The Cannabis Mind Initiative is an investigation into the psychoactive properties of Cannabis. A resurgence of Cannabis has revitalized psychedelic research and relaxed fears on exploring the entropic brain. The best investigations benefit from historical perspective. The CESC presents The Cannabis Mind Initiative, part 1
For centuries, Cannabis has been used for its capacity to reduce pain, increase appetite, and help people sleep. Furthermore, it has held cultural, religious, and spiritual importance. Nevertheless, its psychotropic properties have caused contradictory perspectives on its acute and lasting effects on the mind. In the 1800s, the French psychiatrist Moreau de Tour observed parallels between Cannabis-induced states and psychosis. Subsequent studies have corroborated an association between Cannabis and acute psychosis. Recently, a Swedish study found that heavy Cannabis users have an increased risk of schizophrenia. Cannabis can lead to altered states, modify cognition, influence beliefs, produce social consequences, and lead to permanent behavioral changes. Consequently, research should be done to better understand the positive and negative effects of Cannabis' psychoactive properties.
The use of Cannabis fibers to make sails and lines likely spurred increased travel and exploration around the world. Inhabitants in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas were known to smoke or fumigate Cannabis, or even concentrate its efflorescence for a stronger psychoactive effect. Despite its popularity, Cannabis was prohibited in certain places; Soudoun Sheikouni, the emir of the Joneima in Arabia, banned it as early as the 1300s and the King of Madagascar even implemented capital punishment for its use in the Merina Kingdom. Napoleon Bonaparte banned its use among his soldiers and multiple attempts were made to criminalize Cannabis in British India between 1838 and 1877. African slaves were even forbidden from using Cannabis by the Municipal Council of Rio de Janeiro in the western hemisphere.
The illicit legacy of Cannabis is linked to its association with opium, which was also smoked and ingested. This led to an increase in addictive behaviors and a lucrative commercial opium trade, which was mainly benefitted by the British East India Company. As a result, China began producing its own opium and imposed tariffs on imported products. Despite this, the Company continued to cultivate and smuggle opium into China, leading to wars between the UK and China. The eventual results of war prompted the signing of the first international opium treaty in 1912, which was signed by 12 countries and prohibited the manufacturing and sale of psychoactive drugs, including opium, morphine and cocaine. The primary goal of the treaty was to restrict drug exports. In 1925, the second international opium convention followed in Geneva, where a permanent opium control board was established. At the convention, Egypt, Italy and South Africa recommended that the control measures be extended to Cannabis hashish. A sub-committee proposed the following text:
“The use of Indian hemp and the preparations derived therefrom may only be authorized for medical and scientific purposes. The raw resin (charas), however, which is extracted from the female tops of the Cannabis Sativa L, together with the various preparations (hashish, chira, esrar, diamba, etc.) of which it forms the basis, not being at present utilized for medical purposes and only being susceptible of utilization for harmful purposes, in the same manner as other narcotics, may not be produced, sold, traded in, etc., under any circumstances whatsoever.”
The committee indicated an acceptance of the Cannabis flower for medical uses yet proposed harmful effects from its extracted resin. India and other countries objected to this language, citing social and religious customs using Cannabis. A compromise was made banning exportation of Cannabis to countries that prohibited its use. The restrictions maintained that countries would be allowed produce and use Cannabis internally.
Just over a decade later, the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 was enacted in the U.S. The act, drafted by Harry Anslinger the head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, placed a tax on the sale of Cannabis. The American Medical Association opposed taxation because it imposed on prescribing and selling of Cannabis by physicians and pharmacists. Interested parties noted that the act was largely an effort to restrict the hemp industry through excessive taxation. Cheap, sustainable, and easily grown hemp threatened the timber industry. Additionally, influential business moguls, Andrew Mellon, Randolph Hearst, and the Dupont Family gained advantages from industrial hemp restrictions. After three decades, the act was eventually ruled unconstitutional. Timothy Leary a professor and activist challenged the act in a U.S. Supreme Court case on the grounds that it required self-incrimination, which violated the Fifth Amendment. A unanimous opinion written by Justice John Marshall Harlan II declared the act unconstitutional. Congress responded quickly replacing the Marijuana Tax Act by the Controlled Substances Act thus continuing the prohibition of Cannabis.
Cannabis acceptance made a resurgence in 1996 through a voter proposition in California called the Compassionate Use Act. Defying federal law, the act established a defense for the possession and use of Cannabis for medical purposes. The state law contradicted the Controlled Substances Act, which placed Cannabis in Schedule I, defined as a substance with no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. The California law started a movement. State after state passed similar laws disempowering the federal government from prohibiting Cannabis cultivation, possession, and use. Currently, most US states have laws allowing Cannabis use under medical circumstances.
Cannabis is a complex plant with many components and effects. Its psychoactive properties have both positive and negative implications, which have been experienced in a variety of contexts throughout history. Ultimately, Cannabis has been used throughout the world for centuries, as the debate over its effects and legality continues. While it has been linked to some negative outcomes, its use for medical purposes has been increasingly accepted. As research into Cannabis continues, it is likely that more of its positive effects will be discovered, which could lead to further progress in the regulation of Cannabis use.
Jean Talleyrand, M.D.,