Throughout the bodies of every human on the planet is a physiological system called the Endocannabinoid System that plays a crucial role in establishing and maintaining human health. The endogenous cannabinoid system (ECS), discovered by scientists unafraid of studying marijuana, is made of endocannabinoids and their receptors which are found throughout the body: in the brain, organs, connective tissues, glands, and immune cells. The goal of the ECS is to maintain homeostasis within your body.
While the human body produces its own version of endocannabinoids to stimulate these receptors, scientists have discovered that phytocannabinoids, plant-based substances, can also stimulate these cannabinoid receptors. The most well-known, and most psychoactive phytocannabinoid is Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which is derived from the cannabis plant. However, other, non-psychoactive cannabinoids such as cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabinol (CBN) are gaining the interest of researchers due to a variety of healing properties.
There are over 20,000 articles searchable on PubMed detailing the effects of “cannabinoid”(s). New research has shown that cannabis is an effective treatment for a myriad of ailments ranging from cancer, to epilepsy, to PTSD.
These seemingly miraculous benefits have gotten the attention of the pharmaceutical industry which is likely interested in profiting from said benefits. The thing about cannabis, however, is that it doesn’t need Big Pharma to produce it, package it and distribute, as it can grow in your backyard.
But, when government-connected industries wish to shut out their competition, which in this case is a plant, they lean on the state’s ability to stifle competition through claiming a right to the intellectual property behind a particular set of ingredients – otherwise known as a patent. Since no one can patent a wild plant, except maybe Monsanto, pharmaceutical industries turn to their labs and chemistry to recreate nature.
The drug Marinol is an example of a pharmaceutical chemical compound that is produced by Solvay Pharmaceuticals Inc. and used to mimic nature. It contains a nearly identical molecular structure as the THC molecule and has similar effects of marijuana on cancer patients in regards to increasing appetite, etc. But unlike its natural counterpart, Marinol does not grow on trees, and one extremely important aspect that Big Pharma chooses to ignore for obvious reasons, is the “Entourage Effect.”
The entourage effect is the term for how the different chemicals in cannabis work together to create astounding healing and regenerative effects when taken unadulterated. The compounds have a very unique way of working in unison to aid the human body. When one individual chemical is taken out, as with Marinol, this “entourage effect” is lost. This effect is where the vast majority of the cannabis plant’s medicinal and therapeutic effects stem from; this effect is completely lost when the plant is broken down into its separate parts.
This impulse to exclusively own the rights to life-saving medicines is nothing new. However, with the ever-increasing scientific data showing the miraculous effects of cannabis on healing the human body, Big Pharma is hurriedly attempting to imitate these same effects — in their labs. This haste is proving to be deadly, at least in one example, in France.
According to Ouest France, a recent test conducted by Biotrial, on behalf of the Portuguese pharmaceutical company Bial, has left six people hospitalized in Rennes. One of those six people was declared clinically dead at the University Hospital of Rennes last week.
After news of the hospitalizations broke, media around the world began putting out misleading headlines about cannabis research being the cause. However, according to Marisol Touraine, France’s Minister of Health, cannabis was not involved in these studies at all, only a synthetic ECS stimulant designed to mimic cannabis’s effects. The effects of the synthetic chemical compounds on the endocannabinoid system were, indeed, a dangerous factor.
The pill acted on the body’s endocannabinoid system. Taken orally, the drug was undergoing a Phase 1 clinical trial at a licensed private European laboratory that specializes in clinical trials, the French health ministry said. Attempting to recreate the natural analgesic effects of cannabis, this pharmaceutical company unwittingly killed someone and gravely injured several others. Phase 1 trails are typically reserved for safe, low dose tests with the intention of noting minor side-effects. A death at that stage is almost unheard of.
Why would these serious risks be taken when cannabis provides a clearly safer alternative? The obvious answer is typically money. In addition, in order to study the effects of cannabis, it is particularly difficult — because it is illegal. Big Pharma also plays a large role in why cannabis is illegal as well, as they lobby state officials to keep it that way.
However, the crumbling illegality of cannabis is only part of the reason Big Pharma is rushing into the lab to synthesize its effects. Earlier this month, a new survey of adults found that 80% of respondents reported substituting cannabis for their prescription drugs. There is a mass exodus from pills to pot — and the industry is scared.
Of course, no one is advocating for the cessation of pharmaceutical innovation as many pharmaceutical medications have proven to be incredibly beneficial. However, when governments and Big Pharma collude, through the use of patents and prohibition, to create a synthetic product, that merely mimics the effects of a plant ingested by millions daily, and people are hurt in the process, something must be said.