Nature’s (Legal) Cannabinoids

  • by Allen St. Pierre, Former NORML Executive Director February 21, 2010

    Where Do You Get ‘It’ From?

    Author: Publius*

    Most patients don’t get asked where they get their medicine. That’s because everyone knows people get their medicine from a pharmacy. But I have to get my medicine otherwise. I have to safeguard my “source” because my medicine is cannabinoid based – and that makes it almost illegal.  – But not today.  Today I can answer the source question openly because it is my local pharmacy – with drive-thru service and open to dispense medicine 24 hours a day. I drive up and push a big, yellow smiley-faced button to gain access – a soft automated voice comes over the speaker to verify that I am in the right place in order to pick up my prescription. Next, the typical professional looking person – white coat with badge – slides open the window asking my name and what I need.

    “I’m picking up a prescription for Publius.”

    They return with a baggie and bottle containing 30 synthetic cannabinoid capsules dosed at 5mg each – that’s right, legal cannabinoids!

    What are cannabinoids? Well, here is where things get interesting. As one learns in biology, the human body has many systems – the circulatory, respiratory, digestive, and nervous systems to name a few. Each system has parts: for example, the nervous system is made up of the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. By the late 1980s, science identified a new human system – the endocannabinoid system (ECS) – also referred to as the cannabinoid system. There is a cannabinoid system present in all mammals – to include humans and 15,000 other species.  A mammal is any vertebrate animal distinguished by self-regulating body temperature, hair, and milk-producing females – as mammal means “breast” or of the breast.

    The ECS has two main parts: cannabinoids, which are chemical neurotransmitters, and two receptors called “CB1” and “CB2.” Cannabinoids activate receptors found throughout the body – in all organs, for example. In fact, all systems in our bodies are modulated by the cannabinoid system. This means that as a body system changes, it uses the ECS to do so.

    Science and popular search sites like Wikipedia use three classifications of cannabinoids:

    1.  Endogenous cannabinoids (also referred to as endocannabinoids), which are produced by the human body

    2.  Herbal cannabinoids, the kind found in the cannabis sativa plant

    3.  Synthetic cannabinoids, produced and distributed by pharmaceutical companies

    The third kind is what I am picking up from the pharmacy – 30 Marinol (Dronabinol) capsules. Marinol is a prescribed cannabinoid from my doctor – and I am going to test it against the herbal cannabinoids I have been baking into my brownies for five years now.

    The pharmacist hands me a white paper bag containing the Marinol prescribed for my Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Stapled to the top is a typical handout with cautionary medical information. The small amount (150mg) of the synthetic cannabinoid THC costs $370 – or more than $69,000 per ounce!

    I sign my name on a distribution sheet and pay my $3 Medicare co-pay. The government, meaning our tax dollars, pays the other $367 for my medicine.  Now I am ready to go – but not before my ‘synthetic cannabinoid’ dealer informs me of possible side effects. She warns me to be on the lookout for – “dizziness, drowsiness, confusion, feeling ‘high,’ an exaggerated sense of well-being, lightheadedness, headache, red eyes, dry mouth, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, clumsiness, or unsteadiness.”

    Geez – sounds like a lot of potential adversity on my chemically sensitive body.  From personal experience, I know that the herbal cannabinoids do not cause these side effects in my body. The pharmacist did mention one noticeable side effect that I have had with eating cannabis brownies: dry mouth – which is hardly a problem when considering the overall benefits of the medicine.

    When I get home I open the bag to take a look at the Marinol. The pills are a deep maroon color and perfectly round. They remind me of Boston Baked Beans – as they look exactly like those candies. One thing is for sure: synthetic cannabinoids do not look anything like herbal cannabinoids – the ones from the plant itself. The distinct medical difference of popping pills versus the variations and qualities of consuming natural cannabis cannot be understated – and surely won’t be by me. After a week of taking one pill a night before bed, as the doctor prescribed, I do not notice any positive effects from the Marinol. It makes me hungry – but that was never a problem in the first place. However, it is my first legal cannabinoid and that is what counts, right? – Not whether it works, just whether it is legal, right?


    Here is what I know.  I have been self-medicating with herbal cannabinoids for five years to provide relief from MS, which I have had for 23 years.  During that time I went through the long list of prescribed pharmaceuticals.  The relief was minimal. The problem was (and is) the side effects, which became unbearable over time. I felt like a slave, dependent on a cycle of pharmaceutical use which abused my body and left me in the most depressed, hopeless, and flattened state.

    I finally said enough of the pharma-tinkering with my body and the MS and tried baking herbal cannabinoids into brownies. In doing so, my alternative treatment made me a criminal. I began to eat a small cube of cannabis brownie three times a day. Within the first month my insomnia disappeared, my bladder issues calmed, nerve tingles of the arms, legs, and feet stilled. I was no longer breaking out in upper body tremors after being out in the world of loud noises, traffic, and the everyday racing of life.  The MS was quieter. I found I wasn’t contemplating suicide and I felt hopeful about my life again – but realized I had become a chronic criminal.

    Cannabinoids are clearly medicinal to our bodies. But there is a strange distinction between which cannabinoids are effective and which ones are legal.  In the case of my MS, appetite stimulation has not been a problem – which is what the Marinol is usually prescribed for. Marinol simply did not work for me. There are other pharmaceutical cannabinoids – such as Nabilone and Sativex – available in other countries, but they remain expensive and less effective than herbal cannabinoids.  Nature created cannabis and the mammalian ECS, not you or me – and it was through the use of herbal cannabinoids that I was able to wean myself from a life of pharma-cocktails and move toward a healthier life. – Just as nature designed.

    This is the first chapter of book in progress titled The Cannabis Papers being published by Illinois NORML.

    More chapters are available for review here.

    *Publius is Bryan Brickner, Julie Falco, Dianna Lynn Meyer, Stephen Young, William Abens, Danielle Schumacher, Derek Rea (1954-2008), David Nott, Dan Linn, Dan S. Wang, Brian Allemana, and many others.

    77 responses to “Nature’s (Legal) Cannabinoids”

    1. Freedom says:

      Sorry scientists just dont know as much as they think. Nature has a way of taking care of things. Cannabis is on of those things made by nature , it isnt a mistake , and man made things tend to go against nature.

    2. Joel: the other Joel says:

      What would happen if the coalition of overpriced pharmaceutical corporations loses power and people are no longer dependent on them? That is not going to happen because they own the federal governmen, but they try not to act like it…..ha…yeah right.
      The pharmaceutical owns majority of federal politicians, ambitious federal attorneys, federal judges, and the federal police force (DEA). The pharmaceutical companies do not own oil tycoons but they do bribe them with special deals and medical coverage for their families if they get support from them.
      Military and other government contracts are not so lucky.
      I’ve wonder how long the United States are going to last when it becomes a Pharmaceutical Empire?

    3. Fragacide says:

      Well by all means, we’re not suppose to cease our man-made obsession, but we should continue on in an effort to do so in collaboration WITH nature, instead of against it. I’ve been self-medicating for about 6 years now due to constant back pains that my doctor use to insist aren’t there. After my medicare dropped me, I didn’t have a choice. No more doctors… I’m simply just not allowed to get hurt.
      Unfortunately, my state is one that is close to medical marijuana, but right now, I’m still a criminal. My friend who has had arthritis, and now thanks to our government’s wonderful military, a blown knee, had to suffer a bit of jail time and monumental fees that he’s still trying to pay off… all for less then 1/10th of a gram and a pipe he was planning on using it with. Enough for one tiny hit before bed.
      As far as synthetic cannabinoids go… I think they’re gonna have to work on that a bit more. It sounds to me that there is absolutely no way the side-effects are worth the minimal treatment.

    4. Paul Revere says:

      great read.

      hope it doesn’t fall upon deaf ear’s.

    5. Marinol_Is_Junk says:

      This story is very true as I’ve been prescribed Marinol for nearly a year now. It does NOT work like the plant. While I’m unable to use the plant right now the memories of it’s glorious positive affects are still strong in the memory.
      The Marinol is expensive and the THC in the pill form is mixed with sesame oil. Wouldn’t want to put hemp oil in there, that would be the right thing to do.

    6. N.H.M.M.C.A says:

      Im for any type of relief to ease the pain for the sick.I do not however agree that they can take the place of a natural herb.
      Cannabis is already proven to be a successful treatment for several types of disease.
      In my opinion its the easiest,safest and most cost effective way for the present and the future!
      These synthetic drugs made in a lab,do not have the correct balance of the proper chemicals found in cannabis.
      If they want a have a drug just like cannabis tell them to plant a seed!!!

    7. Timeforchange says:

      This is the type of book the general population needs to read because these are the true stories that big pharma won’t allow into the mainstream media. Folks, after much research anyone can see that the same people who own and operate big pharma are the same people who own the numerous tv stations in this country. This is the kind of stuff they do not want you to hear. I think this book is a fabulous idea and if the American people are starting to support the end of prohibition then they are going to support this book. Even the politicians can’t do anything about that. Knowledge is power, even the satanic cult that governs our world believe that above all. The people who drive prohibition for profit believe that knowledge is the pathway to power. Knowledge is also the pathway to change for the better in the right hands. Good job Norml. Lets wake more people up and together we can trample the unrightous and bring down Americas very own Berlin Wall.

    8. James Crosby says:

      Support the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act! Grow your own cannabis!


    9. Jordan P says:

      It’s probably not even the fact of scientists not being knowledgable enough.

      It’s a pharmaceutical company that came up with these synthetic cannabinoids to produce a drug to make money off the helpful qualities of the natural product, while still keeping the natural herb illegal. This is an attempt to say “See, you don’t need the plant, we created a fake one and it works fine.”

      Obviously it doesn’t for this person and as pointed out, the natural way is sometimes the only way (or best way).

    10. Chelsey says:

      Why are we spending billions so scientist can synthetically try to make something that naturally grows out of the ground? Not only that but it doesn’t even provide the same benifits as the plant, and cost taxpayers and people taking the medicine riduculous amounts of money for something they could get for free if allowed to grow their own. The whole illegalization of marijuana seems to be a way for government to increase their profits, at the expense of others.This behavior is unconstitutional to the american people who could use the plant for medicinal purposes. Government illegalize the free product that works so that they can make a synthetic version that’s legal and doesn’t work then charge the people more than 500% mark up. This is ridiculous!