A little New York-California cross-fertilization of herbal consciousness took place as Martin Lee, the author of Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana, spoke in Manhattan’s East Village Thursday night about “The Future of CBD and Medicinal Cannabis.”
Lee discussed his current work with California-based Project CBD, dedicated to promoting and publicizing research into the medical uses of cannabidiol, and Emerald Pharms, his CBD-oriented dispensary in southern Mendocino County. The event was hosted by the Alchemist’s Kitchen, a new age-flavored herbal apothecary—or “botanical dispensary”—on East 1st Street. Under New York state’s medical marijuana law, the Kitchen recently launched a Bowery Cannabis Club, which specializes in CBD products.
Lee spoke enthusiastically of the recent surge in interest in CBD, a cannabinoid that growers unconsciously bred out of their strains over the past generations in favor of the psychoactive THC. Now there is a growing appreciation of the more subtle properties of CBD and other neglected cannabinoids.
Lee hailed cannabis as a “paradoxical plant… It is extolled and vilified, proscribed and prescribed.” This can also be seen in its “biphasic” effects—producing both euphoria and paranoia, depending on the user, quantity used and other variable factors.
Lee believes that the explosion of cannabis use in the 1960s had to do with unconscious self-medication for stress.
“JFK was assassinated in 1963, and in ’64 caucasians surpassed Latinos in California cannabis busts for the first time,” he explained. “It was unintentionally used to calm people to deal with the traumas of the 1960s.”
Lee noted that phytocannabinoids, those found in plants—as opposed to endocannabinoids, those naturally in the human brain—also occur in black pepper, cinnamon and other herbs that are perfectly legal. But they are most abundant in cannabis, which was known in ancient Chinese pharmacopeia as an “elixir of immortality”—and now evidence is emerging that it does indeed slow neural degeneration. One of Project CBD’s missions is to track cannabidiol’s potential application in the treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease.
From its origins millions of years ago in the foothills of the Himalayas, “cannabis has stayed everywhere it’s gone, even if those in power have tried to suppress it.” Lee says this is because it is an “adaptogen”—a plant useful in the promotion of homeostasis in human beings.
Lee said he voted for California’s Proposition 64, while acknowledging the controversies and contradictions around it. For instance, the dilemma of preserving small growers as a big-money industry emerges is reflected in the tension between a “whole-plant versus single-molecule approach.” He recommended the work of the Society of Cannabis Clinicians in documenting the therapeutic applications of both approaches.
Lee shared the stage with Allan Hunt Badiner, author of Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics, as well as representatives of Care By Design, Sonoma-based producers of a sublingual spray that contains both CBD and THC in varying combinations.
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