Cannabis is sometimes described as a miracle weed. As part of our ethos, Cannabis News defaults toward skepticism—but honest skepticism. From stories of dramatic improvement in childhood epilepsy to the plant’s many industrial uses, there are legitimate reasons to appreciate what the plant can offer. Whether or not it’s a miracle, there are truly distinctive qualities about the plant that warrant ongoing scientific inquiry. Beyond the proximal effects of the substance itself, cannabis has the potential to unlock all kinds of general research and scientific discovery. Check it out:
- The Role of Genetic Diversity.
Cannabis is one of the most genetically diverse species on Earth. For perspective, there can be more genetic diversity between different strands of cannabis than there is between humans and chimpanzees. Too often, cannabis gets broken down into binary categories: sativa vs. indica, high-THC recreational marijuana vs. high-CBD medical marijuana. But the reality is much, much more complicated. Even individual strains with branded names are something of a myth.
Interestingly, human history and cannabis prohibition played a large, if hidden, role in the diversification of the cannabis plant. While other commercial crops have been homogenized to just a few seeds and genetic lines with desirable and reliably expressed traits, marijuana has been cultivated in countless places that were isolated from each other. It helps that cannabis can be grown in tropical, moderate, and subarctic climates. Moreover, humans have cultivated cannabis since the early days of human civilization. Cannabis makes the delineation of dog breeds look like child’s play.
- Better Medications and Pharmacology.
From post-traumatic stress to childhood epilepsy, from pain relief to generalized anxiety, as well as plenty of other medical conditions, there’s a growing body of literature about the medical uses, side effects, and limitations attached to medical marijuana. There are definitely cases of miraculous results, especially with childhood epilepsy, but like so many medications, what works for one person may not work for another.
Again, both as a kind of blessing and curse, there are an almost endless number of strains and consumption methods that can influence how cannabis affects your physiology. Some of these differences are obvious. Have respiratory distress? You’ll probably want to avoid smoking your cannabis, for example. Others come from trial-and-error and rigorous scientific study. The good news is that there are already some links we’ve discovered. Again, childhood epilepsy provides the best example. Charlotte’s Web is a particular strain of cannabis that has been particularly effective in treating childhood epilepsy. What other cannabis strains might be targeted medications for particular medical ailments? Multiple studies are underway in an attempt to make these connections.
- Sustainable Farming and Land-Use Policies.
This is full of potential and potential pitfalls. The hemp plant is one of the heartiest and fastest-growing plants out there. It also plenty of commercial uses starting with textiles. One acre of hemp fiber is the equivalent of two to three acres of cotton, and one acre of hemp paper is the equivalent of two to four acres of trees, according to Hemp Basics. On the other hand, marijuana production methods have been anything but environmentally-friendly. Here, too, cannabis prohibition played a big role by forcing indoor marijuana grow operations. By some estimates, one percent of the electricity used in the United States goes toward indoor marijuana grow operations. Even outdoors, too many marijuana farms are located in areas that require extensive development and have an unexpectedly high impact on the surrounding ecosystem.
It’s a challenge and an opportunity, both introduced by the growing scale of the legal cannabis industry. Perhaps the good news is that many industry actors and the larger cannabis culture seems to recognize the issue. The Cannabis Sustainability Symposium is just one recent example of the cannabis agricultural community come together to discuss current best practices and potential solutions for the future of cannabis cultivation.