detailed anatomy of the human brain. Illustration showing the medulla pons cerebellum hypothalamus thalamus midbrain. Sagittal view of the brain. Isolated on a white background.

by Paul Fassa
Health Impact News

Brain damage is a major issue that marijuana prohibitionists point out as a primary reason to ban cannabis. Throughout the “Drug War” declared by then President Nixon in 1971, which has been continued through subsequent presidential administrations, there have been a few outrageous attempts at proving brain damage from cannabis.

This video exposes the scientific fraud of one of those outrageous attempts used as evidence during the Reagan era.

However, anecdotal and clinical application reports of recoveries from brain damage or neurological diseases have contradicted what most formally funded academic studies report regarding effects on the brain.

Studies not funded by American government agencies, however, are reporting that the brain damage fears are at least exaggerated, if not completely unfounded.

Study: Grey Matter Changes Associated with Heavy Cannabis Use

Grey or gray matter refers to the part of the brain containing areas responsible for memory, emotions, muscular control, speech, and major external sensory perceptions. It also contains the most neuronal cell bodies or neurons, the main conduits of nervous system transmission.

A longitudal study is one that uses the same subjects over a specific, usually long-term, period of time. This study covered 39 months following several healthy non-cannabis users recruited as controls to compare with an almost equal number of heavy cannabis users as subjects. They were all young adults.

At the beginning of the 39 months, or baseline, sMRI (structural magnetic resolution imaging) were made of their grey matter and compared with follow up sMRI analysis at the end of 39 months.

This study, conducted by the University of Amsterdam, in Amsterdam, Netherlands, published May 2016 in the journal PLOS/ONE concluded:

The lack of significant differences in GM [gray matter] volumes changes between young adult heavy cannabis users and healthy controls over time suggests that heavy cannabis use does not reduce regional GM volumes in this period [39 months]. (Source)

This study does not support the notion of brain damage danger from heavy marijuana use. It didn’t make mainstream news and it probably didn’t come even near U.S. government officials who beat the drums for marijuana prohibition.

Shared Predisposition in the Association Between Cannabis Use and Subcortical Brain Structure

This was another cannabis brain structure study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 2015. It was conducted by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, and another at King’s College of London, England, all of whom were involved in departments of neuroscience, radiology, psychiatry, and psychology.

This time the subcortical section of the brain, which holds the cerebellum, thalamus and basal ganglia, was the focus. Less is known about these parts of the brain compared to other parts. Evidence is showing they are vital to the complexity of motor and nonmotor functions of the entire nervous system. (Source)

This study used well over four hundred sibling subjects from a public data base. The siblings were divided into four groups: Those who both used marijuana; those who both did not use marijuana; and siblings who did not agree on using marijuana were divided into those who did and those who did not use marijuana.

The researchers’ bottom line after all their digging through the records:

Despite speculation regarding the neurotoxic effects of tetrahydrocannabinol [THC] based on preclinical research (eg, studies by Scallet38 and Landfield et al39), the observed cannabis-related volumetric differences were well within the range of normal variation. When using a simple index of exposure (ie, ever vs never use), we found no evidence for the causal influence of cannabis exposure on amygdala volume. (Source)

Well, the studies certainly didn’t help the federal governrment’s marijuana prohibition cause, did they?

The Value of Another Non-Psychotropic Cannabinoid Discovered

An even more recent animal study conducted in Spain concluded that a relatively ignored cannabaninoid, THCA, has neuroprotective qualities. Their results were published in the British Journal of Pharmacology.

CBD and THC are the cannabinoids that have taken the spotlight of attention for their healing properties, and THC (tetrahydracannabinol) is what creates the “high” that is held in check to some degree by CBD (cannabidiol).

Both have therapeutic value. The Spanish researchers wanted to determine what THCA could offer in the way of neuroprotective qualities. The study concluded:

THCA shows potent neuroprotective activity, worth consideration for the treatment of Huntington´s disease and possibly other neurodegenerative and neuroinflammatory diseases. (Source)

THCA is THC before heating. In other words, THCA is part of the raw cannabis plant. It doesn’t get anyone high, and some maintain the greatest therapeutic value of cannabis comes from the whole unheated plant if eaten raw or juiced.

But that situation is currently very impractical. It would require larger agricultural plots with the widespread acceptance of cannabis as a healthy and viable large scale agricultural plant.

That’s not happening yet.

Highly concentrated cannabis oils, edibles, and tinctures all involve some heating, and of course so does smoking and vaping. That’s what produces THC, which is feared because it produces a euphoric sensation. So it would make sense that THCA should be widely accepted.

There is now at least one California medical cannabis provider that is extracting THCA powders from raw cannabis. So we have yet another avenue for medical marijuana if you search online for “THCA powder.”

Professional Athletes Are Onto Cannabis as Neuroprotective

CBD is already widely accepted because it does not produce the high. It seems that current and former NFL professional football players are getting some inroads for NFL approval of CBD to protect against long term brain damage from concussions and CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy).

CTE has been discovered as a later stage development from the constant trauma of normal collisions in football, even though there are no concussions. The brain is floating in the skull’s fluid, and even rapid high velocity stops induces the brain’s internal collisions within the skull. Over time, premature dementia, anxiety, and depression has led to some suicides among former NFL players.

Former NFL quarterback Jake Plummer attributes his recovery from nagging injuries and neurological issues to CBD and urges the NFL to consider allowing players to use it. (Source)

While he was still playing, Raven’s offensive tackle Eugene Monroe was a cannabis for players advocate. He has financially contributed to a group that is doing research for CBD called Realm of Caring. He and several others are lobbying the NFL to allow players to use CBD.

A well kept secret among professional hockey players is that there is no NHL (National Hockey League) regulation prohibiting marijuana. Since it’s not considered a performance enhancement drug, it’s not formally tested. Hockey players aren’t concerned if it does show up in any urine test since it’s not prohibited.

So there are players who do use it for pain, relaxation, and neuroprotective purposes. (Source)

Early Cannabis Testing to Prove Brain Damage from Cannabis Backfired, Then it was Suppressed

In 1974, the Medical College of Virginia, reportedly received NIH (National Institutes of Health) funds to prove cannabis causes brain damage. Monitored by the DEA, it apparently backfired when it turned out the researchers discovered lab rats’ brain cancer tumors were greatly diminished from cannabis exposure.

The research funds were withdrawn and almost all of the papers from that research were destroyed or locked away by order of the interim Gerald Ford Administration to perpetuate former President Richard Nixon’s “war on drugs” with its major focus on cannabis.

By 1976, President Ford granted pharmaceutical companies exclusive rights for cannabis research, which only wants to isolate active ingredients and recreate them synthetically instead of using whole extracts from various cannabis whole plant strains.

In 1983, President Ronald Reagan issued an edict to destroy all academic research papers on cannabis that were positive.

Later, researchers in Madrid, Spain made public their revolutionary discovery of cannabis shrinking cancer tumors in 2000.

Dr. Manuel Guzman of the Complutense University of Madrid had heard of the Virginia 1974 study, but couldn’t find a journal publication to cite it for the Madrid study.

Dr. Guzman commented in response to an email interview with journalist Raymond Cushing regarding the 1974 Virginia study:

It is extremely interesting to me, the hope that the project [cannabis for cancer] seemed to awaken at that moment, and the sad evolution of events during the years following the discovery, until now we once again draw back the veil over the anti-tumoral power of THC, twenty-five years later. Unfortunately, the world bumps along between such moments of hope and long periods of intellectual castration. (Source)

Hopefully, we’ll make it through the Jeff Sessions era of reviving the drug war as head of the Justice Department that houses the DEA without another period of “intellectual castration.”