Marijuana cultivation can stress the environment, but regulation is difficult when its legal status isn’t clear. Photo credit: Shutterstock
The movement to legalize marijuana use and cultivation is picking up steam across the U.S. In California medical marijuana has been legal since 1996, while recreational use—though still not legal—is widely accepted with possession of small amounts a minor misdemeanor. Since then, multiple other states have followed on California’s footsteps in legalizing the popular plant or at least decriminalizing it.
But it’s still technically a banned drug at the federal level. So rules governing its use, distribution and growing are uneven, and unevenly enforced. And, according to a new scientific study, that’s not good for the environment.
A team of scientists from the Nature Conservancy, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and University of California Berkeley published a study this week, High Time for Conservation: Adding the Environment to the Debate on Marijuana Liberalization, in the journal Bioscience, explaining the ways in which a consistent national policy on pot could benefit the environment.
“The policy debate, which has focused on the public health and criminal outcomes of liberalization, has largely neglected another notable source of societal harm arising from widespread marijuana use: the environmental harm associated with its commercial-scale cultivation,” it says.
Its main point: growing marijuana has a series of negative environmental impacts that are worsened by black market and semi-legal growing, which make regulations harder to enact and enforce. By making it fully legal, regulations could be enacted governing its cultivation to mitigate these impacts. It points out that even in California, where 60-70 percent of the pot consumed in the U.S. is grown, black market production flourishes.
“Like all forms of agriculture, marijuana cultivation has implications for natural resources that should be part of the current and future policy discussion,” the report explains. “However, regulation designed to mitigate environmental harm is more difficult to implement for marijuana cultivation than for other agricultural activities because of its unique and evolving legal status. Although many U.S. states are legalizing recreational and medical marijuana possession and use, it remains illegal at the federal level, putting the industry in a semi-legal gray area in these states. This status separates marijuana from fully legal agricultural commodities and greatly complicates regulation of the industry.”
“The combination of limited water resources, a water-hungry crop, and illegal cultivation in sensitive ecosystems means that marijuana cultivation can have environmental impacts that are disproportionately large given the area under production,” it concludes.
High Time for Conservation enumerates ways in which marijuana cultivation stresses the environment, stresses that could be more easily managed with complete legalization.
Growing pot is extremely water-intensive, a major issue in a drought-stricken state like California. Outdoor-grown marijuana in California’s north coast region requires about twice as much water as the region’s other major irrigated crop, wine grapes. “We’re only starting to get a handle on these numbers,” said one of the study’s co-authors, Berkeley ecohydrologst Sally Thompson. “This is criminal activity, so it’s dangerous to monitor the impact. But even if the numbers are off, we are still talking about significant quantities of water.” Meanwhile, indoor cultivation is an energy hog; it “can require extensive energy inputs with potentially negative effects on climate,” the study says.
That water use can impact endangered species. “Compared with more established forms of agriculture on the north coast, where abundant winter stream flow is sometimes captured and stored locally in ponds or tanks for later summer use, marijuana cultivation is typically irrigated with summer and fall surface water diversions directly from headwater streams and springs,” the report points out. “These diversions are localized in smaller, sensitive watersheds that are hotspots of biodiversity—and particularly aquatic biodiversity. Surface water diversions for marijuana cultivation have been documented to significantly reduce or eliminate already low stream flow during California’s Mediterranean-type dry summer season, particularly during drought years, and therefore threaten the survival of rare and endangered salmonids, amphibians and other animals.”
The use of pesticides on marijuana plantations pollute watersheds and is a threat to wildlife. “Pesticides, used heavily in black-market cultivation on public lands, make their way into terrestrial food chains, posing significant risks to mammalian and avian predators,” says the report. More than 80 percent of dead Pacific fishers in the region were found to have been exposed to rodenticides used to control rats in black-market marijuana cultivation, it points out. And “The heavy use of pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers and petroleum fuels in both semi-legal and black-market cultivation can also contaminate watersheds.”
The built infrastructure of marijuana cultivation can present a threat to the surrounding environment. “Land terracing, road construction and forest clearing for both semi-legal and black-market marijuana plantations remove native vegetation and increase erosion,” write the authors. “Erosion increases fine-sediment loading into streams, damaging spawning and rearing habitat for salmon and trout, such as federally endangered coho salmon.”
Humans leave their mark on the ecosystem too, an impact likely to be exacerbated by trying to avoid detection in black-market growing. Trespassing and camping on public or tribal lands for months at a time, they poach wildlife for both sport and sustenance. In addition, “Nonbiodegradable trash and human excrement are commonly dumped around black-market marijuana cultivation sites on public and tribal lands.”
The report says that the “clandestine nature of the business” makes it hard to get a grasp on the facts surrounding marijuana production in California and that semi-legal status “greatly complicates local authority to regulate the medical market and sets the industry apart from traditional agriculture.” Further, the conflict between state and federal standards “encourages secrecy and invisibility among producers for both the semi-legal medical and black markets, leading to lower levels of voluntary compliance with existing environmental regulation.”
The report authors suggest that as legalization spreads, some of the tax revenues collected by the states should be aimed at preventing and mitigating the environmental impacts of cultivation.
“In order to overcome barriers to participation, however, incentive strategies will likely only be feasible where the legal status of production is clarified,” they say. “The current levels of ambiguity and secrecy surrounding the industry impede the revelation of associated environmental impacts, as well as the creation and implementation of solutions. ”
This quick overview of the science backs up the assertion that every cancer patient and every oncologist should put medical marijuana on their treatment maps.
There should be no more confusion about whether or not marijuana is effective for cancer patients. Medical marijuana is chemotherapy, natural style, for cancer patients. The two forms of hemp oil, one with THC and CBD and the other CBD alone (which is pretty much legal everywhere) provide the body with chemo-therapeutics without the danger and staggering side effects. There are many chapters in my book about cancer patients using marijuana, but in this one we present a quick overview of the science that backs up the assertion that every cancer patient and every oncologist should put medical marijuana on their treatment maps.
What you will see in this article is reference to many scientific studies that are all viewable on governmental sites. The United States government is pathetic in its dishonesty about medical marijuana both believing in it and holding patents for its medical use and claiming at the same time that it has no medical use. The federal government and still many states would rather throw innocent people in jail for using medical marijuana than be honest about how much it can help people recover from cancer and other diseases.
Below are summaries to just some of the scientific research out there that sustains the belief that medical marijuana will help people cure their cancer.
One of the most exciting areas of current research in the cannabinoid field is the study of the potential application of these compounds as antitumor drugs. CBD represents the first nontoxic exogenous agent that can significantly decrease Id-1 expression in metastatic breast cancer cells leading to the down-regulation of tumor aggressiveness., The CBD concentrations effective at inhibiting Id-1 expression correlated with those used to inhibit the proliferative and invasive phenotype of breast cancer cells. Of the five cannabinoids tested: cannabidiol, cannabigerol, cannnabichromene; cannabidiol-acid and THC-acid, it was found that cannabidiol is the most potent inhibitor of cancer cell growth. Taken together, these data might set the bases for a cannabinoid therapy for the management of breast cancer.
Results show that Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol reduces tumor growth, tumor number, and the amount/severity of lung metastases in MMTV-neu mice. Cannabinoids induce ICAM-1, thereby conferring TIMP-1 induction and subsequent decreased cancer cell invasiveness thus inhibits lung cancer invasion and metastasis.
Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide. Researchers have observed expression of CB1 (24%) and CB2 (55%) in NSCLC patients. They have also shown that the treatment of NSCLC cell lines (A549 and SW-1573) with CB1/CB2- and CB2-specific agonists Win55,212-2 and JWH-015, respectively, significantly attenuated random as well as growth factor-directed in vitro chemotaxis and chemoinvasion in these cells.
Researchers in lung cancers also reported that they observed significant reduction in focal adhesion complex, which plays an important role in cancer migration. Medical marijuana significantly inhibited in vivo tumor growth and lung metastasis (∼50%).
In research on pancreatic cancer it was found that cannabinoids lead to apoptosis of pancreatic tumor cells via a CB2 receptor and de novo synthesized ceramide-dependent up-regulation of p8 and the endoplasmic reticulum stress–related genes ATF-4 and TRB3. These findings may contribute to set the basis for a new therapeutic approach for the treatment of pancreatic cancer as reported by the National Cancer Institute.
Prostate cancer cells possess increased expression of both cannabinoid 1 and 2 receptors, and stimulation of these results in decrease in cell viability, increased apoptosis, and decreased androgen receptor expression and prostate-specific antigen excretion.
In colorectal carcinoma cell lines, cannabidiol protected DNA from oxidative damage, increased endocannabinoid levels and reduced cell proliferation in a CB(1)-, TRPV1- and PPARγ-antagonists sensitive manner. It is concluded that cannabidiol exerts chemopreventive effect in vivo and reduces cell proliferation through multiple mechanisms.
Ovarian cancer represents one of the leading cause of cancer-related deaths for women and is the most common gynecologic malignancy. Results with medical marijuana support a new therapeutic approach for the treatment of ovarian cancer. It is also conceivable that with available cannabinoids as lead compounds, non-habit forming agents that have higher biological effects could be developed.
Examination of a number of human leukaemia and lymphoma cell lines demonstrate that CB2 cannabinoid receptors expressed on malignancies of the immune system may serve as potential targets for the induction of apoptosis. Also, because CB2 agonists lack psychotropic effects, they may serve as novel anticancer agents to selectively target and kill tumors of immune origin. Plant-derived cannabinoids, includin
g Delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), induce apoptosis in leukemic cells.
Cannabinoid-treated tumors showed an increased number of apoptotic cells. This was accompanied by impairment of tumor vascularization, as determined by altered blood vessel morphology and decreased expression of proangiogenic factors (VEGF, placental growth factor, and angiopoietin. Abrogation of EGF-R function was also observed in cannabinoid-treated tumors. These results support a new therapeutic approach for the treatment of skin tumors.
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the third cause of cancer-related death worldwide. When these tumors are in advanced stages, few therapeutic options are available. In this study, the effects of cannabinoids–a novel family of potential anticancer agents–on the growth of HCC was investigated. It was found that Δ(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ(9)-THC, the main active component of Cannabis sativa) and JWH-015 (a cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB(2)) cannabinoid receptor-selective agonist) reduced the viability of the human HCC cell lines Cannabinoids were able to inhibit tumor growth and ascites in an orthotopic model of HCC xenograft. These findings may contribute to the design of new therapeutic strategies for the management of HCC.
Both cholangiocarcinoma cell lines and surgical specimens from cholangiocarcinoma patients expressed cannabinoid receptors. THC inhibited cell proliferation, migration and invasion, and induced cell apoptosis. THC also decreased actin polymerization and reduced tumor cell survival in anoikis assay. pMEK1/2 and pAkt demonstrated the lower extent than untreated cells. Consequently, THC is potentially used to retard cholangiocarcinoma cell growth and metastasis.
Smoking marijuana might decrease the smoker’s risk for bladder cancer, a new study shows. Retrospectively analyzing a large database of patients, researchers at Kaiser Permanente in California found that patients who reported cannabis use were 45% less likely to be diagnosed with bladder cancer than patients who did not smoke at all.
THC is a potent inducer of apoptosis, even at 1 x IC(50) (inhibitory concentration 50%) concentrations and as early as 6 hours after exposure to the drug. These effects were seen in leukemic cell lines (CEM, HEL-92, and HL60) as well as in peripheral blood mononuclear cells. Cannabinoids represent a novel class of drugs active in increasing the life span in mice carrying Lewis lung tumors and decreasing primary tumor size.
Research has also found a cannabidiol-driven impaired invasion of human cervical cancer (HeLa, C33A) and human lung cancer cells (A549) that was reversed by antagonists to both CB(1) and CB(2) receptors as well as to transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1). The decrease of invasion by cannabidiol appeared concomitantly with up regulation of tissue inhibitor of matrix metalloproteinases-1 (TIMP the findings provide a novel mechanism underlying the anti-invasive action of cannabidiol and imply its use as a therapeutic option for the treatment of highly invasive cancers.
A new anticancer quinone (HU-331) was synthesized from cannabidiol. It shows significant high efficacy against human cancer cell lines in vitro and against in vivo tumor grafts in nude mice. Two non-psychotropic cannabinoids, cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabidiol-dimethylheptyl (CBD-DMH), induced apoptosis in a human acute myeloid leukemia (AML) HL-60 cell line.
Other studies show a synthetic and potent cannabinoid receptor agonist, investigated in hepatoma HepG2 cells and a possible signal transduction pathway that is proposed, indicates a potential positive role in liver cancer. Cannabinoids have been found to counteract intestinal inflammation and colon cancer.
The control of the cellular proliferation has become a focus of major attention as opening new therapeutic possibilities for the use of cannabinoids as potential antitumor agents. Cannabinoid treatment inhibits angiogenesis of gliomas in vivo. Remarkably, cannabinoids kill glioma cells selectively and can protect non-transformed glial cells from death. These and other findings reviewed here might set the basis for a potential use of cannabinoids in the management of gliomas. Other confirming studies may provide the basis for a new therapeutic approach for the treatment of malignant gliomas.
Cannabinoids are found to exert their anti-cancer effects in a number of ways and in a variety of tissues.
- Triggering cell death, through a mechanism called apoptosis
- Stopping cells from dividing
- Preventing new blood vessels from growing into tumours
- Reducing the chances of cancer cells spreading through the body, by stopping cells from moving or invading neighbouring tissue
- Speeding up the cell’s internal ‘waste disposal machine’ – a process known as autophagy – which can lead to cell death
All these effects are thought to be caused by cannabinoids locking onto the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors. Almost daily we are seeing new or confirming evidence that Cannibinoids can be used to great benefit in cancer treatment of many types.
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Article Originally Published Here
In November 2012, Colorado became the first US state to legalise cannabis. As other states look set to follow suit business may be booming, but there’s a dark side to the ‘silver bullet’ of legalisation.
Ginger mango dew drops, rice crispy and chocolate truffle may all sound more like children’s sweets than cannabis treats, but they’re the entrepreneurial inspirations of Tripp Keber, a man unashamedly looking to cash in on cannabis legalisation. “I’m not here wearing a Bob Marley T-shirt. I do not have dreadlocks in my hair. I’m business.” With everything from marijuana medical centres to cosmetics, food and drinks, it’s easy to see why other states like DC and Illinois are keen to follow Colorado’s suit. According to lobbyist Matt Brown, the city of Aurora in Colorado, “has missed out on hundreds of millions of dollars of investment”, because it didn’t follow Denver’s suit in legalising the drug. But that’s only one side of the story. Aaron Huey, who runs a rehab centre for addicted teens, is fiercely critical of the legalisation. “I never had this number and never at this time of year. This is the first time I’m experiencing this. So is it getting worse? Our numbers say so.” With big alcohol and tobacco companies said to be watching closely and some predicting federal legalisation within ten years, is dope America’s newest big business opportunity?
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by Elizabeth Renter
When we talk about the medicinal benefits of marijuana, those who disapprove of its use tend to roll their eyes. But the fact is, this powerful plant has numerous potential applications in healthcare and pain management in particular. A new study has once again demonstrated that the vilified plant can safely and effectively treat general pain along with the painful symptoms of neuropathy.
Neuropathy is damage to the nervous system – particularly the peripheral nervous system (not including the brain and spinal cord). It is characterized by pain and numbness especially in the hands and feet, and is often the result of diabetes. Neuropathy can also be caused by injuries, toxic exposure, infections, and more.
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This latest study was conducted by researchers at the University of California Davis Medical Center and was published in The Journal of Pain. It was a double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study that looked at the effectiveness of using vaporized, inhaled cannabis in 39 participants. These participants were experiencing neuropathic pain despite having tried traditional treatments (like opiate drugs). All participants continued to take their prescribed medications throughout the 4 week study period.
Researchers gave participants doses of cannabis with moderate THC levels (3.53 percent) or low THC levels (1.29 percent). (THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the plant’s primary psychoactive chemical). Some also received a placebo with no THC. They found both doses of cannabis to be effective in reducing pain significantly.
“Both the low and medium doses proved to be salutary analgesics for the heterogeneous collection of neuropathic pain conditions studied. Both active study medications provided statistically significant 30% reductions in pain intensity when compared to placebo,” stated the researchers.
This is far from the first study to illustrate the pain-relieving benefits of cannabis. In fact, cannabis (even in THC-free form, or free of psychoactive effects) has been identified as a powerful pain reliever in more than 80 peer-reviewed studies. Still, the herb is classified as dangerous by the U.S. government.
Why is marijuana still illegal? Opponents of medicinal marijuana (including the federal government) say the research isn’t enough. It isn’t clear what they would like to see in marijuana studies, but it’s beginning to look like they want the impossible. It seems they would rather Americans continue consuming addictive prescription pain medications than use a plant.
According to AlterNet, sales of opiate pain pills have tripled since 1999. Oxycodone (one of the more popular choices on the legal and illegal market) has increased from 8.3 tons in 1997 to a whopping 105 tons in 2011. Overdose deaths are similarly climbing as is the number of people addicted to these substances. To date, no one has died from a marijuana overdose.