Cannabis as a Psychedelic
Cannabis (C21H30O2) is a plant that has existed for thousands of years and has been grown in every region around the globe other than Antarctica. It comes under many guises, including marijuana, weed, pot, ganja, grass.
It is a plant of the cannabaceae species that include sativa, indica, and ruderali. Cannabis is also known as hemp if the plants are specifically grown for non-drug producing items. It has been used for thousands of years not only for its psychedelic properties but for medicine, industrial use, and spirituality. This cannabis plant is the only naturally producing source of the psychoactive chemicals tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBC).
Cannabis is a drug that is available in many forms. It can be found as dried buds for smoking and inhaling or using the buds in resin form to make hashish (hash), dabs, oils, and tinctures. Oils created from the buds or shake (plants trimmings) can also be made into a butter, which can then be used to make edibles like cookies or pot brownies.
However, even with the deep history of therapeutic and medical benefits of cannabis, governments have distorted its effects forcing prohibition in most countries. This almost global ban has set research and medical care back decades. Luckily, this has begun to reverse itself over the last few decades. Decriminalization and legalization in countries such as Canada and Uruguay have been positive, and it is opening up multiple areas of research that need to be not only readdressed but started. It is hopeful that with high-profile countries like Canada moving forward with legalization, more will follow and instigate further work with cannabis on all fronts.
History & Statistics
The history of growing cannabis dates back more than 10,000 years in Europe and Asia. Wild cannabis may date back farther to around 30,000 years for textiles and rope. There were recent discoveries of fibers in the Eurasian nation of Georgia. Discoveries were also made in Japan from 10,000–300BC. They highlight that cannabis was used for bow strings and fishing line as well as being considered a symbol of virtue. Japanese history shows that there was a geometric fabric worn by children showing intertwined hemp leaves highlighting cannabis’ positive status.
Along with the Japanese, the ancient Chinese also held cannabis in high esteem. They used the plant to not only make paper and materials but also for its many medical benefits such as:
• Rheumatic pains
• Female disorders
The Chinese also mixed cannabis with wine to create a surgical pain killer. There is little to show that anyone actually negatively highlighted the psychoactive properties of cannabis until the 6th century.
In India, cannabis was similarly applied to a wide variety of ailments that went beyond what the Japanese and Chinese listed. The Indian population used it to heal:
• Whooping cough
This diverse number of health issues from various countries does not mean cannabis was a proven solution for all medical woes but it was certainly touted as a medicinal plant. It is interesting to note that Indians revered the plant so highly that they would chant “Gangi” for the god Shiva as they worked the fields that produced the cannabis.
The psychoactivity of cannabis was probably discovered between 2500 and 800 BC. Among the first to use cannabis for its psychoactivity were the Bronze Age Yamnaya tribe, who would inhale the smoke from burning seeds. Greeks and Romans also used cannabis in their steam baths, for entertaining, for medicinal reasons, and to make ropes. These various uses expanded to other cultures with a focus on cannabis’ practical uses for industrial purposes, as medicinal support, and recreation.
Cannabis was grown as industrial hemp by the Spanish, Canadians, and Americans, creating a market demand that was beyond the spiritual or recreational. They grew hemp to supply their navies with a strong rope. Settlers in these countries also used hemp to make clothes.
By the 1800s, cannabis was considered a substantial success in industrial, recreational, and medical journals. It was even prescribed for conditions as dire as rabies, anthrax, and alcoholism.
Moving into the 20th century, science pushed further towards the use of cannabis. Cannabinol (CBN) was the first of the cannabinoids to be isolated and then synthesized in 1940. That same year, cannabidiol (CBD) was discovered and soon followed in 1942 by Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). These latter two cannabinoids were synthesized in the 1960s.
Commercial production of some THC products was attempted in the 1980s but then withdrawn from the market. The first hash oil, “smash”, came on the scene in 1967. In the early 1970s, the first super strain of cannabis called sinsemilla was introduced. This strain was considered “super” as it contained more than 10% THC. Synthetic psychedelic products became part of the drug scene in the 2000s with the introduction of Spice. As more of these appeared, more were added to the Classified Schedule I group. As fast as actual research got underway in the 20th century, the legislators shut it down, halting all uses, including hemp.
The earliest prohibition of cannabis/hemp was 1860 in the US but was short lived. Further successful laws were introduced regarding medicinal labelling in the early 1900s. Recreational use of cannabis in minorities created fear in whites leading to full prohibition in the US, the UK, and other countries as they moved into the 20th century. In the 1930s, it became a full crackdown even though most experts thought it was ridiculous. However, looking back on history, it is strongly thought that this prohibition was actually done to back industrialists who had products that would replace cannabis such as those who made vinyl rope or pulp paper. Cannabis was condemned in the press to create support for industrialists while creating fear of cannabis.
Legalization & current legal status
The War on Drugs grew and continued over the years until recent changes in the late 1900s. Many US states finally moved to allow medical cannabis starting in 1996 with full legalization in Colorado in 2012. In June 2018, Canada became the first G7 country to fully legalize cannabis. Uruguay followed soon after in 2017. All significant and influential in a time where cannabis research needed to regain some ground.
In the US, Cannabis is now legal for recreational use in Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Colorado, Maine, Alaska, Vermont, and Massachusetts. In many other states, it has been decriminalized and/or legalized for medicinal use.
How Is Cannabis Grown and Processed?
Cannabis is a hardy plant that can be grown indoors or outdoors depending on climate. It can be grown in small amounts in a home or in large controlled facilities. The plants have defined male and female flowers usually occurring on different plants. There are plants that have only male or female flowers and others that have both. The cannabinoids that are used in psychedelics are found in the plant’s flowers which are actually present to protect the plant against predators.
The growth of a cannabis plant can take anywhere from nine weeks to seven or more months, with an overall average of three to four months. The timing depends on the strain, the number of plants grown, and how they are grown. For a more accurate timeline, a grower must also factor in whether it is being grown outside or inside as that will affect lighting types.
Once a strain is chosen, based on types of reactions desired from the final product, the plants are germinated, cared for, and replanted to grow to full size. This can be done in soil, hydroponically, or with specialized grow products. Plants are tended to by watering, adding nutrients, and timed lighting if indoors. Once the plant is full size and crystals are hazy on the buds, they are harvested and dried. This product can then be used as a dried bud to be smoked or be processed into oil and other derivatives. Smaller batches take fewer production hours unlike the industrial size grow ops that need full attention from multiple staff.
Cannabis contains more than 100 cannabinoids. Many of these are not psychoactive.
The main psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis is THC, which has a different chemical structure from CBD. Similar to these cannabinoids are products called terpenes which are numerous cannabis strains their unique flavor and smell, and some are also psychoactive.
The two receptors in the human body that create the psychedelic reaction to cannabis are the cannabinoid (CB) receptors 1 and 2. CB1 is usually found in the central nervous and CB2 in the immune system. These receptors are known to generate anti-inflammatory and pain killing effects. CB1 receptors are the bridges that release dopamine, serotonin, noradrenaline, gamma-aminobutyric acid, glutamate, and acetylcholine when the cannabis is introduced into the system.
THC tends to activate the CB1 receptors, but also has the ability to block them. Its capacity to both activate and block neurotransmitters creates mixed psychoactive effects in the individual. This mixed signal can also stimulate appetite hence some people get the munchies after ingesting cannabis. These effects also are a beneficial coping tool for others who struggle with lack of appetite due to medical issues such as chemotherapy.
CBD, on the other hand, triggers serotonin receptors and will regulate the psychedelic nature of THC. It uses its anti-depressant and anxiolytic effects. It also works with other receptors, by getting them to manage pain, inflammation, and body temperature.
A strong dose of cannabis is found in about 0.025–0.05 g. The effects of smoking are usually present within the first ten minutes, possibly even in the first minute. This can then peak around 15–30 minutes before fazing out over the next couple of hours.
For those who do not like to smoke, edibles are a great alternative. Their content is measured by THC strength. Light doses can range between 2–7 mg. Edibles take longer to have an effect than smoking and start anywhere from 30–120 minutes. They can peak by two to three hours and last up to eight hours. It is very difficult to know the actual THC content of edibles and their effectiveness. This means that you can eat too many thinking they are not working but will have had too much by the time they come on. It is always wise to be cautious when first trying any way of using cannabis.
Common effects of cannabis include mood enhancements and relaxation. There might be an increased enjoyment of music, food, and touch. Its use can also lead to sluggish movements, dry mouth, and bloodshot eyes. Sometimes, of course, the “munchies” set in.
At higher doses, the incursion of ideas can be overwhelming, and paranoia and anxiety set in. Panic attacks, muddled thinking, and memory loss can be problematic. High doses of cannabis can also trigger psychedelic hallucinations. However, there is no dire threat. There have been no reported deaths directly caused cannabis ingestion.
All these outlined effects depend on strain taken and its THC/CBD content. CBD can alleviate some of the more negative effects of THC, including anxiety and paranoia. Sativa strains tend to be energizing, whereas Indica offers more of a body high or stoned feeling. There are differences between weed and hash as well. Hash gives a clearer less hazy high than weed. Overall, the effects of cannabis tend to be gentle when dosed properly and have few harsh consequences.
Cannabis has been used in multiple capacities over the centuries. Beyond its basic industrial uses, the drug itself has been used spiritually, recreationally, and medically. It is one of the few psychedelics that has been consistently utilized over such a long period of time.
Spiritual traditions have used cannabis since early times. It was used in the spiritual traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism, the Balbas of the Congo, the Rastafari, and more. It comes with tales and history over the centuries. In Jamaica for instance, it is said that the first time a child smokes ganja, they receive a vision of their life’s purpose.
Along with this spiritual use, it was also used recreationally. Other than in the prohibition of the 20th century, many cultures and countries used it for relaxation and enjoyment. It was to boost spirits, entertain guests, and unwind from the pressures of everyday life.
The most significant link that cannabis has made is in the area of medical use. Its strengths were praised long before science was present to prove its benefits and effects. The list of uses, although not proven in the early days, was significant. Many of these uses hold the basis for where much of the research falls today. Society tends to focus on the THC driven recreational side of cannabis but in reality, the CBD side is important when it comes to health issues. Areas such as cancer care, eating disorders, mental health issues all appear to improve with the medical use of cannabis.
Compared to alcohol and other widely legalized and available substances, cannabis is an extremely safe drug. To cause a fatality, a grown man would need to consume 53 g at once, which is more than 5000 times the standard single dose. As with other smoked products, frequent smoking of cannabis can lead to respiratory issues and potentially lung cancer. Cannabis has some higher dose of chemicals than tobacco smoke does, but it also contains a number of elements that have anti-cancer properties as well. Vaping cannabis removes some of the risks associated with smoking but still releases chemicals that can trigger asthma and bronchial spasms.
A major secondary concern with the use of cannabis is the issue with heart rate and blood pressure. Studies show that it can increase the risk of heart attack due to the possible strain put on the arterial muscle. There is also an implied link between cannabis use and strokes. This being said, people often use multiple products while ingesting cannabis be it tobacco or alcohol or other drugs, so it is not always simple to just point a finger at cannabis use when other items may need to be factored into the equation of safety and awareness.
Another issue to be mindful of is the impairment of cognitive function. Long-term usage of cannabis may slow, but these often fade after about a month of not using the drug. The one other area that people do need to be mindful of is cannabis use in teens before their brains have fully developed. There are some studies showing that they can suffer long-term issues with mental health and language.
Other caution should be around the effects of cannabis on anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and pregnancy as they are also not fully understood. So, until more research is done that takes environmental and genetic factors into account, people in higher risk user groups should be cautious.
One final safety concern may affect long-term users: cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome. Its symptoms are nausea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps. It is not a critical syndrome but can be extremely uncomfortable. However, it can usually be treated by halting the use of cannabis for a fairly lengthy period of time.
Other safety suggestions are common sense. Don’t drive on cannabis. Avoid trying strong or new strains of cannabis in public until you know their effects and stick to the L.E.S.S. way of doing things. Low dose, establishing potency, going slow (to see reaction), and supplementing (if desired).
Current Research on Potential Therapies
The medical wealth of cannabis is well on its way to being realized. Its many uses keep expanding. Support for patients on chemotherapy, with eating disorders, HIV, cancer, MS, and chronic pain are just to name a few. Further studies looking involving Tourette’s, spinal cord injury, IBS, PTSD, ADHD and many more are on the horizon. Cannabis has anti-cancer properties and is showing promise in the fight against cancer by suppressing tumor growth.
Studies have also found cannabis to be a helpful pain killer that is significantly safer than opioids and as a secondary benefit, states that have legalized cannabis have seen a large reduction in opioid use and addiction.
Medical marijuana helps in mental health treatment of conditions such as PTSD, giving relief from anxiety, insomnia, and recurrent nightmares. It is a mood stabilizer. Cannabis offers an anti-depressant effect and is hoped that those who suffer from depression may be reach an emotional balance by taking it. However, this is all continuing to be studied as the direct link is neither proven or clear at this point.
Cannabis also seems to help people move away from “hard” drugs, tobacco, and alcohol. It replaces that high. It can also treat anxiety, depression, and trauma that often come with addiction.
There is also positive early addressing Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Huntington’s disease. Cannabis has a number of proven positive effects on memory, mood, and physical mobility, tremors, stiffness, and involuntary muscle movements. It appears to promote better sleep and appetite for those who suffer from these diseases as well.
In another ongoing study, CBD is examined as a possible treatment for epilepsy and the slowing down of seizures. Then there is work on migraines and glaucoma followed by studies on the effect of cannabis on osteoporosis, diabetes, inflammatory skin diseases, allergic reactions, and organ transplant rejection. The scope continues to expand into studies in mice that shows frequent, low doses of cannabis can reverse age-related memory loss. It can help return the brain’s structure to a younger state of being in older mice. This suggests that micro-dosing cannabis in life’s later years may be a possible defence against memory loss and mental decline.
Cannabis is a drug that has been tainted with negativity in the last century but has recently been rediscovered as a potential saving grace medically. Its uses span from spiritual, recreational, industrial to medical with few known negative effects and a growing field of study surrounding it.
Cannabis Retreats & Guided Experiences
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