Today is a BIG holiday in Colorado…..and Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Maine, Nevada, Massachusetts, California, and Vermont…states where recreational marijuana is legal. Despite the antiquated views of our Attorney General, marijuana is gaining acceptance in the United States not only as a recreational substance but for the plant’s medicinal properties.
Marijuana has been used in herbal medicine as far back as 500 BCE. Early American colonists grew hemp for textiles and rope. In fact, growing hemp was at one time required by law in the early British colonies. Hemp was a staple crop in the United States until after World War II. The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 criminalized the possession, transfer, or sale of all hemp products including marijuana, with only a few exemptions for industrial uses.
As part of the “War on Drugs” in the late sixties, Richard Nixon signed the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, making marijuana a “Schedule 1” drug on par with heroin and LSD. In the almost 50 years since, 29 states have legalized marijuana for medicinal use and 9 states have passed laws for recreational use. Yet on a federal level, marijuana remains classified as a schedule 1 drug, making it highly illegal, causing all sorts of banking and income tax confusion.
Those of us in the optical industry tend to make lighthearted jokes about our glaucoma medicine. While there is scientific evidence that marijuana does help relieve pressure from glaucoma in the eyes, it is of a minor and most often only temporary help, with the effects lasting only hours.
However, as scientific studies into marijuana continue to expand our understanding of the chemical properties of cannabinoids found in marijuana, we are learning of early signs that marijuana might actually improve night vision.
Other studies have found that there is a delayed response time in the function of retinal ganglion cells in marijuana users versus nonusers. I can already hear the jokes of a delayed response time in everything marijuana users try over nonusers.
There has also been research that suggests marijuana can slow blindness. A study by The University of Alicante in Spain showed THC used in rats with retinitis pigmentosa, showed a delay in retinal degeneration and an increase in photoreceptors over the control group.
Outside of vision, there is evidence that marijuana and/or CBD oil can help reduce seizures in epileptic children. We also just read the results from a study that says marijuana may be a weapon against brain aging, with marijuana’s cannabinoids turning back the molecular clock.
CBD (Cannabidiol)oil is regularly being touted these days as a cure for so many things from natural pain relief to smoking cessation to even as an anti-cancer agent. CBD oil is being researched as a treatment for numerous diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Acne, Schizophrenia and sleep disorders.
That is not to say there are no downsides to marijuana. The evidence of the plant’s detrimental effects on adolescents is hard to refute, especially in heavy teen users of the drug. Marijuana is also being studied for possible links to depression and lower birth weight in baby’s whose mothers smoke during pregnancy.
Like any drug, there is a downside to it being used as either a cure-all or for anything at any time. Like alcohol, marijuana can be a wonderful way to finish a hard day at work. Unlike alcohol, there seem to be a number of potential healing properties to marijuana, cannabinoids, and CBD oil. The outlook for marijuana’s positive influence in health is becoming more and more difficult to ignore.
The tax receipts from legal marijuana use are just as difficult to ignore. Since the legalization of marijuana in my home state of Colorado in 2014, the sales of marijuana have generated over half a billion dollars into state treasuries. It is the states who are becoming addicted to marijuana as almost $700 million in state sales tax is already being generated annually. California alone is expected to raise over $1 billion in marijuana sales tax as the state enters its first year this year of legal recreational pot sales. It is estimated that if marijuana were legalized across all 50 states, the taxes could generate some $132 billion annually, creating over 1 million jobs.
We are advocates for the rational loosening of marijuana laws and for the legalization of marijuana across the United States. Like anything and everything, it is not a panacea for everything that ills us, but the continued prohibition costs state and federal governments some $20 billion a year, ruining lives in the process with needless criminal records. To date, no one has ever died from the direct use of marijuana. We can’t say that about too many other drugs, including aspirin. In this day and age of government cost-cutting, can’t our law enforcement be used to help deter far more serious crimes that have real victims? Just something to think about this 4/20.