Ebola Virus Outbreak 2014: Marijuana Ebola Cure Claims Are Early Warning of Big Weed Future

Can marijuana cure Ebola? Of course not... come on guys, get serious here. Reuters

Heralding cannabis as the cure to nearly any disease has long been a stereotype of marijuana smokers, particularly of the aging hippy variety, but the newest claims—that marijuana can treat Ebola—take it to a new and potentially prophetic level. While corporate rapaciousness can usually be explained by profit motive, marijuana advocates seem less likely to apply the same logic to weed companies; whether in the well-established realm of medical marijuana, or the new frontier of fully legal recreational marijuana. The same has long been true of all variety of New Age snake-oil buyers, with consumers of, say, homeopathy treatments willing to accept that pharmaceutical companies perpetuate disease (like Ebola) for profit, but unable to imagine that their own preferred peddler is capable of deception in their pursuit of that American green. But while homeopathy will always be a niche, marijuana is big business, with $1 billion in sales estimated for Colorado alone in 2014. So what happens when the inevitable cannabis conglomerate deceives customers who are all too willing to believe?

Marijuana and the Ebola Virus Outbreak of 2014

We are getting a taste of that world right now, with the CEO of one of the largest marijuana businesses, Cannabis Sativa, Inc., claiming that marijuana may be able to protect people against Ebola and combat the virus outbreak. The assertion came from both Cannabis Sativa’s medical director, Dr. David B. Allen and the company president, former Libertarian candidate for US President Gary Johnson. Johnson made the claim marijuana could potentially help in the fight against the Ebola virus outbreak on the Fox Business Network. He was rebutted by on-air hosts but lauded by the credulous marijuana press.

Marijuana Press Peddles Ebola Virus Outbreak Cure

Here are just a handful of the myriad articles from the marijuana press that uncritically repeats the claim that marijuana could be used to fight Ebola:

Cannabis Culture:Smoking Marijuana Can Protect You From Ebola

Sasquatch Glass:Weed Protects You From Ebola

MTL Blog:Smoking Marijuana Can Protect You From Ebola

New Cure:Can Cannabinoids in Cannabis Paste Fight Off Ebola?”

Collective Evolution:Doctor Suggests That Marijuana Can Protect You From Ebola

Hemp for Future:Doctors Suggest That Marijuana Can Protect You From Ebola

So, how about it? Can Marijuana Cure the Ebola Virus?

Treating Ebola with marijuana is unlikely to work. The proposed mechanism is in the prevention of a so-called cytokine storm, which is an immune reaction to disease (such as Ebola and H1N1) that generates a potentially fatal flood of enzymes. According to marijuana advocates, weed’s anti-inflammatory properties (backed by some studies) could activate the CB2 receptor, signaling cells to release fewer cytokines, potentially heading off a deadly cytokine storm.

But while more research into this kind of treatment would be more than welcome, right now it looks a little like prescribing cod liver oil to treat an eyeball poked out with a stick. Sure, cod liver oil is a great source of Vitamin A, which can aid eyesight, but cod liver oil is not the cure for sticks. Worse, this marijuana Ebola treatment is not unique to the drug. The beta-carophyllen that seems responsible for marijuana’s anti-inflammation properties can also be found in oregano, basil, cinnamon, and black pepper, but you don’t see me suggesting that Mom’s spaghetti alla puttanesca can cure Ebola, do you?

Medicine is complicated. Anyone claiming to work in the medical field would know not to make wild guesses without research. If marijuana is medicine, rather than alternative medicine, than we need to understand how its compounds play out in the human body long before making unstudied claims about marijuana use in Ebola treatment. We still don’t even fully understand cytokines, an area that, unlike marijunana, hasn’t been hampered by years of research-halting government crackdowns. So while it’s tempting to trumpet every potential use of marijuana in the face of a government preventing its study, it may ultimately prove counterproductive to discovering the true value of cannabis. We have no evidence that marijuana can be used against the Ebola virus outbreak, and it's not only irresponsible, but deceptive, for marijuana corporations to suggest otherwise.

Only High Times struck an even mildly skeptical note in their article “Marijuana and Ebola.” Skepticism should have been the default position, particularly from weed advocates who assume that any claim of drug efficacy from a pharmaceutical company represents profit-motive-driven deception. Gary Johnson is only the first of many people who will stand to profit from the sale of weed by lying or exaggerating in order to peddle their product.

With marijuana becoming big business, it’s time for its consumers and press to begin treating the marijuana industry like big business. Corporations are amoral and individuals within them absolutely will elide the truth or flat out lie to make more money or protect their interests. There is no industry that is immune from this. And while the face of legal marijuana has so far been mom and pop stores, expect consolidation to create household name companies that dwarf cigarette manufacturers. It’s time pro-legalization supporters start treating them as antagonistic. Gary Johnson claiming that marijuana can cure Ebola should be treated with the same scorn as Muhtar Kent, the CEO of Coca-Cola, arguing for cola's effectiveness in the fight against teen suicide.

Since the push for legal marijuana has been a long and ongoing process against a relentless government campaign of harassment, demonization, and imprisonment it makes sense that weed journalism is almost entirely advocacy journalism at this point. But the battle is being won and legal marijuana across the United States is beginning to feel inevitable. Now is the time for journalists covering marijuana to build healthy adversarial tactics, rather than allowing themselves to become the captured mouthpiece of an industry gorging on money and expanding like a tick.

Let’s begin by rebutting Gary Johnson, a man who stands to profit from marijuana sales, when he claims that marijuana can cure Ebola.

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