Cannabis Sativa Is Not About Getting High
Broadly speaking, there are two categories of cannabis sativa: One is marijuana, the other is hemp. Although their leaves look very similar, these two types of cannabis sativa are very different.
Marijuana typically has high levels of THC, a psychoactive chemical. Conversely, hemp has very low levels of THC and has high levels of CBD. Like THC, CBD is a cannabinoid but it is not psychoactive. In fact, it has recently been shown to block the effects of THC. Recent studies have also indicated that CBD may have even greater therapeutic value than THC. Agricultural scientists are able to create hybrid cannabis with varying the levels of THC and CBD. By doing so, they optimize the hybrids for their specific application.
Medical Benefits of Cannabis
Cannabis is currently being studied for many medical uses. These studies, primarily on animals, show that the CBD in medical cannabis has a number of therapeutic properties. These properties, which were noted in a 2013 review published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology and summarized on the Leaf Science website are as follows:
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Medical Properties of CBD
|Antiemetic||Reduces nausea and vomiting|
|Anticonvulsant||Suppresses seizure activity|
|Antipsychotic||Combats psychosis disorders|
|Anti-inflammatory||Combats inflammatory disorders|
|Anti-oxidant||Combats neurodegenerative disorders|
|Anti-tumoral/Anti-cancer||Combats tumor and cancer cells|
|Anxiolytic/Anti-depressant||Combats anxiety and depression disorders|
Cannabis and PTSD
Cannabis shows particular promise as a way of treating veterans with PTSD. In November, 2015, the Senate passed legislation allowing doctors to discuss medical cannabis as a treatment option for patients in 23 states. Prior to this move, veteransâ€™ treatment options typically included a cocktail of powerful prescription drugs with severe side-effects.
Economic Benefits of Cannabis
Both medical cannabis and hemp have tremendous economic potential for Louisiana. While exact estimates of the economic impact are challenging, the experience of other states offers some insight. In Arizona medical cannabis generated over $140 million in sales revenue in 2014 and that number is expected to be much larger in 2015. If Louisiana generates the same amount of revenue on a per capita basis as Arizona, that translates to over $85 million in revenue. Of course, tax revenue and job creation will also be enhanced by legalizing medical cannabis.
Other studies on the economic impact of medical cannabis in Louisiana vary widely. An analysis by the Marijuana Policy Group (MPG) states that medical cannabis in Louisiana could add between $16 million and $387 million our state’s economy. The reason for this huge variation in estimates is due to Louisiana’s currently severe restrictions on medical cannabis. With freer access to medical cannabis, such as that found in Oregon and Colorado, the market potential in Louisiana is much, much greater.
Hemp, the other major economic opportunity for cannabis sativa, is an important crop worldwide and has been cultivated for centuries because of its many valuable uses. Since it is very low in THC, it is not possible to get high by consuming it. Unfortunately, because of its close resemblance to marijuana, when marijuana was banned in 1937 hemp was included in the prohibition, despite the fact that hemp has none of the psychoactive effects of marijuana.
The retail value of hemp products sold in the U.S. is estimated to be $620 million. This figure equates to over $9 million in the state of Louisiana alone. Those figures would certainly be larger if hemp production was legal in the U.S. Because of the federal prohibition of all forms of cannabis in the U.S., all hemp products sold in the U.S. must be imported. Thus, the dollars spent on hemp products here end up in foreign countries.
The restrictions on hemp production are loosening in some states. In Kentucky, an industrial hemp research pilot program has recently been initiated. A goal of this pilot program is to replace their long-declining tobacco crop revenues with hemp. Hemp promises to be a boon for large-scale agricultural activities in the state of Louisiana