The importance of differentiating the Cannabis Industry from the Pharmaceutical Industry

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Barbara Arranz

The pharmaceutical industry is researching and isolating marijuana, the cannabis industry understands that the plant must be respected as a whole.

4 minutes read

In a historic moment where Brazil and other countries are starting to structure a regulated industry of cannabis-based products, it is vital to bring to this discussion the importance of preserving those who have been leading the fight for marijuana for a long time.

Since Anvisa  regulated the use of marijuana for the production of pharmaceuticals for medicinal purposes  at the end of 2019, much has been said about the future of the production of medicines and other cannabis-based products. But for us to move forward in this discussion, it is first very important to make a clarification that is already stamped in the title of this article: the cannabis industry is not a pharmaceutical industry and should not be treated as such. But why?

When we take an important step like the one taken by Anvisa, we are faced with the need to create policies that support how things will be in practice. In the case of marijuana, in particular, this issue reaches many more aspects because we are talking not only about a plant, but about a social phenomenon.

Relegated to a marginal role to this day, marijuana hides many secrets that we still don't know. Just to give you an idea, it is estimated that the plant has more than 500 components, most of them still lacking in-depth studies about their benefits.

Added to this is the fact that marijuana is an important part of the culture and identity not only of social groups but also of entire countries, and we can begin to understand the importance of discussing the impact of the pharmaceutical industry in all this and what role it plays. from other groups in the discussion. But first, let's make a brief historical clipping to better understand where I want to go.

What's behind the ban?

Historians estimate that the use of marijuana for medicinal and recreational purposes is an ancient practice. In Asia, 6,000 years ago, the plant was already cultivated to make use of its seeds and fibers. The categorization of marijuana as a dangerous drug is something recent, about 100 years old. You must be asking yourself: why? The answer can be summed up in one word: politics.

The war on drugs carried out by the United States created an environment of oppression that not only disregarded the medicinal benefits of the plant, but also tried to erase what it represents in the cultural and identity aspects of millions of people. As a result, those most affected were historically marginalized peoples such as blacks and Latinos.

The curious thing about all this is that, at the same time that it leads a war that has spread over much of the planet, the United States holds the patent for the use of the plant, which is classified as neuroprotective. A contradiction that only reinforces the political terms behind the ban.

As a result, such a chemically rich plant is still almost unknown to science. Even in the United States, only one university has federal authorization to distribute plant inputs to the few researchers who are authorized to conduct research on the plant.

It is not surprising, therefore, that the United States has lagged behind and today Israel, which does not impose restrictions on research, is increasingly advancing studies on the properties of marijuana.

The advancement of research

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, a scientific discovery brought cannabis back to the forefront of discussions. Scientists have discovered receptors present in the human body that have reacted positively to the components of cannabis. This is what has come to be called the Endocannabinoid System (ESA).

Thanks to studies involving this system, the question of bringing the benefits of marijuana to the medical field in the treatment of various diseases, especially those of a neurological nature, began to be raised. But how to deepen this research and offer the benefits to millions of people if the plant is still extremely stigmatized and its patent prohibited in many countries?

This discussion has caused many other nations to take a closer look at marijuana and its properties. Although we are still far from knowing all the properties of cannabis, it is undeniable that there are initiatives around the world in search of answers. With the pharmaceutical industry focused on marijuana taking shape, another delicate issue emerged: the isolation of the plant's components.

It is part of the model of this type of industry to isolate the properties of the plant, patent each advance achieved and produce solutions from these fragments. But would this be the best way? Evidently not! Using all the components of the plant makes its power much more effective.

In addition, each human being has a unique Endocannabinoid System, making the doses necessary to achieve a therapeutic goal depend much more on individual knowledge about their own body and mind than on pre-determined impositions.

The cannabis industry in it all

After understanding all of the above, you may have already realized that the pharmaceutical industry and the cannabis industry are far from the same. Both part of different principles and both deal with cannabis in a completely different way.

While the pharmaceutical industry and its large corporations are researching and isolating marijuana for essentially economic purposes, the cannabis industry understands that the plant must be respected as a whole. More than that, the cannabis industry understands that the individual must be the center of discussions and must have their autonomy preserved especially with regard to how the plant should be used.

For the most part, the protagonists of the cannabis industry have long been fighting for the de-stigmatization of marijuana. Even in countries where the use of the plant is prohibited and studies are highly controlled, these people strive to show how inconsistent this fight against marijuana is and how many people are being harmed by it.

For all these reasons, it is very important that, at a time like the one that Brazil is going through (of legalization of cannabis-based products), the real protagonists of the cannabis industry are not erased in favor of a pharmaceutical industry that is certainly will increasingly mobilize to profit from the plant.

Marijuana is not a plant like any other. It has millennia of history, crossed generations, helped to form cultures, social groups and fights. This cannot be relegated to the background precisely at a time when people who have been marginalized so much will finally be able to have a more active voice.

This is why the cannabis industry is not the pharmaceutical industry and cannot be suppressed by it. In the midst of so many discussions about the future of the topic, it is essential to ensure that groups that historically fight for the plant have the right to continue doing so.

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