THE BENEFITS OF CANNABIS
A brief look at the history, political changes, and cultural movement behind the cannabis revolution
A brief look at the history, political changes, and cultural movement behind the cannabis revolution
Here we sit, squarely in the middle of a global reawakening. It’s not a political movement, not an ideological reversal, not an economic explosion, nor is it a cultural shift — it’s all of these. And it’s all centered on a plant that our species has revered for millennia.
So what’s the big deal with cannabis? Well, it’s going to take a bit of an explanation. Let’s start at the beginning.
At the most basic level, cannabis is a plant that induces psychoactive effects in the brain when consumed in certain ways. All cannabis varieties occur naturally, though humans have been cultivating the plant in controlled environments for centuries.
“Cannabis” is a genus of flowering plant that has historically gone by a variety of terms you may already be familiar with: marijuana, weed, pot…the list goes on. With the spread of legalization, many of the stigmas of the past are being debunked. Overturning historical biases isn’t easy and this leaves cannabis entrepreneurs in a position to seek legitimacy in every way possible.
Upon looking at the history behind cannabis prohibition and the propaganda that fueled it, many are moving away from those slang terms in favor of the plant’s scientific nomenclature, Cannabis. The three primary species of the cannabis plant are Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. Hemp is a variety of the Cannabis sativa species and is one of the fastest growing plants that is cultivated for a multitude of industrial uses.
Cannabis indica is reported to induce physical relaxation and a lower-energy state of mind, sometimes known as a “body high”. Indica lovers seek these strains for relaxing at home, relieving stress and anxiety, and even to aid in sleeping. For more information on the differences between sativa and indica, check out this article from Leafly.
The effects of cannabis consumption vary widely depending on the type you consume and the unique differences between individuals. All cannabis varieties contain a long list of naturally-occurring compounds, referred to as “cannabinoids.” Cannabinoids attach to neurotransmitters in the brain, producing the broad range of effects the plant is known for.
The most well-known of these cannabinoids, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is only produced once the plant is heated. When consumed, THC induces the well-known effects associated with cannabis consumption: heightened sensory perception, changes to coordination and mental focus, euphoria, etc.
Another cannabinoid currently gaining major traction in the cannabis industry is cannabidiol (CBD). Unlike THC, CBD is non-intoxicating – some users even report that CBD can essentially cancel the effects of THC (just in case you’ve had too much and you’re feeling antsy). Cannabis products containing majority-CBD concentrations are becoming increasingly popular in both the medical and recreational sectors of the industry. It produces no feeling of “getting high” and, because of how it reacts with the CB2 endocannabinoid system, can potentially relieve pain, anxiety, stress, and other negative symptoms of everyday life.
When it comes to clinical use in medicine, cannabis has proven to be one of the most widely beneficial treatments for many ailments — although much research has yet to be done. See comments from Cannabis-med.org:
”There are marked differences in the knowledge on the medical uses of cannabis and cannabinoids in different diseases. For nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy, anorexia and cachexia in HIV/AIDS, chronic, especially neuropathic pain, spasticity in multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury there is strong evidence for medical benefits. Incidental observations have also revealed therapeutically useful effects. This occurred in a study with patients with Alzheimer's disease wherein the primary issue was an examination of the appetite-stimulating effects of THC. Not only appetite and body weight increased, but disturbed behaviour among the patients also decreased.
In today’s marketplace, the difference between medical and recreational cannabis products is minimal. Most products considered for medical use are also available for recreational use — edibles, extracts and concentrates, tinctures, topicals, and many more.
In some jurisdictions medical patients are allowed to purchase more potent products that may be required to achieve the level of relief they are seeking. In California, medical cannabis patients with a State ID card are not subject to the state sales taxes imposed upon recreational buyers. Check your local state, city, and county regulations to determine whether you qualify for a medical cannabis recommendation. New products and methods are being innovated constantly, giving medical patients and casual users the freedom to develop their own preferences for ingesting cannabis.
The purchasing experience is often very similar as well. Medical-only shops require a patient’s valid state ID and medical cannabis card, while recreational shops only require an ID validating the purchaser is of age. Dual-licensed shops, like Blüm, offer services to both user types. While there is significant overlap between the store’s product offering to both types of customer, a shop with a dual license is experienced in training staff to understand product and most importantly dosing for its medical consumers.
As a citizen of the world, you’ve probably noticed the recent attention enjoyed by the cannabis industry. Once a novel attraction for tourists visiting Amsterdam, cannabis legalization is becoming more and more prevalent in countries all over the globe.
But where did cannabis come from? How did this plant (one amongst hundreds of thousands of plant species on the planet) become so deeply connected to humanity – and why was it villainized to begin with? Let’s take a look at the history behind one of the world’s most controversial herbs.
In its article “A Brief History of Cannabis,” Clear Choice Cannabis details the origins of the plant:
”Cannabis comes from Central Asia. The very first cannabis plants are thought to have originated near Mongolia, in the vast plains of Siberia. As nomads migrated through these lands, cannabis slowly dispersed into the greater world. Marijuana had many uses to its first cultivators. Out of this period, our understanding of the plant developed to include the manufacture of hemp. These civilizations were the first to use hemp to make rope, clothing, linens, and a variety of other products.
Hemp, a variety of the cannabis sativa subspecies with very low THC content, was “the first plant to be domestically cultivated around 8000 B.C. in Mesopotamia,” according to MadeHow.com. It spread throughout the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Europe, cherished for its widespread use in food, medicine, and a plethora of industrial applications such as paper and fabric.
During the 17th century, at the height of the colonial era, hemp finally made its way to North America. Farmers grew hemp as a cash crop, cashing in on the plant’s vast industrial utility. Thomas Jefferson even drafted the Declaration of Independence on hemp paper. After more than two centuries, hemp was eventually replaced by other materials (such as cotton) — but not before people began to notice the medical properties of the cannabis plant.
According to History.com, the recreational usage of cannabis began to surge in the early 20th century. As cannabis became more popular in American culture, the negative stigma around the plant grew at an equal rate. Although it was legal at the time to sell regulated cannabis products in drug stores and pharmacies, prohibitionists eventually landed a huge victory with the passage of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, “originally passed to levy taxes on hemp products and on the commercial sales of cannabis products.” This new taxation greatly reduced the trafficking of cannabis products in America and would lay the foundation for future federal and state prohibitions.
Cannabis was stigmatized and prohibited for the better part of the remaining century, with even stricter laws passing in the 1970s (although some states, beginning with Oregon, started decriminalizing cannabis use in the same decade). But the tides seem to be changing. When California voters officially legalized medical cannabis in 1996, other states followed suit. The dominoes began to fall.
The state of California is no stranger to leading the country through cultural change. This was clearly evident when the constituency voted to defy the regressive policies of the federal government and take cannabis legalization into its own hands.
Here’s a timeline of the most significant legislation passed by California voters, culminating in full legalization in 2017 (source: cannabis.ca.gov).
Throughout the legalization timeline, California cannabis sales in both the medical and recreational verticals have steadily creeped into the billions. A recent white paper from BDS Analytics, titled “The State of Legal Marijuana Markets 6th Edition,” reports $3 billion in statewide cannabis revenue in 2017, $2.5 billion in 2018, and projects $3.1 billion in 2019.
Alongside the nation of Canada — the largest country to federally legalize adult-use cannabis consumption — it is projected that California and our northern neighbor will own 36.3% of the world’s cannabis sales by 2022. America’s original “cash crop” is back.
CA citizens pass Proposition 215 (i.e. the Compassionate Use Act), the first instance of voter-approved medical cannabis legalization in the country. Certified users could now legally grow and possess certain amounts of the plant, and medical co-ops formed to treat patients with cannabis prescriptions.
The CA state legislature votes to pass three bills, known collectively as the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MCRSA), which would create “a state licensing and regulatory system for the existing medical market.” This system led to the establishment of the Bureau of Cannabis Control, CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing, and Manufactured Cannabis Safety Branch, the licensing authorities that would govern the state’s growing medical cannabis industry.
Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), is passed by voters. Adults age 21 and over could now “legally grow, possess, and use cannabis for non-medicinal purposes, with certain restrictions.” The legislation also made it legal for regulated businesses to distribute cannabis starting in 2018.
MCRSA and AUMA are combined by the state legislature with Senate Bill 94. The new Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA) is born, creating “a single regulatory system [that] governs the medicinal and adult-use cannabis industry in California.”
In a Forbes article from 2018, author Mary Carreon points out the “shift in social culture” surrounding cannabis in California, concluding that its “archaic stigma is en route to extinction.” Citing research from another BDS Analytics study that surveyed residents about their attitudes toward cannabis, Carreon notes the significant increase in consumption between 2017 and 2018:
Carreon rightly points out that the survey (given to about 2,000 California residents) is likely not enough to make any definitive conclusions about the views of the state’s entire population. But the research clearly shows that cannabis use and acceptance is increasing — and the negative stereotype around it could be decaying as a result.
”The survey yielded three clear groups. The "consumers," whose average age is 39-years-old, and have used marijuana or products containing cannabinoids in the past six months. “Acceptors,” whose median age is 49-years-old, and haven’t used cannabis in the past six months, but would consider using it in the future. Lastly, “rejecters,” whose average age is 56-years-old, and haven’t consumed cannabis in the last six months and are not likely to consider future use. According to the report, there’s been a significant increase in cannabis consumption among Californians over the past year. Consumers currently account for 29 percent of adults in California, which is up from 23 percent in 2017. The number of acceptors, on the other hand, declined from 38 percent in 2017 to 33 percent in 2018, suggesting more people are currently using cannabis than they were a year ago. Additionally, the number of rejecters decreased from 40 percent in 2017 to 38 percent in 2018, implying the tolerance and acceptance of cannabis is becoming more common.
Although it got the ball rolling in 1996, California certainly isn’t the only state taking cannabis legalization into its own hands. Nine other states and D.C. have now legalized recreational cannabis for adult use, with Colorado and Washington leading the charge in 2012. 33 other states — along with D.C., Guam, and Puerto Rico — have all legalized medicinal cannabis, ranging from comprehensive programs to CBD/low-THC only. In all, 43 of 50 US states have legalized cannabis in some form. It’s not unreasonable to say we’ll be at all 50 soon enough, with federal laws inevitably following suit at some point.
Although Nevada legalized medicinal cannabis in 2001, it took 15 years for the state to take the next step. In 2016, voters passed a ballot initiative to legalize the cultivation and consumption of cannabis for adults over 21, with the law going into effect on January 1st, 2017. This has been an economic and social boon for Las Vegas — the infamous Sin City, home to 80% of Nevada’s population, where public drinking and debauchery is not only legal, but expected. Ironically, Nevada cannabis laws remain stricter than those for alcohol. While it’s legal to purchase and consume cannabis, public use remains prohibited.
Still, the economic benefits are undeniable. In its first year of legalization between July 1st, 2017, and June 30th, 2018, the cannabis market produced almost $1 billion in sales. From Leafly.com:
”The state recorded $529.9 million in taxable cannabis sales during the fiscal year ending June 30. Of that, $424.9 million were recreational sales of the plant, and the other $105 million in sales came from the state’s nearly 16,000 medical cardholders. With $989.7 million in total contributions to the economy—including auxiliary businesses that supply, outfit, and shelter cannabis companies—the industry also brought 8,300 full-time equivalent jobs to the state.
In the seven year period between 2018 and 2024, Nevada’s legal cannabis industry is expected to generate $8 billion in economic benefit. In a state where the outlook on cannabis is (for the most part) already positive, a few extra billion dollars into the economy is sure to keep everyone happy.
This country and others around the world are only just beginning to discover the economic power of the cannabis industry. As Tom Adams, Managing Director of BDS Analytics, points out, “a plant that humans have been happily consuming for millennia is becoming legal around the world, creating one of the most impressive industry growth phenomena in history.”
While global cannabis revenues will undoubtedly continue to skyrocket into unfathomable dollar amounts, we would be wise to take a step back to observe the effect this little herb has had on humanity. No other naturally occurring material has been so historically useful, nor so polarizing. But opinions change. Cultural norms shift and bend like trees in the wind. What was demonized tomorrow is suddenly cherished and kept close to the heart. And, at least for now, it seems like that’s where cannabis will remain.
Our goal is to spread the joy of cannabis to as many people as we can. So join us — and let’s blüm TOGETHER!