Squirrels for president: Debunking the frontiers of medical cannabis
Cannabis is a fabulous medicine, yet we are still in the stone age of our understanding of its benefits and side effects. The one thing we know for sure is that it is not a panacea and that squirrels can’t be president.
Almost every day, a newspaper article ex cannabis both as a medical product and as a recreational drug. I love that we’re mostly done with Reefer madness, right Mr. Sessions? But sometimes I have the feeling that we’re watching a rerun of My Big Greek Wedding and that cannabis oil has been put in a bottle of Windex.
Cannabis is not a panacea.
Last week end, sitting in “65 Café” downtown Tel-Aviv, a cannabis entrepreneur put a knuckle to his lips, leaned forward, said “Cannabis has co-evolved with humans: after all cannabis has been here for thousands of years. It’s even possible the plant and our endocannabinoid system co-evolved.”
Maybe. Possibly. But endocannabinoid systems are common among mammals. So, it is not particularly useful to wax over this. But I concur that cannabis has been used for a long time.
As the chief scientist of WeedMD Rx Inc. (TSXV: WMD), a Canadian licensed producer under the ACMPR regime, I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to debunk medical cannabis, trying to sort out myth from reality. I started this journey in 1983 with my master’s degree research and then my doctorate in 1983 when I was working on terpene biosynthesis by plants.
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First off, let’s state very plainly that cannabis, as an anxiolytic, is addictive. There should be no doubt about it.
An anxiolytic is a medication or other intervention taken to reduce anxiety. This effect is in contrast to anxiogenic agents, which increase anxiety. Some recreational drugs such as alcohol induce anxiolysis initially after intake but quickly becomes anxiogenic.
The regular and unsupervised consumption of anxiolytics prevents patients from going through the normal processes of self-control of anxiety. Learning to relax is a self-control process. Therefore, heavy consumption of cannabis for the control of anxiety, primarily through the consumption of CBD-rich strains can cause addiction. The extent of this has yet to be defined properly. We have a duty to understand these risks.
Neanderthals had as much knowledge of quantum physics as we do of the standardization of cannabis flowers or their extracts. Currently the industry uses CBD and THC as standards, but we fail to acknowledge the presence of a plurality of up to 140 cannabinoids together with terpenes and flavonoids. The cannabis culture also refers to indica and sativa strains, which may be a tiny step above Neanderthal physics textbooks. The Indica vs Sativa classification of cannabis strains can be misleading. The shape of the leaves and the origin of a plant is at best a poor correlate of its medical properties. This is further confused by the fact that many of our current medical strains are hybrids.
For example, thinking that Ultra Sour can present hair loss in squirrels because it contains THC and is a Sativa dominant strain is as naïve as thinking that a squirrel can run for president because it is a mammal. That would be nuts.
Cannabis dosing for medical treatment is a dark art. The stoner mindset is that cannabis must make you high to be effective. That too is nutsy. There are 600 molecules in cannabis, and of them THC seems to be the main psychoactive molecule. Other molecules, perhaps terpenes, cannabinoids or flavonoids that are in minute concentrations may achieve the desired pharmacological benefits. In the hallways of academia, this is called microdosing.
I am not pessimistic. Rather, I am optimistic that current global progresses on the decriminalization and/or legalization of cannabis opens a plethora of tools for a meaningful development of cannabis strains that will help medical treatment with incontrovertible levels of predictability and safety.
Dr. Luc C. Duchesne is a Speaker and Author with a PhD in Biochemistry. With three decades of scientific and business experience, he has published ... <Read more about Dr. Luc Duchesne>