I’ve been watching all the frenzy about a report that came out last week on Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS) saying that they’ve discovered some new mystery disease in legal marijuana states. Oh, the humanity!
What is Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome? Leafly explains that the acute phase of the illness is characterized by an intensification of effects and unique behaviors like persistent nausea and vomiting that can last for hours at a time, abdominal pain, dehydration and habitual bathing and/or showering.
Before continuing, there are a few points to understand:
- This is not something new. CHS was first described back in 2004.
- CHS is very rare. Millions of people admit to using cannabis, and yet reports of CHS are few.
- This seems to be showing up more in newly legalized states. In Colorado, people are more comfortable admitting to using cannabis without the fear of retribution.
- Most sufferers report that the symptoms go away after changing strains, changing cultivators or discontinuing use altogether.
- We only know that CHS is associated with cannabis use, not that cannabinoids are the cause. Without investigating the possibility of contaminants or allergic reactions to specific chemicals or terpenes, researchers cannot say that it is caused by cannabinoids.
This illustrates a point that I’ve been making for quite some time now: We can’t trust research or statistics on the negative effects of cannabis if we don’t know anything about the source product.
Negative effects are being attributed to cannabis when they very well could be from contaminants like pesticides, heavy metals, molds, and solvents. Without testing the source, we simply can’t know where the toxicity is coming from.
A popular pesticide used on marijuana is Eagle 20. During pyrolysis (heating) its active ingredient myclobutanil turns into HCN (hydrogen cyanide). Workers exposed to myclobutanil have reported symptoms such as skin rash, allergic dermatitis, itchiness, nausea, heachache, diarrhea, abdominal pain, vomiting, nosebleed, and eye irritation. Eagle 20 has been banned for use by the Colorado marijuana industry, but is still available to the general public.
Another popular pesticide is neem oil, which has been approved for use in Colorado without restriction or guidance. Reports of serious harm to pets and children exposed to neem are very concerning, and yet safety recommendations for pesticides are generally written for application and use on food. After decades of prohibition, we have little information on these chemicals in smokable products like cannabis.
People have reported allergic reactions to certain terpenes in cannabis. I know people who get contact dermatitis from handling cannabis and others who react to the pollen. This makes sense since cannabis is a plant with the same potential for allergens as any other plant. Could uncontrollable vomiting be an allergic reaction?
Public health officials seem happy to attribute it all directly to cannabis, particularly to THC overload, so they can continue to scare people away from this beneficial plant. Unfortunately, that’s only a guess with no solid research to support it.
You’d think good researchers would want to know specifically what the problem is, but it’s just so much easier to blame marijuana in general. Just tell people to stop, or better yet, scare them away from using it in the first place. Marijuana is the Devil’s lettuce, I say!
When did ignorance is bliss become good public health policy? Rather than assuming that cannabis, in and of itself, causes uncontrollable puking, paranoia and psychosis, why aren’t researchers looking into contaminants and other possible sources of toxicity? Real research would generate valuable information that could help improve cultivation and manufacturing practices and provide safer products to the public.
However, if we start looking at the effects of contaminants, it might impact the results of previous research into the negative side-effects of cannabis. It could call decades of research on marijuana into question.
If public health officials really believe that Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome is a serious concern, the Department of Health should actually look for a cause rather than making assumptions. They need to start collecting more specific information on the source product causing the hyperemesis. Otherwise, all of this frenzy over some new “marijuana-related” disease is meaningless except to scare the public and further prohibition.
I prefer real information over scare tactics. How about you?
— Rx MaryJane (Teri Robnett)
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