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Straight Dope (part 2 of 4)

By Hempology | March 12, 2007

The Research on Marijuana Safety

(Part 2 of 4) by Gary Stimeling

Copyright 2005 Psychotropics Cornucopia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Another Big Phat One Because the active ingredient accumulates in fat cells, “even people using marijuana only once each month are continually exposing their brain, lungs, liver, and other vital tissues to the poisonous effects of THC,? wrote Robert I. DuPont,([1]) former head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the federal agency charged with providing other agencies with accurate scientific information about illegal drugs. Although knowledge of THC’s pharmacodynamics has been refined since then, the salient features were already well known at the time of DuPont’s misstatement.([2]) After smoking, or processing by the liver if cannabis is eaten, THC is distributed by the blood throughout the body. About 1 percent of it reaches the brain and binds to the cannabinoid receptors.([3]) There are no known toxic effects to cells at any dose achievable in living humans, and there are no psychoactive effects when blood levels fall below about 15 nanograms per milliliter (` 10 ng), which generally happens about 2 to 4 hours after smoking moderately potent material. Most cells biotransform THC into water-soluble metabolites that are excreted in the urine within a few days.([4]) Like Valium, Thorazine, barbiturates, and other fat-soluble drugs, however, THC stays in fat cells longer and is slowly released back into the bloodstream in its original form. But even if people smoke heavily and constantly, the amount thus released is far too small to contribute to a high.([5]) Contrary to propaganda pamphlets, the brain doesn’t have many fat cells, THC does not accumulate significantly in the brain, fat cells have no cannabinoid receptors, and THC storage in fat cells has no known physiologic effect.([6]) Its only apparent consequence is that drug tests can detect marijuana use two weeks after the fact instead of two or three days—and perhaps as long as 4 to 6 weeks in some heavy users who have a slow metabolic rate and large amounts of adipose tissue.

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