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420: It’s ‘High’ Time We Discuss the Medicinal Benefits of Marijuana

420: It’s ‘High’ Time We Discuss the Medicinal Benefits of Marijuana
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By Jill Matlow

Four twenty (420).

Say this number and most people will express how relieved they are that their taxes have been filed or that they can’t wait for the workday to be over.  Especially Fred Flintstone, who would leave work at 5pm sharp every day. I guess Mr. Slate didn’t believe in overtime.

But mention 420 to a subset of people, and you’ll probably get a wink or a grin from them.

For those not in the know, 420 is code for cannabis, that herb that seems to be getting tons of attention and publicity lately. 23 out of the 50 states  (including Washington DC) have legalized it for medicinal purposes, with more states leaning in that direction.

So what is the story behind the expression ‘420’?

Legend has it and according to Wikipedia:

“A group of teenagers in San Rafael, California, calling themselves the Waldos because “their chosen hang-out spot was a wall outside the school”, used the term in connection with a fall 1971 plan to search for an abandoned cannabis crop that they had learned about.  The Waldos designated the Louis Pasteur statue on the grounds of San Rafael High School as their meeting place, and 4:20 p.m. as their meeting time.  The Waldos referred to this plan with the phrase “4:20 Louis”.  Multiple failed attempts to find the crop eventually shortened their phrase to simply “4:20”, which ultimately evolved into a codeword that the teens used to mean marijuana-smoking in general. Mike Edison says that Steve Hager of High Times was responsible for taking the story about the Waldos to “mind-boggling, cult like extremes” and “suppressing” all other stories about the origin of the term”.

Do you remember your first experience with marijuana? For me, it was in junior high. I ‘smoked’ a joint made out of a pink, strawberry-flavored rolling paper. I know for a fact that I didn’t know how to inhale or what I was doing.  I don’t even think I ‘got high’ that day.

In the 1960s and 1970s, we were ‘scared straight’ by many drug movies and even some Dragnet episodes that really went overboard with their illustration of the evils of marijuana and other drugs. And who can forget that cult classic: “Go Ask Alice” by Anonymous?

Which brings me to the main point of this article.

I spent many years working in pharmaceutical advertising where I was privy to large budgets provided by pharmaceutical companies to create enduring materials for their sales forces. These promotional and educational pieces touted the drugs’ benefits, but due to fair balance, we also had to list any pertinent side effects. Has anyone ever seen the TV commercials with the endless scrolling of the drug’s side effects? Talk about something that should ‘scare you straight!’

Even though I was well compensated for my work in pharmaceutical advertising, as a ‘flower child’ of the 1960s, I just couldn’t set aside my philosophical viewpoints.  How can we continue to manufacture so many of these drugs with their heinous side effects, which many people can’t even afford?  We have an abundance of marijuana plants growing outside which could provide some of these same medicinal benefits as the pharmaceutical drugs do, but at a much more reasonable cost and with fewer side effects.

I soon parted ways with the pharmaceutical advertising industry, and never looked back.

The scientific research is now pointing to the fact that marijuana offers many promising medical benefits for so many different medical conditions: MS, pain management, cancer (stimulating appetite and curbing nausea), glaucoma and epilepsy, to name a few.

What is the mechanism of action leading to these benefits? Without getting too scientific, THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the main chemical in marijuana, binds to nerve cell receptors, which then respond with a change in activity. THC is responsible for most of marijuana’s psychological effects as well.

Despite what many people think, it does not have to be smoked to achieve these positive outcomes – the THC or cannabinoids, can be found in capsule form, vaporized, transdermal patches or in topical solutions.

The next few years should prove to be very interesting. Hopefully, the mainstream perceptions about medicinal marijuana will change, and the scientific community –  through their research and clinical trials – will move toward a “greener” society, one which will embrace a more natural way of medicating our ailments.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go to the grocery store.


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Jill Matlow
Jill Matlow spent much of her career working in many different facets of the healthcare industry writing marketing proposals, creative briefs and tactical plans. She is thrilled to now be writing articles geared to baby boomers who are nostalgic about their past but still hopeful about their futures. While music is her first passion, writing comes in a close second.