“Mainstreaming marijuana is a third millennium oxymoron…” — Luc C Duchesne, PhD
Seventy percent of drugs are derived from plants. But there is a tedious process in taking a drug from a pile of dried leaf to the drugstore. Medical marijuana might become an exception because the experts are not the traditional lab-coated goggled nerds.
The marijuana prohibition has robbed the world of valuable medicines, causing cultural clashes that far exceed the old-time impact of the prohibition of alcohol. It’s hard to call alcohol a medicine, unless you’re French or you want to reduce your LDL (bad cholesterol), but the medical usefulness of marijuana is a mixture of pharmacological research and ethnobotanical data, a problem that will cripple the medical community for decades because there is a vast body of knowledge supporting medical use of marijuana. It’s already mainstreamed in an underground kind of way.
In the hallways of academia ethnobotany is defined as investigating plants used by primitive societies in various parts of the world. It is the study of the relationships that exist between peoples and plants. But I have discovered there is nothing primitive about the underground marijuana culture.
Medical marijuana turned me into an ethnobotanist, a quest to help my own autistic son, Sebastien, 20.
In a noisy upscale bar in Colorado I shared drinks with the master grower of highly reputable medical marijuana grow op that has decided not to produce medical marijuana for recreational use. In the Colorado multibillion-dollar recreational marijuana industry this is a remarkable goal by remarkable people
I’ve heard that there are strains of marijuana that have been bred to produce low tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content while increasing cannabidiol oil (CBD) content. Presumably CBD increases short-term memory. CBD seems to affect the same processes that control short-term memory and obsessive-compulsive disorders.
Between sips of Merlot I listen intently to the story of an engineer who had a stroke that damaged his short-term memory. He tried marijuana and found that it helped. On his own, be began breeding new strains of cannabis that had no hallucinogenic effect while increasing his short-term memory. When a new strain helped he kept it, if not he discarded it. Eventually after over a hundred crossings, he settled for the one strain that would help his condition.
Prohibition has bred an alternative mindset into the medical marijuana culture. Because growers worried about the sheriff department breaking down their front doors they tend to overlook the need for scientific data, graphs, statistical analyses and peer-reviewed papers. In the hands of a nasty prosecutor looking for re-election, research data can become an encumbrance. Yet there is a large body of unacknowledged data out there.
Would I like to try the CBD strain on my son? Most definitely I will. As a matter of fact a group of French scientists just published a peer-reviewed paper that supports the medical claims.
There is a lot of potential for cannabis in medical application but there is a need for systematic research to refine the anecdotal data.This will require fitting the underground culture into the corporate environment, an oxymoron of biblical proportion.
One company well on its way to making its mark is GW Pharmaceuticals Plc, a UK company founded in 1998 and listed on both the NASDAQ Global Market (GWPH) and AIM, a market of the London Stock Exchange. The Group’s lead program is the development of a product portfolio of cannabinoid prescription medicines to meet patient needs in a wide range of therapeutic indications, including Sativex® Oromucosal Spray and Epidiolex® for childhood epilepsy. These products show promise to the science-based believers especially as they are being pushed through the regulatory approval system. But the growers who’ve being their own things in the shadows for many years already know what works and what does not work.
Because we have marginalized the marijuana culture for so long, we only see sensationalized tidbits of its potential.
But there is sufficient evidence on both sides of the fence to warrant paying close attention to the sector. Cannabinoids have been found to have antioxidant properties. This newfound property makes cannabinoids useful in the treatment and prophylaxis of wide variety of oxidation associated diseases, such as ischemic, age-related, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. The cannabinoids are found to have particular application as neuroprotectants, for example in limiting neurological damage following ischemic insults, such as stroke and trauma, or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and HIV dementia. Nonpsychoactive cannabinoids, such as CBD, are particularly advantageous to use because they avoid toxicity related to psychoactive cannabinoids at high doses.