New Film Focuses on Farmers, Criteria for Hemp Farmers

New Film Focuses on Farmers, Criteria for Hemp Farmers

The U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance has unveiled a new film that highlights the urgency needed in the fight against climate change.

Despite uncertain economic times, farmers are front and center as the agents for change in “30 Harvests.”

The docudrama follows the plight of farmer Jay Hill of Dell City, Texas and farmer and soil scientist Meagan Kaiser of Bowling Green, Missouri.

In the short film, they articulate the challenge farmers face while embracing the opportunity to meet the increasing demands for food, and ultimately help solve one of the greatest challenges of this generation: climate change.

If you would like to watch “30 Harvests”, it’s now available in its entirety on You Tube.

The Montana Department of Agriculture is reminding hemp growers that verification of license information and additional fees are required before growers can be issued their hemp production license, which is needed to harvest and process or sell their crop.

The Department sent letters to each license holder at the beginning of July asking growers to verify the crop information that will be printed on each grower’s license certificate.

The information provided should be sent to the Department asap as it helps the Department track production and develop timelines for sampling and testing.

If you are a grower who did not receive a letter from the Department, please contact Andy Gray at (406) 444-0512. 

This story originally appeared at

Key Congressional Chairman Sends Marijuana Email To NORML Activists

Key Congressional Chairman Sends Marijuana Email To NORML Activists

The chairman of the influential House Judiciary Committee authored a message to NORML’s email list on Monday—a notable signal of how the cannabis legalization movement has entered the mainstream corridors of power on Capitol Hill.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), who last month filed legislation to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and begin repairing the harms of prohibition enforcement, asked the advocacy group’s supporters to write their own members of Congress in support of his bill, the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act.

“America has a moral responsibility to pass my legislation to end the prohibition of marijuana and take on the oppression at the heart of the War on Drugs,” Nadler wrote. “I’m proud to work with NORML to create a more just national marijuana policy.”

The bill will “once and for all end the destructive policy of federal marijuana prohibition in America” and “remedy the widespread inequities and injustice this policy has brought upon tens of millions of Americans,” the chairman told the legalization group’s members.

Beyond descheduling cannabis, the MORE Act would create processes for the expungement and resentencing of prior convictions and prevent government agencies from blocking access to federal benefits or impeding citizenship status for immigrants due to marijuana use.

Additionally, it would levy a five percent federal tax on cannabis sales, with some revenue earmarked for job training and legal aid programs for people impacted by prohibition enforcement as well as loans for small marijuana businesses owned by socially and economically disadvantaged people.

Its introduction comes amidst what observers are saying is the most marijuana-friendly Congress in history. Less than eight months into the two-year session, dozens of cannabis proposals have been filed, seven hearings have been held on the issue and legislation to increase marijuana businesses’ access to banking services has cleared a key committee.

“With Chairman Nadler’s leadership, we believe that the MORE act will likely be the first bill to end federal marijuana criminalization ever to pass in a chamber of Congress,” NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said in an interview. “Representative democracy is not a spectator sport. Now is the time for the majority of Americans who support legalization to demand reform from their legislators, just as Mr. Nadler’s message to our members indicated.”

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), a 2020 presidential candidate, filed a companion version of Nadler’s bill in the Senate.

“In 1977, I cast my first vote as a freshman member of the State Assembly to decriminalize marijuana in my home state of New York,” the chairman wrote to NORML’s supporters. “Since then, I have been committed to ending the criminalization of marijuana. The criminalization of marijuana is a mistake and caused grave harm, disproportionately to those who are poor or people of color, and we must take action.”

Nadler’s bill was endorsed by a group of justice-focused organizations such as ACLU and NAACP in a letter to House leaders earlier this month.

“Criminal justice involvement deprives individuals from low-income communities of color equal access to economic opportunity,” the groups wrote. “Incarceration robs families and communities of breadwinners and workers. Thus, any marijuana reform bill that moves forward in Congress must first address criminal justice reform and repair the damage caused by the war on drugs in low-income communities of color.”

Calling the proposal an important step “to bolster communities ravaged by the war on drugs,” the groups are pushing congressional leadership to see that it is “swiftly marked up and immediately scheduled for floor consideration” following the August recess.

“The hysteria around marijuana is starting to lift as states across the country lead the way in reforming their marijuana laws. It is time for the federal government to follow suit,” Nadler wrote in the new message to NORML’s list. “Marijuana is a public health and personal freedom issue, not a criminal one. We can no longer afford the moral or financial costs of the War on Drugs.”

The New York congressman sent a separate email to his own campaign list last month asking his supporters to sign a petition backing his cannabis bill.

Also last month, a Judiciary subcommittee held a hearing on marijuana prohibition at which members of both parties express broad support for ending or scaling back federal prohibition, with disagreement mostly focusing on the details or competing proposals to do so.

This story originally appeared on Forbes.

Hemp Biofuel: No Green New Deal Without It

Hemp Biofuel: No Green New Deal Without It

Industrial hemp is paramount to anyone supporting radical environmentally-tied economic measures like the Green New Deal in America to overhaul our energy sector. In fact, hemp can do most of the greenering work in terms of both addressing climate change realities and economic inequality. No, not female hemp which is being used for CBD flower extracts, but male hemp.


Unlike the Green New Deal, recent developments with industrial hemp don’t get the PR despite the American hemp farming industry being capable of bringing us to a 100% clean, renewable energy sector by 2030…and we don’t need much government stimulus to pull this off…

Just let farmers farm hemp.

If anything, the government should be incentivizing and helping farmers plants millions of acres (like they did during the war in 1942, although at a much smaller scale for those days — 400’ish thousand acres). I know that’s what the 2018 Farm Bill was about, but should something similar to the Green New Deal be adopted, how much is going to hemp farmers, processors, and hemp biolfuel companies?

Let’s talk hemp biofuel.

While sifting through currently available info on hemp biofuel at the beginning of 2019, you continuously run into a collective ‘if only’ statement in pre-2018 Farm Bill articles:

Industrial hemp is perfectly capable of fueling the modern world without displacing food or adding to the greenhouse effect, if only it were embraced…

Pertaining to America, where tons of the world’s most ardent hempsters reside,

We could easily fuel America with completely green carbon-neutral plant energy if only we had a domestic supply of hemp and it were federally legal to farm…

The fact America could fuel herself through plants was demonstrated decades ago, hemp being the wisest of choices for a wide variety of economic, agronomic, and ecological reasons. After passage of the 2018 Farm Bill and the reclassification of industrial hemp as an agricultural crop, this if-only statement’s no longer relevant with respect to prohibition. Not only is the industrial hemp plant legal to farm on U.S. soil (now defined as a Cannabis Sativa L. plant with equal or less than 0.3% THC), but the plant’s natural compounds are also federally legal as well — which includes up to 0.3% THC with no restrictions on other naturally-occurring elements like CBD, CBN, CBG, terpenes, etc.

If you’re wondering why the recent law’s so wide open, well, the USDA said one of their goals with the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 in regards to hemp was to give states as much room as possible to come up with their own sets of regulations regarding the crop and its compounds.

So… now what?

Going back to Henry Ford’s original Model T partly made of and and run on hemp, not to mention the original diesel engine being designed for biofuel, a mind-blowing fact remains:

Dried biomass has a heating value of 5000–8000 Btu/lb. with virtually no ash or sulfur produced during combustion. About 6% [to now 10%] of contiguous United States land area put into cultivation for biomass could supply all current demands for oil and gas. And this production would not add any net carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.” [1]

Do you know how tempted I am to go off on how hemp fiber could turn the fashion industry completely green? Ugh…and today I was shown an article freaking out about the fact the fashion industry (apparel & footwear) accounts for closing in on 10% of human-caused global climate impacts…

Here’s a quote from an April 2019 CBS News article, “Fashion industry’s carbon impact bigger than airline industry’s”,

“Total greenhouse gas emissions related to textiles production are equal to 1.2 billion tons annually — more than those of all international flights and maritime shipping trips combined, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.”

But let’s get back to the biofuel angle which would inevitably mesh with the fashion industry in countless ways.

A biofuel-based infrastructure would create a completely decentralize power grid and no more ultra-mega power companies. Each county and state could provide its own energy using easily renewable plants. Let that seed sink into the garden of your mind…

Example: In Colorado a company called Vega Biofuels offer bio-coal — which is renewable, comparable in price to conventional coal and produced using terrefaction technology — and biochar which can sequester carbon in the soil for hundreds to thousands of years without the negative impacts. Imagine this happening on a wider scale across 5, 10, or 20 states.

Yep, biofuel’s a reality and hemp’s the ticket, backed by scientific research from multiple countries who’ve experimented with a variety of biofuels alongside hemp like Canada, Nigeria [2], across Northern Europe [3], Latvia [4], and so on.

According to some, industrial hemp biofuel performs second only to algae.

  • While it can vary depending on cultivar used and where it’s growing, male hemp-cannabis yields an average of nine dry tons per acre. [5]
  • This means if allowed to flourish, hemp would quickly reach a point where it’s producing greater biomass tonnage per acre annually in more regions of America than either pulpwood or kenaf.
  • Hemp is 80% cellulose: both a low-moisture herbaceous and woody plant.
  • Industrial hemp, in comparison to corn’s 34% energy gain because of its high cellulose content, has an estimated 540% energy gain! [6]
  • According to our very own USDA (who the 2018 Farm Bill designates as the overseer of the U.S. Hemp industry along with the U.S. Attorney General), one acre planted in hemp produces as much pulp as 4.1 acres of trees. But you can harvest hemp at least 3 times a year…

That last one comes from a 1916 report where they predicted by the 1940s all paper would come from hemp and no more trees would need be cut down. But here we go again, none of this is novel information (except to a good percentage of the younger generations supporting Green New Deal-style initiatives)…it’s included in every ‘Hemp 101’ handbook.

Colorado’s also been producing hemp paper for a couple years now. I bought a few pages just to see how it smelled and it smelled like environmental salvation…

Interested? Yeah, hemp paper posters, postcards, envelopes, flyers and much more all made from Colorado-grown male hemp stalk. Check out Tree Free Hemp. Expect to see similar options coming from many different states within a matter of years…hopefully!

The End of Hemp Farming Prohibition in America

Guess what, this means the reinforced double-sided industrial hemp door just opened after being nailed shut for nearly a century. Thankfully, today we have a MASSIVE resources ready to be transitioned into leveraging hemp as a multi-purpose crop where we can create ample (protein and fatty acid-rich) food AND biofuel. All we can hope is ‘the people’ getting behind efforts like the Green New Deal rally and really surf this 21st century agricultural revolution.

Again, the hemp farming industry by itself can accomplish most of what the Green New Deal is setting its sights on by itself if supported and allowed to flourish outside the confines of Big Ag — although we need them on board as well.

How America Will Produce Hemp Biofuel

Hemp biofuel comes from hemp seed oil — the same seed oil you can drizzle on salads, add to a smoothie or feed to livestock — and the rest of the plant can be made into either ethanol or methanol.

North America has absolutely no problem extracting oil from seed we can then use to make biofuel. Furthermore, most of the ethanol added to gasoline we currently put into our cars comes from less efficient and environmentally-friendly food crops like wheat and corn. We can use hemp to efficiently make both — ethanol/methanol and biofuel/biodiesel. University of Connecticut’s research shows hemp seed oil provides a 97% conversion rate into biodiesel [7]. America and Canada both have the infrastructure to switch to industrial hemp-based supply chains within a decade — far less with enough public and corporate involvement.

And well, according to a relatively small survey conducted early April 2019 by Morning Consult (they talked to just shy of 2,000 voters across age, education and political spectrums),

Voters say 100% renewable electricity by 2030 is more important than other steps to fight climate change.

For more info-nuggets we can turn to statistics from Health Canada who regulates their industrial hemp industry, showing Canadian hemp farmers planted 138,000 acres in 2017. Most of this Canadian hemp seed is processed into seed oil (as well as hemp seed protein and hearts), which oddly enough was/is sold to Americans where we already have a robust food processing infrastructure.

I hope this is coming across.

What I’m saying here is America and Canada have everything we need already in place in terms of land and plant processing equipment to create a completely human/environmentally-friendly energy system. That’s the truth. Soon, both countries will have more hemp than we’ll know what to do with and all the astounding wonders hempsters have been preaching for decades can manifest. Watch YouTube videos of ordinary people making vegetable oil-based biofuel in their backyard to drive their vehicles right this moment if you want. It’s no secret.

What’ll shock the American populace will be the tremendous amount of industrial hemp seed flowing across the country by the mid-2020s. I love the stuff and try to eat a cup of raw whole hemp seed a day.

When cold-pressed, 8,000 pounds of hemp seed yields over 300 gallons of hemp seed oil and a byproduct of 6,000 pounds of high protein hemp flour.”[8]

A healthy, irrigated acre of seed-based hemp in Colorado in late 2018, as an example, produced 1,100–2000 pounds of seed. [9]

Let’s not even mention what Kentucky could produce on a larger scale…or Oregon…North Dakota and North Carolina…Montana, and so on. We could EASILY spread out hemp farms to collectively 6–10% of the U.S. and cover our energy needs — completely eradicating the need for fossil fuels. Idealistic sure, but what if by 2025, thanks to hemp America became 50% less dependent on conventional dirty fuels — across allsectors of our country?

When I sit back and begin to fathom the overall impacts of what that would mean worldwide…

Reclamation into Fuel Efforts

One of the core uses of planting industrial hemp across greater America between I’d say 2019–2022 could be for use in farmland reclamation — bioremediation — efforts. This is going to clean up the soil, restoring American farms to their glory with dramatically less heavy metals, petrol-based pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers, along with anything else poisoning our land. Another note in every Hemp 101 handbook is how the plant’s been used around toxic waste dumps and even radioactive events like Chernobyl to effectively absorb cadmium from the soil, etc…wow! Obviously none of this reclamation hemp should go to human or livestock consumption…but what to do?

We most definitely shouldn’t just burn or toss it. Let’s transform it into energy!

I’m no chemist, but my bet’s that the plant can successfully be used as energy without causing more of a mess. Hemp’s astounding ability in this respect will finally be able to be heavily studied. Because myself and many others would like to know what happens within the plant to these toxins. Are they still there when the plant’s harvested? Or, does it somehow convert a good percentage to clean energy within itself? Can it be successfully transformed into hemp biofuel? If so, let’s use all that reclamation hemp while cleaning up our toxic soil.

A Note on Pyrolysis

From my own amateur research, it seems like Pyrolysis is going to be the most efficient process for hemp biomass conversion — capable of competing against initially, and then potentially becoming a replacement for fossil fuels.

Pyrolysis is the thermochemical process that converts organic materials into usable fuels. Pyrolysis produces energy fuels with high fuel-to-feed ratios, making it the most efficient process for biomass conversion…the technique of applying high heat to organic matter (lignocellulosic materials) in the absence of air or in reduced air. The process can produce charcoal, condensable organic liquids (pyrolytic fuel oil), non-condensable gasses, acetic acid, acetone, and methanol. The process can be adjusted to favor charcoal, pyrolytic oil, gas, or methanol production with a 95.5% fuel-to-feed efficiency” [10]

The people of this world need our Hemp Billionaires and Zillionaires to step up. We need people with capital and the government to get behind and support these types of industrial hemp farming initiatives. We need to fund research and do things by the book. We need farmers to start hemp growing for biofuel along with the ultra-lucrative hemp-derived CBD concentrates/extracts. And textiles!

We need energy companies to start converting from using other less efficient sources of biofuel to hemp. It’s going to be a wild ride…but I’m alive so I have a ticket.

Originally published on


[1] Environmental Chemistry, Stanley E. Manahan. Willard Grant Press, 1984.

[2] “Biomass resources and biolfuels potential for the production of transportation fuels in Nigeria” Juliet Ben-Iwo, Vasilije Manovic, PhilipLonghurst, ScienceDirect.

[3] “Biomass and energy yield of industrial hemp grown for biogas and solid fuel” ThomasPrade, Sven-ErikSvensson, et al, ScienceDirect.

[4] “Industrial hemp for biomass production” Rudite Sausserde, Aleksandris Adamovics, ResearchGate, 09/2013.

[5]Lyster H. Dewey, Jason L. Merrill, Hemp Hurds As Papermaking Material, U.S.D.A. Bulletin №404, 1916.

[6]“The Legalization of Industrial Hemp and What It Could Mean for Indiana’s Biofuel Industry”, Nicole M. Keller, Indiana University — Purdue University Indianapolis, pg. 24.

[7] “Hemp Produces Viable Biodiesel, UConn Study Finds” Christine Buckley, UConn Today, 10/06/2010.

[8] “Hemp is the ultimate cash crop, producing more fiber, food and oil than any other plant on the planet” Wm. Conde, Fiber Alternatives PDF.

[9] “Myth-Busting: Hemp Needs More Water than Many Think”, Hemp Industry Daily, May 7, 2018.

[10] “Biomass Resources for Energy and Industry” Lynn and Judy Osburn, 1993.

[7] “Hemp Biodiesel: When the Smoke Clears”, Biodiesel Magazine, Holly Jessen, January 24, 2007.

Could Endocannabinoid Deficiency Syndrome Be the Cause of IBS and Migraines?

Could Endocannabinoid Deficiency Syndrome Be the Cause of IBS and Migraines?

A small group of scientists and doctors believe a lack of endocannabinoids could explain the causes behind little-understood medical conditions like fibromyalgia, IBS, and migraines.

Cannabis seems to treat an impressively wide range of medical conditions, from chronic pain to eating disorders to depression to cancer. Researchers suggest that weed may appear to be a universal panacea — a miracle drug, if you will — because the plant’s compounds may help maintain our body’s endocannabinoid system

A refresher: The endocannabinoid system is a physiological system like the respiratory system or the nervous system. Although scientists only discovered it about three decades ago, it may be one of — if not the —  most important developments in medical history. 

The endocannabinoid system regulates our body’s homeostasis, a state of harmonic balance where everything works as it should. It’s also key to our nervous system’s ability to communicate with other cells, tissues, and organs. Learning, memory formation, appetite, immune response, and healing are all controlled by the endocannabinoid system. Think of it as the part of our bodies that connects the brain with everything else, both inside of us and out in our surrounding environments. Without this system, the evolution of ‘higher’ lifeforms likely wouldn’t have happened (at least, not according to our current understanding of biology).

“We all have an endocannabinoid system,” said Robert Melamede, PhD, during a recent talk at Harvard University. Melamede is a molecular biologist and cannabis activist who’s served as a scientific advisor to NORML and other cannabis advocacy groups. 

“The miracle of this is that the endocannabinoid system regulates everything in your body — immune, digestive, cardiovascular, skin, bone, reproductive — from your conception until your death.”

To self-regulate the endocannabinoid system, our bodies naturally produce chemicals called endocannabinoids (endo- for “inside” and –cannabinoid for “related to cannabis”). Two of the most studied endocannabinoids are anandamide and 2-AG, which interact with the same cannabinoid receptors on our cells that plant cannabinoids such as THC and CBD also act on. 

Cannabinoids bind to cell proteins called cannabinoid, or CB, receptors. CB receptors act as locks on a cell, and cannabinoids essentially unlock them to trigger cell signaling. One of these receptors, CB1, mainly resides in the nervous system. Another receptor, CB2, can be found in the spleen and on immune cells.

THC, the cannabis compound that gets people stoned, binds tighter to CB1 receptors in the brain than it does to CB2 receptors in the immune system. This may be why THC couch-locks tokers and CBD doesn’t.

If we take this model a step further, anandamide may be our body’s version of THC, whereas 2-AG could be the body’s version of CBD. How do we know? Anandamide and 2-AG both bind to the CB1 and CB2 receptors, but anandamide binds better to CB1 (like THC) and 2-AG binds best to CB2 (like CBD).

Raphael Mechoulam, PhD, the “godfather of cannabis science” who first isolated and characterized THC in the late 1960s, believes anandamide behaves just like THC in the body. He suspects that anandamide, administered in the correct amounts, could even generate a “high” identical to THC’s, though, to date, no human subjects have been given pure anandamide to test this out. 

According to one neurologist, certain medical conditions — namely fibromyalgia, migraines, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) — share one thing in common: the patients typically exhibit low endocannabinoid levels. Furthermore, these three conditions are comorbid, meaning patients diagnosed with one usually have another, if not all three.

In 2001, while working as a scientific advisor to GW Pharmaceuticals, Dr. Ethan Russo first proposed what he calls “clinical endocannabinoid deficiency,” or CECD, in a paper about migraines. In recent years, this term started going by another name, “endocannabinoid deficiency syndrome,” or ECDS (Russo prefers the former). Both terms refer to the same hypothetical condition.

What is endocannabinoid deficiency syndrome, and what are its symptoms? Many of the details are still being worked out, but chronic pain, rampant inflammation, insomnia, fatigue, depression, lack of appetite, and irritability are common issues associated with it.

Rather than being a disease that always triggers a specific set of symptoms, ECDS may manifest differently among patients, depending on their environments, lifestyles, diets, and genetic make up.

But what if there’s more to this? What if these various maladies are all connected somehow? And what if cannabis, by restoring endocannabinoid function, could successfully treat conditions caused by low endocannabinoid levels, conditions that have proven difficult, if not impossible, to control through conventional medicine?

A Medical Diagnosis Based on the Body’s ‘Natural Marijuana’

Initially, Russo suggested that migraines could be caused by low anandamide levels in the brain. Because sharp, throbbing pains always accompany migraines, research suggests a pain-killing compound like anandamide could keep them at bay. Both anandamide and THC — the intoxicating part of cannabis — activate the endocannabinoid receptors in our nerves. In other words, migraine patients who consume marijuana may be self-medicating by adding the plant’s version of anandamide back into their bodies.  

Since Russo first proposed endocannabinoid deficiency syndrome, its related disorders expanded to include several other ailments. And their causes have eluded medical science, not unlike fibromyalgia and IBS. But given news that medical schools didn’t teach their students about the endocannabinoid system until the last few years, is the medical community even aware of this syndrome?

“There’s an awareness of this condition, and it is getting noticed. And there’s a good deal of research that’s been done on it,” Russo told MERRY JANE over the phone. “What’s happened in the ensuing 18 years [since proposing ECDS/ECDS] is we’ve gradually built up objective evidence showing that people with some of these syndromes [like IBS or fibromyalgia] do have differences between their endocannabinoid content either in their blood or in the cerebrospinal fluid in their brain.”

Russo cited a few eye-opening studies that back him up. One 2013 paper looked at people diagnosed with PTSD shortly after witnessing (or outright experiencing) the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York. Serum analysis showed these patients produced less anandamide and 2-AG, which are both crucial for regulating stress responses.

Additional studies confirmed that constant stress dulls the endocannabinoid receptors from responding to chemical signals, which may explain why the body reduces its anandamide and 2-AG production when life gets extremely difficult.

Researchers have also detected abnormal endocannabinoid function in people with autism spectrum disorder, some cancers, motion sickness, and epileptic seizure disorders. These conditions, like migraines, can be treated with cannabis, too.

How does ECDS explain these disorders, and how can cannabis treat them? Let’s take a look at one endocannabinoid deficiency-related condition, irritable bowel syndrome, to get a better understanding of how cannabis could treat it on multiple levels.

IBS and ECDS: How Are the Conditions Related?

Irritable bowel syndrome or irritable bowel disorder is a common ailment that affects anywhere between 25 million to 45 million Americans. Two-thirds of IBS patients are female, and the condition appears in patients across all age groups. 

IBS’s symptoms include bloating, digestive inflammation, rampant flatulence, upset stomach, diarrhea at random hours (especially in the middle of the night), constipation, ulcers, and a hypersensitivity to all sorts of everyday foods and food additives. Untreated, IBS can lead to anemia, iron deficiency, or dehydration. 

The symptoms of IBS have been thoroughly identified, but how it happens remains a mystery. Doctors know that genetics, immune response, serotonin dysregulation, and the digestive system’s microbiota all play a role. But to what extent these factors influence IBS, and how they’re all connected, is unknown.

Enter a new perspective on IBS, one viewed through the lens of ECDS.

According to Russo, the endocannabinoid system regulates every level of IBS, from anti-inflammatory signals to serotonin signaling to maintaining the delicate balance of bacteria in the gut. Traditional medicine takes an inefficient approach to dealing with IBS. Doctors typically treat it by prescribing drugs for its various symptoms: a pill to reduce the gas and bloating, another pill to reduce inflammation, another pill to reduce gastric acid, another pill to make the ulcers go away, a laxative for constipation, and so on.

Yet, if ECDS can explain why IBS even happens, then consuming some cannabis could both replace all those pills and correct the condition’s root cause, a dysfunctional endocannabinoid system. 

Medical syndromes, like the proposed ECDS, are not disease-states in and of themselves. Rather, they describe a set of symptoms that share underlying causes, usually genetic in nature. Since the genetic science behind endocannabinoid activity is still in its infancy, endocannabinoid deficiency syndrome remains hypothetical. Doctors can’t diagnose it because it’s not officially recognized by the big-name medical associations.

If the science pans out, and Russo’s hypothesis is proven correct, then cannabis could be one of the most prevalent and effective medicines for treating ECDS and its related conditions. Depending on where the research takes us, it’s possible that cannabis breeders could produce new marijuana strains tailored to endocannabinoid-deficient conditions like fibromyalgia or IBS. 

Of course, pharmaceutical companies will want in on the game, too. (Just kidding: They’re already in the game.) Pharmie-grade mixtures of less common cannabinoids — like CBG, CBN, or THCV — could alleviate the chronic symptoms of fibromyalgia, migraines, IBS, or other issues related to ECDS that conventional pharmaceuticals have failed to treat.

And it’s also possible that new drugs or designer weed may not be necessary for avoiding some endocannabinoid deficiencies. Researchers like Robert Melamede believe endocannabinoid deficiency can be prevented by adding more omega-3s and plant-derived cannabinoids to one’s diet.

“We should view cannabis not as a medicine, but as an essential nutrient,” Melamede said during the Harvard lecture. “Every illness that cannabis helps reflects a nutritional deficiency.”

Supplementing a balanced diet with omega-3s helps the body produce more endocannabinoids — which is why doctors and health-nuts promote omega-3s, even if they don’t know why, exactly. Omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in avocados, coconut oil, grass-fed beef, and fish, are the precursors to our own endocannabinoids. Our body basically makes its own weed from healthy fats. 

But the body can only produce so many endocannabinoids at a time, regardless of how many fish oil capsules you pop. For those who suffer from persistent endocannabinoid deficiencies, consuming cannabis could make up for the gaps, since the cannabinoids in cannabis could, potentially, supplement the body’s life-sustaining endocannabinoids.

What Would It Take for ECDS to Become a True Diagnosis?

So let’s assume that ECDS is a real thing. How would medical scientists get the syndrome into medical textbooks?

“There’s abundant evidence now, but it’s not widely recognized or necessarily accepted by the medical community,” Russo said. Achieving said recognition may prove difficult, as he described the same medical community as one “which has managed to ignore a lot of high-quality work on cannabis-based medicines.”

As an example of American medicine’s denial of marijuana’s therapeutic potential, Russo mentioned Marinol, a synthetic THC formulation used to treat spasticity and nausea. Marinol doesn’t contain THC extracted from the cannabis plant. Rather, its active ingredient is a purely artificial, human-made version of THC. The drug, which received FDA approval in the early 1990s, is currently classified as a Schedule III drug, whereas plant-derived THC remains at the most-restrictive category of Schedule I. This is despite the THC in Marinol being nearly identical, chemically, to the THC found in cannabis.

“To be honest,” he continued, “given the availability of Marinol in the US, a prerequisite to [getting ECDS recognized] would be clinical trials showing safety and efficacy [of cannabinoid-based medicines]. That’s what most physicians would accept.”

In other words, if you’re waiting to get a medical cannabis recommendation for ECDS, you might have to wait a few years. Or more. With the exception of experimental drugs admitted into the FDA’s Fast Track program, it can take nearly a decade before a pharmaceutical receives FDA approval. Even with Fast Track designation, drug approval can require years of investigation. With cannabis-based medicines containing plant-derived THC, approval could take even longer.

For starters, clinical trials aren’t simple to conduct. Research doctors must apply to the FDA to legally perform the trials on living, breathing human subjects. To even get to the point of testing something on people, drug researchers must pass preliminary clinical trials on animals like rats or monkeys. 

If a cannabinoid medicine appears safe in animals, doctors can potentially try it on humans, but only after receiving FDA approval — which the FDA can be pretty stingy about, especially when it comes to cannabis. To date, the FDA has only approved one drug made from cannabis, Epidiolex, which is only prescribed to seizure patients. All other CBD products sold in the US are not FDA-approved nor are they regulated by any federal agency. 

However, there’s another cannabis-derived pharmaceutical out there, Sativex. Sativex, made by the same company that made Epidiolex, GW Pharmaceuticals, is a mixture of THC and CBD. While it’s available in Europe, parts of Asia, and the Middle East, it’s not available in the US. In 2017, the CEO of GW Pharmaceuticals told MERRY JANE that the company didn’t pursue FDA approval for Sativex in the US because there were too many bureaucratic hurdles, and Sativex likely wouldn’t receive FDA approval in a timely manner simply because it contains plant-derived THC.

On top of obstructionist red-tape, conducting clinical trials is incredibly expensive. Just testing a medicine can cost anywhere from $2 million to over $300 million.

Until medical science achieves a better understanding of the endocannabinoid system and any ailments related to its dysfunction, Russo recommends plant-based therapies instead of pharmaceuticals like Marinol.

“Throughout my career, I’ve always favored whole-plant extracts over isolates,” he said. “We have Marinol, but THC alone is a lousy drug. It’s never been popular or widely used.”

What’s the big difference among whole-plant cannabis products and all the others, like isolates? As Russo explained in this 2006 paper, any cannabinoid delivered in relative isolation — whether it’s a THC-loaded shatter wax or a pure CBD tincture — doesn’t provide the benefit of the thousands of other beneficial cannabis plant components. In terms of THC vs. CBD, studies show CBD is far more effective when combined with THC. And as Russo noted above, THC alone, regardless of whether it came from the plant or a lab, doesn’t seem to work well unless combined with CBD, either. 

According to Russo and other cannabis researchers, such as Raphael Mechoulam, cannabis operates through an “entourage effect,” sometimes referred to as the “ensemble effect.” Under the entourage model, all of the plant’s cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, enzymes, and other components work together to heal the body. Conventional pharmaceutical science prefers to isolate an individual chemical from a plant, package it, then sell it as a drug. Suggesting that patients smoke buds or take drops of full-extract cannabis oil (FECO) runs counter to US pharmaceutical regulations, which requires all medicines to be made with specific doses of individual chemicals. 

Another Doctor’s Take on ECDS

Russo has studied cannabis as a medicine for over two decades, and ECDS is a theory that could change medicine forever. However, not every doctor is convinced it’s real, and — as Russo himself said — they want to see more data, evidence, and models.

Dr. Zareth Irwin is an emergency medicine specialist based in Portland, Oregon. Although he’s skeptical of ECDS being a true syndrome deserving of an official diagnosis, he says more research could change his mind.

“Different people are affected differently by abnormal levels of potassium or other substances in their body,” Irwin wrote to MERRY JANE in an email. “Making things more difficult in this case, we don’t have good lab assays to easily measure the levels of the endocannabinoids in the body, and have yet to determine all the effects these substances even have on the body.”

Since chemists don’t have reliable methods for accurately measuring endocannabinoids, “we can only postulate whether a deficiency syndrome exists,” Irwin continued. “It certainly may, but I would reserve judgment at this point. I think the argument remains somewhat theoretical.”

Irwin admitted he’s not an expert on endocannabinoid deficiency since his main focus is working in emergency rooms. He does, however, have experience with another cannabis-related syndrome, one possibly caused by too many cannabinoids in the body — cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS), the ‘mysterious’ vomiting illness seemingly triggered by heavy cannabis use. 

Irwin said he sees patients with CHS visit his ER every week. While medical research hasn’t caught up to CHS’s underlying causes, or even how to treat it, he approaches CHS like any other disease-state recognized by modern medicine.

“It seems like a leap,” he said regarding the ECDS links among fibromyalgia, migraines, and IBS. “But then there’s another disorder, cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, one that I don’t understand on a molecular level, but I believe in it and treat it.”

So, for now, it looks like we have two hypothetical medical disorders related to endocannabinoid function. In the case of ECDS, the body produces too few of the essential endocannabinoids required for normal neurological functioning. To treat it, doctors could feasibly supplement a lack of anandamide with THC, anandamide’s closest relative outside of the human body (chemically speaking).  

In the case of CHS, overstimulation by phytocannabinoids could wreak havoc on natural endocannabinoid signaling. Until science devises a better way to clear phytocannabinoids from the body, the only treatment for CHS may be complete cessation of cannabis consumption, which isn’t exactly ideal for medical patients who only find relief from weed. 

Given the endocannabinoid system’s role in everything from protecting our brain cells to nurturing hunger responses in nursing infants, it’s no surprise that if this system gets out of whack, it could lead to disease-states or medical disorders. Unfortunately, modern medicine — particularly in the US — has skeptically disregarded medicinal cannabis while maintaining its ignorance of the endocannabinoid system. Top-tier medical schools didn’t teach their students about the endocannabinoid system until recently, where the curricula practically glances over the topic.

Countries with liberal drug research laws may blow past the US, regardless of how long it takes America to catch up to the science. Geneticists in IsraelCanada, or Spain may be among the first to unravel many of the mysteries surrounding endocannabinoid-deficient conditions, but phytocannabinoid therapies tailored to treating ECDS probably won’t appear until the cannabis genome is mapped first.

The human genome, on the other hand, has been mapped for a while now. Could the coming era of customized medicinal genomics, where doctors develop treatment regimens for patients based on the patient’s personal genetic makeup, find itself collaborating with the newer science of cannabinoid therapies? Could treating endocannabinoid deficiency lead to a fresh, more comprehensive understanding of medicine altogether?

And what if, one day, a national recreational marijuana market merges with the medical, as we (sort of) saw in Washington State? Hell, we’ve already got weed-infused beer. Could we see, in a far-off future, women chugging a cannabis cream ale to not only get faded, but to also get rid of the cramps brought on by their fibromyalgia and IBS, too? 

This story first appeared on Merry Jane. Follow Randy Robinson on Twitter

The USDA Legalized THC – But No One Noticed

The USDA Legalized THC – But No One Noticed

It slipped under the radar on Thursday, but the United States Department of Agriculture just descheduled tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

The USDA issued a bulletin on May 28 as a legal opinion for hemp production. It basically authorizes interstate delivery of hemp and legalized THC derived from hemp.

First, let’s address the interstate transportation or shipment of hemp.

Up until December 2018, hemp was considered illegal like cannabis, but the 2018 Farm Bill legalized it. However, it still couldn’t cross state lines. So, farmers in states where all forms of marijuana were illegal could grow hemp but then had few options to sell their crops. Farmers such as the ones in Kentucky who had pushed Senator Mitch McConnell to get the Farm Bill signed in the first place.

Now they can sell those crops to producers in other states or at least extract the hemp oil and sell that derivative product.

This solves the farmer problem for McConnell who was getting backed into a corner to figure out how to help these individuals sells their hemp crops. Happy Kentucky farmers means reelection.

The second item within this USDA bulletin is the subject of THC, which is the part of the cannabis plant that produces a psychoactive response in the brain or the feeling of getting high. The bulletin was in response to the 2018 Farm Bill and it read, “By amending the definition of marijuana to exclude hemp as defined in AMA 297A, Congress has removed hemp from schedule I and removed it entirely from the CSA (Controlled Substances Act). In other words, hemp is no longer a controlled substance. Also, by amending schedule I to exclude THC in hemp, Congress has likewise removed THC in hemp from the CSA.”

Typically, cannabis plants can produce buds or flowers that have a high level of THC. Hemp plants tend to have very little THC in them. However, that doesn’t mean there is no THC or that the hemp plants couldn’t be modified to contain more THC.

Mark Singleton, the owner of Singleton Investments said, “This removes the argument of .3% THC.” He is referring to the designation that hemp-derived CBD is legal as long as there is less than .3% THC. If hemp THC is legal then it doesn’t matter whether it is .3% or not.

Let’s step back for a moment and review this .3% line in the sand for cannabis.

The .3% level is a designation for which there is little information as to how that number was determined. It is often referred to but there is little documentation as to how regulators arrived at that level.

One historian said that at one time a study was done to determine at which point people got high when consuming cannabis and that .3% was the midrange and thus it stuck. Some people needed less and some didn’t get buzzed until it was more than .3%, so the scientists just picked the middle point and called it a day. Random and possibly no longer true.

Anyway, there is some debate now over this USDA bulletin and whether the words “in hemp” mean THC can’t be extracted from hemp because then it would no longer be in the plant. Several people have suggested that the phrase hemp-derived products covers hemp extractions even if it includes THC. It’s a new bulletin and is sure to be tested very quickly.

Singleton believes that THC derived from hemp will quickly become popular and farmers will set up extraction facilities within their states and begin shipping across state lines. “It solves McConnell’s problem. He’s got the largest plant extraction facility in the entire country. Located in Kentucky,” said Singleton, who says he’s on McConnell’s speed dial.

If hemp-derived THC is now legal and can cross state lines, it will be close to impossible for law enforcement to determine the difference between cannabis-derived THC and hemp-derived THC. This USDA bulletin could have effectively descheduled cannabis. Singleton believes Congress will be forced to act quickly to legalize cannabis since the USDA has jumped the gun.

In May, New York Representative Hakeem Jeffries and Senator Chuck Schumer introduced a bill, HR2843, in both Houses removing cannabis from the CSA and it included a social justice component. “I believe this bill will have at least 100 co-sponsors by June 15 and has the best chance to get passed,” said Singleton. “If the Safe Banking Act doesn’t get passed first, then I think this one will. I know the cannabis industry wants the States Rights Act passed, but it’s going nowhere. These have the most support.”

Indeed, no one in the cannabis industry expected the USDA to be the ones to legalize THC and it looks as if this is the next domino to fall.

This story first appeared at Real Money