Critics have claimed for decades that cannabis is a “gateway drug.” Proponents of prohibition argue that using cannabis will lead people to consume cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine. Yet, no evidence exists to verify this claim. In fact, the research indicates the majority of people who use cannabis do not go on to use harder drugs. With mindful consumption, people who use cannabis lead happier and more successful lives. So where did this false claim originate? A look at history reveals how and why this myth perpetuates.
Origins of the Mythical Gateway Effect
The modern US drug policy can be tracked back to Harry J. Anslinger. Anslinger in 1930 was the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. During the early part of his work, he rejected the notion that using cannabis led to the use of harder drugs. However, just seven years later Anslinger reversed his stance entirely. Anslinger had learned that cocaine or opiates were no longer enough to sustain his department. So he turned to cannabis. Anslinger was now determined to outlaw cannabis on a federal level.
It wasn’t long before he began spreading rampant propaganda and misinformation. At one point during a radio segment, Anslinger even stated, “There are
100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz, and swing result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers, and any others.” Using racism and fear, Anslinger became the father of reefer madness. He was a key player in the passing of The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. While the act did not criminalize possession of cannabis, it imposed a tax on cannabis along with hemp. The huge hemp industry in the United States was crippled and the path towards cannabis prohibition began.
What the Research Reveals
Cannabis has been consumed for centuries. People around the world used cannabis both for medicinal and spiritual purposes. Before Anslinger’s propaganda campaign in the 1930s, cannabis medicine was widely available across the U.S. Our ancestors were well aware of the inherent benefits of cannabis medicine. However, many of these benefits have been hidden today due to outside interests. Keeping cannabis illegal is big money. Meanwhile, research shows cannabis is far from harmful. In fact, cannabis may be one of the most powerful plants on this planet for human health.
Cannabis treats drug abuse
Prohibitionists claim cannabis leads to destructive drug use. Ironically, science indicates the opposite effect. There is no definitive research that shows using cannabis will cause someone to use heroin or cocaine. In fact, cannabis can help treat drug abuse. A study published in the Drug and Alcohol Review revealed 80% of medical cannabis patients reported they preferred cannabis to prescription pain pills. Given that between 26.4 million and 36 million people worldwide abuse opiates, this is astonishing. Cannabis, unlike opiates, does not produce harsh side effects nor is it addictive. It also poses zero risk of a fatal overdose.
Chronic pain is why many people turn to opiates in the first place. Cannabis provides pain relief naturally. In addition, cannabis also happens to be effective for treating insomnia, depression, nausea, muscle aches, and diarrhea – all ailments associated with prescription pill withdrawals. Instead of causing people to use harder drugs, cannabis helps them stop.
Cannabis enhances brain functioning
Did you know cannabinoids stimulate new brain cell growth? This process is referred to as neurogenesis. It helps explains why cannabis is so helpful for treating mood related disorder such as depression. A 2004 study revealed high doses of cannabis promotes the growth of new brain cells. During the study, mice were administered high doses of cannabinoids. The findings demonstrated that cannabinoids caused neurons to regenerate within the hippocampus region of the brain. This is significant because the hippocampus is associated with two vital processes –memory and learning.
Perhaps even more incredible, research also shows cannabis possesses neuroprotective qualities. A study from the University Hospital Puerta de Hierro Majadahonda in Madrid, Spain examined the effects of cannabidiol (CBD) when applied to a hypoxic-ischemic (HI) brain injury. The findings indicated CBD exhibits powerful neuroprotective effects. The researchers from the study concluded, “Our findings demonstrate that CBD exerts robust neuroprotective effects in vivo in HI piglets, modulating excitotoxicity, oxidative stress and inflammation, and that both CB₂ and 5HT (1A) receptors are implicated in these effects.”
Cannabis nourishes the body
Cannabis is full of body-boosting nutrients and minerals. Hemp, a variety of cannabis sativa with less than 1% THC, nourishes the body with essential fatty acids, antioxidants, amino acids, calcium, magnesium, gamma linolenic acid (GLA), chlorophyll, fiber, iron, and much more!
A single serving of hemp seed or hemp protein offers enormous nutritional benefits. Hemp protein is the only complete plant-based protein. It also happens to be low in saturated fat, making it a healthy supplement for any diet. Consuming hemp is linked to improved heart health, weight loss, and reduced inflammation. However, hemp is only one way to reap the nutritional benefits of cannabis.
Raw cannabis provides the body with cannabinoid acids. Cannabinoid acids such as Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid (THCA), cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), cannabichromenic acid (CBCA) and cannabinodiolic acid (CBNDA) are only present in raw cannabis. Decarboxylation (the process of applying heat) convert cannabinoids acids into their active state. It is the process that changes THCA to THC and CBDA into CBD.
Why are cannabinoids acids beneficial? Both CBDA and THCA are associated with remarkable health benefits such as:
Our understanding of cannabis from a nutritional standpoint is still developing. However, we do know that cannabis is a powerful multi-dimensional medicine. Whether consumed in its raw form or after decarboxylation, cannabis has a positive effect on our health.
Mindful cannabis use is a gateway to better health
Cannabis used with intention produces numerous benefits. From spurring brain cell growth to reducing stress, cannabis is a powerful plant for human health. There are few substances that provide the robust health benefits cannabis can.
As with all things in life though, balance is essential. According to Amanda Reiman Ph.D., of the Drug Policy Alliance, mindfulness is key to maximizing the benefits of cannabis. “Because we are in sync with the plant, intention, and knowledge is a key part of cannabis consumption. Cannabis enhances life through medical and therapeutic benefit,” Reiman states. “Examining how the plant interacts with your life and contributes or takes away from your desired outcomes is the best way to support a healthy cannabis lifestyle.”
Cannabis used responsibly enhances our lives for the better. It is a healing plant that is a far cry from the demonized substance it’s been made out to be. The biggest harm associated with cannabis is its illegality. There is not a single fatality due to cannabis. Meanwhile, the war on drugs has cost millions of lives around the world. It is time to change.
Share this if you believe cannabis can help us heal ourselves and our planet.