Science is an unstoppable force behind changes in marijuana policy worldwide, yet cannabis science is not well understood by laypeople. But Salon's K.M. Cholewa does a bang-up job walking readers through the basics, and it's heartening to see phrases like the "endocannabinoid system" wend their way into the mainstream.
"The human body produces and utilizes its own cannabinoids, but the body can also utilize cannabinoids from external sources. One source of exogenous cannabinoids is marijuana, or to use marijuana’s botanical name, cannabis. Because these cannabinoids are plant-based, they would be considered phytocannabinoids. Phytocannabinoids from marijuana fit nicely into human cannabinoid receptors. Thus, the cannabinoids from the cannabis plant can be utilized by the human cannabinoid system.
Any woman who has had a hot flash can find an analogy in the hormone estrogen. As the process of menopause ensues, a woman’s estrogen level drops. Many women seek to balance their hormonal systems by taking in plant-based estrogens, phytoestrogens, such as soy or yams.
Other women, during menopause, seek to balance their hormonal systems through the use of a synthetic estrogen (rather than a plant-based one) such as with the pharmaceutical Premarin. Likewise, one can take in synthetic cannabinoids through the pharmaceutical Marinol.
So, in this analogy, pot is to a yam what Marinol is to Premarin."
Read the full explanation at Salon.