Chronicling the follies of religion and superstition, the virtues of skepticism, and the wonders of the real (natural) universe as revealed by science. Plus other interesting and educational stuff.
"Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure."
“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed”.
“Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”
Controversial but sound hypotheses have been put forward suggesting that humans and marijuana coevolved. The University of California at Berkeley describes coevolution in simple terms:
“The term coevolution is used to describe cases where two (or more) species reciprocally affect each other’s evolution. So for example, an evolutionary change in the morphology of a plant, might affect the morphology of an herbivore that eats the plant, which in turn might affect the evolution of the plant, which might affect the evolution of the herbivore…and so on.” (3)
If this hypothesis is correct, it would mean that the existence of the marijuana plant as we know it today was directly influenced by modern humans, and vice versa; a concept not easily accepted in a world where the machinations powering the War on Drugs still tout the plant as a dangerous evil to be persecuted and eradicated out of existence. However, there is significant evidence to support the idea of man and cannabis coevolving.
For instance, consider the fact that the cannabis plant is a colonizer. This means that in the wild the plant generally needs open, cleared soil in order to grow. As Mel Frank and Ed Rosenthal point out, cleared patches of fertile ground do not occur often in nature; perhaps after a storm, flood, fire or some other type of disaster. As a colonizer, cannabis would also be short-lived once larger growth vegetation moved in. This means that the plant’s ideal environment is a patch of clear ground that stays clear.
Did cannabis lead to civilization?
Enter our early human ancestors. With their newfound habit of clearing land for agricultural-based settlements, cannabis found an unlikely partner in man, who provided more clearings and fertile patches of ground than the plant would encounter naturally. (1) This meant that interactions between the two species were virtually assured at least as far back as the Neolithic period.
Interestingly, some powerful figures have even speculated that the newly developed agricultural lifestyle of Neolithic man was probably focused on cultivation of cannabis directly, and was likely mankind’s very first – and often only – crop. Carl Sagan, famed author, astronomer and astrophysicist, even goes one step further and suggests that if cannabis led to agriculture, then it therefore led us to civilization. (4)
Humans are Physiologically Linked to Cannabis
If the previous theories on the coevolution of man and marijuana aren’t convincing enough, there is also the fact that cannabis is literally, physically part of human genetic makeup. It is widely known that there are thousands of cannabinoid receptor sites spread throughout the human body, with most located in the brain and spinal cord. These receptors bind with cannabinoids to produce various effects throughout the central nervous system – cannabinoids that are generally only present when marijuana is consumed. According to a study by the University of Auckland, these cannabinoid receptors are found in the brain at nearly all stages of human growth:
“Cannabinoid receptors were distributed in a heterogeneous fashion throughout the adult human brain and spinal cord. The allocortex contained very high concentrations of cannabinoid receptor binding sites in the dentate gyrus, Ammons’s horn and subiculum of the hippocampal formation; high concentrations of receptors were also present in the entorhinal cortex and amygdaloid complex. Cannabinoid receptor binding sites were also present throughout all regions of the neocortex…” (5)
Marijuana supporters often cite the fact that because of the presence of these cannabinoid receptor sites, humans must be “designed” to use marijuana. However, the deeper question often posed is this: Did humans evolve cannabinoid receptor sites naturally, or did these sites evolve as a result of our ancient relationship with the cannabis plant?
If humans developed these cannabinoid receptor sites as a result of thousands of years of cultivation, veneration and consumption of the plant, then the idea that man and cannabis coevolved would appear to be factual. In fact, suggesting that these receptor sites evolved independently and coincidentally probably doesn’t make much sense considering the complete lack of supporting evidence or logic.
SEATTLE (AP) — An effort is building in Congress to change U.S. marijuana laws, including moves to legalize the industrial production of hemp and establish a federal pot tax.
While passage this year could be a longshot, lawmakers from both parties have been quietly working on several bills, the first of which Democratic Reps. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon and Jared Polis of Colorado plan to introduce Tuesday, Blumenauer told The Associated Press.
Polis’ measure would regulate marijuana the way the federal government handles alcohol: In states that legalize pot, growers would have to obtain a federal permit. Oversight of marijuana would be removed from the Drug Enforcement Administration and given to the newly renamed Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Marijuana and Firearms, and it would remain illegal to bring marijuana from a state where it’s legal to one where it isn’t.
The bill is based on a legalization measure previously pushed by former Reps. Barney Frank of Massachusetts and Ron Paul of Texas.
Blumenauer’s bill would create a federal marijuana excise tax.
Last fall’s votes in Colorado and Washington state to legalize recreational marijuana should push Congress to end the 75-year federal pot prohibition, Blumenauer said.
“You folks in Washington and my friends in Colorado really upset the apple cart,” Blumenauer said. “We’re still arresting two-thirds of a million people for use of a substance that a majority feel should be legal. … It’s past time for us to step in and try to sort this stuff out.”
I highly doubt this particular bill will go anywhere (how I would love to be wrong about that) but this is a step in the right direction, and the fact that we are even talking about it at this level is a good sign, in my eyes.