Cannabis as a preventative medicine: the “recreational” myth
–– Why recreational dispensaries DON’T exist.
There is so much that has been said about using cannabis to treat a wide variety of symptoms and illnesses, however the use of cannabis as a preventative medicine has been largely overlooked by the academic and medical establishment. There is an overwhelming amount of scientific evidence that indicates, when populations have widespread ease of access to cannabis, as is the case now in Colorado or other similar US states, we observe a significant statistical decrease in opiate related deaths. By managing stress and replacing other more damaging drugs (like alcohol and opiates, stimulants, and other drugs), cannabis may help the informed user to avoid a plethora of issues linked to stress and drug use: depression, lack of sleep, anxiety, mental illness, cancer, hypertension, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, gastrointestinal issues, migraines and innumerable other issues. In addition to this, the antioxidants found in edible cannabis oils and tinctures may be an effective preventative for the development of cancer.
Some people do ingest cannabis purely for enjoyment. This is true. However, healthy enjoyment and release of tensions may have tangible physical benefits. The concept of the “recreational” myth is not to claim that people do not use cannabis for enjoyment. It is rather the concept that the word “recreational” in itself views cannabis through a narrow framework that does not really fit the reality of how it is typically used, and how it impacts those who use it. In fact, the rigid divide between “recreational” and “medical” systems of distribution may block many from understanding the beneficial role that cannabis can play when used from the standpoint of its therapeutic and harm reduction potential.
Smoking a joint to relax after work may be viewed as “recreational use” by current standards because the individual is a) purchasing the cannabis from a store with a recreational store license, which often means that the staff and range of products will not be geared towards serving the medical user and b) the person is not treating an observable malady or illness. What many of us do not think about is what this person would have done to deal with the stress of modern 9 to 5 life without the presence of cannabis as an option. Would this person have engaged in more drinking? Would they develop a reliance on other drugs? Would there be other negative outcomes associated with not mediating the stress of daily work? Many cannabis industry veterans on the west coast of Canada have started replacing the word “recreational” with “therapeutic” as the idea of cannabis as a preventative drug is not new, and many in the field have voiced an issue with this division for many years now.
Modern medicine channels most of its energies into resolving medical issues once they have already developed. The modern dialectic follows a similar pattern when discussing the topic of medical cannabis, as cannabis is effectively very useful for managing the symptoms of several medical conditions that have already expressed themselves in the body. However, using cannabis as preventative medicine and general tool for harm reduction may be of even greater use to society, particularly if we learn to incorporate cannabis into our cultural fabric in ways that are balanced and well informed. How can this happen in a framework where cannabis is treated as purely “recreational”?
The notion that cannabis use can be seen as a form of preventative medicine challenges the traditional dichotomy between “medical use” and “recreational use” that has so heavily influenced the legal and economic development of the cannabis industry thus far. What if cannabis, unlike most modern forms of tobacco and alcohol (which we have for some reason set as equivalents of cannabis in our legal and cultural dialectic) can be determined to be generally “good” for someone if used the right way?
We now know that the antioxidants in coffee and tea are good for us when we consume them in a balanced way. However coffee, unlike cannabis does not seem to have much to offer to those facing serious medical conditions. It may be the very fact that cannabis can be so useful and in some cases essential for those facing certain conditions combined with the many stereotypes and misunderstandings that we as a culture are dragging from prohibition era propaganda that have lead to such a rigidly polarized classification between the two perceived categories of cannabis use. The term “recreational” seems to put cannabis in the same category as a rollercoaster: used for fun and nothing else. Clearly, this classification should be challenged as it stands on antiquated and logically flawed concepts of medical utility, historically underpinned by tenuous moral arguments against the use of cannabis as the deplorable drug of choice of the “other”.
For this reason I have decided to start this series of posts that consider what the world would be like if we realized that there is nothing to gain from retailing cannabis as a “recreational” drug. Humanity must evolve in terms of our understanding of the social, cultural and medical use of natural medicines and intoxicants. Cannabis is a fantastic doorway for us to rediscover a broader, more holistic and transcendental idea of what the word “healing” can mean for us as individuals and as a culture.
The benefits of having staff and product makers who are dedicated to using cannabis as a medical or therapeutic aid will be a benefit to any cannabis user. The quality and understanding of the product will always be superior in a medical setting- why would the consumer or the worker settle for mediocre products/services? Dispensary owners and workers are missing a crucial opportunity to develop valuable career skills and provide therapeutic cannabis products, services and advice to those that have not yet developed a full blown condition that would qualify them as a “medical cannabis user”. Instead cannabis is being utilized under the same flawed framework that we use pharmaceutical drugs- wait until the problem happens and then deal with it. Natural medicine does not need to be this way.
In hopes of starting a conversation about this topic I will be following up in the coming weeks and months with posts covering the following topics, with footnotes of all relevant publications and reference material.
Here is a list of upcoming posts on this topic:
- Cannabis Prevents Opiate related Deaths: The evidence
- Cannabis and the management of stress
- Cannabis and weight issues
- Cannabis and mental illness
Also keep an eye out for
The myth of modern “superweed” …coming soon!