Though the Department of Justice maintains that cannabis has no “medical use,” research has come to show that not only does it have a myriad of medical uses, but that our bodies are actually hard-wired to receive cannabinoids through the endocannabinoid system. Unfortunately, we lost years of valuable potential research due to the Federal scheduling of marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, but thanks to the newfound legality of medical marijuana in states across the country, research is beginning to boom, and the results are astounding.
The endocannabinoid system is not merely a collection of receptors in the brain meant for getting high, but a complex matrix of binding locations residing throughout the central and peripheral nervous systems, the immune system, and our organs, whose main functions are to help maintain homeostasis within the body. Scientists have learned that the endocannabinoid system is present in various forms in all vertebrates.
Endocannabinoids are not exactly the same as the cannabinoids we find in marijuana like THC, CBD, and CBN. Our beloved cannabinoids are referred to as phytocannabinoids. While phytocannabinoids help to stimulate the endocannabinoid system, and also cause an increase in the production of receptors, our bodies produce endocannabinoids naturally. The two most well known are anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol, or 2-AG.
The various features of the endocannabinoid system are impressive, ranging from stress regulation to functions within the immune system. One of the most important, and amazing, is its influence on neurogenesis. Neurogenesis, as the name suggests, is literally the creation of new neurons. Because cannabinoids stimulate the endocannabinoid system, and the endocannabinoid system is responsible for assisting in the creation of new brain cells, logic would state that the introduction of phytocannabinoids to the body will help to stimulate the creation of new brain cells. Evidence, of course, suggests that short-term memory is greatly affected by cannabis use, but we also know that there are trillions of cells in the brain that are not responsible for memory function.
Synthetic THC has been around for over 2 decades as dronabinol, under the name brand Marinol. It’s currently a Schedule III drug. Many of the maladies for which it’s prescribed are identical to those of medical marijuana. The medical effects are designed to be the same as marijuana, because again, it’s synthetic THC. Marinol is FDA approved and federally legal by prescription, yet marijuana remains classified as a Schedule I drug with no “medical use.” Researchers have yet to convince the government to re-schedule cannabis, but the science is in our favor. According to NORML, nearly 16,000 articles have been published in the last twenty years that contain the word “cannabinoids”. Despite the government’s resistance, scientists are realizing that the medical effects of cannabis can no longer be ignored. Thanks to these vanguard scientists, it’s become pretty obvious that the body is hard-wired to receive cannabis.