Cannabis, Not your Hippy Granny’s Weed + 4 Guidelines for using cannabis as medicine

It’s probably been 47 years since your granny tried cannabis.

As the saying goes, much has changed and much has stayed the same.

This article is about what we’ve learned in the last 50 years about the endocannabinoid system and some helpful guidelines about medicinal cannabis.

Federally, the plant is still a Class I drug and illegal. In 28 states it is legal for certain medical conditions and in 8 states recreational use is permissible. The legality or validity of Cannabis as a medicine will not be the topic of this article. I’ll leave that to others.

What Have We Learned?

Since your granny tried Cannabis we’ve discovered THC, CBD, cannabinoid receptors, Anandamide & 2-AG (our own cannabinoids) and the fact that we have our own, complete, internal endocannabinoid system.

Pioneer practitioners abroad and in this country have been using it as a medicine, quietly risking jail, all this time.

We find ourselves still in the beginning of the greedy frenzy of people wanting the easy-get-rich-quick-fix capitalism falsely promises. While I appreciate the power of getting the plant legally available to people who need it, I can’t help but predict seeing this highly medicinal plant going the way of corporate tobacco. Again, I’ll leave this can of worms right here for others to discuss.

At the same time desperate people in need of real medicine and real advice are scouring the internet, asking friends, herbalists, dispensary workers, and their doctors for information on how to use cannabis as a medicine.

True, fact-based information is hard to come by – I know, I’ve been using my scientific training for years now, compiling information and evidence based research to share with people (keep reading to get my resource list)

Here is where I hope I can be helpful.

First a message from our Endocannabinoid System (ECS)

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Raphael Mechoulan, a pioneer in cannabis research, is considered the grandfather of this system and he calls it the “Global Protection System”.

The ECS underlies the other physiological branches of our nervous system.

Yes, it even directs the Autonomic Nervous System. It influences eating, relaxation & sleep, protection (immunity, inflammation, carcinogenesis), learning, memory, and forgetting of fear.

When this system is balanced and fully functioning, organisms (including you) feel safe. Safe enough to learn, explore, play and relax. I like to think of it as the “chemistry of safety.”

Of course there can be internal, sub optimal, functioning of the system. It has a fancy name, Endocannabinoid Deficiency Syndrome. The organism does not make enough endocannabinoids, or has low receptor number or decreased receptor function, or removes endocannabinoids from the synapse too soon. How would these folks feel? Anxious, fearful, depressed, suicidal, (one pharmaceutical drug, rimonabant, developed in 2006, to block the EC receptor had folks feeling just that and was removed from the market). Conditions that may have this deficiency as a component: migraine, IBS, Fibromyalgia, depression, anxiety, MS, Huntington’s, Chronic motion sickness, Anorexia, Schizophrenia, Parkinson’s, Failure to thrive, PTSD. This list is probably just the beginning.

I teach a class on the endocannabinoid system which goes into much greater detail.

Here’s the a handout I give my students.

19 Reputable Sources on the Endocannabinoid System

I love to organize the resources, references, etc... things that took me years to compile, all in one place.

Here's one of the handouts I provide to the students who attend my in-depth lectures – 19 reputable sources on the Endocannabinoid System.

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You’ll notice there many primary scientific journal articles. Many people post blogs or write books or articles from these studies. Why not go directly to the source and draw your own conclusions?! I can’t tell you how many references to Ethan Russo’s Entourage Effect article there are out there. For reals!!!! And by the way, we herbalists have been calling the entourage effect “whole plant herbalism” forever.

Just say’n.

4 Helpful Guidelines usually NOT in any of the resources:

1. Constituent content:

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Inside the trichomes is where all the constituents are made.

  • The cannabis of today is much higher in THC (some strains measured at > 30%) than your granny’s of the 70’s.
  • If the grower harvests the plant too soon (many do so they can increase yields and production) there is an increased risk of more anxiety.
  • Conditions where you want the immune system fighting harder (cancer) need High THC content. No pun intended.
  • Most strains you get from your local grower are very low in CBD (people wanted higher highs so it was bred out). This can cause more anxiety in the strains because CBD helps modulate THC’s anxiety causing characteristics.
  • Conditions where you want high CBD to low THC are seizures. Don’t let the dispensaries charge you more for the high CBD when you don’t need it.
  • Balanced THC:CBD is good for pain.
  • Smoking of processed cannabis products (dabs, shatter, glass) is great for extreme pain… think, post surgery. In this form the THC levels can be as high as 80%. Recreational use of this product is unnecessary.  I am sure we will see a rise in addiction rates from the current of 9% for cannabis to the rates for cocaine and alcohol 12-15%. Need a context? Think of the difference between opium poppy tincture and smoking opium or injecting heroin. Addiction rates go up as the delivery rate and concentrations go up.

Don’t be conned into thinking THC is the bad constituent and CBD is the good constituent.

THC is absolutely necessary for stimulating your own Natural Killer Cells, inducing cell death (apoptosis), inhibiting cell growth, cell migration, angiogenesis and lowering tumor growth. All of these are essential for fighting cancer. It also decreases pain (especially neuropathic pain), is anticonvulsant, a sedative, anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic.

CBD is anti-anxiety, anti-convulsant, anti-emetic, analgesic, anti-spasmodic, improves sleep, modulates THC’s anxiety and tachycardia, potentiates THC’s analgesia, together with THC they potentiate chemotherapy meds (which would mean you would need less). CBD is also anti-inflammatory, a neuroprotective, and neurogenic.

2. Know Your Grower

Just like everything else. Be a localvore. Know their practices and values. Things to consider and discuss with them:

  • Pesticide use.
  • Organic vs. synthetic fertilizers. (General Hydroponics one of the oldest fertilizers in the industry is now owned by Monsanto).
  • Indoor vs. outdoor. (not saying one is better or worse, just know where it’s grown.)
  • Grower/Dispensaries are great because they test everything.
  • Grower/Dispensaries could be great if they shared with you what their standards of practices around pesticides use and fertilizer types.
  • Grower/Dispensaries are not so great because they are becoming the big business (think Budweiser) of cannabis. If you utilize big business, factory farming for other areas of your health and well being, this won’t be a conflict of interest. But if you are drinking artisanal coffee and buying your food from your local farmer’s market, then you might want to think again. And the dispensaries “artisanal lines” don’t count.

3. Know Your Cannabis


  • There are now over 3000 different strains tested for at labs. This doesn’t include what the growers are breeding and not testing.
  • People selling will change names to the whatever is the popular flavor of the month. Testing labs have proven this multiple times.
  • Get your strains and medicine tested. Test for THC, CBD, pesticides, contaminants/bacteria/fungus absolutely. Terpenes if you want to know more. (We will continue to uncover the benefits of the Terpenes. They are actually what differentiate the different strains, not Indica vs. Sativa…..but not enough time and space to go into it right here).
  • Work with your grower to have them grow what you need.
  • Get to know your growers. Most times they will give you trim for free to make medicine with.

4. Find an herbalist

They know how to make all kinds of herbal medicine already. Tinctures, resin oils, infused oils for edibles are all medicines your grandparents and great grandparents have been making forever. After all, Cannabis is a PLANT medicine.

There’s so much to say on this topic, and so much that our community has learned through research and experience. I hope this article was informative for you, and I urge you to learn more. There is a lot of misconceptions about “pot”, and understanding the myths, the research, and the wisdom of those with experience helps us give this plant the respect it deserves.

If you’d like to learn more about the endocannabinoid system, I’m presenting an in-depth lecture on this topic in my upcoming Advanced A&P Online Course – (coming soon), but for now you can download the handout I give to students with more resources and learning.

19 Reputable Sources on the Endocannabinoid System

I love to organize the resources, references, etc... things that took me years to compile, all in one place.

Here's one of the handouts I provide to the students who attend my in-depth lectures – 19 reputable sources on the Endocannabinoid System.

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I'm a researcher, educator, guest lecturer, and co-founder of Heartstone Center for Earth Essentials in Van Etten, NY.