Posts Tagged ‘cannabis research’
My apologies for getting this little nugget out to you guys late but you know how it is when you’re trying to pay attention and…well, you know how it is. Nevertheless, guess what I’ve got!?!
The Federal government’s annual report highlighting substance abuse. Now that may not sound interesting when I put it like that but if you look through the 300+ pages like Paul Armentano of NORML did right here. You’ll find even more myth busting information by comparing the data but in the meantime, here’s the breakdown.
Four More Bullsh*t Mary Jane Myths BUSTED!!!
- Myth: Marijuana use is prevalent in low income and urban areas thereby justifying the “War on Drug” and aggressive treatment and surveillance of poorer (read: Black and Latino) neighborhoods.
…..combating numerous drug warrior myths and stereotypes (such as the notion that high rates of illicit drug use — yes, the New England states lead in this broader category too — are typically relegated to poorer, urban, more racially diverse areas).
- Myth: Marijuana use is neither determined nor undermined by state drug laws. People use marijuana if and when they choose to and not because states make marijuana possession laws harder.
…..it should be noted that despite the prevalence of medical marijuana states in these rankings, the authors of the report acknowledge that there is no evidence that the implementation of medi-pot laws is increasing the use of cannabis or other illicit drugs.
- Myth: Establishing medical marijuana laws do not directly affect an increase in casual marijuana use.
They also call into question the notion that marijuana use among the general population is in any way influenced by the legal status of marijuana.
- Myth: The Northeast loves them some Mary Jane. Nearly every state in the region made it’s way into the top spots for marijuana use.
The totals in the category ‘marijuana use in the past year among persons age 18 to 25‘ is even more New England-centric, with every northeast state (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont) all included in the top percentile (along with Alaska, Colorado, New York, and Oregon). In the category, ‘marijuana use in the past month among persons age 26 or older‘ Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont top the list (along with Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, and Oregon).
So, according this report by the United States government marijuana use is not the big bad monster that they make it out to be. With social concerns and morals aside, I wonder if a level-headed person would read this and ask themselves what the implication of this data means.
At the very least, our government has inflated the seriousness of marijuana’s affects on society. The decision to do so may have caused a focus of limited state resources on treating a problem that may not have been a priority compared to other social issues.
At the very worst, this data shows a how an entire class of people (poor/brown) have been manufactured into a criminal class justifying the pursuit, expense and time required by the state to prosecute them when their marijuana use maybe less prevalent than in other (upper-class/white) areas. So if the real intent of the state is to pursue those that use illicit drugs the their polices effort to lock up offenders would correlate with drug use. This one theory begs the question of the states willingness to exploit their own criminal justice system to violate the rights of citizens to fund private industries that benefit from such discretion, specifically, the courts, the prisons and the legal industry.
Don’t be intimidated by false marijuana myths, educate yourself and stop the stupid with real data made by the same people that we’re fighting. Shout out to Norml for doing the hard part, now all you have to do is repeat it. Almost like cheating on a test but not. Until next time, people
Medical Uses of Cannabis: Pain
By Alan Shackelford, M.D.
According to a paper published in the Journal of Opioid Management in 2009, more than 15,000 peer-reviewed scientific and medical studies of cannabis were published world-wide between 1960 and mid-2008. A number of those studies showed that cannabis can be an effective treatment for a variety of different medical conditions such as glaucoma, muscle spasms in multiple sclerosis, neuropathic and other kinds of pain, nausea, weight loss in wasting syndrome and several psychological conditions including PTSD and Tourette syndrome. Others showed that compounds found in cannabis may prevent or treat Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and HIV-related dementia, and may limit neurological damage in strokes and trauma. This month, we will look at some of the evidence supporting the use of cannabis to treat pain.
Recent studies (the earliest documented use of cannabis as an analgesic was in China some 2,800 years BCE ) have demonstrated the efficacy of cannabis in alleviating acute pain resulting from chemical exposure, mechanical injury such as surgery, and burns. Other studies have shown that cannabinoids are very effective treatments for chronic neuropathic pain and pain caused by inflammation such as those associated with rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. Cannabis has also been found to be an effective treatment for migraine headaches and to enhance the effects of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory and opiate pain medications.
In addition to its remarkable effectiveness in relieving a variety of different kinds of pain, two other factors make cannabis a particularly good treatment option: its incredible safety and low toxicity. There has never been a verified report of a death due to a cannabis overdose in its more than 4,000 years of use as a medicine. The same cannot be said of narcotic pain medicines, nor can it be said of prescription and over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications. Deaths from opiate overdoses rose nearly 97 percent between 1997 and 2002, to more than 12,000 a year in American metropolitan areas. Today, some nine years later, narcotic overdoses are the second leading cause of accidental death in the United States, just behind traffic accidents, according to the CDC. Furthermore, in the late 1990s a conservatively estimated 16,500 patients with rheumatoid and osteoarthritis were thought to have died each year from the effects of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, according to the June, 1999 New England Journal of Medicine. That number has continued to rise each year since then. Given these kinds of statistics, maybe cannabis deserves more than a just a fleeting glance as a treatment option for pain.
Please join us again next month as we continue to explore the use of cannabis as a treatment for a variety of different medical conditions.
Alan Shackelford, M.D., graduated from the University of Heidelberg School of Medicine and trained at major teaching hospitals of Harvard Medical School in internal medicine, nutritional medicine and hyperalimentation and behavioral medicine. He is principle physician for Intermedical Consulting, LLC and Amarimed of Colorado, LLC and can be contacted at Amarimed.com.
The call to legalize cannabis continues to grow louder despite all of the other problems our country is currently facing. Mainstream polls indicate almost 50 percent of Americans favor full-out legalization, and nearly 80 percent believe that marijuana should be available for medicinal purposes.
No one has ever died from simply using marijuana. In 1972, then-President Richard Nixon appointed the Shafer Commission to study the nation’s rising drug problem. It reported the following: “Neither the marihuana [sic] user nor the drug itself can be said to constitute a danger to public safety.” The commission’s findings have withstood the test of time.
The more we learn about marijuana, the more benign it becomes. Marijuana does not cause cancer. Sound scientific studies, such as those done by UCLA’s Dr. Donald Tashkin, have clearly demonstrated this. We also know that marijuana is legitimate medicine. If marijuana has no medicinal benefit, why are so many terminally ill patients turning to it to improve their quality of life? Why, after countless legislative hearings and initiatives, have 16 states and our nation’s capital legalized marijuana for medicinal use? And why does an expensive prescription drug called Marinol, which is a synthetic form of the active ingredient in marijuana, exist? Even the federal government owns a patent for the medicinal use of marijuana. (The patent number is 6630507.)
Marijuana is medicine to many people. The Drug Enforcement Administration’s own administrative law judge, Francis L. Young, held that “marijuana has been accepted as capable of relieving the distress of great numbers of very ill people, and doing so with safety under medical supervision. It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for DEA to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance in light of the evidence in this record.” Studies done by the California Center for Medical Cannabis Research and the recent breakthroughs highlighting the antibacterial properties of cannabis extracts also clearly demonstrate marijuana’s potential as a natural and inexpensive medicine.
Unlike most medicines, it is quite safe for marijuana to be used recreationally by responsible and healthy adults. According to the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, over 100 million Americans have tried or use marijuana. If this market were taxed and regulated, crime rates would go down and agriculturally based communities would profit. We easily forget how much disrespect for the law vanished when alcohol prohibition was repealed, or that well over 30,000 Mexican citizens have died since 2006 as a direct result of a drug war fueled in large part by demand for marijuana, or that the U.S. has spent approximately a trillion dollars and 100,000 lives on a drug war that could be reined in considerably with marijuana legalization.
Regulating marijuana would also protect our children. It is easier for kids today to get marijuana than it is for them to get alcohol or tobacco, which is a fact supported by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. Drug dealers simply do not ask for ID. Regulation would also lessen the burden on the criminal justice system, making it easier to keep violent criminals behind bars. Washington currently has mandatory minimum sentences for marijuana possession, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports more people are being court-ordered into treatment for marijuana than ever before under threat of incarceration. This is a huge waste of resources.
The legalization movement is not about persuading people to use marijuana, but for giving the sick and responsible the liberty to consume a relatively benign product. Proposed policies within the spirit of the movement are worthy of our consideration.
* Alex Newhouse is a lawyer who lives in the Sunnyside area.
Public-health researchers say the federal government is slowing the search for cures to breast, colon, prostate and brain cancers, as well as Huntington’s disease, Alzheimer’s, and HIV, because the research involves cannabis.
That’s the takeaway from the 21st annual symposium of the International Cannabinoid Research Society, which was held earlier this month in Illinois. Researchers stacked the program with talks not only about cannabis’s palliative properties but also its curative efficacy. The event, sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, was held the same week the Drug Enforcement Administration reiterated its stance that marijuana has no accepted medical use.
“It was really interesting,” said Amanda Reiman, who holds a doctorate from the UC Berkeley School of Social Welfare and presented at the symposium. “At the same time [that] the DEA was publicly declaring that cannabis has no medical value, I was surrounded by the most brilliant minds in the world talking about nothing but the medical value of cannabinoids.”
She said the frustration “was something you could feel in the air.”
Reiman researches medical-cannabis dispensaries as community-health providers and considers the use of cannabis a substitute for alcohol and other drugs. It’s a topic of key interest to both the International Cannabinoid Research Society and the National Institute on Drug Abuse because—unlike almost every other drug—the NIDA can completely restrict researchers’ access to cannabis, citing the plant’s danger to society.
That means safe, effective treatments that stem from pot are being held up. Take the case of Sativex, the marijuana-based mouth spray made by GW Pharmaceuticals in Europe that helps patients with multiple sclerosis and is very safe. Sufferers won’t see it in the United States any time soon, because it contains cannabinoids.
According to the abstracts of the ICRS symposium, researchers have found that the molecules in pot can reverse cancer growth. “Mechanisms of the Anti-cancer Effects of Cannabidiol and Other Non-psychotropic Cannabinoids on Human Prostate Carcinoma” reads one abstract title. There are at least a seven such papers this year.
The molecule in pot called cannabidiol, or CBD, has been shown to reduce anxiety and halt the progression of HIV in monkeys, as well as treat Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, according to ICRS research. Cannabinoid researchers are investigating using pot molecules to treat head and neck squamous cell carcinomas.
But these researchers aren’t allowed to progress past animal studies and cannot get their hands on the plant, Reiman said. And it’s driving them crazy.
Since the conference was sponsored by the drug warriors at NIDA, “There was a lot of push-back from researchers in terms of restricting access to these cannabinoids, especially CBD, which is not psychoactive,” said Reiman. “There’s opportunities to cure diseases like cancer, but also neurodegenerative diseases and HIV.”
However, “A lot of NIDA’s mission is to discover the harms associated with drugs of abuse [though not alcohol] and to prevent people from using drugs and to help people who are using them to stop them.
“Nowhere in that mission is it to discover potentially therapeutic benefits for illicit drugs, and that’s why cannabis research falls into the crack,” she said.
It’s unfortunate, because pot may birth the all-star “smart drugs” of the 21st century. The molecules in marijuana stimulate a sort of intracellular Internet called the “endocannabinoid system.” Discovered in the ’90s, the endocannabinoid system runs throughout the bodies of mammals, with a large amount of receptors in the nervous system in the head and gut.
Scientists think pot molecules such as CBD can help facilitate cellular communication, assisting cells in sending signals like “Turn off the inflammation” and “My neighbor is a tumor, kill him!”
“Cannabis seeks out disregulation, like the growth of a tumor, and addresses that problem without interrupting the rest of the body,” Reiman said.
While the federal government still schedules cannabis as a Schedule I narcotic, some 1 million U.S. medical-marijuana patients have embraced the so-called vigilante medicine, as it were. And they’re not turning back, no matter what the federal government does.
“They can’t put the whole plant medical-cannabis genie back in the bottle,” Reiman said. “They just have to recognize that it’s there.”
Investigators at the University of Melbourne and the Australian National University, Center for Mental Health Research assessed the impact of cannabis use on various measures of memory and intelligence in over 2,000 self-identified marijuana consumers and non-users over an eight-year period.
Among cannabis consumers, subjects were grouped into the following categories: ‘heavy’ (once a week or more) users, ‘light’ users, ‘former heavy’ users, ‘former light’ users, and ‘always former’ — a category that consisted of respondents who had ceased using marijuana prior to their entry into the study.
Researchers reported: “Only with respect to the immediate recall measure was there evidence of an improved performance associated with sustained abstinence from cannabis, with outcomes similar to those who had never used cannabis at the end point. On the remaining cognitive measures, after controlling for education and other characteristics, there were no significant differences associated with cannabis consumption.”
They concluded, “Therefore, the adverse impacts of cannabis use on cognitive functions either appear to be related to pre-existing factors or are reversible in this community cohort even after potentially extended periods of use.”
Separate studies have previously reported that long-term marijuana use is not associated with residual deficits in neurocognitive function. Specifically, a 2001 study published in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry found that chronic cannabis consumers who abstained from the drug for one week “showed virtually no significant differences from control subjects (those who had smoked marijuana less than 50 times in their lives) on a battery of 10 neuropsychological tests. … Former heavy users, who had consumed little or no cannabis in the three months before testing, [also] showed no significant differences from control subjects on any of these tests on any of the testing days.”
Additionally, studies have also implied that cannabis may be neuroprotective against alcohol-induced cognitive deficits. A 2009 study by investigators at the University of California and San Diego reported that binge drinkers who also used cannabis experienced significantly less white matter damage to the brain as compared to subjects who consumed alcohol alone.
For more information regarding the impact of cannabis on brain function, see NORML’s factsheet ‘Cannabis and the Brain: A User’s Guide,’ here.\
[Editor's note: This post is excerpted from this week's forthcoming NORML weekly media advisory. To have NORML's media alerts and legislative advisories delivered straight to your in-box, sign up here.]
Researchers based out of James Cook University in Queensland, Australia have been doing some research into cannabis use among the Aboriginal population in the far northern, tropical area of Cape York. The researchers reported their findings at the Tropical Medical Conference in Cairnes last weekend. The researchers stated, presumably with straight faces, that marijuana was causing a 50% rate of mental illness in the Aborigine community. This is like hitting someone with an axe and determining death was caused by their resultant fall to the ground.
The study, if one can call it that, is part of the Cape York Cannabis Project: “a part of the Weed it out initiative run by the Queensland Police Service and James Cook University, the aim of which is to promote Indigenous community action to reduce harms associated with heavy cannabis use in remote communities in the Cape York region.”
The basis of the scientific method is basically: 1. coming up with an idea, 2. testing that idea using experiments and observations and 3. comparing those results to your original idea in order to see if it is valid. On the other hand, there is propaganda: coming up with an idea and then selectively pulling or inventing information that backs your idea in order to make it believable. Which of these two do you think applies to a “study” funded by an anti-cannabis police initiative? The outcome and findings were never in question, thus the findings aren’t scientifically valid. The fact that the spurious results are even getting media attention does a disservice to humanity.
JCU Assoc. Prof. Alan Clough headed the “research” team along with associate Dr. India Bohanna. They determined that, since 50% of the population surveyed reported using marijuana, and 50% of the individuals were reported to have at least one symptom of mental illness, pot was causing the illness.
OH REALLY? So, let’s see: the Australian aborigines, the original inhabitants of the Australian continent, have (since the British colonized Oz in 1788) had their homeland effectively stolen, their culture brutally discouraged, been massacred, and had their children stolen from them, and have a life expectancy 17 years shorter than the average white Aussie, have a high incidence of mental illness because they use cannabis?
Mr. Clough and Ms. Bohanna were both paid to come up with that exact result, and I hope they were paid well to mortgage their professional reputations, because no one can take anything they publish seriously ever again after that preposterous claim.
The HIGH TIMES Interview with Dr. Raphael Mechoulam
By Nico Escondido
The history of Israel marks it as a place of intense spirituality for many religions, most notably in Jewish, Christian and Islamic cultures. Ironically, a much more recent counter-culture can also point to the Holy Land as a major component of its heritage, not to mention the ground zero, of sorts, of the modern medical-marijuana movement.
In 1964, at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, Dr. Raphael Mechoulam – along with his colleagues, Dr. Yehiel Gaoni and Dr. Haviv Edery – succeeded in the very first isolation and elucidation of the active constituent of cannabis, D9-tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC. The discovery of the THC compound – now almost 50 years ago – started a revolution in thinking about cannabis that carries on to this day.
Dr. Mechoulam is currently a professor of medicinal chemistry and natural products at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His total synthesis of THC, as well as other cannabinoids such as cannabidiol (CBD), is the cornerstone of the burgeoning medical-cannabis industry. Furthermore, his major contributions in the field of organic chemistry and the interaction of human and plant biology have led to the discovery of cannabinoid receptors in the human brain and the endocannabinoid system in the human body.
Dr. Mechoulam was kind enough to give his time for an exclusive interview with HIGH TIMES at his university laboratory in Jerusalem. It is very plausible that Dr. Mechoulam may one day win a Nobel Prize for his work and contributions in these fields. But it is his courage in introducing a previously little-researched plant to the world – a plant that is rapidly proving itself as nothing short of miraculous – that make Dr. Raphael Mechoulam The Man.
Let’s start at the beginning. Tell us a little bit about what the marijuana scene was like when you began working with cannabis.
It was a South American problem, really. Nobody was smoking it in the US except for a few musicians – a few black musicians, you know. Incidentally, it seems to have something to do with – well, ah, how can I explain that? Maybe understanding the music better, or hearing the music better. Especially jazz musicians. But that was it.
So then how did your research with cannabis come about exactly?
Well, when my friend [Dr. Yehiel Gaoni] and I started working on it, I was 32 years old. And when I initially asked for a grant, I sent it out to the NIH [National Institutes of Health] in the US. I asked for a research grant, but they said, “No, no, no. It is not in our interest. Let us know when you have something more relevant for us.” But then, soon after we isolated THC, they decided it was relevant work.
And so, when we started working, essentially nobody was working on that – and the reasons were probably legal. You couldn’t really do it in the US, at least, and the US was, at that time, the only place that there was any serious research going on … and the UK. The laws were such that you had to have guards all over the place. You can’t see an American professor with graduate students and having three guards around him.
So we had just isolated THC and, to the world’s surprise, they [NIH] came over to see our work. We had 10 grams of THC isolated from hashish, so they took it back with them, and most of the initial research in the US was done with our THC.
And so here [in Israel] we had no problem working because, you know, here – well, the laws are the same, but the application of the law is a little bit different. They knew I was not going to go outside and start selling marijuana; they didn’t assume that I will do that. We were able to work on it for a couple of years, though essentially nobody else was around, so we published quite a bit – and that was in the mid-’60s. So that was it.
We know that your interest lies in the connection between chemistry and biology, but what was the intent for you with cannabis? Did you think back then that there was medicinal value in cannabis?
No, no, it’s a natural product. If you look at the other illicit drugs that are throughout the world, morphine came out of opium or poppy plants, and cocaine came out of cocoa leaves – and these were discovered 150 years ago. Morphine was isolated in the early 19th century, and cocoa and cocaine in the middle 19th century. And surprisingly, THC – the active component of cannabis – was not known, which seemed very strange.
And I know why it was not isolated: because the techniques were very complicated. See, morphine and cocaine are so-called alkaloids, namely a natural product that contains a nitrogen [atom] on the molecule, and it can give us salt; it precipitates as a salt. And so you have salt: Cocaine is a salt, morphine is a salt – very easy to prepare. It turned out that THC does not have a nitrogen, and it is present in a mixture of compounds – we know that there are about 60 of them now. And they didn’t have the techniques to isolate them in the past. So a few people tried here and there, actually some very good people – one of them [Lord Alexander Todd] got the Nobel Prize for something else. But they never succeeded in isolating the pure substance, and so they never knew whether they had one compound or many compounds, and so on.
So the impetus was really that cannabis was being used and you knew of its use, yet there was no real research? I’m trying to figure out why it was cannabis that you guys went to instead of, say, boswellia or some other plant.
Well, my interest is in natural products that have some biological activity, and there are a huge number of natural products and plants that have activities. I probably have the best library, at least in Israel, with books and publications on natural products, on plants – you name it, we can find it. And let’s say, just for the fun of it, here is this dictionary of plants found in southern and eastern Africa – all plants with medicinal properties. So you can pick out any one of them and just open it – say buchu. Okay, it is a natural product. It lists some of the known herbal remedies. It’s also used for relief of rheumatism.
Is it true? Is it not true? I just opened the book – I have no idea. So there are thousands of them, and you have to decide what you want to work on, and one has to choose something that makes sense. And here I know that this [cannabis] is something that makes sense – namely that it has a compound within the plant that has obviously active products – and it turned out to be interesting.
But at that time, you didn’t know about cannabinoid receptors in the human body?
No, as a matter of fact, that came much later. You see, there are mistakes in science, too. People didn’t realize that there were receptors. As a matter of fact, an excellent group in Oxford with Sir Bill Paton, Sir William – probably pharmacologist number one in the world, a good friend of mine – he had said there were no receptors, and for very good reasons. Those reasons are probably too complicated to explain for a journal or a magazine ….
Well, try us anyway.
Basically, the reasons were, you see, when something [like a molecule] binds to a receptor, it has to have a specific stereochemistry. You have two hands, they’re identical … well, they’re not identical: If you put one on top of the other, they’re just the opposite – they are mirror images of each other, they are not identical. So it is true for many of the natural products: They can have two images, mirror images, but only one of them is the natural product – the other probably doesn’t even exist. We could synthesize it, but it’s not the natural product. In this case, the natural product [THC] has the activity. If both of them have activity, then chances are it does not bind to anything biological like a receptor, an enzyme or something like that, because the receptor itself is asymmetric.
So if this is the receptor [holding up one hand], you can have only one thing binding to it, but not its mirror image … only one of them. And it turned out that both of them were active – both mirror images of THC. One of them was natural; the other one we had synthesized; both of them worked. So Bill said, “No, it can’t be. There cannot be a THC receptor.”
Well, it turned out that they were not very good organic chemists. They were buying the raw material, the starting material [for their testing], that already had the two images – with the mirror image being synthetic – and you cannot separate them at that point. So if you have even 20 percent of the wrong stereoisomer, then you end up with a completely wrong stereoisomer. So both compounds tested as active, and thus they thought there would not be a human receptor.
But then we actually did some better work, I think, as we found out that it was not true – because only one mirror image was, in fact, active [laughing]. So, for the 20 years since we discovered the chemical material [THC], we all went along the wrong pathway! So when we discovered that only one of them was active, another good friend of mine in St. Louis finally found the first receptor.
Yes, correct, Dr. Allyn Howlett. And so Dr. Howlett found the receptor … and, basically, if you have a receptor in the body, it’s not because there is a plant out there. It doesn’t work that way – it works only because there is something in your body which will activate that receptor. So we went after those compounds that activated it. And we found the compound in the brain that activated it.
[Also known as N-arachidonoylethanolamine or AEA, anandamide is a naturally occurring cannabinoid produced in the human body for use as a neurotransmitter. It was first isolated and described by the Czech analytical chemist Lumír Ondřej Hanuš and the American molecular pharmacologist William Anthony Devane in Dr. Mechoulam’s Hebrew University laboratory in 1992. The name is derived from the Sanskrit word ananda, which means “bliss” or “delight.”]
We know there are so many different cannabinoids – THC, CBD, CBN, CBG, etc. Do they all bind with the CB1 and CB2 receptors?
Only THC – and only THC is psychoactive. So, as it binds to the CB1 receptor, it causes the activities that are known as cannabis activities. That’s it, period. None of the others – well, at least not significantly; there are a little bit here and there – but no other compound out of the 60, or whatever they are, binds.
There is a lot of interest now in the United States within the medical movement to find cannabis strains that are high in cannabidiol or CBD.
Well, this is something that I made a big fuss about. You see, with illicit cannabis – which is a huge, huge thing in the States – there is no interest in having anything else but very high levels of THC, because THC is the compound that attaches [to the brain’s cannabinoid receptors] and is psychoactive. Nobody’s interested in CBD because it causes no activity. But it is – from a medical point of view – very important, because it’s an anti-inflammatory and does all kinds of interesting things. It even blocks some of the undesirable effects of THC.
Under THC – of course, you’ve never smoked marijuana [laughing] – but seriously, when you have not smoked and then do and the doses are high, you may have an acute loss of memory. I mean, you don’t remember everything as it should be remembered. And if you have enough CBD, you block that kind of memory loss.
I was interested in the cannabidiol. But if you look at the cannabis that’s being grown illicitly in the US – and it’s a small business [chuckling], probably the number one agricultural product, I’ve been told, in terms of money – there is little or no CBD in there.
There was a medical meeting recently in the US, and I went there. I gave the opening lecture, and I told them you can’t [not have CBD]. You have to have CBD, and that’s it. So they’re trying to get CBD now in medical marijuana, which is the right thing to do.
A lot of the people that we meet around the world are searching for these CBD-rich strains. Now, with the lab testing going on in the medical community – you know, with gas-chromotography machines and mass spectrometers – people are really trying to look closely at it. But compared to THC, the CBD and CBN results are usually negligible; the CBD is always less than 1 percent. However, they’ve now found two or three strains that have around 8 percent CBD.
What do you mean, they have to find the strains? I mean, in Lebanon, they have been growing cannabis for the last, I don’t know, 300, 400 years or whatever. Lebanese hashish contains 5 percent THC and about 5 percent CBD. So go to Lebanon, take a strain from there, period – why make a fuss? We isolate cannabidiol from hashish. We don’t synthesize it; we isolate it. We do a lot of work on CBD.
So we go to the police, we pick up a couple of kilos of hashish – not marijuana. We pick up several kilos of hashish, isolate the cannabidiol and get a nice crystalline product. THC is an oil; CBD is nicely crystally. And then we make all kinds of things from CBD. So why make a fuss? Go to Lebanon and buy a few strains. Or in India – there are a lot of strains in India.
And where does the CBD bind to if not the CB1 and CB2 receptors?
Oh, no, it does not bind …. Well, it’s more complicated – it does not bind to the cannabinoid receptor. It does all kinds of other things. It prevents adenosine – that’s another compound in the brain – from going where it should go. It also acts on something else, on serotonin. We have seen, for example, some work we did here on a disease which has a nice name, but it’s a sinful disease: hepatic encephalopathy. Now hepatic encephalopathy, if you are drunk – really seriously drunk – then you have hepatic encephalopathy. Alcoholics can destroy the liver, and liver failure then causes central-nervous-system changes. They have destroyed their liver, and after destroying the liver, they start destroying the brain. That’s hepatic encephalopathy.
Now, we can cause hepatic encephalopathy to mice [in lab tests] and then see the changes that happen in the brain. They can’t walk well and all kinds of other things. We give them CBD, and it improves their conditions tremendously. And that was through one of the serotonin receptors. Now, serotonin is a nice compound – it has 15 or 16 receptors, maybe more. But this receptor we used was serotonin receptor 1A.
So [CBD] works in a variety of ways and, surprisingly, it has no side effects. Very strange. I would have assumed that something that has so many pathways to it, then it will have some side effects – and it has no side effects. As a matter of fact, it is completely nontoxic. One of the least toxic compounds that I’ve seen is cannabidiol – very strange.
Many years ago, NIH thought that they should look at the toxicity of CBD, because people were smoking both THC and CBD, both of which are present in marijuana: “Well, we know a little bit about THC; we know nothing about cannabidiol. Does it cause anything” – I don’t know, destroy the brain or whatever? And so they did a very thorough study of the toxicity of CBD and found essentially none … which is very positive.
NIH is probably one of the best institutions in the world. They really do excellent work, and I can only admire the people who decided to set up NIH, I don’t know, 30, 40 years ago.
Then what would be your guess as to why, with the NIH being in the United States, why the US has such a hard time getting federal regulation for medicinal cannabis? Right now it’s only state by state, and the federal government is very adamant about not allowing marijuana to become legal for medicine. Yet, like you said, there is all this great research going on over there, they are at the forefront of a lot of this, so where is the gap here?
There is a huge amount of research going on – but I’m not sure, because many of the states do have regulations for medical marijuana. And the president actually made some noise that he wants to do it – to allow the federal government to do it. Now, why didn’t he? Probably he didn’t have enough power to do it, because chances are that these regulations have to go through the various committees and so on, and he was not sure he could get enough support.
Every administration has people where Mr. A does that and Mr. B does this and then they have a fight. Mr. B is the person that wins, and that’s it – it’s like all administrations. I was head of the university many years ago; I know that that’s the way it works.
But wasn’t it the politicians who were responsible for all of this? Didn’t one politician spur the NIH’s decision to give you the research grants after you first isolated THC?
Yeah, well, they [NIH] didn’t have a single grant on cannabis at that time, but the National Institute of Mental Health did, I think. As I said earlier, the NIH wrote me that they don’t want to, they won’t give me money, because it’s not interesting or relevant. And then, all of a sudden, I get a phone call from the head of pharmacology at NIH, and they’re now interested. So I asked him: “What happened, all of a sudden, that you have great interest?” Well, it turned out that a senator had called NIH – his son smoked pot, and he wanted to know whether it would destroy his mind!
And just like that, the government got NIH to change direction. They don’t want to fight the senators because they need their support, and they looked around and [said] “Aha!” – they don’t support grants on marijuana, so they asked me if I was still working. We had just isolated THC, and that was it.
Do you remember the name of the senator? We can send him flowers.
No, but even if I did … I wouldn’t tell you. Anyway, he’s probably dead by now.
This interview is featured in the June 2011 issue of HIGH TIMES Magazine