Day two – Industrial Hemp Benefits and Further Applications of Medical Cannabis

Jason Lauve, a hemp expert from Colorado, presented a comprehensive overview of industrial hemp. Hemp is a type of cannabis with very low levels of THC with many structural differences as well, such as a much higher fiber content. Lauve discussed the nuances of hemp growing, different parts of the plant, and unique benefits such as phytoremediation. Growing hemp can clean the soil, and it has even been used to heal the soil near the infamous Chernobyl site in Ukraine, where a nuclear reactor explosion in 1986 caused devastating environmental and human damage.

Dan Herer, son of the legendary Jack Herer, who has arguably raised more awareness about the benefits of hemp and medical cannabis than anyone else, continued his father’s legacy with a great presentation on the world-saving potential of industrial hemp. He showed how hemp was noted as the first-ever “billion-dollar crop” back in the February 1938 issue of Popular Mechanics Magazine. Hemp is also a far more sustainable source of paper than trees, and could help achieve energy independence through use as a biofuel. It is so valuable that in 1942, the United States of America produced a documentary called “Hemp for Victory”, urging farmers to grow hemp to help win the war. Anyone who chose to grow hemp could avoid being drafted, a testament to the plant’s importance.

Hemp is even being used for remarkably advanced applications, such as better functioning and far cheaper supercapacitor energy storage devices. Monika Brümmer, a German architect, invented Cannabric, a hemp-based building block which can be used to produce strong buildings with a negative carbon footprint. Homes made from hemp may be healthier to live in and use far less energy.

Vehicles made from hemp also have incredible benefits. Derek Kesek, a hemp expert from Canada, shared his plans to build a hemp plane. Such a plane would be more ecologically-friendly and economical than a fiberglass-based small plane, and would further help the environment by using 100% hemp biofuel.

The tone of the conference shifted towards a medical focus again with Justin Kander (the author’s) presentation on cannabis and cancer. Kander talked briefly about the scientific evidence demonstrating how both plant-based cannabinoids like THC and our own self-made endogenous cannabinoids like anandamide kill or inhibit most types of cancers in cell and animal studies. He then mentioned individual success stories, including Stan Rutner (lung cancer), Corrie Yelland (anal canal cancer), Joanne Crowther (lymphoma), David Triplett (skin cancer), Brian Stewart (skin cancer), and Alysa Erwin (astrocytoma). He also shared work from physicians like Dr. Jeffrey Hergenrather, and showed that even the largest dispensary in the world, Harborside Health Center, is reporting effectiveness against skin cancer. Kander also discussed the limits of cannabis extract therapy, as it does not work for everyone, and nutrition is an integral component of treatment successes. Nonetheless, it is absolutely clear that cannabis extracts are effective against many cancers in many people, and should be available as an adjunct treatment to conventional therapy or a last hope for terminal cancer patients.

Dr. David Bearman, a seasoned physician with over 40 years of experience working in drug abuse treatment programs as well as numerous public appointments, discussed the history of cannabis and how it became illegal. There was absolutely no evidence to justify the criminalization of cannabis, and the American Medical Association even spoke out against cannabis prohibition. Dr. Bearman also recommends cannabis to patients after rigorous medical exams and documentation, and believes that cannabis is one of the best medicines when properly used.

Ana María Gazmuri, a renowned actor from Chile and president of Fundación Daya, discussed the medical use of cannabis in her country. She provided a history of medical cannabis use throughout the world and shared the work she is doing through her organization. They help patients learn to use and produce high-quality, pure cannabis products; 17 diseases including cancer, epilepsy, lupus, and migraines are being successfully treated. Recently, Fundación Daya received approval from the government to grow cannabis to help treat 200 cancer patients with cannabis oil. There is also an upcoming clinical study to examine the combination of cannabis oil and chemotherapy for cancer. Successful experiences from patients the organization has worked with can be found on their website.

The final panel consisted of several politicians and experts, including Italian Senator Alberto Airola, Delegate Marvin Atencio, Ana María Gazmuri, and Dr. Alexis Naranjo Solano. They discussed the intersection between cannabis medicine and politics. Public health can be protected through regulation, ensuring that the right people get access to cannabis medicine while still ensuring control. Also, while the first medical cannabis law passed may not be perfect, it can be improved later. What matters is ensuring patients have safe access as soon as possible.

Dr. Giselle Amador Muñoz closed off the conference by giving an overview of medical cannabis issues in Costa Rica. Dr. Muñoz is an addiction specialist who was against cannabis for years, but now supports its medical use. It can improve the quality of life and save lives by reducing opiate consumption; in American states with medical cannabis laws, there are 25% fewer opiate-related deaths than states without such laws. Unlike opiates, it is impossible to have a fatal overdose with cannabis, and its use allows people to drastically reduce or eliminate opiate consumption. Costa Rican citizens are already using cannabis and physicians are already recommending it. To help people and control quality, it is critical for cannabis to be regulated. Furthermore, legitimate patients are being arrested and dying in jail.

Several things were made clear from this conference. First, cannabis is a safe medicine with thousands of years of recorded medical use. There has never been a death attributed solely to cannabis use, and until very recently, the plant was revered as a useful medicine. Every vertebrate has an endocannabinoid system, which helps regulate homeostasis, or balance, within the body. Cannabinoids from the cannabis plant work through this system to benefit many diseases. States and countries that are allowing medical cannabis use are seeing great benefits and very few problems.

Costa Rica now has the opportunity to become a leader in a revolutionary emerging field. By embracing the use of cannabis medicine and industrial hemp, Costa Rica can vastly improve its peoples’ health and significantly boost its economy. After everything that was learned at CannaCosta 2015, rapid reform is certain to happen.