Righting the wrongs of a 100-year-old equation
So, what gives?
It’s a simple question, but one that seems to need to be asked often when people talk about CBD. For close to a hundred years, there has been a battle surrounding CBD that seems to be waged in almost every way — whether that be through culture, society, government, or the economy. Though CBD itself has very little, if no connection, to the impairing effects of THC, there still seems to be little understanding on vastly different the two are and how it has been relatively demonized to the point of hesitancy, mistrust, and inaccuracies. To better understand CBD, it is important to take a dive in the history surrounding CBD and the actual truths behind it.
Even though CBD is a naturally-occurring substance from the cannabis flower and has been used as a medicine thousands of years ago, it has also had a long history of stigma against it; much of this stigma centering around the incorrect assumption that marijuana, and any items or materials that stem from it, is a “gateway” into worse drugs or addictions. Based on some surveys between the mid 1990’s to the early 2000’s, the perception of the general public opposed all marijuana-related products and uses and created programs to continue the perception that marijuana (including hemp) was bad. Unfortunately, this has had a lasting impact which we hope to change by making clear how we got to this point (by examining marijuana as a whole) in time and through providing the utility and effectiveness of CBD.
Even before the educational programs were in full effect, marijuana (and by extension any application of it in any form) had stigmas associated with where it derived from and the economic impact it was having on the United States in the early 1900’s. It is important to note that for a long time, what ruled the perception of the general public toward marijuana was from a subjective mindset; people had beliefs and values systems and tended to see how the world should operate within those parameters. Considering this in accordance with American history, biases, assumptions, and underlying racial views may have had a role in establishing and maintaining preconceptions of marijuana. This is not to say that in the modern day this still rings true; however, the history provides a backdrop context for why there is a need to examine the truth and clear the record of how, from thousands of years of medicinal use, marijuana suddenly became an illegality.
According to the Students for Sensible Drug Policy international organization, the largest youth-led network dedicated to ending the War on Drugs and its lingering effects, a driving factor against marijuana use was the fear of Mexican immigrants and African Americans. Even though, historically, cannabis use was already in various tinctures and medicines available in the United States, with the influx of Mexican immigrants due to the Mexican Revolution, the recently freed African American population (with the established “Jim Crow” era of the South), and the burgeoning “anti-addiction” crusade that was taking hold (which later resulted in the Prohibition Act), introduction to new culture (including marijuana use as a medicine and relaxant) was viewed as a “foreign” use and not “American”. This misperception and fear took hold of the public’s already societally biased mistrust and then became codified into law from a variety of international drug treaties and local bans.
These factors seemed to reinforce the equation that if drugs are bad, then marijuana is bad, and since marijuana is bad, the people that use it are bad. For residential communities, the aim was to keep that “over there”, and not “here” which further compounded the inaccurate, subjective views against marijuana. This creates an echo chamber (where only one viewpoint is heard repetitively) no challenge to the view is given and becomes a social norm regardless of active legislation. Simply put, you were lesser to be associated with marijuana.
Decades pass and we arrive at the counter culture movement where norms of all kinds were being challenged — and with much success. The previously vapid considerations of the early 1900s that were passed on generationally encountered resistance and, for the first time since, had an en-masse revolution of ideas from the public. Marijuana’s association to being something feared in relation to the source was now changing to being associated with the “free love” and “hippie” movements. This was compounded further with the rejection of autocratic government control and a more libertarian view of self-regulation and self-responsibility as the guidance of choices in one’s actions; not interference from the government.
With this combined coalition of various views, and with the public perception changing, the effects and usage of cannabis began to become explored further; people began to see the utility of cannabis as treatments to many differing ailments. Even though it was still illegal at this time, many Americans fueled by this counter culture began to partake and an influx of money began to flow out from the United States. Finally, the taboo began to break and we began to return to seeing the quality behind marijuana.
While the culture of the times began to crack and dissolve, a new challenge to corporate America (pharmaceuticals that banked on prescription and drug creation were having people turn to the naturally beneficial effects of marijuana) and the economy (as there was a “capitalist crisis” at home due to the multitude of expenditures on various fronts, money flowed out from the United States during a time when it was much needed to be spent in-house). Additionally, the flow of the American dollar in foreign countries helped to transfer power from a “mecca of capitalist ideology” to an inferior “socialistic state” during the Cold War and that cannot happen. This resulted in a similar return to the anti-addiction campaign that sought to determine and regulate behavior under a new banner to prevent this through the War on Drugs.
Moving from a cultural and/or societal negative view to an economic and political challenge destroyed much of the movement toward an earlier adoption of acceptance for marijuana. The implicit biases returned in a different version; anyone who would partake is now anti-American, a communist sympathizer, a socialist. Even though the mood of the nation surrounding this had changed somewhat, the War on Drugs, the legislation that extended the impact of sentencing, the introduction of the three strikes law, and the course of educational programs over time all but trounced the progress. For lack of a better term, back to the stone[d] age.
Though this may have been the end of it, a steady line of scientists and researchers since the 1940s had been examining CBD and its applications. Due to much of the surrounding media through the years, the information they obtained didn’t gain traction to the mainstream. However, because of the counter culture movement, Pandora’s box was opened, so to speak, and even though national consensus was mainly against any and all connections to marijuana, the light of reality was already seen so as the laws and incarcerations increased with the hope of regulating American behavior, the usage of marijuana users did not abate; in fact, it increased. According to John Pfaff, professor of law at Fordham Law School, as the prison population soared by from a rough estimate of 300,000 in total of the mid 1970’s to approximately 1.6 million around 2015 with the correlation to the War on Drugs, the views of legalization remained steady and, in fact, began to increase as the 2000’s began.
Why? There can always be many claims to this (one of which was the ineffectiveness of the War on Drugs and the costs associated with the mass incarceration), but the mainstream media, and the public, began to crack once more. Enter: Charlotte Figi.
A Colorado native and an infant with Dravet Syndrome is credited with being the inspiration behind the movement of the public perception and uses of CBD. Dravet Syndrome is a catastrophic type of epilepsy that resulted in seizures and could not be controlled through medication. Simply put, this child faced a lifetime of horrific seizures that were debilitating in every sense of the word. From the mid 2000’s, Charlotte became the symbol of the medicinal benefits of CBD because it was the only method of medication that resulted in a sharp decline of these seizures which allowed her to have a better quality of life and make connections to others which had been previously impossible.
How was this possible? Through the crossbreeding of a marijuana strain that was high in CBD and low in THC. You may have even heard about it as this strain was named for her as “Charlotte’s Web”. Seeing the suffering of this young girl and the breakthroughs of CBD in making her life better served as the inspiration to look at CBD as a relative “miracle” where not even traditional medicine could go. And while, sadly, this young girl passed away recently in 2020 due to complications associated with pneumonia, breathing problems, and possible COVID-19 at the age of 13, it was only through CBD that she could have any life at all.
From all of the history behind it, it was only CBD that could provide. And if CBD could provide so much to Charlotte, what else could it provide as well?
Though its considered a relative impossibility, for CBD lightning did strike twice; from the public’s perception of marijuana and CBD in the counter culture almost cracking the barrier to mainstream use to one young girl and her suffering soothed, CBD has been at the heart of it. Now, in modern day, the use of hemp-derived CBD is legalized federally and is actively permitted in various ways in the differing States, but I can’t help but recall how, from thousands of years of use long ago when Hippocrates was teaching medicine in his time, that we twisted the first and most sacred oath that doctors take when practicing medicine for the benefit of all: do no harm.
And contrary to what you may have heard, feel about it, or think, CBD does no harm.
So, what gives?