Is Cannabis Safe For General Consumption?

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You can buy your favorite foods laced with cannabis.

First Answer, Is It Legal?

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Cannabis is appearing in pizzas, sandwiches, steak sauces, desserts, and alcoholic beverages at dispensaries and on high-end restaurant menus. Here is a dichotomy: The sale, use, and possession of all forms of cannabis in the United States is illegal under federal law. Marijuana is a Schedule I drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970. It is considered to have “no accepted medical use” and have a high potential for abuse and physical and/or psychological dependency.

So how are restaurants able to list cannabis infused menu items? Eight states have legalized marijuana sale and possession for both medical and recreational use:

  • Alaska
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Nevada
  • Oregon
  • Washington

It is unlawful to sell cannabis in Washington, D.C. but legal for personal use. Don’t let this short list of states allowing a combination of recreational and medical use fool you. Only five states prohibit all marijuana use. Fifteen outlaw recreational use but have legal limits on THC/CBD for medical use. Others have more lax limits on potency.

State-by-State Marijuana Policies
Click for dynamic interactive map compiled and updated by NCIA members.

Even in states where recreational pot and edibles are legal, consuming marijuana in any form is illegal on property that sells it, and in public places all together. Evidently some chefs are getting around this through elevated culinary uses, donating proceeds to charity, or by misinterpreting local laws. In either case, transporting a doggy bag of marijuana marinara across state lines could be a crime. The Federal government has criminalized marijuana under the Interstate Commerce Clause.

Steps were taken on January 4, 2018 to bring state laws into harmony with those of the government. US Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memo instructing US Attorneys to enforce prosecution for federal charges related to marijuana.

Effects of Cannabis

More than 1 in 3 people in America have tried marijuana at one point in their lives. So chances are, if you are in an auditorium and want to know what it feels like, the person on either side of you can tell you. The primary psychoactive ingredient is tetra­hydro­canna­binol or THC for short. This non-selective chemical discovered in the early 1960s by Chemist Rafael Mechoulam affects nearly every organ in your body along with nervous and immune systems. Smoking it can double heart rate for up to 3 hours. It irritates lungs, causes dizziness, shallows breathing, dilates pupils, reddens eyes, increases appetite, quells inflammation, and slows reaction time. Heavy use can lower testosterone levels in males.

Cognitive changes include euphoria or relaxation and dissociation. Researchers are studying how to optimize it for medical use. The pharmaceutical formulation Dronabinol (Marinol), is a synthetic THC that is available by prescription within the US, Canada and New Zealand that mimics anandamide.

Medical Marijuana Usage

There is moderate evidence supporting beneficial cannabis effects. It may reduce nausea and vomiting during chemotherapy, improve appetite in people with HIV/AIDS, and reduce chronic pain and muscle spasms. Medical cannabis may be prescribed for use as liquid tinctures, vapors, dried buds for smoking, cannabis edibles, capsules, lozenges, dermal patches, or oral sprays. Cannabis appears to be somewhat effective for the treatment of chronic pain, including pain caused by neuropathy and possibly fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis.

Tentative though insufficient evidence suggests medical cannabis is effective at reducing post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms. In a study of 127 chronic migraine, cluster headache, and severe headache patients, THC-CBD was slightly better at reducing the frequency of migraine attacks than the commonly prescribed medications (40.4% versus 40.1%, respectively). The THC-CBD drug was very effective at reducing migraine pain, cutting it by 43.5%.

List of health conditions treated with cannabis:

In states with a medical-marijuana law in place, prescription painkillers fell sharply compared with states that did not have a medical-marijuana law. Unsurprisingly pharmaceutical companies lobby federal agencies to prevent the liberalization of marijuana laws.

Hemp Differs From Cannabis

Is Cannabis Safe For General Consumption?

Hemp comes from a neutered Cannabis sativa plant. A Hemp plant is grown more for its reedy stalk than THC-rich buds or leaves. In fact, it not only looks different but contains a tenth of the THC found in marijuana along with other naturally occurring chemicals that neutralize psychotic effects. (THC can trigger a relapse in schizophrenic symptoms.)

Hemp protein is an industrial byproduct from Hempseed as the balanced macronutrient seeds have their oil extracted into Hempseed oil. You’d have to eat perhaps a full pound of hemp protein powder within a very short time to feel a buzz. Some restaurants may incor­porate Hemp seeds or protein into recipes served.

Cannabis and Pregnancy

Doctors do not recommend cannabis use for pregnant mothers. According to a study in Biological Psychiatry, marijuana use during pregnancy is associated with abnormal brain structure in children compared to unexposed children. Dr. Hanan El Marroun, of Erasmus University Medical Center in The Netherlands concludes the anomaly can affect development later in life.

Cannabidiol for Medicine

Though THC is the primary cannabis psychoactive chemical, there are plants where this is neutered. Another molecule called cannabidiol, or CBD has been studied for medical use. It has been successfully tested for neurological and psychological disorders like anxiety and schizophrenia in addition to heart disease and cancer. An obstacle to widespread acceptance is a lack of understanding of how CBD works. Treatments are not systematized. Many products lack standards so patients (or their parents) must often figure out dosing on their own.

THC Food Ethical Considerations

We have a situation were a federally illegal substance is in some states legal—even medicinal—with questionable dosing methods. Someone in California with a prescription for CBD-enhanced hemp could find themselves ordering a cannabis-laced pizza or alcoholic beverages under the guise of therapeutic effects. Cannabis cocktails can be lethal. A person’s body responds to excess alcohol by vomiting to remove the toxin. Marijuana helps suppress purging. So the body may retain dangerous toxins or an individual can choke on vomit that may be produced.

Is Cannabis Safe for Human Consumption

It has also been indicated that THC affects nearly every body organ and impairs mental function. Even without negative health effects, this can lead one to become a victim of crime or to cause property damage and possible fatality while driving under the influence. When a patron is able to return home safely, there is another ethical concern over cannabis hoagies.

Cannabis increases appetite, often referred to as “the munchies.” Selling any food that suppresses satiation can lead to excessive patron consumption and spending. Resulting euphoria can impair judgment of the average person. Consider the effect on drug addicts. Restaurants are in an unfair position to take advantage of biological weaknesses they initiate. Bartenders can be additionally liable for DUI incidents.

Not everyone responds to cannabis the same way. Is it possible that effects can go beyond those that are beneficial, delving into what is harmful? Can something be both legally right and morally wrong? Without making rules that exceed those of state and federal govern­ment, whether you are a restauranteur, patron, or patient, act responsibly.

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Kevin Williams is a health advocate, artist, pro­gram­mer, and writer of hundreds of articles for multiple web­sites. He has 17 years experi­ence as a Neutrogena Research and Scientific Affairs graphics con­sul­tant.

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