Dangerous Minds pal Michael Backes is one of the world’s foremost experts on marijuana. He writes with this fascinating scientific tidbit you might want to ponder before tucking in to that meatless mushroom loaf for dinner tonight:
All animals, including humans, possess endocannabinoid systems responsible for feeding, energy expenditure, memory, and pain regulation. The production of endocannabinoids is one characteristic that distinguishes animals from plants. When someone smokes weed, phytocannabinoids produced by cannabis actually mimic the body’s endocannabinoids.
New research from Italy now shows that truffles, the highly prized and insanely expensive fungi, also produce endocannabinoids. Truffles grow underground near oak trees and can ultimately fetch $1500 per pound. That truffles produce endocannabinoids is just the latest evidence that fungi are more closely related to animals than plants. Plants, animals and fungi all share a common ancestor, and increasingly it appears that fungi are much more akin within the evolutionary tree to humans than say, lettuce. (I certainly feel more simpatico with truffles than turnips or kale, don’t you?)
The endocannabinoid content of truffles may be one of the reasons that humans prize them, since these compounds are active at incredibly small doses and the aroma of fresh truffles feels quite intoxicating. Vegans, however, might find themselves in a bit of a quandary as fungi move more closely towards animals in the hierarchy of nature. Many vegans take the ethical stand that veganism is cruelty free because plants do not suffer when harvested or eaten. The reality is that plants possess very robust signaling systems that share characteristics with the nervous systems of animals. We may have difficulty perceiving the suffering of plants, simply because a plant’s internal signaling system and subsequent reaction is slower than an animal’s nervous system. Vegans hoping to fully eliminate any chance of suffering in their eating patterns may wish to look into inedia.
My takeaway from this is that pigs and billionaires seek out the same drug.
Michael Backes is the author of Cannabis Pharmacy: The Practical Guide to Medical Marijuana (endorsed by Dr. Andrew Weil) and head of research and development for the medical marijuana company Abatin. Previously he was a co-founder of Cornerstone Collective, California’s first research-based medical cannabis collective.
Below, a recent talk by Michael Backes at Seattle Town Hall: