Than the Sum of Their Parts? by J.M. McPartland, E.B. Russo. J. Cannabis Ther. 2001(3/4):103-132.
- Government marijuana looks nothing like the real stuff. See for yourself. by Christopher Ingraham & Tauhid Chappell (March 13, 2017) The Washington Post.
- Medical Marijuana for Treatment of Chronic Pain and Other Medical and Psychiatric Problems: A Clinical Review by K. P. Hill JAMA. 2015 Jun 23-30;313(24):2474-83. doi: 10.1001/jama.2015.6199.
- The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research by Committee on the Health Effects of Marijuana: An Evidence Review and Research Agenda; Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice; Health and Medicine Division; National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (2017) The National Academies Press. ISBN 978-0-309-45304-2.
- The opioid epidemic spurs a search for new, safer painkillers: Scientists test alternative drugs that relieve pain without the dangers of opioids by Laurel Hamers (1:00pm, May 30, 2017) Science News.
- Medical Marijuana Laws Reduce Prescription Medication Use In Medicare Part D by Ashley C. Bradford & W. David Bradford (2006) Health Aff. vol. 35 no. 7 1230-1236. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2015.1661.
- Medical Cannabis Laws and Opioid Analgesic Overdose Mortality in the United States, 1999-2010 by Marcus A. Bachhuber et al. (2014). JAMA Intern. Med. 174(10):1668-1673. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.4005.
- Cannabinoids for nausea and vomiting in adults with cancer receiving chemotherapy by L. A. Smith et al. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015 Nov 12;(11):CD009464. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD009464.pub2.
- Robert Randall, 53; Sued for Marijuana June 8, 2001 New York Times.
- Marijuana for Glaucoma: A Recipe for Disaster or Treatment? by Xiaoshen Sun et al. Yale J. Biol. Med. 2015 Sep; 88(3): 265–269.
- Glaucoma Research Foundation: Medication Guide
- American Glaucoma Society position statement: marijuana and the treatment of glaucoma J. Glaucoma. 2010 Feb;19(2):75-6. doi: 10.1097/IJG.0b013e3181d12e39.
- Canadian Ophthalmological Society policy statement on the medical use of marijuana for glaucoma Can. J. Ophthalmol. 2010 Aug;45(4):324-6. doi: 10.3129/i10-069.
- Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects by Ethan B. Russo. Br. J. Pharmacol. 2011 Aug; 163(7): 1344–1364. doi:10.1111/j.1476-5381.2011.01238.x
- Steephill Labs: Cannabinoid and terpenoid reference guide
- Antitumor activity of plant cannabinoids with emphasis on the effect of cannabidiol on human breast carcinoma by A. Ligresti et al. J. Pharmacol. Exp. Ther. 2006 Sep;318(3):1375-87.
- The Endocannabinoid System and Plant-Derived Cannabinoids in Diabetes and Diabetic Complications by Béla Horváth et al. Am. J. Pathol. 2012 Feb; 180(2): 432–442. doi: 10.1016/j.ajpath.2011.11.003.
- Cannabidiol lowers incidence of diabetes in non-obese diabetic mice by L. Weiss et al. Autoimmunity 2006 Mar;39(2):143-51.
- Neuroprotective and Blood-Retinal Barrier-Preserving Effects of Cannabidiol in Experimental Diabetes by Azza B. El-Remessy et al. Am. J. Pathol. 2006 Jan; 168(1): 235–244.
- The impact of marijuana use on glucose, insulin, and insulin resistance among US adults E. A. Penner et al. Am. J. Med. 2013 Jul;126(7):583-9. doi: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2013.03.002.
- Decreased prevalence of diabetes in marijuana users: cross-sectional data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) III by T. B. Rajavashisth et al. BMJ Open 2012 Feb 24;2:e000494. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2011-000494.
- Marijuana Use in Epilepsy: The Myth and the Reality by Kamil Detyniecki & Lawrence Hirsch. Curr Neurol. Neurosci. Rep. 2015 Oct;15(10):65. doi: 10.1007/s11910-015-0586-5.
- Trial of Cannabidiol for Drug-Resistant Seizures in the Dravet Syndrome by Orrin Devinsky et al. (2017). N. Engl. J. Med. 376:2011-2020. DOI:10.1056/NEJMoa1611618.
- Down-regulation of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) by cannabidiolic acid in human breast cancer cells by S. Takeda et al. J. Toxicol. Sci. 2014;39(5):711-6.
- Mayo Clinic: Huntington's disease
- VCE-003.2, a novel cannabigerol derivative, enhances neuronal progenitor cell survival and alleviates symptomatology in murine models of Huntington's disease by J. Díaz-Alonso et al. Sci. Rep. 2016 Jul 19;6:29789. doi: 10.1038/srep29789.
- Neuroprotective properties of cannabigerol in Huntington's disease: studies in R6/2 mice and 3-nitropropionate-lesioned mice by S. Valdeolivas et al. Neurotherapeutics. 2015 Jan;12(1):185-99. doi: 10.1007/s13311-014-0304-z.
- Colon carcinogenesis is inhibited by the TRPM8 antagonist cannabigerol, a Cannabis-derived non-psychotropic cannabinoid by E. Borrelli et al. Carcinogenesis. 2014 Dec;35(12):2787-97. doi: 10.1093/carcin/bgu205.
- The effects of cannabinoid administration on sleep: a systematic review of human studies by P. J. Gates et al. Sleep Med. Rev. 2014 Dec;18(6):477-87. doi: 10.1016/j.smrv.2014.02.005.
- Anticonvulsant effect of cannabidiol by F. R. Ames & S. Cridland. S. Afr. Med. J. 1986 Jan 4;69(1):14.
- Cannabidiol—antiepileptic drug comparisons and interactions in experimentally induced seizures in rats by P. Consroe & A. Wolkin. J. Pharmacol. Exp. Ther. 1977 Apr;201(1):26-32.
- Cure Your Own Cancer
- Cure Your Own Cancer: Chemo Kills
- The antitumor activity of plant-derived non-psychoactive cannabinoids by Sean D. McAllister et al. J. Neuroimmune Pharmacol. 2015 Jun; 10(2): 255–267.
- Is cannabis a treatment for brain tumours? Cancer Research UK
- A trial looking at Sativex with temozolomide for glioblastoma multiforme brain tumour (GWCA1208) Cancer Research UK
- Marijuana, Spice 'herbal high', and early neural development: implications for rescheduling and legalization by Delphine Psychoyosa & K. Yaragudri Vinod. Drug Test Anal. 2013 Jan; 5(1): 27–45. doi:10.1002/dta.1390.
- Myrcene, Linalool, and Bisabolol: What are the Benefits of These Cannabis Terpenes? Leafly: The World's Cannabis Resource
- Cannabis Terpenes: The Benefits of Humulene, Caryophyllene, and Trans-Nerolidol Leafly: The World's Cannabis Resource
- Benefits of Cannabis Terpenes: Ocimene, Terpinolene, and Guaiol Leafly: The World's Cannabis Resource
- Antitumor Properties of the leaf essential oil of Zornia brasiliensis by E. V. Costa et al. Planta Med. 2015 May;81(7):563-7. doi: 10.1055/s-0035-1545842.
- What is Limonene and What are the Benefits of This Cannabis Terpene? Leafly: The World's Cannabis Resource
- The Best Cannabis Strains for Treating Depression by Bailey Rahn. Leafly: The World's Cannabis Resource
- Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): A Review of Conventional and Alternative Treatments Lyn Patrick Altern. Med. Rev. 2011 Jun;16(2):116-33.
- Phase I and pharmacokinetic study of D-limonene in patients with advanced cancer. Cancer Research Campaign Phase I/II Clinical Trials Committee by D. M. Vigushin et al. Cancer Chemother Pharmacol. 1998;42(2):111-7.
- In vitro inhibition of CYP2B1 monooxygenase by beta-myrcene and other monoterpenoid compounds by A. C. De Oliveira et al. Toxicol. Lett. 1997 Jun 16;92(1):39-46.
- Carcinogenic Potency Project: d-Limonene
- Toxicology and Carcinogenesis Studies OF d-Limonene (CAS NO. 5989-27-5) in F344/N Rats AND B6C3F1 Mice (Gavage Studies) National Toxicology Program (1990).
- The adverse health effects of synthetic cannabinoids with emphasis on psychosis-like effects by Jan GC van Amsterdam et al. Journal of Psychopharmacology 29(3) January 2015 DOI: 10.1177/0269881114565142.
- Antileishmanial activity of the terpene nerolidol by D. C. Arruda et al. Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 2005 May;49(5):1679-87.
- Why marijuana is truly God's gift to heal the nations Weedmaps
- Activated endocannabinoid system in coronary artery disease and antiinflammatory effects of cannabinoid 1 receptor blockade on macrophages by Sugamura K. et a. (2009)Circulation. 119 (1): 28–36. doi:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.108.811992. PMID 19103987.
- Peripheral cannabinoid receptor, CB2, regulates bone mass by Ofek O. et al. (January 2006). Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 103 (3): 696–701. doi:10.1073/pnas.0504187103. PMC 1334629free to read. PMID 16407142
- Promising Directions of Study in Tropical Animal-Plant Interactions Daniel H. Janzen, Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden Vol. 64, No. 4, Perspectives in Tropical Botany (1977), pp. 706-736.
- Dietary pesticides (99.99% all natural) by B. N. Ames et al. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 87: 7777-7781 (1990).
- Rodent carcinogens: Setting priorities by L. S. Gold et al. Science 258: 261-265 (1992).
- The Drug Library: Cannabis as repellent and pesticide by John M. McPartland
- The Ecological Benefits of Marijuana Alan W. Bock
- Illegal marijuana cultivation is devastating California's public lands by Christi Turner (March 6, 2014) High Country News.