We certainly can’t have a Hemp History Week celebration without having a discussion about it. You know, hemp’s cousin, marijuana.  While Hemp History Week does not address medicinal marijuana (or advocate for it’s use), hemp’s legal status is defined by marijuana, thus making it important to understand the difference between the two.

Cannabis Sativa is generally grown for hemp.  It’s full of seeds (amazingly nutritional seeds) and a lot of stem (known for it’s fibrous properties), and has a low THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol – aka the psychoactive chemical which gets people “high”) content.  The Cannabis Sativa of today is based on naturally selected strains of the plant which produce effectively no measurable THC, less than 0.01%.  Meaning, you’re not going to get high from consuming it.

On the other hand, Marijuana is generally cultivated from Cannabis Indica.  Indica plants have little to no seeds, is bushy with little stem, and has a much, much, higher THC content than hemp.  Marijuana is not grown near hemp because cannabis is dioecious- meaning, plants are either female or male.  To achieve the highest THC level possible, isolated female plants are desired, because once they become pollinated by males, the flowers on the female produce less THC.  Meaning, it’s less attractive as a sinsemilla (drug).

Now you know the difference between Hemp and Marijuana.  So, let’s talk about Medical Marijuana and why it’s more vegan than popping an aspirin.

Marijuana was placed in Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act in 1970 by the US Congress because they determined it had, “no accepted medical use.”  It is illegal for any reason, with the exception of FDA-approved research programs.  Since that time, 15 out of 50 states (including DC) have now legalized medical marijuana.  Confused?  It’s confusing.  Medical Marijuana is legal to use (in varying degrees) at the (some) state(s) level, but remains illegal at the federal level.

Supporters of medical marijuana argue that it can be a safe and effective treatment for the symptoms of cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, glaucoma, epilepsy, and many other conditions.  Marijuana has shown to have several well-documented medicinal properties including, amelioration of nausea and vomiting, aiding in stimulating hunger in AIDS and cancer patients, lowering of eye pressure (effective for treating glaucoma), as well as gastrointestinal illnesses, and used an analgesic.  There have been dozens of “peer-reviewed studies, prominent medical organizations, major government reports, and the use of marijuana as medicine throughout world history.”

Those against the use of medical marijuana say that it is; dangerous to use, addictive, a “gate-way” drug (a drug that leads to harder drug use), has health implications such as infertility, injuries to the lungs, immune system, and brain.  The drug lacks FDA approval and opponents claim that medical marijuana is simply a front for drug legalization and recreational use.  They also state that there are legal drugs that make marijuana use unnecessary.

Did you know?

In 1400 BC,”a thriving Bronze Age drug trade supplied hashish (cannabis) and opium to ancient cultures throughout the eastern Mediterranean as balm for the pain of childbirth and disease, proving a sophisticated knowledge of medicines dating back thousands of years.”

In 1860, “the Committee on Cannabis Indica of the Ohio State Medical Society is convened. The Committee reports that their respondents claimed cannabis successfully treated neuralgic pain, dysmenorrhea, uterine hemorrhage, hysteria, delirium tremens, mania, palsy, whooping cough, infantile convulsions, asthma, gonorrhea, nervous rheumatism, chronic bronchitis, muscular spasms, tetanus, epilepsy and appetite stimulation.”

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So, how does any of this matter in terms of veganism?

All drugs, regardless if they contain animal ingredients, have been subject to animal testing at one time.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations require that all new drugs undergo animal experimentation before they are permitted to proceed with any clinical trials.

Over-the-counter medications, prescription medications, and vaccines all contain a myriad of toxic ingredients in endless combinations.  This makes it nearly impossible to determine actual effects on humans without human clinical trials.  Different species ingesting equal amounts of the same chemical will react differently due to their fundamental genetic and biochemical differences.  It is important to note that there is only a 5% – 25% correlation between animal results and human ones, rendering animal experimentation data dangerously unreliable.

The testing performed on non-human animals, including primates, does not provide accurate and useful information regarding human medicine.

Ending Non-human primate research would benefit human medicine by halting the flow of unreliable data from it, and by diverting research funds to more appropriate and promising methods. These include batteries of human-based tests that provide reliable and relevant information on which to base further research and translate laboratory findings to the clinic: microarrays and other DNA technologies; proteomics and metabolomics; mathematical and computer modelling; epidemiology; human clinical research; myriad in vitro molecular biological techniques; microfluidics devices; scanning technologies, microdosing etc…. in short, technologies that have demonstrably contributed to human medicine. – Jarrod Bailey, Ph.D

Due to current governmental regulations around the globe, it is nearly impossible to avoid medications that have been tested on animals.  Refusing medications for ethical reasons will do little to deter pharmaceutical companies from using animal experimentation to determine the safety and efficacy of new medications.  Help affect change by contacting your governmental agency that is responsible for animal testing regulation, and support charities that fund only non-animal research.

Medical Marijuana looks as if it could be a vegan alternative to some traditional pharmaceutical offerings.  It can be cultivated locally, cutting down on energy costs in shipping (and overall costs associated with obtaining prescription medications).  It prevents soil erosion (by root-binding), adds nutrients back to the soil, and produces oxygen (lowering Co2 levels in our atmosphere – decreasing global warming).  Finally, it eliminates the need for non-human animal testing, unlike any over-the-counter or prescription medications, thus saving the lives of non-humans.

In my mind, that makes it more vegan than aspirin.

[Editors note: This post is not about the efficacy of marijuana use for health related issues, nor should it be interpreted as a pro or con regarding it’s use. Medical Marijuana in this article refers to crop that is grown legally within the parameters of local law.  This article is not intended to encourage or suggest illegal activity of any kind, nor should it be construed as medical advice or otherwise. This article discusses medical marijuana use and it’s relation to veganism only.  Please consult your doctor as well as any and all information sources regarding medical marijuana to determine if it’s (legal) right for you.]