Thursday, 15 January 2015

Marijuana: The Endocannabinoid system, the Legal system and the Tax system

The Question remains: if the US government has made medical Marijuana legal, as was hidden in the 2015 US Budget, then why is there so little news about it?  Why is there so little information out there about it?  Next Question:  IF the US gov has legalized medical marijuana, then WTF is wrong with the Canadian Government?!?    Seriously?!


Introduction to the Endocannabinoid System

Get the PDF Version of this DocumentDustin Sulak, DO
Maine Integrative Healthcare

As you read this review of the scientific literature regarding the therapeutic effects of cannabis and cannabinoids, one thing will become quickly evident: cannabis has a profound influence on the human body. This one herb and its variety of therapeutic compounds seem to affect every aspect of our bodies and minds. How is this possible?
In my integrative medicine clinic in central Maine, we treat over a thousand patients with a huge diversity of diseases and symptoms. In one day I might see cancer, Crohn's disease, epilepsy, chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, insomnia, Tourette's syndrome and eczema, just to name a few. All of these conditions have different causes, different physiologic states, and vastly different symptoms. The patients are old and young. Some are undergoing conventional therapy. Others are on a decidedly alternative path. Yet despite their differences, almost all of my patients would agree on one point: cannabis helps their condition.
As a physician, I am naturally wary of any medicine that purports to cure-all. Panaceas, snake-oil remedies, and expensive fads often come and go, with big claims but little scientific or clinical evidence to support their efficacy. As I explore the therapeutic potential of cannabis, however, I find no lack of evidence. In fact, I find an explosion of scientific research on the therapeutic potential of cannabis, more evidence than one can find on some of the most widely used therapies of conventional medicine.
At the time of writing, a PubMed search for scientific journal articles published in the last 20 years containing the word "cannabis" revealed 7,704 results. Add the word "cannabinoid," and the results increase to 15,899 articles. That's an average of more than two scientific publications per day over the last 20 years! These numbers not only illustrate the present scientific interest and financial investment in understanding more about cannabis and its components, but they also emphasize the need for high quality reviews and summaries such as the document you are about to read.
How can one herb help so many different conditions? How can it provide both palliative and curative actions? How can it be so safe while offering such powerful effects? The search to answer these questions has led scientists to the discovery of a previously unknown physiologic system, a central component of the health and healing of every human and almost every animal: the endocannabinoid system.

What Is The Endocannabinoid System?

The endogenous cannabinoid system, named after the plant that led to its discovery, is perhaps the most important physiologic system involved in establishing and maintaining human health. Endocannabinoids and their receptors are found throughout the body: in the brain, organs, connective tissues, glands, and immune cells. In each tissue, the cannabinoid system performs different tasks, but the goal is always the same: homeostasis, the maintenance of a stable internal environment despite fluctuations in the external environment.
Cannabinoids promote homeostasis at every level of biological life, from the sub-cellular, to the organism, and perhaps to the community and beyond. Here's one example: autophagy, a process in which a cell sequesters part of its contents to be self-digested and recycled, is mediated by the cannabinoid system. While this process keeps normal cells alive, allowing them to maintain a balance between the synthesis, degradation, and subsequent recycling of cellular products, it has a deadly effect on malignant tumor cells, causing them to consume themselves in a programmed cellular suicide. The death of cancer cells, of course, promotes homeostasis and survival at the level of the entire organism.
Endocannabinoids and cannabinoids are also found at the intersection of the body's various systems, allowing communication and coordination between different cell types. At the site of an injury, for example, cannabinoids can be found decreasing the release of activators and sensitizers from the injured tissue, stabilizing the nerve cell to prevent excessive firing, and calming nearby immune cells to prevent release of pro-inflammatory substances. Three different mechanisms of action on three different cell types for a single purpose: minimize the pain and damage caused by the injury.
The endocannabinoid system, with its complex actions in our immune system, nervous system, and all of the body's organs, is literally a bridge between body and mind. By understanding this system we begin to see a mechanism that explains how states of consciousness can promote health or disease.
In addition to regulating our internal and cellular homeostasis, cannabinoids influence a person's relationship with the external environment. Socially, the administration of cannabinoids clearly alters human behavior, often promoting sharing, humor, and creativity. By mediating neurogenesis, neuronal plasticity, and learning, cannabinoids may directly influence a person's open-mindedness and ability to move beyond limiting patterns of thought and behavior from past situations. Reformatting these old patterns is an essential part of health in our quickly changing environment.

What Are Cannabinoid Receptors?

Sea squirts, tiny nematodes, and all vertebrate species share the endocannabinoid system as an essential part of life and adaptation to environmental changes. By comparing the genetics of cannabinoid receptors in different species, scientists estimate that the endocannabinoid system evolved in primitive animals over 600 million years ago.
While it may seem we know a lot about cannabinoids, the estimated twenty thousand scientific articles have just begun to shed light on the subject. Large gaps likely exist in our current understanding, and the complexity of interactions between various cannabinoids, cell types, systems and individual organisms challenges scientists to think about physiology and health in new ways. The following brief overview summarizes what we do know.
Cannabinoid receptors are present throughout the body, embedded in cell membranes, and are believed to be more numerous than any other receptor system. When cannabinoid receptors are stimulated, a variety of physiologic processes ensue. Researchers have identified two cannabinoid receptors: CB1, predominantly present in the nervous system, connective tissues, gonads, glands, and organs; and CB2, predominantly found in the immune system and its associated structures. Many tissues contain both CB1 and CB2 receptors, each linked to a different action. Researchers speculate there may be a third cannabinoid receptor waiting to be discovered.
Endocannabinoids are the substances our bodies naturally make to stimulate these receptors. The two most well understood of these molecules are called anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). They are synthesized on-demand from cell membrane arachidonic acid derivatives, have a local effect and short half-life before being degraded by the enzymes fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) and monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL).
Phytocannabinoids are plant substances that stimulate cannabinoid receptors. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the most psychoactive and certainly the most famous of these substances, but other cannabinoids such as cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabinol (CBN) are gaining the interest of researchers due to a variety of healing properties. Most phytocannabinoids have been isolated from cannabis sativa, but other medical herbs, such as echinacea purpura, have been found to contain non-psychoactive cannabinoids as well.
Interestingly, the marijuana plant also uses THC and other cannabinoids to promote its own health and prevent disease. Cannabinoids have antioxidant properties that protect the leaves and flowering structures from ultraviolet radiation - cannabinoids neutralize the harmful free radicals generated by UV rays, protecting the cells. In humans, free radicals cause aging, cancer, and impaired healing. Antioxidants found in plants have long been promoted as natural supplements to prevent free radical harm.
Laboratories can also produce cannabinoids. Synthetic THC, marketed as dronabinol (Marinol), and nabilone (Cesamet), a THC analog, are both FDA approved drugs for the treatment of severe nausea and wasting syndrome. Some clinicians have found them helpful in the off-label treatment of chronic pain, migraine, and other serious conditions. Many other synthetic cannabinoids are used in animal research, and some have potency up to 600 times that of THC.

Cannabis, The Endocannabinoid System, And Good Health

As we continue to sort through the emerging science of cannabis and cannabinoids, one thing remains clear: a functional cannabinoid system is essential for health. From embryonic implantation on the wall of our mother's uterus, to nursing and growth, to responding to injuries, endocannabinoids help us survive in a quickly changing and increasingly hostile environment. As I realized this, I began to wonder: can an individual enhance his/her cannabinoid system by taking supplemental cannabis? Beyond treating symptoms, beyond even curing disease, can cannabis help us prevent disease and promote health by stimulating an ancient system that is hard-wired into all of us?
I now believe the answer is yes. Research has shown that small doses of cannabinoids from marijuana can signal the body to make more endocannabinoids and build more cannabinoid receptors. This is why many first-time marijuana users don't feel an effect, but by their second or third time using the herb they have built more cannabinoid receptors and are ready to respond. More receptors increase a person's sensitivity to cannabinoids; smaller doses have larger effects, and the individual has an enhanced baseline of endocannabinoid activity. I believe that small, regular doses of marijuana might act as a tonic to our most central physiologic healing system.
Many physicians cringe at the thought of recommending a botanical substance, and are outright mortified by the idea of smoking a medicine. Our medical system is more comfortable with single, isolated substances that can be swallowed or injected. Unfortunately, this model significantly limits the therapeutic potential of cannabinoids.
Unlike synthetic derivatives, herbal marijuana may contain over one hundred different cannabinoids, including THC, which all work synergistically to produce better medical effects and less side effects than THC alone. While marijuana is safe and works well when smoked, many patients prefer to use a vaporizer or cannabis tincture. Scientific inquiry and patient testimonials both indicate that herbal marijuana has superior medical qualities to synthetic cannabinoids.
In 1902 Thomas Edison said, "There were never so many able, active minds at work on the problems of disease as now, and all their discoveries are tending toward the simple truth that you can't improve on nature." Cannabinoid research has proven this statement is still valid.
So, is it possible that medical marijuana could be the most useful remedy to treat the widest variety of human diseases and conditions, a component of preventative healthcare, and an adaptive support in our increasingly toxic, carcinogenic environment? Yes. This was well known to the indigenous medical systems of ancient India, China, and Tibet, and as you will find in this report, is becoming increasingly well known by Western science. Of course, we need more human-based research studying the effectiveness of marijuana, but the evidence base is already large and growing constantly, despite the DEA's best efforts to discourage cannabis-related research.

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Congress quietly ends federal government's ban on medical marijuana

Taxes 80,932 views

Marijuana Tax Millions? Hallucinations Up In Smoke, Yet Feds Propose 50% Federal Tax Too

Excited Coloradans thought legalizing marijuana would mean huge tax revenues. They were hardly alone. Nationwide, with medical marijuana, and especially with recreational, the drum beat has been about money, jobs, real estate upticks, and spillover effects into many fields. The loudest cries of all have been about needed tax revenues that could achieve so much.
The counterpart to legalization efforts has been naysayers worried about public health risks and children. But even some naysayers are influenced by the allure of copious tax revenues. In Colorado, less than a year ago, the governor’s office estimated a $100 million tax haul from recreational marijuana taxes in the first fiscal year. But that was then. In reality, legit sales are slower than expected.
Colorado economists were more conservative than the governor, estimating $67 million in taxes for the year. But recently they revised even that figure downward with a more tepid forecast that calls for $58.7 million in tax revenue from recreational marijuana. One of the culprits has surely been the higher taxes that give medical marijuana a far lower price point, even when you factor in the modicum of hassle to buy it. And then there are illegal sales from suppliers who are still in business.
Tax disappointments are not the only impact of legalization that has been different than predicted. In Colorado, legalization has surprised both supporters and critics, in some positive and some negative ways. Approximately 16,000 people are licensed to work in Colorado’s marijuana industry. A Marijuana Group study claims that tourists account for almost 90% of recreational sales in some mountain communities, and 50% in Denver and environs.
Washington became the second legal recreational state. Oregon and Alaska approved legalization measures in November. With four recreational victories, activists are pushing legalization in other states, including California. A ballot measure there is expected in 2016. The tax tally is likely to keep growing, just not always as predicted. In Colorado, there is a 2.9% sales tax and a 10% marijuana sales tax.
Plus, there is a 15% excise tax on the average market rate of retail marijuana. It adds up to 27.9%. But in a metaphorical next morning, tax collections are lower than anticipated. One explanation is that with all of those taxes, many smokers still buy on the black market. In fact, an estimated 40% of purchases in Colorado are  not through legal channels.

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