Jackie Sentenne Pettit | 08/18/2014 | Insider Blogs |   

Medical vs. Recreational Marijuana

Legal retail sales of marijuana in Whatcom County, Washington brings to light the historic use of marijuana for many medical conditions.  Medical marijuana has been legal in Washington State since November 3, 1998 when 59% of voters approved I-692, the Washington State Medical Use of Marijuana Act. However, the medical attributes of cannabis remain primarily unknown to the general public. Most people associate marijuana with it’s psychoactive effects and its Schedule 1 classification (along with heroin) by the U.S. Federal Government. Although schedule 1 classification states that marijuana "offers no known medical benefit," the U.S. Government also owns Patent 6603507 issued October 7, 2003 on cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants. Scientists from the Department of Health and Human Resources state in that patent application that "cannabinoids found within the cannabis sativa plant are useful in certain neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and HIV dementia." There has been a growing frustration among those seeking medical treatment for chronic and deadly diseases that cannabis is purported to help and/or cure. Studies continue to show that cannabis eliminates cancer cells by activating the body’s own cannabinoid receptors, endocannabinoids. How do cannabinoids (CBD), used in medical treatment, differ from delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC), primarily responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis? The National Cancer Institute says "cannabidiol, "may relieve pain and lower inflammation without causing the "high" of delta-9-THC". Marijuana sold in licensed retail outlets generally has elevated levels of THC. Medical strains of cannabis are now being "reverse-engineered" to be higher in cannabinoids. In strains engineered to be high in THC for its psychoactive effects, one would normally see labels with upwards of 10% THC and less than .05% total cannabinoids. New strains becoming available now with .05% TCH and 10%+ of CBD totals.  The human body has its own “endogenous cannabinoid system,” a group of compounds and receptors that are involved in a variety of physiological phenomena including appetite, pain sensation, mood and memory. Nothing in the natural world produces cannabinoid compounds in such abundance and variety as the cannabis plant. At the present time, there are three general types of  cannabinoids:

  • ''phytocannabinoids'' occur naturally, uniquely in the cannabis plant;
  • ''endogenous cannabinoids'' are naturally produced in the bodies of humans and other animals;
  • and ''synthetic cannabinoids'' are similar compounds produced in laboratories at great expense.

 Many preclinical studies of cannabinoids have been conducted and may be found on the website for The National Cancer Institute. Laboratory and animal studies have shown that cannabinoids may be able to kill cancer cells while protecting normal cells. Some of the most encouraging studies of mice and rats have shown that cannabinoids may inhibit tumor growth by causing cell death, blocking cell growth, and blocking the development of blood vessels needed by tumors to grow. Another study in mice shows cannabinoids may protect against inflammation of the colon, potentially reducing the risk of colon cancer. Laboratory studies of delta-9-THC showed it damaged or killed liver cancer cells, as well as showing these effects in non-small cell lung cancer, breast cancer and may make chemotherapy more effective and increase cancer cell death without harming normal cells. Additional studies are listed on The National Cancer Institute website for pain relief, anti-inflammatory effects and as a chemotherapy appetite stimulant. The use of CBDs for treatment of epilepsy is receiving much attention, especially for the treatment of minors who are more susceptible to violent, long lasting seizures. While studies are on the increase, parents have flocked to Colorado where some doctors approve medical prescriptions for the use of medical, high CBD/low THC, marijuana, which has been used effectively to treat epilepsy and other forms of seizures. There have been many reports of children and adults who have gone from 50+ seizures daily to 3 per month. GW Pharmaceuticals commercialized the world’s first plant-derived cannabinoid prescription drug, Sativex®, which is approved for the treatment of spasticity due to multiple sclerosis in 23 countries. There are currently 222 press releases from GW Pharmaceutics of London regarding medical research on cannabinoids and Δ9-THC. “GW has established the Cannabinoid Research Institute as a distinct division within the company in order to consolidate GW’s position as a world leader in cannabinoid science.” According to PATENTSCOPE: Search International and National Patent Collections, more than half of the over 600 cannabis-related patents registered with the United Nations’ global intellectual property agency belong to Chinese companies. Due to the tight restrictions in the U.S. by the FDA and DEA, clinical trials of the effects of cannabis remain very limited. There have been bipartisan efforts to delist marijuana as a Schedule 1 or 2 drug in order to allow research of the potential medical benefits, for humanitarian reasons and to allow the U.S. to compete in the global clinical trials to discover any medical benefits of cannabis. None of the above should be considered medical, legal, or political advice, but is instead offered to provide information and address rising issues in the Bellingham and Whatcom County Tourism industry related to Initiative 502.

        We acknowledge that Whatcom County is located on the unceded territory of the Coast Salish Peoples. They cared for the lands that included what we’d call the Puget Sound region, Vancouver Island and British Columbia since time immemorial. This gives us the great obligation and opportunity to learn how to care for our surrounding areas and all the natural and human resources we require to live. We express our deepest respect and gratitude for our indigenous neighbors, the Lummi Nation and Nooksack Tribe, for their enduring care and protection of our shared lands and waterways.
Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism
Visitor Center Located at I-5 Exit 253 - Check Hours
904 Potter Street, Bellingham, WA 98229
Phone: 360-671-3990

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