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Empathy, Marijuana, and Severe Cases of Autism

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Book Abstract: What is it like to be high on marijuana? Can a cannabis high help to remember long gone events, to fuel your imagination, to work creatively, to come to introspective and other insights, to empathically understand others, and to personally grow? How much did cannabis inspire outstanding thinkers, artists and musicians like Charles Baudelaire, Rudyard Kipling, Walter Benjamin, Billie Holiday, Diego Rivera, John Lennon, Carl Sagan, Hal Ashby, and so many others? And how much did the marijuana high positively transfom our society? "What Hashish Did To Walter Benjamin - Mind-Altering Essays on Cannabis" is a collection of 20 neurophilosophically inspired essays on the astounding positive potential of the cannabis high.
What Hashish Did To Walter Benjamin
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Das positive Potential von Marijuana. Tropen/Klett-Cotta 2013
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www.sebastianmarincolo.de
What
Hashish
Did To
Walter Benjamin
Mind-Altering Essays
on Marijuana
Sebastn Marincolo
For
Lester Grinspoon
Mentor and friend,
who so generously shared his unbelievable knowledge with me
in so many conversations
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Text © 2015 by Sebastián Marincolo
Cover Design © 2015 by Andy Smith
All rights reserved under the International Copyright Conventions. This book may not be
reproduced in whole or in part, in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, in-
cluding photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system now
known or hereafter invented, without written permission from the publisher.
Library of Congress Cataloging-In-Publication Data
Marincolo, Sebastián 1969-
What Hashish Did To Walter Benjamin. Mind-Altering Essays on Marijuana
p. cm. (What Hashish Did To Walter Benjamin)
Includes biographical references.
ISBN 978-3-9817712-0-6
1. Marijuana 2. Cannabis 3. Walter Benjamin
First edition: November 2015
Stuttgart, Germany
Publisher: Khargala Press
Number of Pages: 190
First Printing: 2015
Summary: 20 neurophilosophical essays about the positive potential of the marijuana high
and how it positively affected luminaries such as Walter Benjamin, Carl Sagan, and Louis
Armstrong.
Publisher’s Note
We take great care to ensure that the information in this book is accurate and presented in
good faith, but no warranty is provided or results guaranteed. This material is intended for
informational purposes only. The publisher does not condone illegal activity of any kind.
Printed in the U.K.
Contents
Foreword by Joe Dolce 1
PartITurnOn
Cannabis, Mind Enhancements, and Culture 6
Just Another Altered State of Consciousness 20
Marijuana, Dopes, and Cognitive Enhancements 26
GUINEA A Guerrilla-Neurophilosophical Approach to High Science 31
PartIITuneIn
The Zen-Effect of Marijuana 42
Marijuana and the Enhancement of Episodic Memory 47
Marijuana and The Power of Imagination 52
Marijuana and The Slowdown of Time Perception 59
Marijuana, Pattern Recognition, and What it Means to be 'High' 64
The Effects of Marijuana on Body Image Perception 68
Marijuana, Empathy, and Severe Cases of Autism 72
Marijuana, Reading, and Language Understanding 86
Marijuana and Creativity. A Love Story 90
Personal Transformation with Marijuana 99
PartIIIInspire
Vipers, Muggles, and The Evolution of Jazz 105
What Hashish Did To Walter Benjamin 122
The Most Powerful Drug Used by Mankind 146
An Unusual Argument for the Legalization of Marijuana 151
Carl Sagan, Cannabis, and the Right Brain Hemisphere 156
AppendixOfftoNewShores
Vaporizer Highs 169
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72
Marijuana, Empathy, and Severe Cases of Autism
“You can only understand people if you feel them in yourself.”
John Steinbeck, writer, 1902-1968
“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eye
for an instant?”
Henry David Thoreau, writer, 1817-1862
Empathy and the Simulation Theory
I have always been fascinated to see in how many ways a marijuana high
can enhance empathic skills in users. My interest in this effect of marijuana
was first sparked when I experienced it myself about 15 years ago. I noticed
it with excitement because I had already had a long-standing philosophical
interest and research focus on theories of empathic understanding.
In contemporary philosophy of mind, philosophers like Robert Gordon,
Alvin Goldman and my teacher Simon Blackburn at the University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill took a fresh look at theories of human understand-
ing and empathy in the late 1980s, arguing for a version of what would later
become known as the “simulation theory of human understanding”. Before
the development of the simulation theory, cognitive scientists and philoso-
phers had thought that we understand humans on the basis of a “folk psy-
chology”, a quasi-theoretical body of psychological knowledge that allows us
to make generalizations and give explanations how people feel and behave.
The claim was that we would all learn this folk-psychology as we grew up by
learning to use psychological vocabulary to describe, predict, and explain the
behavior of others. This position was later labeled as the “theory-theory” be-
cause the theory basically relied on the claim that we all mostly uncon-
sciously – use something like a psychological theory when understanding
others.
Briefly, the simulation theory stated that in order to understand others,
we use a special cognitive ability to “put ourselves in the shoes of other peo-
ple”. In other words, rather than just using a psychological theory about oth-
Marijuana, Empathy, and Severe Cases of Autism
73
ers, we understand them by simulating them, looking at the world from
their point of view. Looking for an empirical confirmation, proponents of
the simulation theory argued that many autistics (especially high-functioning
autistics) would be able to grasp theoretical psychological concepts and gen-
eralizations, but would have deficiencies when imaginatively simulating oth-
ers, which would explain their problems with empathic understanding. For
the past decades, cases of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have remained
in the minds of philosophers, psychologists & cognitive and neuroscientists
when it comes to theories of human understanding and empathy.
Marijuana and the Enhancement of Empathic Understanding
During research for my first marijuana study for High. Insights on Mari-
juana,47 I found many astonishing reports from users about various en-
hancements of their empathic skills during a high. A busy father described
how he got high before he played with his son and for the first time under-
stood how alone his boy feels and how much he craved for more of his fa-
ther's time and attention. A husband wrote a letter to his wife explaining to
her how the marijuana high enabled him to better understand her needs dur-
ing sex. A psychotherapist reported that he always talked to his patients in a
sober state of mind, but one day got high in private and then received an
emergency call from a patient. His patient was so impressed with his em-
pathic skills during the conversation that she later insisted on paying for the
hour. These and other reports prompted me to think about possible explana-
tions for the enhancement of our fundamental skills to simulate and under-
stand other people during a high.48
Many of the cognitive enhancements during a high could play a role in
the enhancement of empathic skills. Countless marijuana users have
observed and described enhancements like an enhanced episodic memory or
an enhanced ability to recognize patterns during a high. Such enhanced
47 Sebastián Marincolo (2010), High. Insights on Marijuana. Indiana: Dog Ear Publishing
48 For more reports compare Lester Grinspoon (2014), marijuana-uses.com, and Novak,
William (1980). High Culture: Marijuana in the Lives of Americans. Massachusetts: The
Cannabis Institute of America, Inc.
What Hashish Did To Walter Benjamin
74
cognitive abilities can obviously help with empathic understanding; if I can
vividly remember episodes of my teenage years, it stands to reason that I will
be able to better understand a teenager
experiencing similar situations. If I can
better recognize the subtle pattern of a
sarcastic smile in the face of my
conversation partner, I can better
understand how that person feels and
acts towards me. Importantly, besides
these and some other possibly relevant
cognitive enhancements, many of the
reports of marijuana users explicitly
stated that a high can help them to 'slip
into another person', to feel his feelings,
to see his point of view. In an intriguing
report, Théophile Gautier, another
member of the famous 19th century
literary circle 'Club des Hashischins,
describes this imaginative perspectival
change during a high while looking at a painting:
“By some bizarre prodigy, after several minutes of contemplation I would
melt into the object looked at, and I myself would become that object. Thus I
turned into a nymph Syrinx, since the fresco represented Leda’s daughter pursued
by Pan. I felt all the terrors of the poor fugitive, and sought to hide behind the
fantastic reeds to avoid the ram-footed monster.”49
Reports of this kind made it obvious to me that marijuana can funda-
mentally enhance our ability to simulate others and to take on their point of
view.
49 Gautier, Théophile, (1966). “The Hashish Club.” In: Solomon (ed.) (1966), The Mari-
huana Papers, Signet Books, Indiana, p. 174.
Théophile Gautier (1811-1872) in a portrait
of Auguste de Chatillon, 1839
Marijuana, Empathy, and Severe Cases of Autism
75
The Simulation Theory and the Mirror Neuron System
The debate concerning the simulation theory took on a new twist when
an Italian group of researchers around Giacomo Rizzolatti discovered the
mirror neuron system in the early 1990s. In short, the group noticed that
when a monkey grabbed a peanut, the same group of motor neurons respon-
sible for its hand movement would fire not only during the grabbing, but
also when the monkey merely perceived someone else grabbing the peanut.
Since this finding, neuroscientists like Rizzolatti, Vilayanur Ramachandran,
and Marco Iacoboni have argued that mirror neurons comprise a specialized
system of neurons that fundamentally subserve our ability to “mirror” and to
understand the emotions and intentions of other people. Simulation theo-
rists used this line of research to argue for their position: a specialized mirror
neuron system would actually constitute our special capacity to simulate
others when we understand them “from inside”, rather than just making
folk-psychological inferences about them.
Marijuana, Autism, and the Endocannabinoid
System
In 2006, Vilayanur Ramachandran pub-
lished a paper entitled “Broken Mirrors A
Theory of Autism”50, arguing that autism
could be linked to a defective (“broken”)
mirror neuron system - a highly controver-
sial theory which is still subject to much de-
bate now. Based on my own research, I in-
troduced a hypothesis on a possible connec-
tion between the endocannabinoid system
and the mirror neuron system in a chapter of my first book on marijuana
and empathy:
50 Vilayanur S. Ramachandran & Lindsay M. Oberman, (2006) “Broken Mirrors: A
Theory of Autism”, Scientific American 295, p. 62 69.
doi:10.1038/scientificamerican1106-62.
The Italian neurophysiologist
Giacomo Rizzolatti
What Hashish Did To Walter Benjamin
76
“Could it be that (...) there already exists a functional relation between the
endocannabinoid system in our brain and the body mapping system, including
the mirror neuron system? Again, a look at the enhancements of cognitive skill
under marijuana may be fruitful for a general scientific outlook on the workings
of the human brain.”51
Now, if there is such a functional connection, could it be that the endo-
cannabinoid system is defective in autistic children, causing their problems
with empathic understanding? Recent findings suggest that I was roughly on
the right track, even though the “broken-mirror”-hypothesis remains highly
controversial. In the following I will first describe how some severely autistic
children seem to profit incredibly from medical marijuana and then summa-
rize some new findings on possible links between the endocannabinoid sys-
tem and autism.
Severe Autistic Spectrum Disorder and Medical Marijuana
When we are talking about cases of severe kinds of Autism Spectrum
Disorder (ASD) it is important to emphasize that we are not discussing per-
sonalities like Big Bang Theory's Sheldon Cooper or the eponymous movie
character, Rainman, played by Dustin Hoffmann. Children with severe
forms of ASD are often highly auto-aggressive and/or aggressive towards
other people; typically, they act up with intense tantrums, they don't engage
in interactive, pretend or imaginative play and prefer solitary or ritualistic
play. They have difficulties with verbal and non-verbal communication –
some never learn to speak at all and usually they don't make friends, are
withdrawn, don't maintain to eye contact, show a lack of empathic under-
standing, are emotionally unstable and get angry or distressed when routines
are changed. Autistic children often seem to be unhappy, almost in agony,
acting angrily or aggressively as if in severe pain. Autism now affects 1 in 68
children in the US and prevalence figures are growing.
In the last six years, some courageous parents have overcome their preju-
dices against what their society taught them is an “evil drug” and listened to
51 Sebastián Marincolo (2010) “High. Insights on Marijuana”, Indiana: Dog Ear
Publishing
Marijuana, Empathy, and Severe Cases of Autism
77
some experts who advised them to try medical marijuana for their children.
Many parents had felt that the pharmacological drugs prescribed by their
doctors for ASD did not work or had even worsened the condition of their
children. For some parents, turning to medical marijuana was definitely a
dramatic decision, as they desperately tried to save the lives of their children
on the verge of dying.
In the following, I will cite some of their observations about the treat-
ment of their children with medical marijuana with a special focus on the
enhancement of the child’s abilities to socially engage with others. Several
parents have observed that marijuana helps to calm their children, to make
them smile and happy and to greatly diminish their tantrums and aggressive
behaviors, but it is crucial to understand that we are not simply talking
about an effect of sedation. On the contrary, many parents described that
after medication with cannabis their children seemed to become more alive
and joyful, were able to perform actions they had never previously been able
to do, engaging in social interaction and curious to explore new activities. A
father reports about the behavior of his eight-year-old autistic son Sam, 30
minutes after giving him a small dose of marijuana
“(H)is behavior became relaxed and far less anxious than he had been at the
time we gave him the MC {medical cannabis}. He started laughing for the first
time in weeks. My wife and I were astonished with the effect. It was as if all the
anxiety, rage and hostility that had been haunting him melted away. That after-
noon and evening his behavior was steady and calm. He started talking to us and
interacting with us again. Sam was physically more relaxed and began initiating
physical contact with the motivation being affection instead of aggression. It was
amazing!”52
Mieke Hester Perez, the mother of a 12-year-old autistic son, reports:
“He was on a combination of thirteen prescription drugs, and his weight
dropped down to 46 pounds. He was diagnosed with anorexia and malnutrition,
52 Hester Perez, Mieke (2014), http://weedpress.wordpress.com/science/illnesses-
marijuana-helps/autism/sam’s-story-using-medical-cannabis-to-treat-autism-spectrum-
disorder/
What Hashish Did To Walter Benjamin
78
second to his autism. (...) Ultimately, his doctors gave him six months to live. I
was devastated. And I was determined I would figure out a way to extend his
life.”
Then she gave him medical marijuana:
“The immediate change I saw was eye contact. He gained over 40 pounds,
he's happier and better behaved.”53
Some of these parents have no doubt that marijuana saved their chil-
dren's lives. And while it may sound less dramatic in that context, Perez's
report on eye contact is remarkable; maintained eye contact signifies the
ability to socially interact with a person and to better understand facial ex-
pressions.
Severely autistic children have problems to mimic and learn behavior.
C.B., the father of a nine-year-old severely autistic son told me how his son
managed to put on his shirt and pullover himself for the first time in his life
and started to curiously explore new activities after receiving his medical ma-
rijuana. About 30-45 min after ingestion of cannabis, the screaming, the ag-
ony, the emotional instability were mostly gone. His son smiles and laughs a
lot and “just wants to cuddle”. The positive change in his son's behavior af-
ter cannabis medication is simply breathtaking.
Another now prominent mother of an autistic son, Myung Ok-Lee,
wrote about the effects of medical marijuana on her severely autistic son “J”:
“The experts don't live in my house, nor do they get to reap the rewards, like
this morning, when J woke up, smiled, and wanted a hug—the boy who formerly
woke us with a scream of pain. The boy who, since he was 3 years old, never gave
us hugs or let himself be hugged, because he couldn't bear to be touched. (Fitting-
ly, the next person he bestowed a hug to was Organic Guy, his grower.) Now,
when he's proud of something, like his awesome bike riding skills, he glances to
find my face, to make sure I'm looking.54
53 Zouves, Natasha (2012), http://www.neontommy.com/news/2012/01/ryan-s-story-
medical-marijuana-and-autism
54 Ok Lee, Myung (2011) “Why I give my 9-year old son pot, Part 4. Two years in, and
Marijuana, Empathy, and Severe Cases of Autism
79
Another flower of a cannabis plant. Photo © Sebastián Marincolo 2013
Then, Ok-Lee took her son to his doctor while he was under the influ-
ence of medical marijuana:
During the pre-exam discussion, J's pediatrician was both taken aback and a
bit sceptical to hear about his new cannabis "therapy." But when I brought J into
the examination room, she saw that he didn't look the least bit stoned, which
had been her big fear. Instead, he said "Hi" to her and patiently (for him) al-
lowed her do the exam, which was a first – usually he can't bear be to be
touched, especially around his head. But this time, J even let her stick the tickly
otoscope in his ears and shine a light in his eyes. He said "Ah" on command. Last
time, she couldn't listen to his heart because he kept grabbing the stethoscope off
her head. This time – after he had a listen first – he handed the stethoscope back
I'm still flying solo.”
http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2011/05/why_i_give_my_autistic_son
_pot_part_4.2.html
What Hashish Did To Walter Benjamin
80
to her and let her finish the exam.”55
Marijuana and the Enhancement of Empathic Skills
Marijuana seems to help some autistic children in many ways: it makes
them happier, calm, less anxious, less auto-aggressive. Aggressive behaviors
get vastly diminished and compulsive behaviors are reduced, to name just a
few. But what parents often describe as a miracle is the change in their social
and empathic skills; after being medicated with marijuana, autistic children
often initiate and keep eye contact, start to engage in social communication,
start to play with other kids instead of attacking them, they enjoy to touch
and to be touched. They give hugs and allow themselves to be hugged, and
they often show mimicry behaviors that they were never capable of previous-
ly, like rinsing a bowl after eating or putting on a t-shirt. These observations
are important in the context of empathy because this kind of mimicking
or, 'mirroring' the actions of others is a basic capacity that rests on the
ability to put oneself in the position of another person. For us, it seems so
easy to imitate or “mirror” behavior that we do not even understand, yet for
a severely autistic child, this imitation behavior is often not possible. They
seem to lack the ability to imaginatively put themselves in the position of
their mother when she rinses the bowl and then to repeat the action them-
selves. Likewise, they seem to have problems to use their imagination to put
themselves in the position of a person in pain or in joy and to feel their feel-
ings as if they were their own, as we often do. When we watch somebody
breaking an arm in an accident, we suffer; when we watch a pair in love kiss-
ing passionately, we delve into happy memories of similar experiences. Se-
verely autistic sufferers cannot recreate the feeling and, thus, do not often
seem to understand the feelings of others.
Empathic understanding is probably the most complex and most out-
standing mental skill we – and some animals have and it is an incredibly
powerful drive for our actions. More than 150 years ago, the German phi-
losopher Arthur Schopenhauer wrote:
55 Ibid.
Marijuana, Empathy, and Severe Cases of Autism
81
“How is it possible that suffering that is neither my own nor of my concern
should immediately affect me as though it were my own, and with such force that
it moves me to action". ... This is something really mysterious, something for
which reason can provide no explanation, and for which no basis can be found
in practical experience. It is nevertheless a common occurrence, and everyone has
the experience. It is not unknown even to the most hard-hearted and self-
interested. Examples appear every day before our eyes of instant responses of the
kind, without reflection, one person helping another, coming to his aid, even set-
ting his own life in clear danger for someone whom he has seen for the first time,
having nothing more in mind that that the other is in need and in peril of his
life”.56
How can cannabis so dramatically improve this skill in various ways – in
autistic children as well as in other people, as reports of users suggest? Could
it be that the endocannbinoid system is functionally involved in the very
neurological systems that are subserving our empathic skills? As we will see,
recent scientific findings indeed point in this direction.
Autistic Spectrum Disorder and the Endocannabinoid-System
For about 5000 years now, cannabis has been used worldwide to treat a
whole range of diseases, syndromes and medical conditions, including nau-
sea, neurological pain, epilepsy, glaucoma, epilepsy, Tourette's syndrome,
asthma, inflammation and autoimmune diseases as well as countless other
conditions.
The discovery of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in the mid-1990s
was not only a revolution in neuroscience, it also brought about a better un-
derstanding why and how exogenous (consumed) cannabis could have such a
profound healing effect for so many conditions. The more we learn about
the ECS, the more it becomes evident that it plays a crucial functional role
in a multitude of bodily and mental processes. It is now known to be a cen-
56 In: Arthur Schopenhauer, Die beiden Grundprobleme der Ethik, II, Über das Fundament
der Moral, (1840) (Sämtliche Werke, Volume XII, Cotta'sche Buchhandlung, Stuttgart,
(1895-1898).
What Hashish Did To Walter Benjamin
82
tral component of health and healing processes in the body. As Pacher et al.,
(2006) point out, there is a growing body of evidence showing that deficien-
cies of the ECS lead to various diseases.57
Recently, more scientific studies have suggested direct links between Au-
tistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and the ECS. Let me briefly explain some of
those links:
A study published by Chakrabarti and Baron-Cohen tested whether
variations in the endocannabinoid receptor 1 (CNR1) could be associated
with the duration of a human's gaze towards happy faces. Atypical gaze
fixation patterns are typical for neurodevelopmental conditions like autism.
The study rests on research in primates showing that the striatal region of
the brain “plays a major role in the directing gaze. The striatum is thought to
encode a 'value map' of the visual stimuli.”58
The study further proceeds from the fact that the endocannabinoid sys-
tem is one of the key systems involved in the functioning of the striatal cir-
cuit. In their conclusion, they state:
These results suggest that CNR1 variations modulate the striatal function
that underlies the perception of signals of social reward, such as happy faces. This
suggests that CNR1 is a key element in the molecular architecture of perception of
certain basic emotions. This may have implications for understanding neurode-
velopmental conditions marked by atypical eye contact and facial emotion pro-
cessing, such as ASC [autism spectrum conditions].”59
A study published by Stanford scientists Földy et al. 2013 in Neuron60 con-
57 Pacher, Pál, Sánddor Bátkai, and George Kunos (2006), “The endocannabinoid system
as an emerging target of pharmacotherapy.” Pharmacological review 58.3.
58 Chakrabarti, B., and Baron-Cohen, Simon, (2011) “Variation in the human
cannabinoid receptor CNR1 gene modulates gaze duration for happy faces”, Molecular
Autism 2011, 2:10, p.11.
59 Ibid., p. 10.
60 Földy, C., Malenka, RC, Südhof, TC. (2013) Autism-associated neuroligin-3
mutations commonly disrupt tonic endocannabinoid signaling.” Neuron. May
8;78(3):498-509. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2013.02.036. Epub 2013, April 11.
Marijuana, Empathy, and Severe Cases of Autism
83
cerns the protein neuroligin 3, post-synaptic cell adhesion molecules in-
volved in the communication between brain cells. Rare mutations in these
molecules are know to predispose to the syndrome of autism and are also
involved in a certain type of secretion of endocannabinoids in the brain:
Földy et al. summarize their results as follows:
“Our data thus suggests that neuroligin-3 is specifically required for
tonic endo-cannabinoid signaling, raising the possibility that alterations in
endocannabinoid signaling may contribute to autism pathophysiology.”61
Another link between the ECS and ASD is based on the observation that
the cannabinoid receptor CB2 is upregulated in those with ASD as well as in
other neurodegenerative disorders.62 The upregulation of CB2 receptors as a
response to damages support the thesis that the ECS serves as an endogenous
neuroprotective system and that consumed (exogenous) cannabinoids
activating these CB2 receptors are promising therapeutic agents. Benito et al.
suggest that the upregulation of CB2 receptors in those conditions might
not only be an endogenous neuroprotective response, but could also point to
a possible role of CB2's in their pathogenesis.63
Empathy, Cannabis and the Endocannabinoid System
These findings suggest a possible link between deficits in the endocanna-
binoid system and autistic spectrum disorder. Could it be that the endocan-
nabinoid system is involved in subserving some cognitive functions underly-
ing our ability to empathically understand others? I have introduced the
“broken mirror-theory” of ASD before, which states that it is caused by defi-
ciencies in the mirror neuron system. There is still a lot of controversy over
the issue of the function of the mirror neuron system itself and whether it
plays a role in ASD. Critics argue that the mirror neuron system does not
61 Ibid., p. 498.
62 See Siniscalco et al.(2013)Cannabinoid Receptor Type 2, but not Type 1, is Up-Regulated
in Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cells of Children Affected by Autistic Disorders”, J Autism
Dev Disord DOI 10.1007/s10803-013-1824-9
63 Benito, C. et al. (2008) “Cannabinoid CB2 receptors in human brain inflammation.”
British Journal of Pharmacology 153.2: 277-285.
What Hashish Did To Walter Benjamin
84
play a crucial role for empathic understanding and that the empirical evi-
dence for its implication in ASD is sparse.64
As those discussions are going
on, I believe we should direct our
attention to the obvious connec-
tion between cannabis, the endo-
cannabinoid system and empath-
ic understanding. I have quoted
some of the great amount of an-
ecdotal evidence for an enhance-
ment of empathic understanding
during a high. I then also report-
ed how incredibly helpful canna-
bis can be for severely autistic
children to relate empathically to
others. Obviously, something
fundamental is going on here.
We should look for possible
functional links between the en-
docannabinoid system and cogni-
tive functions subserving empath-
ic understanding. As mentioned
above, we have already evidence
that endocannabinoids are in-
volved in the perception of basic
emotions. As far as I know, nobody has so far found a connection between
the mirror neuron system and the endocannabinoid system, but I think it is
possible that we might find substantial links here – links that could be revo-
lutionary in our understanding of the human mind in general, and patholog-
ical conditions like ASD in particular. I would recommend for other scien-
tists in this interdisciplinary field to take a closer look at detailed reports of
marijuana users and at what parents have to say about the astonishing effects
of medical marijuana on their children with ASD.
64 For a good overview of the debate see Thomas, Ben (2012), “What's so special about
Mirror Neurons”, http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/2012/11/06/whats-so-
special-about-mirror-neurons/
‘Mexican Sativa’ strain flowering. Photo © Sebastián
Marincolo
Marijuana, Empathy, and Severe Cases of Autism
85
Severe Cases of Autism: Dying Patients Can't Wait
While interested observers and scientists can calmly sit back and do more
research, severely autistic children and their parents cannot wait. Some of
these children are dying because they cannot eat, are banging their heads on
walls or sharp objects every day or are suffering the horrible side effects of
several pharmaceutical products which do not help them at all or often even
worsen their condition. They are screaming in agony, locked in their tan-
trums and shaken by their emotional instability. Every human being capable
of empathy must be touched when seeing how much cannabis can help these
children and their families. Now is the time to go the next step and add se-
vere forms of autistic spectrum syndrome to medical cannabis qualifying
conditions.65
65 Thanks to Christian Bogner, M.D. for his wonderful summary of autism research and
for sharing his personal experiences with his autistic son with me. You can find his
manuscript “The Endocannabinoid System as it Relates to Autism” (with Joe Stone,
2014) here: http://de.scribd.com/doc/218971076/The-Endocannabinoid-System-as-it-
Relates-to-Autism.
179
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I would like to thank Jeroen Roeleveld for his trust and for giving me
the opportunity to write an expert blog for the cannabis seed bank Sensi
Seeds. The essays in this book are ‘enhanced’ versions of the original essays
published for this blog from 2012 to 2015. Without this support the neces-
sary research for this book would not have been possible.
Very generous support came from Carl Doherty, who helped me
extensively with editing and proofreading for no costs, even though I
offered. Eternal thanks, Carl. Excellent job! The remaining mistakes are
definitely on me.
This book was published with the help of an Indiegogo crowdfunding
campaign. I thank my anonymous supporters as well as some who chose to
openly support me: thanks Lieven D’hont, Paul Aguilar, and Shari L.
Mathieu.
Thanks, Joe Dolce, for contributing a foreword and for sharing so much
of your knowledge about the cannabis world with me in our conversations.
Last but not least, thanks again to Andy Schmith for the magnificent
cover design.
180
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M
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is a former student of the
philosophers Manfred Frank,
Gianfranco Soldati, William G.
Lycan, Simon Blackburn, and
Dorit Bar-On. His research fo-
cuses on the philosophy of mind,
neurocognition, and on altered
states of mind. He has received
several academic grants and fel-
lowships, including a Fulbright
grant and a fellowship from the
German Academic Exchange
Service (DAAD).
Marincolo has published
various articles on the marijuana
high, co-edited bewusstseins-
erweiterungen (“mind expansions”), an issue of the German internetzine parapluie.de,
and published two books on the marijuana high: the study High. Insights on
Marijuana (Dogear Publishing, Indiana, USA, 2010), and an essay collection,
High. Das positive Potential von Marijuana (in German, Klett Cotta/Tropen,
Stuttgart, Germany, 2013), which contains his macro art series “The Art of
Cannabis”. The new essays in the present collection first appeared most of them
in shorter versions in five languages on his expert blog for the renowned Dutch
cannabis seed bank Sensi Seeds, the official provider of medical marijuana in the
Netherlands, between 2013-15. Marincolo also worked with marijuana expert
Harvard Associate Prof. Emeritus Lester Grinspoon on a book project. For more
than five years he was a creative director and consultant for one of the biggest
foundations in Germany and has more than 25 years of experience as a freelance
photographer specializing on documentary, art, travel, and macro-photography.
His art photography from New York City, Rio de Janeiro, Bali and other places has
been shown in various exhibitions and art galleries in Germany and the U.S. He is
currently living in Stuttgart, Germany, and works as a freelance writer, creative
consultant and photographer.
Personal home page and blog:
www.sebastianmarincolo.de
www.sebastianmarincolo.de
Photo © Tom Lichtenbergh 2014
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