8. Chapter: Spiritual Journeys with Cannabis & Co. from the Incas to Today

Hempplants (Cannabis) withTHC (Tetrahydrocanabinol) and legal CDB (Cannabidiol), used for medical treatment, in a private garden


The author, Gerd Michael Müller, born in Zürich in 1962, traveled as a photo-journalist to more than 50 nations and lived in seven countries, including in the underground in South Africa during apartheid. In the 80 years he was a political activist at the youth riots in Zürich. Then he was involved in pioneering Wildlife & eco projects in Southern Africa and humanitarian projects elsewhere in the world. As early as 1993, Müller reported on the global climate change and in 1999 he founded the «Tourism & Environment Forum Switzerland». Through his humanitarian missions he got to know Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama and other figures of light. His book is an exciting mixture of political thriller, crazy social stories and travel reports – the highlights of his adventurous, wild nomadic life for reportage photography .

(please note that translation corrections are still in progress and images will follow soon)

Let’s take another spiritual journey from the advanced civilizations of indigenous peoples to today’s lowlands, trials and tribulations of drug use, delving into the international and state repression machine in dealing with psychoactive substances and focusing on the local drug policy, which mainly protects and supports the pharmaceutical industry, but has little to do with prevention and public health. For while the globally acceptable drug alcohol, causes far more health damage and deaths, the hemp plant and THC consumption are still stigmatized and are banned in Northern Europe, i.e. in Germany, France, Great Britain and Switzerland. Spain and Portugal, as well as Czechoslovakia, have relaxed the laws and allowed consumption on a limited basis in so-called social clubs.

In addition to the USA and Canada, which have long since legalized the drug, Mexico is now following suit. In Switzerland, a 5-year pilot project trial phase will start in 2022, making it clear that it could take another 10 years in this country for the policy to change. The hemp plant and its substrates the cannabinoids and terpenes are condemned against better knowledge for nearly 50 years as a devil drug, condemned and criminalized, thereby donates the ancient culture and cult plant worldwide for thousands of years valuable healing and food.

Thus, the hemp oil is very rich in unsaturated omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids and only in the optimal ratio. The applications in medicine are incredibly wide-ranging. Cosmetics have also rediscovered the healing properties of hemp, and in France some winegrowers are beginning to enrich their wine with hemp. By the way, this was already done by the Romans. They knew about the potentized effect of alcohol and cannabis. And the indigenous high cultures in Latin America, above all Teotihuatlan, were the strongholds of experimental drug highs. Anyone who wanted to belong to the elite had to undergo a week-long drug hell trip in the dark temples. The cocktail consisted not only of cannabis but mainly of psychoactive mushrooms and cacti such as Don Pedro and mescaline.

Once we appreciated the intoxicating and horizon-expanding aspects of the THC substance in our youth in the 60’s and 80’s, as we grew older and gained new knowledge, other valuable medicinal effects were added, such as mental and physical relaxation, a good night’s sleep and ability to fall asleep, more intense and creative sex, improved skin texture, and veritable health aids for many diseases, as we will see in a moment. Mary Jane has often been blamed as a gateway drug to harder substances, ignoring the fact that alcohol use is the first and most important step toward all other drugs, and conversely, drug addiction is not to be disparaged.

Today, the mix of alcohol, designer drugs and stimulant medications is particularly sought after and dangerous. Synthetic Spice products can also be deadly. A consequence of Nixon’s misguided, globally repressive and very mendacious, racially and politically motivated drug policy and thus originated in America. Under President Nixon it was claimed „cannabis turns people“ into animals. The target of the discriminatory campaign of the „War on Drugs“ were the blacks and the white opponents of the war. And in Switzerland posters were hung with the slogan „Hasch macht doof“. Here, too, the hippies, the freaks, and the „moved“ were meant.

In the 90s, first Zurich, then the whole of Switzerland became a hemp Mecca with the legendary hemp pellets and scented sachets or bath additives containing THC-containing weed and hashish. Even ping pong balls filled with MariJane with holes in them were available. At the time, weed was legal as such, as long as it was not explicitly used for „drug abuse,“ i.e., trafficking and distribution of the flowers. There were lax regulations for the production of fragrances or for brewing hemp flower beer, which also did not depend on THC content.

So tons of outdoor cannabis was legally and inexpensively traded on a large scale like in the witch’s cauldron or in video stores, clothing boutiques, drug stores and other shops. This only changed when Switzerland wanted to join the UN, which insisted that Switzerland recognize the Single Convention Act of 1961. In addition, neighboring countries Germany and France put pressure on Switzerland to roll back liberalization, which the Federal Council proposed to parliament in 2002 and which was approved by both chambers the following year, because drug tourism was a thorn in their side. With the reform of the BetmG, the status similar to the EU was adopted, with the exception that in our country the tolerance limit for commercial hemp is somewhat higher and CBD has been legalized since 2016.

The only problem is that you can badly half legalize a plant and still criminalize it. That is why the current article for the five-year pilot projects in the four cities (Basel, Bern, Geneva and Zurich) with 5000 people per city is also called „experimental article“. But the conditions are somewhat abstruse. It is equally frustrating to get an exemption permit for dronabinol (synthetic THC) under certain medical criteria, but it is not covered by health insurance. Instead of promoting the area-wide, sustainable, ecological and landscape-protecting outdoor cultivation, which could be used for medicine, cosmetics, food, building materials, textiles, etc. and could also be used as avalanche protection and for CO-2 reduction, which would offer mountain farmers an economic organic basis, the focus continues to be on indoor cultivation and the one-sided synthesization of the ingredients for pharmaceutical products.

Although in the USA hemp, weed, hash etc. have been largely legalized in many states for a long time, in Switzerland we are just allowing a few pilot trials, which are unsuitable in this form and which only serve to favor the pharmaceutical industry and protect it in the event of liberalization. In its „Perspectives on Drug Policy 2030“, the Federal Council announces its intention to examine the advantages and disadvantages of the sanctions procedure and thus to reassess the opportunities and risks of legalization. In other words, the government is considering decriminalization and legalization over the next ten years.

Whereas Portugal already took this path ten years ago, in 2001, with quite positive consequences. The fact that the Swiss government needs 30 years or more to do this is not exactly exhilarating. There was an attempt, but Federal Councilor Ruth Dreyfuss narrowly failed in parliament with her bill. Yet Switzerland, which in the 1980s in the face of the great heroin crisis and the many drug deaths, developed a methadone distribution program that was unique in the world and decriminalized and virtually eliminated heroin use. This successful model made Zurich, and with it Switzerland, a pioneer of a humanitarian drug policy that recognized the potential for addiction. Since then, the government has relied on the four-pillar principle (prevention, therapy, harm reduction and repression).

While hundreds of traffic deaths and thousands of acts of violence under the influence of alcohol are accepted as normal, cannabis has not yet killed anyone and tends to lead to a calm, peaceful if not apathetic stoned state. Where is the widely praised proportionality and Helvetic insight into the facts? With the popular drug alcohol, one accepts all the traffic deaths, family violence excesses, rapes and aggressions? Grotesque, isn’t it? When the 2012 World Cup took place in Portugal, the government banned alcohol for three days but turned a blind eye to cannabis use. Lo and behold, it was the most peaceful soccer games ever. Now let’s delve into today’s medical facts and the political big picture.

Cannabis is admittedly no longer internationally equated with heroin since the „United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs“ (CDN) voted in December 2020 at a meeting in Vienna on various proposals made in 2019 by the World Health Organization (WHO) to reclassify cannabis. At issue was removing cannabis from Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and decriminalizing it. Because cannabis had previously been on Schedule IV along with heroin and methaphetamine, the illicit opiates and cocaine, many conservative states continued to invoke the age-old regulation. drug policy shaped over 50 years ago by messianic and hypocritical U.S. policy (and the ambitions of an out-of-work U.S. alcohol prohibition chief) is in upheaval worldwide.

Prohibition has never worked, the medical potential has been neutered

Drug prohibition is supposed to protect us, we are told everywhere. Our health is enforced by coercive and criminal means. In a very flimsy, hypocritical way, although the WHO defines addiction per se as a disease. Whether it is binge eating, alcohol addiction, heroin or opium addiction, or cannabis „abuse.“ But what is the reality? An obscure, Kafkaesque tangle that defies all logic. Do the police ring the bell when diabetics, the recommendations of doctors disregard the prescription information? Do the police sanction and fine offenders for „Ritalin“ or prescription pill abuse? There have been hundreds of thousands of deaths in the U.S. due to money-grubbing pharmaceutical companies and loose prescribing policies of opiates such as „oxytoxin“ as painkillers.

A disaster of biblical proportions, exceeded only by Trump’s primitive Corona epidemic policy. In the meantime, cannabis has been legalized in many states in the USA, in Canada and in Uruguay, as well as in some countries in Europe (Spain, Portugal, Czech Republic), Switzerland is lagging behind as always and everywhere. This is probably due to the fact that the pharmaceutical giants do not want to miss out on this big business, a market worth more than five billion Swiss francs, and are lobbying the federal government to ensure that no actual liberalization is being pursued, but only pharmaceutical regulation. In other words, it will probably remain forbidden for Kreti and Pleti to grow and harvest this ancient crop in the garden next to the tomatoes and other herbs.

If this were the case, Switzerland could shut down half a nuclear power plant if the growers in this country were not forced to grow the crops under lights in cellars and industrial plants with an immense demand for electricity, while hemp could secure our mountains and avalanche slopes if it were planted outside on a large scale. The only thing that is certain is that the green gold, like almost everything else in Switzerland, is turned into lucrative coal by the pharmaceutical industry and cannabis is only dispensed medically, clinically and possibly even synthetically on prescription for expensive money. Thus the CBD or THC preparations legally available at present for very few persons (approximately 3000) cost between 600 to 800 francs and the health insurance companies do not take over the costs only still or only in the rarest cases. Thus, such a legalized distribution will not eliminate the black market. And the path to a special permit has so far only been possible in four cases: for spasticity such as multiple sclerosis, for chronic pain patients, for HIV disease and for cancer and chemotherapy. It’s worth taking a brief look back to the 1980s.

„If you look back at the heroin crisis in the 1980s, you can say today that illegality and criminalization caused the greatest damage,“ says Toni Berthel, a psychiatrist who headed the „Federal Commission for Addiction Issues“ (EKSF), which has since been renamed the „Federal Commission for Addiction and Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases“ (EKSN). Berthel and other addiction experts are convinced that in a free society, adults do not need „lifestyle know-it-alls,“ and that this also applies to psychoactive substances of all kinds. Berthel is convinced that bans are useless, and that regulated distribution combined with addiction prevention is the better way to go, and that „a drug-free society is an illusion. And it is no longer tenable to ban a drug with a low addiction potential and few harmful indications, such as cannabis, while a substance with such a high addiction potential as alcohol is consumed naively.

On this point, Berthel and pharmacopsychologist Boris Quednow, who researches substance use and its consequences at the Psychiatric University Clinic in Zurich, agree. He, too, believes that consumption should be decriminalized as soon as possible, „otherwise you continue to punish the most severely affected.“ But regulating each substance individually is enormously complex, he says. And beyond that, there are many other questions about whether these substances would then become prescription drugs and what the requirements would be for the substances produced. So we are also talking about legalization steps for cocaine, of which more than five tons are consumed in Switzerland every year. Or about crystal meth, LSD and mescaline. However, it is also clear that without a tight framework for dispensing, one immediately loses control, because the tobacco lobby or other (also dubious) interested parties are waiting in the wings. But back to cannabis, which is the focus of the cantons here and now also in the pilot projects approved by the FOPH over a period of three years (2022 – 2025). A substance that has been used for thousands of years and has a long-proven, high medicinal potential has been unjustly stigmatized. This much is already clear today. Because:

The catalog of diseases for which cannabis has been proven to have a positive but little or no negative effects, for a long time much wider. In medicine, THC and CBD are therefore increasingly used for therapeutic purposes, for headaches and migraines, nausea or vomiting. It has anxiety-relieving, antipsychotic effects, relieves pain from nerve injuries, inhibits inflammation, suppresses muscle spasms and seizures, stimulates bone growth, lowers blood sugar levels and intraocular pressure, and can also destroy cancer cells. That’s not all, let’s take a closer look at the rich medical and scientific potential of this semi-legal, semi-illegal plant.

Israeli researchers are leading the world in the study of medical cannabis. Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, discovered THC 50 years ago and later CBD. Research conducted by the „Jewish University“ and „Tel Aviv University“ has shown that THC and CBD can promote the healing of bone fractures and activate lysylhydroxylases (the enzymes necessary for bone healing) in cells. THC binds to the canna-binoid receptors CB1 and CB2 in the body. When docking to CB1 receptors, it affects signal transmission to synapses, which transmit information to the central and peripheral nervous system, resulting in a feeling of happiness, relaxation and pain relief. In Israel, the healing effect of cannabis on colon cancer cells and adenomatous polyps has also been demonstrated. Here CBG was shown to cause cell arrest in colon cancer cells and apoptotic cell death. The most common form of cancer is skin cancer. i.e. melanoma.

Let us now turn to one of the main causes of death in the Western world, type 2 diabetes. Obesity a key risk factor closely linked to the disease. Certain molecules produced in the cannabis plant can help prevent and treat the disease. Type 1 diabetes is a genetic disorder in which the body cannot produce insulin. Type 2 diabetes or diabetes mellitus is much more common and occurs when the pancreas, does not produce enough insulin. If this is the case, normal blood glucose levels cannot be maintained. A UK-based is currently developing a cannabis drug that potentially eliminates the need for insulin injections in diabetes. The company has already launched an oral spray called „Sativex“ to help with the muscle spasms associated with multiple sclerosis. This drug targets the use of the cannabinoids CBD and THCV (tetrahydrocannabivarin), which are molecules that lower blood sugar levels and improve insulin production.

THCV is a potent cannabinoid and has been shown to be an appetite suppressant to begin with. A study published by the American Diabetes Association examined the efficacy and safety of THCV and CBD in patients with type 2 diabetes. The researchers, found that THCV also significantly decreased fasting plasma glucose. In turn, the cannabinoids CBD and THC mutually reinforce each other’s therapeutic properties. Cannabigerol (CBG), like cannabidiol (CBD), is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid from the cannabis plant. CBG content is usually higher in indica varieties than in sativa varieties and has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, analgesic, and intraocular pressure-lowering effects. Researchers from the „University of Barcelona“ have proven that CBG is a partial agonist of cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB2) and acts as a regulator of endocannabinoid signaling.

Italian researchers proved that inflammation and oxidative stress play a central role in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis, and found that cannabis also exerts neuroprotective effects against inflammation and oxidative stress, protecting against neuronal cell loss. Researchers from the „Universidad Complutense“ Madrid in Spain studied the effects of CBG and identify genes associated with Huntington’s disease (e.g., gamma-aminobutyric acid A receptor (GABA). The study was conducted under the supervision of scientists from 18 countries. The Journal of Investigative Dermatology published a study in which mice with melanoma were treated with THC and CBD, and an international team of researchers found that these substances lead to the death of cancer cells through apoptosis and autophagy.

The term autophagy refers to a process in which the cell disassembles itself to get rid of damaged parts. Apoptosis is the natural suicide of the cell. It breaks apart and then the immune system cleans up the rest. Through studies on animals, it has been shown that THC and CBD can stimulate and support both processes. In their study, the researchers used THC and CBD in equal amounts, as given in the drug Sativex, which is currently undergoing a testing phase as a pain medication for cancer patients. The researchers discovered the potential of cannabinoids to treat melanoma back in 2006, when they found the CB1 and CB2 receptors in melanoma cells. These receptors are also the binding sites for THC in the human body. By activating these receptors, the researchers were able to slow down the growth of cancer cells because apoptosis and autophagy were triggered by the treatment. As we can see, the purely medicinal spectrum of the hemp plant is enormous, not to mention that the plant, i.e. the seeds and the oil are very good for nutrition, because they contain an extremely high proportion and ideal ratio of unsaturated fatty acids and amino acids.

The hemp plant has indisputably a lot of medicinal potential that should be used increasingly by the pharmaceutical industry. But please not exclusively and under discrimination of those who want to grow the phytomedicinal qualities with sunlight and rainwater, CO2-neutral with lower THC potency free of charge and consume at any time carefree legal, no matter whether as a joint, as Hasch-Keckse or as hemp oil. That alone would already serve the public health and help the economy as well as the state, the police and justice. Tax revenues for youth protection and prevention, for the state and cantons, the relief of law enforcement agencies from the senseless stoner hunt, an economic innovation boost also in textiles and building materials. A few examples:

The skin is our largest organ and serves as a protective shield against infections and injuries. It is an extremely complex membrane with the epidermis and pores at the top, then in the derma with the sebaceous and sweat glands and hair follicles, followed by the subcutis with the adipocytes and then the muscle structure. The lipid layer is a physiochemical barrier with antimicrobial properties that controls the skin microbiome. The sebaceous glands (sebocytes) contribute with their lipid-rich sebum and, in case of unbalanced production, determine acne, dehydrated skin and other dermatological diseases. According to recent findings, there is an interesting link between cannabinoids and the metabolic processes in the skin. In a systematic study of the effects on the skin of the use of synthetic cannabinoids, which can be purchased over the counter, scientists found that there is an active interaction between cannabinoids and skin homeostasis.

In 2015, at the dermatological University of Münster, Germany, human cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 were detected in the sebaceous glands for the first time. Another group of researchers found that the potential of cannabinoids has a significant impact on the homeostasis of sebum production (sebum). In one experiment, CB2 receptors were specifically turned off in sebocytes, which resulted in a reduction of sebum production. In the second experiment, exogenously applied endocannabinoids were found to increase lipid pro-duction, indicating the importance of the CB2 receptor in sebocytic lipogenesis.

In other words, the phyto-cannabinoid cannabidiol clearly shows anti-acne effects by normalizing sebum production, increased proliferation of keratinocytes and bacterial inflammation. CBD does not inhibit sebum lipogenesis, but brings it into proper balanace. Also essential oil that is extracted from the hemp plant consists of a variety of terpenes and antimicrobial properties against P.acnes and are also anti-inflammatory. As a result, terpenes can or must be increasingly emphasized as another building block in the complex effect of the hemp plant for medicinal purposes and health aspects. Moreover, cannabinoids also have a key function in the skin, which is not limited to the immune cells. The modulatory effect is also active in the sebaceous glands and many other cell types that contain phatogenic and hazard-associated recognition receptors. These cells coordinate and formulate local immune responses and the production of pro- and anti-inflammatory mediators. And all this happens under the strict regime of the human cannabinoid system (ECS), as explained by the source of these exciting findings, Dr. Christian Löfke, cell biologist at the organic hemp producer „BioBloom“.

Hemp fiber was already highly valued in shipping, and recently it has come back into the conversation as a building material, opening up entirely new, sustainable construction methods for building everything from micro houses to apartment buildings. The excellent, breathable insulating materials can be used for floors, interior and exterior walls, false ceilings and even the roof. First of all, there is hemp lime for exterior walls, which can be used very flexibly in a wide variety of constructions. The hemp can be used in blocks of any size (like bricks) or it can be used to construct entire walls and floors in a tailor-made way.

Hemp clay is used in interior walls and floor construction because of its excellent thermal mass. Hemp wool shines due to its exceptional insulating properties combined with high lightness and toughness. Hemp fleece, in turn, is a good impact sound insulator. And hemp lime opens up completely new, sustainable applications in the construction and wood industries. For example, a farmhouse with timber framing can be completely restored and the outer walls sealed with hemp lime. Which notabene fulfills all energy standards without additional use of other insulating materials. Hemp lime is made from hemp shives (chopped hemp stalks) that are already used as animal litter and then, with the addition of lime and water, results in a kind of natural concrete. The procedure can be made also with loam instead of lime, whereby the building method could be opened again for many other world regions. A small house requires about two tons of hemp hurds and fibers, while a single-family house can require 15 tons of hemp hurds and four tons of hemp fibers. 

According to estimates by the U.S. firm Grand View Research, cannabis companies will generate $73 billion worldwide in 2027. The London-based firm „Prohibition Partners“, which specializes in cannabis, estimates the market volume for Europe at 115 billion euros by 2028. The sales potential for Switzerland is currently estimated at a good five billion, but it could be much higher. Currently, Canadian companies are leading the way, followed by companies in the U.S. and the U.K., but there are also some quite big players in Switzerland. Drug prohibition never worked, the medical potential was neutered. We’ve known that for 50 years now. So we should at least give grass now, instead of letting valuable time pass with abstruse pilot projects. The population is mature enough for this and no longer wants to be patronized and taken for fools.

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