420

Hey Prohibitionists. This Is All You Need to Know About the Cannabis Plant

The more you know, the less there is to fear.

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Fifty years ago, "420" became part of the public lexicon and eventually grew into a worldwide celebration of cannabis and its culture. What began as a slang term among California high-schoolers is now a widely renowned expression that comprises everything from the plant and its cultural use to the multibillion-dollar industry it has nurtured around the globe.

This year, like in no other before it, there are more reasons to celebrate the mainstreaming of cannabis and cannabis culture. After all, cannabis use in some form is now the norm in all states except two, and adult-use cannabis is even legal in 17 states, plus the District of Columbia. And even more, states are expected to fully legalize within the next couple of years as the legal cannabis industry continues its meteoric rise toward an $84 billion industry by 2028.

If ever was there a time to celebrate cannabis, this year's April 20th holiday certainly is it.

But that doesn't mean everyone is joining in on the celebration.Just because more states are legalizing the adult use of cannabis, stigmatism and misunderstanding continue to surround the plant and its use, thanks to decades of racist War on Drugs propaganda.

So it's important for those of us in the cannabis industry – and even in the larger cannabis culture – to explain to others what cannabis is, especially to those residing in new adult-use states who might not readily understand anything about it.

Cannabis is just a plant.

Despite years of Reefer Madness fearmongering from law enforcement and other strident prohibitionists, there's no escaping the simple truth about why cannabis is called weed. It's because it's just a plant. Indeed, it is an extraordinary plant and a botanical species that humans have cultivated for 2,500 years or more. But also a plant with uses that range from medical to recreational and even industrial. And as more research is conducted on its medical properties, cannabis's potential to aid human health seems excitingly promising on many fronts today. 

But it's worth noting – and especially for those who genuinely fear its expanded use – that cannabis does not lead to drug-crazed criminality or vacant-eyed lethargy long stereotyped by those opposed to it. In fact, in a fairly recent Reason Foundation analysis, the libertarian think tank determined that adult-use legalization doesn't bring an increase in crime the way law enforcement has warned since the first part of the 20th century and the dawn of the U.S. drug war. The report even showed that many states experienced a drop in DUIs once medical cannabis programs were legalized in those states. Other analyses have reported similar findings.

And the stoner-on-the-couch stereotype? It's another myth, according to both the University of Miami's Herbert Business School and the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. Researchers from those organizations analyzed data from a national health survey of more than 20,000 people, tracking them from their teen years in 1994 until 2018. The cannabis users, researchers found, exercised just as much as non-cannabis users. And some even exercised more, proving what many cannabis users already know: that burning a fat one sometimes leads to burning fat, as well.

It offers many uses.

Grow fruits or vegetables, and you'll have food to eat. Grow cotton, and you can make your own clothing. Grow trees for lumber, and you'll build a sturdy house. And if you grow a willow tree and use its bark, you'll have a common health substance called aspirin that will diminish pain and lessen inflammation. 

But if you grow just one plant – cannabis – then you can have all of this and more. Sure, it's still "just a plant," but cannabis' practical uses run the gamut from hemp-based paper products to building materials that rival wood and concrete and which can be grown in four short months. It also can be used for sustainably created clothing that has four times the strength of cotton and protects against U.V. rays. It is seen as an incredibly viable plant to be used in soil remediation and efforts to decontaminate growing substrates used by various agricultural crops. 

It has healing properties.

Of course, cannabis can be used for far-ranging medicinal purposes, as well. Even though a vast multitude of cannabis users and supporters turn to this remarkable plant for relaxation and enjoyment, an ever-increasing number of users are discovering that cannabis can be the key to healthier living. They use it to assist with adverse health conditions ranging from epilepsy to PTSD, anxiety to Alzheimer's, and much more. 

The ability of cannabis to be used effectively in treating conditions such as inflammation, anxiety, and insomnia has been the primary reason CBD has become the supplement behemoth it is today, bringing in $1.6 billion in revenue. Cannabidiol users don't enjoy any of the euphoric effects for which cannabis is often stigmatized. But that matters little to the one-third of Americans who now use this legal supplement to address a range of health and wellness issues.

CBD might be the most popular cannabis acronym for the general public because of its universal legality. Still, an increasing number of states legalizing adult-use cannabis might improve the public perception of its better-known and long-denounced sibling cannabinoid, THC. Thanks to the rising mainstreaming of cannabis nationwide, more research is beginning to focus on the health benefits of THC, linking psychoactive marijuana to possibilities in treating many health conditions, ranging from general pain and nausea to M.S., migraines, glaucoma, and anorexia. 

Interestingly, the plant's health benefits are beginning to be better understood, thanks in large part to our increasing scientific understanding of another essential cannabis-centric acronym: ECS. The human body's endocannabinoid system was only relatively recently discovered (1988). Yet, researchers increasingly view it as the essential regulator of much of the human body's various physiological and cognitive processes. Research into these areas of human health and cannabis' connection only have come recently because of the growing acceptance of cannabis in the public sphere and the reduced chances of criminal convictions that scientists have faced for so long.

Cannabis is not a Big Pharma drug. But it is good medicine for the multitudes who only now are discovering its potential to improve their health. As more states legalize and cannabis becomes more mainstream, that understanding will only grow.

It's not dangerous.

The biggest reason that our scientific understanding about such ancient plant lags is because of its misguided classification as a Schedule 1 substance by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, which long has equated it with the likes of hazardous drugs such as heroin and MDMA. As long as cannabis has been Enemy No. 1 in the U.S. Drug War and the DEA considers it to have "no medical value", medical research has been highly confined by special licensing requirements and the ever-present risk of arrest and incarceration. Also, that Controlled Substances Act classification has meant that banks and insurance companies have denied legal cannabis businesses the access enjoyed by practically every other industry that employs workers, pays taxes, and contributes to their communities.

Until cannabis' Schedule 1 status changes, though, states have taken it on themselves to legalize a substance of which a vast majority of Americans now approve. Today, 17 states have approved cannabis use by adults, and 36 states (plus D.C., Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands) have legal, medical cannabis programs in place.

At the federal level today, Congress is debating ways in which to make banking easier and insurance more available for the 20,000 to 28,000 legal cannabis companies now operating across the U.S. Some lawmakers are even raising the idea about federal legalization, though most observers think that concept realistically remains several years away from implementation.

It's profitable.

States have legalized cannabis for adult use because their citizens have wanted it. They have also done so because legal cannabis is an undeniably robust revenue provider, with adult-use states attracting billions of dollars in revenue through double-digit taxation and multiple excise fees, and municipal charges. And even states with medical-only programs have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars annually, too.

Tax Foundation, the independent tax policy research organization, says that if non-legal states legalized and taxed cannabis (using Colorado's 2019 rates as a comparison example), potential revenues could be extraordinary. Alabama, for example, could see $102 million in annual excise tax revenue while Texas would see a Texas-sized $415 million.

States that have legalized adult-use cannabis have attracted the most tax revenue, of course. And it's a lot of money for social programs and local schools, law-enforcement operations, and states' general spending funds. And all that financial assistance for local communities comes from an industry that didn't stumble like others during an unprecedented global health pandemic. Nor is it one facing any downside in the foreseeable future, as every analysis of the industry projects sky-high growth in the future – and an expanding financial windfall for the states that fully legalize cannabis.

It shouldn't be feared.

What's happening with cannabis legalization in the U.S. also is being mirrored in Canada and even Mexico. And various European countries even are beginning to expand the legalization of both medical and adult-use cannabis.

Still, no matter how many beneficial reasons are cited for cannabis legalization or how many examples of states and nations legalizing it, there will always be many who don't want to see it lawfully approved. Old biases are hard to overcome, and cannabis has been the focus of intense, state-sponsored bias for so long now. 

But for those residing in states where the government prohibits adult-use, there's no need for fear or loathing as legalization efforts eventually arise. (And make no mistake, they will.) 

Today's prohibitionists in cannabis-illegal states can't say that legal cannabis brings more crime because it simply does not. They can't say that their citizens don't want it legalized because clearly, a majority does. And they can't argue that cannabis has no health value when an increasing body of scientific research and understanding is beginning to show that cannabis has a robust potential to help many people with many different kinds of adverse health conditions. 

And today's legal-use states also provide excellent examples of how cannabis legalization and its mainstreaming can provide jobs and help fund state programs. At the same time, it can provide for the will of the people and offer hope to many facing an array of health and wellness issues. And the more we learn about cannabis, the more critical it will be for all states to move toward full legalization, which is happening more quickly today than ever before.

That's a reason to celebrate a simple plant with amazing potential. Happy 420!

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