A great misunderstanding regarding the therapeutic value of the cannabis plant persists, even within some reform circles. Marijuana is often lumped into the same category as cigarettes, hard drugs, and even alcohol, with the latest trend being to designate cannabis as “less harmful” than these other substances. In reality, cannabis isn’t actually harmful at all, and it can help improve the way people think, process and understand information, and even function physically.
If you think of your brain as a computer hard drive that is constantly being imprinted with new information in the form of magnetized particles, cannabis and its associated cannabinoid constituents are the organizing and formatting tools that the drive uses to erase bad data, rearrange and reconfigure important data, and maintain and optimize the drive. In other words, cannabis is what helps keep certain parts of the brain tidy and well-performing.
This is a somewhat oversimplified analogy, but it gets at the heart of what cannabis is and is not, why it’s beneficial to human physiology, and ultimately why the economic and social engineers don’t want you to have it. Cannabis is much like a “counselor” for the brain, science has revealed, acting specifically on cannabinoid receptors inherent to both the cerebellum and basal ganglia, which govern coordination of movement, and in the limbic system’s hippocampus, which “gates” information during the consolidation of memory.
As the “grease” of the brain, cannabis doesn’t alter dopamine production like alcohol, cigarettes and hard drugs do
Crucial to a proper understanding of how cannabis affects the human brain is recognizing the fact that the brain was made for cannabis. Cannabinoids help bridge the gap between brain neurons, which are known as synapses, acting in ways that help positively regulate brain chemistry. When used appropriately, cannabis can help individuals break bad habits or learn new things. One source refers to cannabinoids as the “grease” that keeps the brain in tip-top shape, enabling mental growth and positive change.
“If cannabis were unknown, and bioprospectors were suddenly to find it in some remote mountain crevice, its discovery would no doubt be hailed as a medical breakthrough,” reported The Economist back in 2006 about the amazing wonders of cannabis. “Scientists would praise its potential for treating everything from pain and cancer, and marvel at its rich pharmacopoeia — many of whose chemical mimic vital molecules in the human body.”
Unlike alcohol, tobacco, amphetamines, cocaine and heroin, cannabis doesn’t interfere with the body’s natural production of dopamine, a foundational characteristic of drugs that induce physical dependence and have the potential to be abused. Cannabis exhibits no reinforcing properties, and the brain does not appear to have any cannabinoid receptors in dopamine-producing neurons.
“Marijuana is distinguished from most other illicit drugs by the locations of its brain-receptor sites for two predominant reasons: (1) The lack of receptors in the medulla significantly reduces the possibility of accidental, or even deliberate, death from THC, and (2) the lack of receptors in the mesocorticolimbic pathway significantly reduces the risks of addiction and serious physical dependence,” wrote Jon Gettman in a 1995 review of cannabis and how it affects the human brain.
“As a therapeutic drug, these features are God’s greatest gifts.”
Is cannabis the “gateway” to renewed understanding and positive mental breakthroughs?
If cannabis works outside the brain reward system, how exactly does it work? Israeli researcher Raphael Mechoulam, the man who first isolated the structure of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, found that cannabinoids bind to receptor sites throughout the brain that are responsible for regulating how the brain processes events and information, translating this into movements, moods and emotions.
“Cannabis is used by man not for its actions on memory of movement or movement coordination, but for its actions on memory and emotions,” Mechoulam once stated. “Is it possible that the main task of cannabinoid receptors … (is) to modify our emotions, to serve as the links which transmit or transform or translate objective or subjective events into perceptions and emotions?”
A more recent study delineated further how cannabinoids can help mitigate reactionary aggression while improving social interactions. In other words, the nutrient chemicals present in cannabis act as modulators to keep a person stable and aware, and they might even help people overcome bad habits or unhealthy negative perceptions, which is why many people find relief from chronic depression and other mood disorders from using cannabis.
Although there is still much to learn about cannabis and cannabis-derived cannabinoids, including how they act in conjunction with the body’s own endocannabinoid system (a system of the body that produces endogenous cannabinoids) to promote nervous system health, the available science makes it clear that cannabis is far from harmful. In fact, it might just be the key to healing mentally, physically and spiritually for many people.