The prohibition of marijuana shows us that for all our supposed ‘knowledge,’ mankind is still capable of getting things badly wrong. Cannabis was used medicinally for thousands of years and civilization did not fall apart; it is only in the last 100 years or so that cannabis has been made illegal in almost every country on Earth.
“Surely it is the right decision? After all, people used heroin as medicine in the old days too!” Yes, heroin was legally available up until the early 20th century. The BIG difference is that while heroin kills people, there hasn’t been a single case of a marijuana overdose in recorded human history. It is almost impossible to reach the toxicity levels required.
In reality, the continued presence of marijuana on the Controlled Substance Act as a Schedule I drug is a triumph of ignorance and greed over common sense. But sadly, it is a microcosm of modern man. We continue to pollute the atmosphere and have created an environment that is toxic and filled with carcinogens. In a cruelly ironic twist, it may be that the very thing we are banning (marijuana) is what is capable of helping us to combat the health problems we’re causing through our increasingly futile quest for progress.
An Increase in Health Problems
To be frank, our increased longevity is responsible for the escalation of certain medical conditions. For instance, we now know that the likelihood of cancer increases as we grow older. In 1960 the average life expectancy was 67 for men and 74 for women. Today, it is 79 for men and 81 for women. Approximately 75% of people diagnosed with cancer are over the age of 60.
However, there has been a startling increase in the number of younger people being diagnosed with cancer. It is estimated that two-thirds of the increase in cancer risk is down to longevity, but this means we are responsible for one-third of the problem. Unfortunately, it is the increased toxicity in our environment that is the main culprit.
We are experiencing water and air pollution, and our food is calorie dense and increases obesity but doesn’t provide enough nourishment. Mass production of food has also diluted the quality. Today, you have to pay top-dollar for ‘organically grown’ food, whereas your grandparents enjoyed mainly organic food by right!
A Carcinogenic World
Cancer is caused by cell DNA changes. While some of the changes to our genetic blueprint are hereditary, others are caused by environmental factors such as pharmaceutical drugs, infectious agents, radon gases, tobacco use, nutrition, workplace and household exposures, and pollution. An exposure or substance that increases the risk of cancer is known as a ‘carcinogen.’
A carcinogen causes cancer in a variety of ways. For example, it could cause your cells to divide at an abnormally fast rate, thus increasing the risk of DNA changes. Carcinogens do not cause cancer 100% of the time, and some are more likely to do you harm than others. Your risk of developing cancer after carcinogen exposure depends on factors such as your genetic makeup and the length/intensity of the exposure.
There is a myriad of naturally occurring carcinogens including arsenic, aristolochic acids (occasionally found in plants used for herbal medicines), and UV radiation from the sun’s rays. However, we have contributed to our own downfall by using substances such as asbestos and coal-tar in building materials. Carcinogens such as benzene, formaldehyde, and vinyl chloride are byproducts of manufacturing, while tobacco smoke has hundreds of cancer-causing chemicals including nickel and cadmium.
It is an uncomfortable and horrifying fact that we are exposed to potential carcinogens in almost everything we do. Thankfully, regulations have banned asbestos, but millions of people were exposed for decades. There is even a suggestion that President Trump wants to remove the asbestos ban!
Even if you just use makeup, you are possibly exposing yourself to carcinogens. It is no coincidence that an increased number of Americans have skin cancer. While the European Union has banned over 1,400 chemicals from cosmetics, only 11 of them have been banned in the United States! The Environmental Working Group states that almost 90% of the 10,500 ingredients that the FDA has approved in personal care products have not received a safety evaluation from any relevant body!
What’s in the Water?
Even our drinking water is a source of carcinogens! In 2014, the city of Flint, Michigan, switched to a new water source and almost immediately, there was an increase in health problems. The water began turning orange and brown, and even the city’s General Motors plant stopped using it because it was corroding engine parts! Four years on, the people of Flint are still fighting for clean water.
For the record, 15 parts per billion (ppb) of lead is normally enough to guarantee government action. In Flint, the lowest tested level was 104 ppb. Other tests found water with 13,200 ppb of lead! For reference, hazardous waste registers at 5,000 ppb.
The people of Flint are not alone. An estimated 14 million Americans are drinking water that is contaminated by Trichloroethylene (TCE), an industrial solvent that causes cancer. The Environment Protection Agency (EPA) set the TCE limit at 5 parts per billion in 1987, a limit that is almost certainly too high. As a result, there are probably tens of millions of Americans consuming far too much TCE.
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There is no respite from carcinogens in the food we eat. Processed meats such as sausages, hot dogs, bacon, and salami are all bad for your health; especially when a manufacturer adds chemical preservatives. Hot beverages above 150 degrees Fahrenheit, salted fish, alcohol, excess red meat, overcooked meat, soda, farmed salmon, white pasta, and white bread can all increase your cancer risk.
It is processed foods that carry the greatest risk, with refined grains, trans fats, and high-fructose corn syrup being the main culprits. For big companies, more processing equals greater profits and lower-quality food. Processed foods typically contain lots of empty calories with a lack of fiber, micronutrients, and phytochemicals which are necessary to protect against diabetes and heart conditions.
Where Does Cannabis Fit In?
While the federal government allows low-quality food, brown water, and carcinogen-causing manufacturing processes to continue, it simultaneously keeps marijuana on the banned substance list. It is an absurd situation because it is based on outdated information. Even today, almost half a century after weed was classified as a Schedule I drug, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) claims that marijuana is a dangerous and addictive drug with no medicinal value.
It has followed this line since 1970 despite thousands of studies suggesting otherwise. In 2001, patent #6630507 was filed by the United States Patent Office to the United States Health and Human Services (HHS). The patent lists several cannabinoids as ‘useful’ in the fight against Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other neurodegenerative diseases.
Way back in 1988, Judge Francis Young of the DEA wrote that, according to the evidence he had reviewed, it would be “unreasonable, arbitrary, and capricious” for the DEA to continue outlawing cannabis. However, three decades on, nothing has changed at a federal level.
Cannabis & the Endocannabinoid System (ECS)
When weed was placed on the Controlled Substances list, the ECS was an unknown entity. When it was finally discovered in 1992, scientists were astounded by the link between the human body and marijuana. In the body, there are endocannabinoids and their receptors. You will find them in the organs, connective tissues, brain, immune cells, and glands. The ECS performs a different role in each tissue to achieve the goal of homeostasis; that is, a ‘balance’ in the body.
It is now believed that the ECS evolved in animals over 600 million years ago! The fact that cannabis grows naturally and has an effect on the body suggests that we are perhaps meant to use it. To date, researchers have identified two cannabinoid receptors. CB1 receptors are mainly found in the nervous system, organs and glands. CB2 receptors are associated with the immune system. It is believed that there may be a CB3 receptor that awaits discovery.
When you consume marijuana, its cannabinoids react with the CB1 and CB2 receptors. It is now believed that cannabinoids such as CBD and THC can neutralize the harmful free radicals created by UV light rays. This is because weed has antioxidant properties developed to protect the flowering structures and leaves from the sun’s radiation. Most importantly, marijuana’s cannabinoids can act to help the body achieve a state of homeostasis. Small doses of weed provide a signal to the body to create more cannabinoids and receptors.
It is becoming abundantly clear that a well-functioning ECS is essential if you wish to maintain good health. Our increased exposure to toxins and carcinogens throws our body’s natural balance out of whack early on in life and enhances the risk of succumbing to a form of cancer, or another serious medical condition.
Although more research is needed, it is becoming increasingly likely that marijuana could help strike back against the everyday pollution we expose our bodies to. It is a great tragedy that it remains illegal, while the products and processes that truly harm us continue expanding at pace.