Article by Dr. Frank, Cannabis Culture
Let’s get one thing out of the way: under no circumstances did medical schools in New York give any type of training on cannabis in the early-to-mid 80s (1982 to 1986, to be precise). Cannabis was never really mentioned or even bought up as an option or alternative to other pharmaceutical medications. Cannabis was just a “drug…
They would not teach anything like that at the traditional medical schools in the United States. Sure, there were some studies knocking around in the 70s and 80s looking at cannabis’s efficacy for epilepsy, glaucoma, chemotherapy treatment and AIDS/HIV, but these were not establishment views, and cannabis was pretty much considered a “drug” by most medical practitioners. Now, it was still used – on the black market, obviously – but as far as medicine was concerned, cannabis was definitely not considered medicine in any way.
Yes, there was some research in the 60s, 70s and 80s looking at cannabis from a medical viewpoint, but it was all under the covers. You couldn’t get any kind of federal funding, just like today. Most of the research that was being done was being done in Israel and a little bit in the Netherlands, but nothing was being done in the United States. And you know, with the way Americans and the American Medical Association (AMA) think (and, to be fair, there are medical associations the world over that think similarly), it’s “If the research is not done in the United States, it’s not valid.” That’s just the sort of strict or “Catholic”-like view that the AMA has. The sort of “If it’s not American, it’s not good enough.”
I myself am not so parochial in my thinking. I prefer to follow the threads where they lead. It doesn’t matter where the threads come from, you just follow them. I don’t have that sort of worldview. I’m a globalist, not a nationalist. As for my personal view of what myself and so many others thought of cannabis in the 70s and 80s? It was purely recreational.
However, what you have to realize is that the endocannabinoid system (ECS) wasn’t discovered and various cannabinoids hadn’t been properly isolated as of yet. Cannabidiol (CBD) as an entity wasn’t discovered until the 90s, even though phytocannabinoids had been identified as part of the makeup of the cannabis plant in the 40s and 50s. We just didn’t know how they worked, and many parts were overlooked. They didn’t have it broken down properly at the time. Those who were growing and breeding at the time focussed mostly on THC-hunting, and in some ways the medical establishment followed suit whenever they looked at cannabis, looking only at THC rather than all the other cannabinoids and terpenoids.
There was Raphael Mechoulam’s amazing work in the 60s, but it wasn’t until the 90s that the baton was picked up again properly. This was when the ECS was found to exist, and trying to figure out how cannabis worked helped researchers find it. This was all found out when I completed medical school and even my residency! So none of this research seeped in, especially to my world. At the time I was doing spinal surgery. The thing about surgeons is that, once you get a hammer, everything looks like a nail. So, you don’t think about just using the medicine. You don’t think about incorporating cannabis into your medical practice, especially as a surgeon, because you start to believe that “You and your knife are all that anybody needs.”
This is the complete opposite of the way I see it now, but that’s the way I saw it then. I have started to prefer an “inside-out”, non-invasive view of medicine. Do no harm, and if there’s the possibility to help a person heal themselves without the need for surgery, or at the least reduce our reliance on it if it’s at all possible. When I was practicing spine surgery, it was important to find out how I could surgically help someone.
And then, because I believed that my surgical skills were all that was necessary, it lulled me into a false sense of confidence. Then there was the aftermath… Back surgery doesn’t yield results for people who are never in pain, and even for many of those who are in pain! So now, not only do I have this skewed view that surgery is the most important thing, but now in the follow-up, I’m putting them on large amounts of opioids to beat the pain of surgery! Moreover, whilst the back surgery may or may not have helped, spines are complex, and pain doesn’t always go away.