While there’s no denying the fact that cannabis has tons of medical benefits, extended exposure to it could have serious social behavioral repercussions.
In a nutshell, long term use of cannabis affects the ability of astrocytes to manufacture food for neurons from glucose. This reduced food production compromises on the neural function, which appears to have adverse effects on the person’s behavior.
The way long term cannabis use alters behavior appears to have a direct link with the cannabinoid function. While it is mostly observation and researchers know of no concrete mechanism yet, cannabis consumption could lead to reduced social interactions and withdrawal.
A deeper understanding of the cannabinoid receptors could prove fruitful in determining the relationship between cannabis and social behavior.
The role of cannabinoids
The role cannabinoids play is much more important than ever since some of these receptors are also present on the mitochondrial membrane. ‘Mitochondrion is the powerhouse of the cell’, is a statement almost everyone is well familiar with. If something were to happen to the mitochondria inside the cells, it could very well reflect on the person’s behavior.
Mitochondria metabolize glucose into lactate, which neurons use as food. The main psychoactive compound in cannabis is THC. A better understanding of the relationship between the two could open doors to new possibilities.
Observations in mice reveal that if astrocytes are exposed to THC for an extended period of time, the cannabinoid receptors present in them start a chain of reactions that in turn lead to glucose metabolism dysfunction.
Therefore, there’s less available ‘food’ for astrocytes. This is like operating some heavy machinery with dry cells from a TV remote. Observations made suggest that this lack of ‘food’ has a direct impact on the subject’s behavior.
Moreover, in extreme cases, exposure to THC hampered social interactions for up to 24 hours.
While uncontrolled use of cannabis could be dangerous, controlled use with appropriate observations could very well be used to deal with some behavioral problems more easily and effectively.
The debate over therapeutic cannabis is yet again a hot topic. A better understanding of cannabis’ effects on the human body could help in finding the optimal solution.
However, for now, a simple rule to keep in mind, excess of everything is bad.
Connection of Marijuana usage with Autism stirs concerns
With the legalization of cannabis use globally, healthcare experts are sounding increased distress alarms. According to the latest researches conducted by related groups, the incidence of autism in children is on the rise due to increased marijuana consumption by either one or both parents of the unborn child.
Studies conducted by some of the prestigious institutions have backed these fears with their in-depth analysis of the matter.
Relationship between marijuana usage and autism in children
When Expecting Mothers Smoke Weed
Escalated marijuana usage by expectant mothers during their gestational period is supposedly causing a rise in the cases of autism.
Studies carried out in Canada between April 2007 and March 2012 have backed these claims with the thorough scientific analysis of researchers.
According to the outcomes of the research, marijuana exposure during gestation increases the risk of autism development in children by almost 50% .
Around 2.2 percent of the subjects faced greater intellectual difficulties like speech delays, smaller attention spans and social anxiety later on in their lives. These figures were in contrast to 1.4 percent of children with developmental delays born to mothers did not smoke weed during gestation.
Daniel Corsi, an epidemiologist and PhD holder in Health Research Methodology, reported the findings of these studies in Nature Medicine.
Another supporter of the main findings of these studies is Dr. Torri Metz, a clinical researcher and expert in the fields of obstetrics, gynecology and fetal development. She holds great interests in the impacts of marijuana intake on fetal development during pregnancy. She strictly advocates the idea that marijuana usage impacts fetal neurodevelopment negatively, with the true extents still under investigation.
Since the magnitude of marijuana usage on fetal brain development is largely unknown, doctors discourage it while pregnant or breastfeeding.
When Fathers smoke weed
Duke University Medical Center has conducted an interesting study on the subject. As per the research findings, autism in children also has some connections with marijuana intake by fathers.
According to the study, a particular gene undergoes genetic changes with increased marijuana usage. This gene is related directly related with autism and the changes can be passed on to the offspring.
These genetic changes are triggered in the sperm, once again establishing a negative relationship between neurological development and marijuana usage.
“This study is the first to demonstrate an association between a man’s cannabis use and changes of a gene in sperm that has been implicated in autism,” said senior author Susan Murphy, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology at Duke University School of Medicine.
The entire team behind this research was skeptical about the idea that marijuana is benign in nature, and urged further research and studies on the subject.
With so much data that already discourages the use of alcohol by expecting mothers, there remains very less doubt pertaining to marijuana usage.
Why is marijuana getting more medical attention?
Despite of all of these research results, there are segments of stakeholders that see no harm in marijuana consumption. They argue that marijuana intake is a safer option for some to get relief from nausea, stress and anxiety which are a part and parcel of pregnancy and some other diseases as well.
Some healthcare providers actually encourage the use of cannabis to treat autism. According to them, it is an ‘effective option’ for dealing with conditions like seizures, anger fists and depression in such patients. They argue that cannabis actually improves the quality of life of autistic patients by huge percentages.
With increased legalization of marijuana and many related products, there are chances that consumption is going to see further increases. This means that the need for research on marijuana usage and its impacts on individual health is higher than ever before.
Patient limit on caregivers entices mixed reactions among marijuana stakeholders
The Cannabis Control Commission of Massachusetts recently announced its policy to raise patient to caregiver ratios in the state. The establishment of this ratio has received different reactions from stakeholders in the marijuana industry whereby the response to the decision has been extremely varied.
The patient:nurse dispute of Massachusetts
The conflict of patient to nurse ratio has been an ongoing debate between marijuana stakeholders in the state of Massachusetts.
This equivocal matter has continued for more than two decades now. Consequently, these contentions have led to the conduction of an indirect initiated state statue in the region.
In 2018, Massachusetts was asked to participate in the Nurse-Patient Assignment Limits Initiative. The purpose of this was to get the opinion of the majority on the issue.
The results of this ballot showed that about 70.24% of the ballot participants were against patient assignment limits on caregivers.
This was a huge disappointment for the Massachusetts Nurses Association, whereby by a lack of limit was sighted as a an exploitation of caregivers. Likewise, a lack of limits is also a huge risk to the well-being of the patients which subsequently puts them in harm’s way.
In comparison to this, these results were much celebrated as a victory by the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association. The president, Steve Walsh was content with the creation of the MHHA program to address overburdened caregivers. These results had allowed hospitals to reduce their nursing staff, helping to keep their costs low.
Changing Marijuana Policies in Massachusetts
Massachusetts was among the first states to ban marijuana usage back in the day. In recent years, the state has witnessed marijuana policy revisions that have been monumental.
These years have seen a legalization of marijuana consumption at different levels across the state. 2014 allowed medicinal consumption, followed by subsequent recreational use permission in 2016.
Stakeholder groups like Cannabis Control Commission, Massachusetts Patients Advocacy Alliance and Massachusetts Nurses Association were among the top most supporters of this legalization initiative.
The involvement of such well structured organizations had a massive impact on flexing marijuana policies. Their efforts finally made Massachusetts the eighteenth state to legalize the use of marijuana.
Marijuana patient limit : A Clash of interests of Stakeholders
The irony as of now is that following the public hearings held on August 3, there has been a clash of interests between the stakeholders of the marijuana industry in Massachusetts.
The reason? Contradictions relating to patient to caregiver ratios.
According to the new policies pertaining to medical marijuana usage, the patient to caregiver ratio would now be 10:1. This means that every Medical Marijuana treatment facility will have one caregiver for accommodating patient needs.
This new development has invited mixed reactions from different stake holders of the marijuana industry.
For stake holding groups like the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance, the increased ratio of medical marijuana patients to caregivers is not only going to diminish the quality of care that each patient receives, but will also increase chances of an unregulated ‘gray market’ .
The reason for this being the authority marijuana care-givers will or already have as per state laws of the region. Furthermore, some Medical Marijuana facilities also have the approval to cultivate marijuana for their patients. This has become raise doubts regarding legal compliance and well will be carried out.
For the most part, the association supports multiple patients under caregivers, it is but it is particularly against the proposed limit number of ten patients. The only encouragement seen by this association is the expected reduction in marijuana costs for patients whereof caregivers will provide the drug at prices lower than pharma companies.
The current ratio of 10:1 is an encouraging figure for the nurses in the Medical Marijuana treatment centers. Consequently, it can act as a compensation to the previously faced defeat in Nurse-Patient Assignment Limits Initiative of 2018.
With further flexibility in marijuana laws, these facilities can expect an increased percentage of patients. Regulating them with limiting patient number per healthcare worker is surely going to be move in a positive direction.
New Marijuana Policy And The ‘Collective Awakening’
The impact that BLM has had on bringing about policy changes concerning marijuana is irrefutable. These new and relaxed marijuana policies can trigger undulating cumulative effects on American society as a whole. The policies have addressed racism, pointed loopholes in the law enforcement system, and targeted police brutality at the core.
These much-needed marijuana policy changes have given many new perspectives to the entire American nation, resulting in a ‘collective awakening‘.
With these changes in policies, governments, lawmakers and the general public are now seeing the true rationale behind the BLM movement. The question that remains unanswered is if this ‘collective awakening’ is going to flex marijuana policies at the federal level as well.
Black Lives Matter movement and its struggle
There comes a point in every realm’s history where an unfortunate event changes the destiny of its people. Black Lives Matter (BLM) is a similar struggle by African-Americans that will become a landmark in history for future generations, particularly due to its impact on the revision of marijuana policies.
This movement has successfully unearthed some major discrepancies in penal laws. It pinpoints racism as the major reason behind an over-zealous application of laws and disciplinary action against particular ethnicities.
Unfortunately, this unfair treatment has ignited some breakneck hatred and insecurity in large segments of the American population that needs to be taken seriously.
Impact of the Black Lives Matter Movement on marijuana policies
The protests carried out under the manifesto of the BLM movement have been substantially successful in softening marijuana laws.
To begin with, the proscription of marijuana has derived its roots from xenophobia itself. In 1910, the huge influx of Mexican immigrants enticed the criminalization of the previously legal marijuana usage.
Since then, marijuana users have been victims of racism, bigotry, and the undeniable aggressive use of force by police.
The flexibility in marijuana laws across different states in the country is a valuable move towards reducing these racial discrepancies. With these changes, cases of police brutality on the bases of the race will hopefully see a significant decline.
Supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement have pointed out that African-Americans have always been targets of harsher prosecutions. The convictions faced by their white country fellowmen are much lenient, despite more or less similar consumption rates.
According to researches published in theuncovery.org, a black person is almost four times more likely to be arrested for possessing marijuana than a white-skinned individual convicted of the same crime.
Almost 8 million arrests made in the country were related to marijuana possession between the years 2001 and 2010. This constituted about 88% of all arrests made during the period, with African-Americans making up the majority.
These figures clearly establish the changes that will occur in the prosecution and convictions following cannabis policy changes.
‘Collective Awakening’ through marijuana policies
Eradicating of past records related to cannabis crimes, widespread medicinal usage, and flexible recreational use are all examples of the steps taken by lawmakers towards ensuring a racially balanced society and fair law enforcement.
Marijuana-related crimes saw an estimated expenditure of $496 million during the years 2001 and 2010. The adjudication of cases relating to marijuana possession during the same period saw a disbursement of $1.4 million.
Without the recent policy changes, expenditures would have reached about $20 million in the upcoming years. Worthy projects like healthcare, education, and infrastructure will now benefit from the redirection of marijuana-related government expenditures.
However, the cracks created in the foundation of the society cannot be filled with this ‘collective awakening’ alone. There is a lot more that needs to be done across all levels to ensure equality and justice for all. It requires an across the board tolerance and acceptance of different ethnicities, religions, and sexuality.
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