Endocannabinoids and Medical Marijuana Biol 408

Hi, This course is a seminal course. You are required to make a 45 minute Powerpoint presentation that will be graded by both me and your fellow students according to this rubric. 

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Endocannabinoids are lipid compounds, produced by all of us, that act on cannabinoid (THC) receptors. Their biological activity is similar to that of cannabinoids such as THC found in marijuana plants (Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica). Endocannabinoids are lipid metabolites with global homeostatic activities. They regulate all of our body systems. Therefore, we will touch on many aspects of biology including anatomy and physiology, biochemistry, cell biology, immunology, neurology and molecular biology. The thread that will run throughout the course will be far from equilibrium thermodynamics and its applications to biological systems. Using these physical concepts, we will examine life/death, and health/illness and how social, politcal and economic principles all emerge from the underlying physics, and the roles that endocannabinoids and medical marijuana play in these processes.

Prerequisites: Cell Biology or permission of instructor

GRADING: Grades will be based on class presentations, class attendance/participation and grading of presentations made by fellow students based on this rubric. You must submit, by email, your evaluation withing 1 week of your classmate's presentation, and you must include the presenters name in the subject line of the email for your evaluation to be considered.

Class Outline

  1. What is Life?
    1. Introduction to Open System, Far From Equilibrium Thermodynamics. The Physics of Life are earlier writings that describe implications of a far from equilibrium thermodynamic approach to life/death and health/illness.
      1. Dissipative Structures
      2. Biochemical oscillations
      3. Limit cycles, an online Java application that demonstrates how many greatly different starting points are "attracted" to a common range of values (the attractor, the limit cycle".
      4. Time
  2. How do cells communicate?
    1. Cell Surface Receptors
    2. The nature of signal transduction
    3. Cell cycle
    4. Replication
    5. Death - apoptosis and necrosis
  3. The Cannabinoid System
    1. Cannabinoid Receptors
      1. structure
      2. function
    2. Ligands
      1. synthesis
      2. degradation
  4. Cannabinoids as Homeostatic Regulators of Body Systems Life/Death/Disease/Health
    1. Cardiovascular
    2. Digestive
    3. Endocrine
    4. Excretory
    5. Immunological
    6. Muscular-skeletal
    7. Nervous
    8. Skeletal
    9. Reproductive
    10. Respirator
  5. Cannabinoids and Cancer
    1. Breast
    2. Colorectal
    3. Glioma
    4. Leukemia
    5. Lymphoma
    6. Lung
    7. Pheochromocytoma
    8. Prostate
    9. Skin

Video Interviews with Medical Marijuana Users quicktime6_required

Click on the picture to see an video interview with a medical marijuana patient. Viewing these are streaming files that require a free Quicktime Viewer The viewer is available for both Apple and Microsoft operating systems, for free, at on the Apple Quicktime site.

BiPolar Bipolar JoePainSharon cancerShirleycancer, pain Skipglioma, seizures

Video Resources

Patients Out of Time At 2004 Cannabis Therapeutics Conference

Holistic Biochemistry of Cannabinoids 2004, by Robert Melamede, PhD

Sandra Mann Show 6/13/05 Colorado Springs Public Access show discussing marijuana prohibition

Montel Williams Show 9/21/04 Montel suffers from Multiple Sclerosis. He interviews a variety of medical users and government officials

Retired DEA agent DEA Agent.jpeg 1 discusses cannabis with HighTimes editior on college campus' around the US (Vermont 1999).

My comments on his scientific ignorance DrMelamede.jpeg 1

My testimony before the New Hampshire Health Committee in 2000 when they were considering medical marijuana legislation.

Audio Lectures

Below are audio files of lectures on Medical Marijuana and Health that I have given to the indicated groups. Listening to these files requires a free Quicktime Viewer that is available for both Apple and Microsoft operating systems, on the Apple Quicktime site.

Biobits InDepth: The Science of Medical Marijuana Listen to this podcast http://gslc.genetics.utah.edu/podcasts/mp3/bbmarijuana060113.mp3

Dean Becker Show Discussion of Marijuana vs THC, use of vaporizers, etc.

Streaming audio of talk given at Hayward Ca., Safe Acess Now 12/2003

Streaming audio Back to the Bluffs UCCS 9/2004. You can play the audio and this Quicktime movie presentation to connect the audio and video.

Excellent Sites

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is responsible for issuing medical marijuana permits


•W   A   M   M  - Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana



The Drug Policy Alliance is the flagship of the movement with over 19,000 members,
an impressive set of board members, and a well attended annual conference.