Photo by Ndispensable on Unsplash

One year ago, in 2018, marijuana was legalized in Canada. Now it is entirely legal to use marijuana ( also known as Cannabis) for recreational and therapeutic purposes for anyone over 21 y. o. Any adult can obtain Cannabis goods in government-regulated outlets, whether in-store or on-line. Canadians are now free to travel domestically with Cannabis. However, it remains illegal to travel across the US border and internationally with Cannabis in your possession.

I am one of those people who have never tried Cannabis, at least before 2019. You can say I led a sheltered life. Opposite of streetwise, “la fille de bonne Famille” — you may call me. I was not interested in getting “high”. However, lately, I have discovered that microdoses of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) / Cannabidiol (CBD) alleviate my chronic and annoying gut problem.

Many countries consider illegal possession and use of Cannabis. Traveling across the borders with marijuana, cannabinoid oil or medical Cannabis is unknown territory, probably a criminal offense. As of today, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has already approved four drugs. One Cannabis-derived and three Cannabis-related medications prescribed for the treatment of seizures, nausea and other severe conditions. Yet, traveling with medical Cannabis is illegal, even if you have a doctor’s prescription.

In 1970, marijuana was included in the list of controlled substances by the US Controlled Substances Act (CSA) signed by President Nixon. I wondered if the outdated 1970s Act is the problem? Maybe the gap in our knowledge is?

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) was widely unknown until 1992. Twenty years after the CS Act was signed, researchers in Israel and the US discovered anandamide. Yes, that’s right; in 1992, a completely new system within the human body found. The newly discovered system is built in all humans and animals similar to the immune system, nervous system, endocrine system, and reproductive system. Receptors mediate the endocannabinoid system. Anandamide is an endogenous neurotransmitter that binds to the endocannabinoid receptor. Similar to well-known serotonin. Endogenous means it is produced by our bodies. In other words, we are all born with it. The endocannabinoid system and its modulators are useful in pain management, as antiinflammatory, for memory, cancer, appetite, digestive tract disorder, and many other conditions. Many doctors, however, are reluctant to suggest, prescribe or acknowledge the existence of this system within the human body. Medical establishment barely recognizes the clinical implications of its disbalance. No tests are available to detect or measure ECS’s disbalance.

Marijuana is widely stigmatized and scrutinized for psychotropic effects. Marijuana, however, is just a phytocannabinoid plant. The properties of plant Cannabis are not easily quantifiable. Cannabis is not a single plant. Term Cannabis remains an umbrella of plants with different chemical properties not efficiently and accurately reproducible. Many drugs we use daily discovered and synthesized from plants. From the perspective of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the evidence is scarce and well-controlled studies providing proof of its efficacy are limited. The medical community, back in 1970, was simply unaware of the existence of ECS. Researchers lacked a big piece of the puzzle. One of the reasons this new system was discovered is marijuana itself — the plant. Doctors and researchers grew curious about the mechanism of action and started looking for answers.

Today, researchers are committed to an understanding of the role of the endocannabinoid system in treating diseases. FDA finally recognizes the potential of Cannabis and its derivatives. Clinical trials are ongoing worldwide. Biotech startup companies are developing synthetic analogs of phytocannabinoids. The obstacle, however, is legislation, archaically slow bureaucratic structures focusing on only one side of the story, infamous “high”, the altered mental state followed by the consumption of weed.

We need to start public health dialogue to decriminalize possession and consumption of medical Cannabis worldwide. Traveling with Tylenol to treat a headache is entirely acceptable and legal. Crossing borders with THC/CBD capsules purchased from government outlets with well-controlled properties still is a criminal offense.

Someday I will be able to travel with THC capsules or CBD oil in my purse. It calms my digestion.

learner, writer, biotech investor, research translation, drug development, genetics. 4-lingual.

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