If he had his way, what Mechoulam regards as the often irresponsible silliness of recreational pot culture would give way to an earnest and enthusiastic embrace of cannabis—but only as a medical substance to be strictly regulated and relentlessly researched. “Right now,” he complains, “people don’t know what they’re getting. For it to work in the medical world, it has to be quantitative. If you can’t count it, it’s not science.”
In the United States, we're in the middle of a cannabis revolution. Our nation is slowly waking up to the truth that cannabis, what was once dubiously considered a dangerous psychoactive substance, is not only safe but extremely versatile in its medical benefits. This has been reflected in the sales of legal cannabis products, which is expected to grow from $6.6 billion in 2016 to $24.1 billion in 2025.
Bonn-Miller also explained that it's imperative to exhaust the traditional and established front-line treatments that are available before seeking out these products. "CBD is not really a first-line treatment for anything," he said. "You don’t want situations where somebody says, 'I have cancer I'm going to forgo chemotherapy because I read something about CBD or THC helping with cancer.'" That's not a good idea, Bonn-Miller said. "Not only is the science not there, but you may end up worse off."
Because of this classification, it's not easy for researchers to get their hands on the drug. "That's not to say you can't do it, but there are hoops you need to jump through that can be a pain, which may deter researchers from going into this space," Bonn-Miller said. "Relatively speaking, it's a small group of people in the U.S. that do research on cannabinoids in humans."
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In the meantime, some physicians are forging ahead — and cashing in. Joe Cohen is a doctor at Holos Health, a medical marijuana clinic in Boulder. I asked him what CBD is good for, and he read me a long list of conditions: pain, inflammation, nausea, vomiting, intestinal cramping, anxiety, psychosis, muscle spasms, hyperactive immune systems, nervous system degeneration, elevated blood sugar and more. He also claimed that CBD has anti-cancer properties and can regenerate brain cells and reduce the brain’s levels of amyloid beta — a kind of protein that’s been linked to Alzheimer’s disease. I asked for references, noting that most of these weren’t listed in the Academies report or a similar review published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. “I think you just have to Google search it,” he said. It’s true that a preliminary study found hints that cannabinoids might reduce beta amyloid proteins in human brain cells, but the study was done in cells grown in a lab, not in people. As for cancer, the FDA sent warning letters last year to four companies that were selling products that claimed to “prevent, diagnose, treat or cure” cancer.
In 2014, for the first time, the School of Medicine at the University of Nottingham conducted a study suggesting that cannabinoids affect blood vessels by causing them to relax and widen. By relaxing blood vessels, cannabis presents a natural way to lower blood pressure and improve circulation. Because this is the first human study evaluating the efficacy of cannabis in treating conditions of the heart, there is still more research to be done to prove that this is a safe method of treatment.
Then one day in 1963 a young organic chemist in Israel named Raphael Mechoulam, working at the Weizmann Institute of Science outside Tel Aviv, decided to peer into the plant’s chemical composition. It struck him as odd that even though morphine had been teased from opium in 1805 and cocaine from coca leaves in 1855, scientists had no idea what the principal psychoactive ingredient was in marijuana. “It was just a plant,” says Mechoulam, now 84. “It was a mess, a mélange of unidentified compounds.”
But, uh, what is it that CBD is supposed to do? I visited a cannabis dispensary in Boulder to find out what the hype was all about. After passing an ID check, I was introduced to a “budtender” who pointed me to an impressive array of CBD products — tinctures, skin patches, drink powders, candies, salves, massage oil, lotions, “sexy time personal intimacy oil” and even vaginal suppositories to treat menstrual cramps.
"Right now, any claims and dosing recommendations by any company making a CBD product for the medical marijuana market is purely anecdotal," he says. "Asking 100 people who use your product whether they feel better isn't real science. The products on the market are also different from what was used in the scientific studies that they are basing their claims upon. If a study found an anti-anxiety effect when dosing humans with synthetic CBD, that doesn't mean that your CBD oil that contains 18 percent CBD is going to reduce anxiety. It might even have the opposite effect."
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As of November 2016, 28 states and the District of Columbia legally allow cannabis for personal medical use. Rules surrounding the use of medical cannabis (medical marijuana) vary by state. The first state in the union to legalize the medical use of marijuana was California in 1996. States that allow medical marijuana include: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia. It is important to recognize that these state marijuana laws do not change the fact that using marijuana continues to be an offense under Federal law.
One of the strongest nutraceutical CBD oils is called Charlotte’s Web, with a 50mg dose. Charlotte’s Web is produced in Colorado by the Stanley Brothers, and named after Charlotte Figi, a girl who became famous in the US after her frequent seizures, brought on by the rare Dravet syndrome, were greatly reduced when she started taking CBD oil aged five. The company makes THC products too and is extremely successful, having just offered shares on the Canadian securities exchange, raising about $100m.
In 1992 Mechoulam’s quest for quantification led him from the plant itself to the inner recesses of the human brain. That year he and several colleagues made an extraordinary discovery. They isolated the chemical made by the human body that binds to the same receptor in the brain that THC does. Mechoulam named it anandamide—from the Sanskrit for “supreme joy.” (When asked why he didn’t give it a Hebrew name, he replies, “Because in Hebrew there are not so many words for happiness. Jews don’t like being happy.”)
Then came Reefer Madness. Marijuana, the Assassin of Youth. The Killer Weed. The Gateway Drug. For nearly 70 years the plant went into hiding, and medical research largely stopped. In 1970 the federal government made it even harder to study marijuana, classifying it as a Schedule I drug—a dangerous substance with no valid medical purpose and a high potential for abuse, in the same category as heroin. In America most people expanding knowledge about cannabis were by definition criminals.
Specific city and county laws have been enacted to regulate how citizens and tourists may possess and consume marijuana. Penalties exist for driving while under the influence of marijuana. Someone driving under the influence of marijuana is considered impaired in both Colorado and Washington when five nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) of blood or more of active THC is detected.
Further testing found what the world now knows: This compound is the plant’s principal active ingredient, its mind-altering essence—the stuff that makes you high. Mechoulam, along with a colleague, had discovered tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). He and his team also elucidated the chemical structure of cannabidiol (CBD), another key ingredient in marijuana, one that has many potential medical uses but no psychoactive effect on humans.
Some of the conditions cannabis oil has been used for include: cancer, diabetes, crohn's disease, gout, pain relief, Glaucoma, Opioid Dependence, treating alcohol abuse, epilepsy, psoriasis, anorexia, asthma, adrenal disease, inflammatory bowel disease, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, pain, migraines, Dravet syndrome, Doose syndrome, Multiple sclerosis.
CBD Isolates/Concentrates: Anyone familiar with smoking hash or other cannabis concentrates like wax and BHO will be no stranger to this delivery method. Simply sprinkle some into a vaporizer or water pipe, ignite, inhale, and enjoy! We find that this option is useful for individuals looking to elevate their regular consumption of CBD-rich cannabis flowers or other smokable herbs.
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