Cannabis is a very complex subject, both politically and medically. 

Disclaimer: The con­tent pro­vided by Dr Brian Walker, and any linked mate­ri­als, are not intended and should not be con­strued as med­ical advice. If the reader or any other per­son has a med­ical con­cern, he or she should con­sult a licensed physi­cian or appropriately-credentialed health care worker in your com­mu­nity in all mat­ters relat­ing to your health.

  • Cannabis is a flowering plant in the Cannabaceae family with three primary species: cannabis sativa, cannabis indica, and cannabis ruderalis. Cannabis is also known as hemp, cultivated primarily for its stem fibres which have multiple industrial uses. When cultivated for its medicinal or euphoric effects, the cannabis flowers are harvested, dried and cured.  The final product can be either inhaled or ingested.

  • Cannabis is not a chemically addictive substance. However, those predisposed to addictive behaviours can become psychologically addicted to cannabis. Roughly 8% of cannabis users will become addicted, only slightly higher than the percentage of drinkers who become alcoholics. As is the case with drinkers, however, most cannabis consumers (92%) can use it responsibly. Notably, psychological addictions can also occur with non-intoxicating substances. Sugar addiction, for example, is a serious problem here in Australia triggering elevated rates of juvenile obesity and Type 2 Diabetes with more critical health consequences and greater hospitalisation costs than those generated by cannabis addiction.

  • Compared to alcohol and other drugs, cannabis is relatively benign. Potent strains of cannabis can induce paranoia, hallucinations and rapid heartbeat. These occurrences are more common with ingested cannabis among inexperienced users, and the symptoms most often abate in a matter of hours. Hospitalizations due to cannabis consumption account for roughly 5% of all illicit drug hospitalisations. Smoking cannabis produces carbon monoxide which can cause pulmonary damage, though it anecdotal evidence indicates that the damaging effects of cannabis on the lungs are less pronounced than those of tobacco. Annually, in Australia over 6,000 deaths are attributed to alcohol, more than 21,000 are caused by tobacco consumption. There has never been a fatality directly attributable to cannabis.

  • Contrary to the century of myths of “loco weed” and “reefer madness”, cannabis does not directly cause psychosis. However, as with addiction, cannabis could trigger a psychotic episode for an individual predisposed to mental illness.

  • The chemical compounds found in cannabis are called cannabinoids. Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the main psychoactive compound in cannabis. Cannabidiol, or CBD, is another major constituent of the plant. Cannabis comprises roughly 113 different cannabinoids, each possessing varied properties. THC is known primarily for its psychoactive euphoric effect, while CBD is a known analgesic and anti-inflammatory affecting the immune system. In addition to cannabinoids, cannabis contains other chemicals such as terpenes and flavonoids.

  • The human body also produces endogenous cannabinoids, called endocannabinoids in contrast to those produced externally in the cannabis plant called phytocannabinoids. These endocannabinoids bind to two different types of receptors, CB1 which are found primarily in the central nervous system, and CB2, located in the peripheral nerves and mainly affecting the autoimmune system.  Science has still to fathom the complete range and functions of the endocannabinoid system, discovered only in 1990 while researching THC. It has been established, however, that it regulates sleep, mood, appetite, memory, reproduction, and fertility.

  • Following the discovery of the psychoactive cannabinoid THC in 1964 by Israeli scientist Raphael Mechoulam, immense progress been made in the field of medicinal cannabis. Both CBD and THC have been trialled and utilized for treatment of numerous conditions including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Crohn’s disease, anorexia, glaucoma, PTSD, multiple sclerosis, muscle spasms, arthritis, epilepsy, nausea, autism, insomnia, migraines, Tourette’s syndrome, and chronic pain. There is clinical evidence that phytocannabinoids can prevent the proliferation of cancer cells, impede blood supply to tumours, and decrease cancer’s capacity to outlast chemotherapy.

  • Although a rare condition, it is indeed possible for a person to develop allergens to cannabis pollen, as is the case for other botanical matter.

  • Despite evidence of pulmonary damage caused by smoking cannabis (combustible inhalation), a study conducted by Dr Daniel Ford of the John Hopkins Medical School found that there is no evidence cannabis causes cancer. The study concludes that cancer prevention efforts should “remain focused on tobacco and alcohol, two known carcinogens.”

  • Medical cannabis is legal in Australia and can be obtained from a designated pharmacy with a script from an authorised cannabis prescriber. Due to bureaucratic hindrances imposed by WA’s Department of Health, a recent survey revealed that most West Australians accessing medicinal cannabis do so through the black market or a Telehealth consultation with a prescriber from the eastern states. The list of authorised prescribers can be found here on the website Canna Reviews after creating an account: Directory and List of Cannabis Doctors and Cannabis Clinics in Australia | Canna Reviews Australia

  • Cannabis oils and tinctures range in prices from 10¢ – 30¢ per milligram depending on the mix and concentration of cannabinoids, mainly THC and CBD. Cannabis flower, the dispensing of which is more restrictive in WA, averages at $15 per gram. Estimates at the cost of medical cannabis range from $450- $600 per month. Medical cannabis does not qualify for the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

  • The use of any intoxicant, including cannabis, is deleterious to the neurological development of children. However, certain childhood conditions such as epilepsy, autism, anxiety and ADHD have been successfully treated with CBD, which though psychoactive, produces no inebriating effects.

  • CBD has shown to be powerfully effective in treating childhood epilepsy, with reported reductions of the number of seizures from hundreds daily to a few weekly. CBD has few adverse side effects (dizziness, depression, low blood pressure), most of these extremely rare.

  • Cannabis has benefits for both personal and medicinal use. For personal use, there is no other intoxicant with negligible toxicity making overdosing an impossibility. For those suffering from ailments treatable with cannabis, the latter is a far safer option than pharmaceutical opioids, sedatives, and anti-psychotic medicines frequently prescribed to treat the same illnesses as cannabis. In a study published in June 2020 in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research concluded that patients treated with medical cannabis report better quality of life and greater health satisfaction than patients prescribed standard pharmaceutical medications. The study concluded that patients treated with medicinal cannabis posed less of a drain on healthcare resources than those prescribed prescription drugs. Hemp is similarly a form of cannabis with low levels of THC and has multiple industrial uses as well as ecological benefits in reducing greenhouse gasses.

  • It is estimated that Australia spends roughly AUD $1.1 billion annually in the effort to eradicate cannabis. Despite this futile effort, cannabis remains the most ubiquitous and widely consumed illicit substance in Australia. It has been estimated that were WA to legalise cannabis, in the first year alone the state would reap approximately AUD $200 million in revenue.

  • There are five countries which have legalised cannabis: Canada, Georgia, Mexico, South Africa, and Uruguay. Furthermore, a total of eighteen US states and three US territories have legislated the personal use of cannabis. Each country has approached legalization differently. Perhaps the role model best adapted to Australia’s legal system in the Canadian model, which has the national government managing the licensing of cannabis production, while enabling Canadian states to opt for either a nationalised or private enterprise distribution model.

  • This is a very big question and I have tried to answer in-depth in previous YouTube videos.