Humboldt Journal of Social Relations


Although the cannabis plant is one of the oldest herbal products currently in use, the policies and research surrounding its use and associated risks and benefits have been points of contention throughout its modern lifespan. Cannabis has been seen as a revered botanical medicine, a demon substance sure to ruin modern society, and an alternative to Western-born pharmaceutical drugs and treatments. Over time, the debate concerning cannabis has been driven by morality, science, politics, economics and social control. Given its multiple uses (textiles, medicine, and relaxation), developing one policy to encompass these uses in a responsible way remains elusive. This paper seeks to explain why a “one size fits all” regulatory framework is not sufficient for cannabis. Antiquated notions of the effectiveness of botanical medicines compared with pharmaceutical drugs and the difference between curative (curing a diseased state) and palliative (addressing the symptoms associated with a diseased state) treatments have muddied the cannabis policy waters. Efforts to regulate the raw plant alongside cannabinoid-based medications have resulted in a regulatory roadblock, often framing doctors as gatekeepers. I propose that in order to move past this roadblock and to maximize the benefits of the cannabis plant for both curative and palliative treatments of conditions such as substance dependence, the plant and the cannabinoid-based medications must part ways and seek their own, individual regulatory destiny.