The Cannabis Papers: A Citizen’s Guide to Cannabinoids
“Cannabinoids are good.”
Have you heard that truth before? – It’s something you will understand if you read any further. You see, science is a truth conspiracy. It’s a testing of reality and standing your ground when you find evidence.
In some ways, being American means confronting untruths. To voice “our” truth through language, to create a new set and setting, we turned to the founders and a collection of essays known as The Federalist Papers.
During 1787 and 1788, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay wrote 85 essays in support of the US Constitution. They used the pen name "Publius" in honor of a famed Roman republican – someone they saw as a defender of liberty.
We became "Publius" for the same purpose: to make our sum greater than our individual parts. In doing so, we have created a series of 36 essays to detail the role of cannabinoids in Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. We began releasing the essays online in 2009 and will conclude this fall. The essays will then be available in book form as The Cannabis Papers: a citizen’s guide to cannabinoids.
Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness
The so-called drug war is becoming better known as a war on citizens – a civil war. It has been a war with two distinct federal laws. The first was the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act, which was ruled unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court in 1966. Into this vacuum was sucked Nixon’s contribution to 21st century drug policy: the 1970 Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act. This law contains the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), the law making herbal cannabinoids Schedule 1. This means in Bizarro World that herbal cannabinoids have no medical value.
Here we are in 2010 still living under Nixon’s law. That is our history: our tomorrow is much different. That’s because the tide has turned – and it’s a scientific tide. The endocannabinoid system (ECS) and the science surrounding this remarkable biological modulator, have transformed the battlefield and the logic of the CSA. This is no longer a civil war: it has morphed into a war between science and ignorance.
Science is the language of Publius. As Madison, Hamilton and Jay detailed the workings of the US Constitution, piece-by-piece and Article-by-Article, we have given the same care and effort to describing the role of cannabinoids and the ECS in our bodies. We found that cannabinoids shared a strong characteristic from the founding period: the similarity is found in the famous phrase summing up the basic rights of free people – Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.
It is no secret that many people think that there is a Life-giving quality to cannabis use. That is where we began – the anecdotal and lived cannabinoid experience. Since the 1970s, cannabis use has been defined by practice – some combination of the medical/patient model and the recreational/liberty model. We are describing something new – the idea that cannabinoids are necessary to life. The cannabis war will no longer be about use and ideology – about who is sick enough or free enough or responsible enough. What is new today is the science of cannabinoids – and you’ll find it more than compelling and often mind-blowing.
Liberty provides its own arguments. The war on cannabis users has compromised our liberty. It has been this way for so long that many of us don’t even recognize the unintended consequences placed on our collective liberty by cannabinoid prohibition – the collateral damage caused by the war. As this changes, as this prohibition comes to a close, we can look forward to a better culture – one with fewer invasions of privacy, fewer arrests, fewer imprisonments – and more human choices for relaxation, more affordable wellness/health care, more tax revenues, and, dare we say it – happier citizens. The days of Reefer Madness, when it was believed that marijuana smoking created homicidal maniacs, are behind us. The days of spaced-out tokesters are behind us. Clearer perceptions about cannabis are emerging. Someone like Montel Williams is the new face of the cannabis patient – a former Marine and successful talk show host who maintains his health through the use of cannabinoids while living with Multiple Sclerosis. Or even beyond any medical perception, someone like Rick Steves – a successful writer and host of travel shows on television and radio. Or even beyond celebrity – perhaps someone like you?
That brings us to Happiness. – Each individual citizen has their own definition of what makes them happy. Notice that the goal is not the “right to be happy” but thepursuit of happiness. This pursuit is intrinsically related to freedom of choice – the right to pursue one’s happiness without infringing upon another’s right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. One doesn’t have to be a lawyer to understand this is a legal problem – but it is also more than a legal problem. What we have, and what most of us have been born into, is a system that makes the pursuit of happiness a legal problem – one to be policed. This is a relatively new phenomenon. Americans have not always thought the pursuit of happiness was something best handled by the courts. At one time we believed in the “right to be let alone.” In 1928, nine years before cannabis prohibition began, US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis wrote of our constitutional right to be let alone in the case ofOlmstead v. U.S.:
The makers of our Constitution undertook to secure conditions favorable tothe pursuit of happiness. They recognized the significance of man’s spiritual nature, of his feelings and his intellect. They knew that only a part of the pain, pleasure and satisfaction of life are to be found in material things. They sought to protect Americans in their beliefs, their thoughts, their emotions and their sensations. They conferred, as against the Government,the right to be let alone – the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men.
The war on cannabis has been an assault on the right to be let alone. This means it is also an attack on the conditions favorable to the pursuit of happiness. In fact, federal cannabinoid prohibition has contributed to a net loss of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – making its end clear.
One more thing: like the phrase Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, we, Publius, have many forms – many selves, if you will. In reading the essays in The Cannabis Papers (TCP), you will find that we speak in many voices. That is because there are many voices to be heard.
Allied voices in the cannabinoid truth conspiracy
Publius considers pharmaceutical companies to be kindred spirits and not the enemy. Why? – Because in their hypotheses cannabinoids are good. They assume that a healthy body needs a healthy ECS. They are also science-based and therefore an ally in the war against ignorance.
Tom Brock, a researcher for the pharmaceutical company Cayman Chemical, speaks like an ally. In a 2009 marketing essay titled Cannabinoids: to the Neurons and Beyond, he writes highly of cannabinoids and what they are capable of doing. He asks us to imagine the blessings of healthy cannabinoid receptors:
Imagine what could be achieved if signaling through these receptors could be controlled: happy, slim, and healthy people who remember that they’re pain-free.
Here is a representative of the pharmaceutical industry writing like a flower-child and friend of Publius. Amazing! If Cayman Chemical understands the potential of the ECS, then they are not our opposition, and in many ways they know more about cannabinoids than most cannabis consumers.
As mentioned above, Publius chose the familiar revolutionary phrase from the founding – Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness – to frame this new debate. If we debate cannabinoids and the ECS with the prohibitionists, we always win. They can’t speak this language, the language of cannabinoid science. Like the founding phase of our country, this one involves changing the way we look at an issue. The founders had to deal with how to frame federal power: we have to deal with how toreframe federal power. Thus our objective is Nixon’s law – the 1970 Controlled Substances Act – which is factual wrong.
The error is that herbal cannabinoids are presumed guilty of having no medicinal value – while Marinol and Cesamet, two synthetic cannabinoids, get pharmaceutical passes. From the perspective of cannabinoids and the ECS, this is nonsense.
Here’s why: beyond holding a patent on a medicinal property of cannabinoids, US patent #6630507, a search of the government’s National Institutes of Health (NIH) website, Pub Med, shows that a revolution has taken place in the field of science. No longer are they looking at the evils of marijuana: the field as a whole has moved to a new understanding of cannabinoids and the ECS. Here are a few specific examples from TCP to support the idea that the endocannabinoid system is necessary to human health; the research is easily found on Pub Med:
- Retrograde signaling
- From TCP #4 DSI for dummies: getting to know cannabinoid history
- DSI stands for – Depolarized-induced Suppression of Inhibition. This is one of the ways cells talk back to each other. This form of communication is the chemical process called “retrograde signaling.” In 2004, a Scientific American article titled “The Brain’s Own Marijuana,” put it this way – “endogenous cannabinoids participate in retrograde signaling, a previously unknown form of communication in the brain.” The phrase “previously unknown” explains a lot. That is why most Americans don’t know anything about DSI, retrograde signaling, or the ECS.
- From TCP #5 Astrocytes and cannabinoids: reaching for the stars
- 2010 research in Cancer Investigation shows that THC “inhibited [cancer] cell proliferation, migration and invasion, and induced cell apoptosis.”Cell “apoptosis” is when a cell dies – like a cancer cell. By activating the cannabinoid receptor on the cancer cell, THC is able to tell it to die. Also, this isn’t new; the same thing was found in 1975. See “Anticancer activity of cannabinoids,” in the journal of the National Cancer Institute.
- 2010: S Leelawat, et al, The dual effects of delta(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol on cholangiocarcinoma cells: anti-invasion activity at low concentration and apoptosis induction at high induction, Cancer Investigation, May 2010:28(4):357-63.
- 1975: AE Munson, et al, Anticancer activity of cannabinoids, Journal of the National Cancer Institute, September 1975:55(3):597-602.
From TCP #10 “Cannabinoids” succeed where “marijuana” fails:
- Research shows that the CB2 receptor “may assist in the treatment of neuropathologies by increasing neurogenesis.” This means cannabinoids support the growth of new brain cells. JR Rivers and JC Ashton, The development of cannabinoid CB2 receptor agonists for the treatment of central neuropathies, Central Nervous System Agents in Medicinal Chemistry, March 2010:10(1):47-64.
- See also I Galve-Roperh, et al., The endocannabinoid system and neurogenesis in health and disease, Neuroscientist, April 2007:13(2):109-14.
In the forthcoming section Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness sections we work from more traditional cannabis reform ground. Topics include the 1972 Shaffer Commission, the arrests, getting high, healing, race, drug testing, economics and happiness – all through the science of cannabinoids and the ECS. Acknowledgement of the fundamental role of the ECS in human health – and other mammals we are fond of like dogs and cats and cows and pigs – makes the idea of arresting 800,000 citizens for exercising their ECS with an herbal cannabinoid absurd.
The essays on Liberty and Happiness take truths like "all human beings – in fact all mammals – use cannabinoids" and offers suggestions on how this will effect reform in the immediate future. Simply stated, cannabinoids and the ECS modulate other systems within the human body – and that fact alone represents a revolution in how we think about cannabinoids.
And it’s political! Meaning we need more than clarity. We already have clarity on Pub Med, our government’s science website. We need political focus. – And that focus is clearly Nixon’s law.
There is another important factor. We have a President who won an election based on the idea of change. The President of the United States is referred to by the acronym “POTUS” (www.potus.com). The political response to finding the 1937 law unconstitutional was led by POTUS 37 (Nixon) and is the CSA. Today, with POTUS 44 (Obama) in charge, it’s time to put Nixon’s law in its place. Based on the scientific evidence, it’s clear to Publius that POTUS 44 should end Nixon’s legacy.
And yes, it’s about the arrests. Arresting citizens for self-medicating with herbal cannabinoids, given the scientific tsunami of good news, is politically untenable. Cannabis arrests went from just under 400,000 to nearly 750,000 by the last year of POTUS 42 (Clinton). That is nearly five million citizens arrested for cannabis violations under POTUS 42.
During POTUS 43 (Bush), annual cannabis arrests remained at the 750,000 level through 2006. In 2007 and 2008 arrests topped 800,000. That is over six million citizens arrested for cannabis under POTUS 43.
Now to the POTUS 44 – Will the legacy of Obama’s administration be more arrests given that cannabinoids are proving to be one of nature’s best-kept secrets? – Or will POTUS 44 end the madness of arresting millions of fellow citizens for possessing herbal cannabinoids? –
The essays in The Cannabis Papers support ending this madness. A search of cannabinoids on Pub Med reveals a world of scientific data supporting cannabinoids as medicine. That’s because the ECS is necessary to life. This is a fact of biology and part of the truth conspiracy. Nixon’s law is a legacy of lies, cruelty and ignorance. – What will Obama’s legacy be?
Publius 2010 is Bryan Brickner, Julie Falco, Dianna Lynn Meyer, Stephen Young, William Abens, Danielle Schumacher, Derek Rea (1954-2008), David Nott, Dan Linn, Dan S. Wang, Brian Allemana, Peter Vilkelis, and many others.
Links to Cannabis Papers essays cited herein:
Charles Shaw is a writer and activist living in the Bay Area of San Francisco. He is the author of Exile Nation: Drugs, Prisons, Politics and Spirituality and serves as editor for theDictionary of Ethical Politics and the oD Drug Policy Forum.