Eat your greens

I am very proud of my escape from the ravine of fussy eating, where only pasta exists, into a world of fresh food, trace minerals, essential amino acids and of course, much to my mother’s desire, green pigment. I now live out of home and am regularly scouting the web for fresh ideas to liven up the kitchen. It is pivotal that my meals are colourful, and green is a favourite of mine! Kale is all the rage and spinach is plump with iron. But what else is a (potentially healthy) leafy green?

Marijuana.

Ought I be adding this to my dinner plate?

Are marijuana ‘farms’ like this the next medical wonder? Source: Wikimedia

Some cannabis each day keeps the doctor away

Researchers at The University of Bonn discovered that marijuana improved performance in various cognitive tasks in mice of all ages. Furthermore, THC increased the number of neuronal connections with the hippocampus, an organ vital for memory formation. This research suggests that marijuana can slow ageing in the brain.

Granted, research indicating the ostensible health improvements in humans is nonexistent.

What’s inside?

As a cannabis virgin, I have not experienced the highs of smoking weed. Whilst I do not condone illicit drug use, as a scientist, I am curious as to how human metabolism is manipulated by the use of drugs. My friends who toke depict physiological and cognitive effects that lead to an overall hazy state of tranquility. Hence, my slow-beat study playlist on Spotify is suitably named Legal Marijuana.

What really happens to one’s body when consuming cannabis is intriguing. The primary psychoactive molecule in marijuana is named delta-9-tetrahydracannabinol, or THC. THC is a cannabinoid and cannabinoid receptors are ubiquitous in the brain. However, when functioning normally, cannabinoid receptors are stimulated by the neurotransmitter anandamide. THC mimics the action of anandamide and consequently binds to cannabinoid receptors on the pre-synaptic neuron. Behaviour is altered according to the origin of the cannabinoid receptor within the brain. For example, the cerebellum directs coordination, so THC can tease one’s motor control.

Local source

While marijuana is most commonly consumed via smoking, the first medicinal marijuana (CanniMed) is in an oil-based product that is administered orally. The Australian Narcotic Drugs Act 2016 permitted the cultivation and production of cannabis for scientific purposes. Following this amendment in legislation, CanniMed entered Australian shores in May 2017. However, only authorized physicians can prescribe marijuana as a medical treatment. There are still fewer than 50 authorized doctors in Australia.

Previous Minister for Health Sussan Ley said, “It is important that doctors have a wider range of options for treating their patients.”

Whilst marijuana has been used widely as a medicine, it has yet been proven to cure any diseases. The primary therapeutic use of marijuana is to relieve pain and nausea. Marijuana has shown to help patients with multiple sclerosis by relaxing muscles.

The new proposal is expected to generate a novel agricultural industry for the production of medicinal marijuana. Universal provisions of medicinal cannabis are scant and a prescription for CanniMed is costly due to importation costs.

Legality of medical marijuana worldwide. Where dark blue indicates legality, you can observe that Australia is one of a few countries allowing this form of treatment. Conversely, Australia has very strict laws regarding illegal possession of marijuana. Source: Wikimedia

The possession of marijuana (for non-medical purposes) remains a criminal act within all Australian states and territories.

The Hulk

Ultimately, all medicines are drugs. But the words ‘drug’ and ‘medicine’ carry disparate connotations. The use of marijuana as a therapeutic agent is primitive, but it has certainly generated intrigue in the science world. The implications prescribing an illicit drug as a medicine remain obfuscated. However, if medical marijuana is ameliorating the lives of ill people, it should be investigated further.

In the meantime, keep eating your greens. The other greens.


2 Responses to “Eat your greens”

  1. Molly Fredle says:

    Fascinating topic and very relevant today. I find it fascinating there is little research on cannabis as a medicinal drug when more countries are starting to make medicinal marijuana legal. It seems the lack of research is helping many politicians latch on to the idea it is bad for humans. I agree with Debbie that we need more research on the topic.

  2. Debbie says:

    Hi Isaac,
    Very interesting (and relevant) post.
    I am quite interested in how medicinal marijuana affects the mind and body. I’d be interested to know more about how the cannabinoid binds to receptors, as this may be key to understanding and using marijuana for pain treatment. I do wonder though, if there are negative side effects: Nicotine in cigarettes acts similarly, and recently scientists have found that the binding of nicotine to particular receptors may actually increases someones risk of neuro-degenerative conditions, such as Alzheimer’s. It’d be interesting to see if cannabinoids have a similar effect, but for this, I guess we need science.