With the rapid legalization of cannabis in most of the US, medical cannabis’ prominence has increased quite dramatically over the last 5 years. This comprehensive interactive map will walk you through each state and its respective information on marijuana legalization, medical use, recreational use, and anything in between.
Since California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1995, cannabis health products have slowly, but surely, reached the mainstream. Today, medical marijuana has majority support, with 33 states endorsing the substance for those with a doctor’s prescription. A number of medical marijuana states now offer cannabis to all adults, regardless of prescription, like Colorado, Nevada, and California, for example. Michigan became the 10th state to legalize cannabis outright last year following the midterm elections, and 2018 ushered the first recreational cannabis sales on the east coast, with one Massachusetts recreational marijuana dispensary projecting sales between 6 and 8 million dollars annually.
Furthermore, the U.S. Federal government has slowly loosened its hold on cannabis’ legality. The Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 removed hemp from a list of schedule 1 substances, making it legal like any other agricultural product. Moreover, Epidiolex became the first FDA approved cannabidiol oil medicine for those with severe forms of epilepsy.
Since legal cannabis reached this state of semi ubiquity, health nuts and weed connoisseurs alike have begun integrating the plant into their regimens, opening cannabis-infused yoga studios, gyms, and other fitness-related areas along the West Coast and the Midwest.
Ricky Williams, a former NFL player, launched Power Plant Fitness back in 2016, a San Francisco fitness center that allows and encourages cannabis use prior and post-workout. And just last week, Martha Stewart partnered with Canadian cannabis firm Canopy Growth to create branded cannabis-derived CBD products.
But how exactly does cannabis improve your health and wellness routine? What is the science behind the craze?
Cannabis and Your Endocannabinoid System
To understand cannabis’ medical properties, and its potential as a healthy lifestyle supplement, we must first understand how the human body interacts with cannabis to produce its many effects.
Enter the endocannabinoid system, or ECS. The ECS regulates bodily processes, acting in ways to preserve homeostasis, or your body’s natural balance. These processes include appetite, sleep, mood, pain sensation, and many others. When consumed, cannabis interacts with this regulatory network, producing its effects. When used in an optimal way, cannabis may help better regulate your body and keep balance.
A long series of receptors and neurotransmitters populate the endocannabinoid system. These neurotransmitters act as cells that transfer impulses nerve to nerve, by binding to open receptors. These receptors are called cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1) and cannabinoid receptor type 2 (CB2).
To regulate your body, your ECS releases certain neurotransmitters during periods of high physical activity, like workouts.
Anandamide, one of the two most studied endocannabinoids, is one of these neurotransmitters. Anandamide provides a feel good sensation similar to that of body made endorphins. When you are “in the zone” during physical performance, Anandamide binds to CB1 receptors in your ECS, creating a feeling of euphoria commonly known as “runner’s high.”
When this runner’s high ends, your body releases fatty acid amide hydrolase, or FAAH, an enzyme. FAAH metabolizes Anandamide. Once metabolized, anandamide cannot produce it’s euphoric effects, and the runner’s high ends. FAAH acts like a switch, turning off the effects of Anandamide on the ECS’s many receptors.
When you ingest cannabis, cannabinoids bind to and block certain CB1 and CB2 receptors. Studies show that cannabis-related compounds will bind to these specific CB1 receptors, and block the FAAH switch. Without FAAH, anandamide stays active longer, effectively extending its euphoric effects Cannabis’ action on anandamide metabolism may explain why cannabis has been found to be so beneficial for use alongside exercise, as it helps invigorate and extend our body’s natural reward system for physical activity.
Cannabis’ chemicals CBD and THC work in synergy to amplify each others effects, a phenomenon known as the entourage effect.
By interacting with your ECS, cannabis has many analgesic properties perfect for pre and post workout. Nick Diaz, a seasoned UFC fighter, famously used and championed cannabis-derived CBD oil after a 2016 bout with Conor McGregor, reported by Medium. Diaz famously took the podium with a black eye and a CBD infused vape pen in his hand which he inhaled from. “It’s CBD!” he clarified in between tokes, ensuring reporters he wasn’t getting high, “It helps with the healing process and inflammation, stuff like that. So you want to get these for before and after the fights, training. It’ll make your life a better place.” While CBD alone aided Diaz, whole-plant cannabis has an even greater potential for fighting inflammation and as an analgesic for post-workout. Both CBD and THC influence and act upon your body’s endocannabinoid receptors, resulting in anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects, but when they are used together in synergy, they amplify each others effects.
Just like cannabis chemicals behind the runner’s high, CBD reduces the metabolization of anandamide. However, instead of binding to CB1 receptors and blocking FAAH directly, CBD inhibits FAAH’s actual action, the metabolization process itself. CBD effectively curtails FAAH’s ability to do its job, allowing anandamide to exist in high concentrations in the ECS.
When used in conjunction with THC, you block CB1 receptors for FAAH as well as decrease its overall functionality, allowing you to get the maximum amount of available anandamide active in the ECS. This synergy between different cannabis chemicals is known as the entourage effect, where cannabis chemicals work together to increase their effects.
In terms of recovery, cannabis not only cuts down on muscle inflammation, but it stimulates activities which will help start or conclude your workout, like eating and sleeping. Cannabis indica strains, often known for their “couch-lock” and munchies inducing effects, provide pain relief, sleep aid, and appetite improvement which can help athletes pre and post-workout.
Moreover, cannabis use encourages healthy hydration. ECS receptors can be found all over your body, including your salivary glands. When cannabinoids bind here, they inhibit the salivary glands, causing a dry mouth sensation known colloquially as “cotton mouth.” This encourages hydration during your workout, which can aid in your overall rest and recovery.
Your own experiences with cannabis may vary, as it affects each person differently.
In closing, it’s important you note that cannabis, like any other psychoactive substance, affects each person who uses it in different ways. Not everyone will find the same beneficial results championed by athletes and medical marijuana patients alike.
Many different factors account for your tolerance level toward cannabis. Tolerance level signifies the amount of cannabis one needs to use to feel its effects. The more you use cannabis, the higher your tolerance will be. Other factors, like your past experiences with other psychoactive drugs like alcohol, also contribute.
Therefore, not every athlete or workout warrior may find success or improvement after using cannabis. With that said, how has cannabis helped make your life a better place?
About the Author
Chris Matich is a professional writer, journalist, and editor living in Pittsburgh, PA. Chris blogs for Schenley.net. His writing interests include LGBT+ people/issues, sports writing, and blogging. Chris currently writes about web optimization, blogging practices, medical cannabis, and cannabis lifestyle. He writes fiction and creative nonfiction in his spare time.