CANNABIS CULTURE- Let’s get one thing out of the way: under no circumstances did medical schools in New York give any type of training on cannabis in the early-to-mid 80s (1982 to 1986, to be precise). Cannabis was never really mentioned or even bought up as an option or alternative to other pharmaceutical medications. Cannabis was just a “drug…
They would not teach anything like that at the traditional medical schools in the United States. Sure, there were some studies knocking around in the 70s and 80s looking at cannabis’s efficacy for epilepsy, glaucoma, chemotherapy treatment and AIDS/HIV, but these were not establishment views, and cannabis was pretty much considered a “drug” by most medical practitioners. Now, it was still used – on the black market, obviously – but as far as medicine was concerned, cannabis was definitely not considered medicine in any way.
Yes, there was some research in the 60s, 70s and 80s looking at cannabis from a medical viewpoint, but it was all under the covers. You couldn’t get any kind of federal funding, just like today. Most of the research that was being done was being done in Israel and a little bit in the Netherlands, but nothing was being done in the United States. And you know, with the way Americans and the American Medical Association (AMA) think (and, to be fair, there are medical associations the world over that think similarly), it’s “If the research is not done in the United States, it’s not valid.” That’s just the sort of strict or “Catholic”-like view that the AMA has. The sort of “If it’s not American, it’s not good enough.”
I myself am not so parochial in my thinking. I prefer to follow the threads where they lead. It doesn’t matter where the threads come from, you just follow them. I don’t have that sort of worldview. I’m a globalist, not a nationalist. As for my personal view of what myself and so many others thought of cannabis in the 70s and 80s? It was purely recreational.
However, what you have to realize is that the endocannabinoid system (ECS) wasn’t discovered and various cannabinoids hadn’t been properly isolated as of yet. Cannabidiol (CBD) as an entity wasn’t discovered until the 90s, even though phytocannabinoids had been identified as part of the makeup of the cannabis plant in the 40s and 50s. We just didn’t know how they worked, and many parts were overlooked. They didn’t have it broken down properly at the time. Those who were growing and breeding at the time focussed mostly on THC-hunting, and in some ways the medical establishment followed suit whenever they looked at cannabis, looking only at THC rather than all the other cannabinoids and terpenoids.
There was Raphael Mechoulam’s amazing work in the 60s, but it wasn’t until the 90s that the baton was picked up again properly. This was when the ECS was found to exist, and trying to figure out how cannabis worked helped researchers find it. This was all found out when I completed medical school and even my residency! So none of this research seeped in, especially to my world. At the time I was doing spinal surgery. The thing about surgeons is that, once you get a hammer, everything looks like a nail. So, you don’t think about just using the medicine. You don’t think about incorporating cannabis into your medical practice, especially as a surgeon, because you start to believe that “You and your knife are all that anybody needs.”
This is the complete opposite of the way I see it now, but that’s the way I saw it then. I have started to prefer an “inside-out”, non-invasive view of medicine. Do no harm, and if there’s the possibility to help a person heal themselves without the need for surgery, or at the least reduce our reliance on it if it’s at all possible. When I was practicing spine surgery, it was important to find out how I could surgically help someone.
And then, because I believed that my surgical skills were all that was necessary, it lulled me into a false sense of confidence. Then there was the aftermath… Back surgery doesn’t yield results for people who are never in pain, and even for many of those who are in pain! So now, not only do I have this skewed view that surgery is the most important thing, but now in the follow-up, I’m putting them on large amounts of opioids to beat the pain of surgery! Moreover, whilst the back surgery may or may not have helped, spines are complex, and pain doesn’t always go away.
So now I’m compounding the situation with opioids, purely based on the way I was trained. The idea that surgery will always work on your back, well, it’s not true most of the time! And the consequence of that surgery is often opioids, which is even more devastating, based on the addiction and compared to what you were trying to achieve in the first instance. It’s one thing to have back pain that maybe you can fix or learn to live with. It’s another thing to now put all these people on opioids, who might now die, and their back pain has not necessarily subdued. Medical school at that time generally told us that, if you want to eliminate pain, you use opioids. Our options were “surgery” or “opioids”!
That cannabis could be an alternative never entered our minds. We started off with a negative rather than a more neutral, more scientific view, and latched onto any of the negatives we found but none of the positives. This is not the best way to do science. The federal government allows the University of Mississippi to grow cannabis for research every year. They usually have 15 or 20 different research projects that they allow the cannabis to be grown for. Of those 15 research projects, they’ll have about 14 trying to prove cannabis is bad, and only one is trying to find any of the more positive effects.
It’s almost like some so-called “scientific” establishments are doubling down. They’re saying, “Not only do we believe, without any kind of research, that cannabis is bad, but we’re going to prove that it’s bad.” This is opposed to actually seeing what cannabis does and then following through on that, whether that thread is positive, negative or neutral. If the scientific and medical establishment follows only the negative threads and doesn’t look at the whole picture, then once discoveries are being made about cannabis’s medical efficacy, they’ll be walking around with egg on their faces.
This would not only harm the image many have of the medical association, but finding out that cannabis can help with so many things could well make a big dent in pharmaceutical companies’ bottom lines. It’s almost as if the deck is stacked against cannabis, and nobody really wants to use scientific logic anymore when it comes to looking at it. They can use scientific logic with everything else, but not cannabis!
Why are so many medical establishments (not all of them, I might add), companies and government officials doing this? Well, quite simply, if there’s something you can grow in your backyard that can help you, that detracts away from pharmaceutical sales. There is almost a perverse incentive to prescribe opioids, even if doctors are doing so without any malicious intent. The hypocrisy of the federal government’s stance comes even more into light when you realize that they have the patent on CBD! It’s almost as if they’re saying, “We want ourselves and our buddies in the pharmaceutical industry to make money out of this, but we’ll throw you in jail if you try to do the same.”
To elaborate on the above, many doctors essentially work from a statistical sheet. A patient describes their symptoms, the doctor works out the most likely causes, and then the doctor prescribes a course of action to help alleviate those symptoms. Now, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Western medicine has worked wonders and saved millions of lives. However, science moves forward by challenging old assumptions and solving new problems wherever they may arise, even if some of those solutions are unpalatable to some people.
Right now, doctors are told, “If a person suffers from pain arising from condition x, the solution is opioid, NSAID or benzodiazepine y.” Now, some of these drugs may work very well for short-term or acute pain, but for chronic pain, they don’t necessarily work. In fact, they can cause more problems than they solve. Why can’t cannabis be a solution to chronic pain, when what we have now doesn’t even work? This is an ethical dilemma, and one medicine needs to solve before the opioid problem becomes worse.