Beyond cannabis edibles: New patent shows new methodology to deliver smokeless marijuana
On June 11, 2015 insiders to the marijuana industry extolled Canada’s Supreme Court decision to grant access to edibles, a safe and efficient delivery of bioactive cannabinoids which offers new medical applications. As a consequence we should expect the needs of medical marijuana users to reshape the industry.
It is axiomatic that medical marijuana users need new delivery methods, especially six-year old children who need medical marijuana to control seizures. I’m delighted that The Court showed compassion.
But marijuana delivery systems are the unexplored frontier of the industry.
US inventors filed a new patent with the World Intellectual Property Organization. This is the industry’s interesting response; a new approach that is so simple it is brilliant. The alternative method delivers sublingual decarboxylated cannabinoids through compressing specially treated cannabis plant material into pellets.
The pellets are obtained by heating buds at 105°C-115° C for a period of 20 to 60 minutes in an oxygen-free vial. The oxygen-deprived environment minimizes oxidative degradation of the decarboxylated cannabis plant material by releasing the initial amount of atmospheric oxygen present in the controlled environment while preventing new atmospheric oxygen to enter. The material is then pressed into a conventional cohesive pharmaceutical dosage form. The method also can also include infusing the decarboxylated cannabis plant material with a flavorant such as mint oil.
The need for new deliveries is rooted in the complex chemistry of marijuana and the human body. On the one hand, the Entourage Effect of medical marijuana puts many in a terrible bind, but it is not possible to exactly replicate the effect of THC without the presence of the plethora of cannabinoids contained in buds. On the other hand, the biochemistry of the cannabis plant is imposing all kinds of limitations to other THC delivery methods for medical marijuana users.
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In its natural state, the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in marijuana sits in the plant as cannabinolic acid (THCA), a precursor that has anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects but does not produce a number of sought-after effects including the psychoactive effect. THC also enters the bloodstream more rapidly through the lungs when smoked than when it is ingested through the gastrointestinal tract when eaten.
Decarboxylation is a chemical reaction that releases carbon dioxide (CO2). This means a chemical reaction takes place in which carboxylic acids loose a carbon atom from a carbon chain. This process converts THCA to THC. As marijuana dries up it naturally and slowly begins to decarboxylate and converts THCA to THC.
These limitations are dealt with quite effectively when the cannabis is heated during smoking or vaporizing and to some degree when the cannabis is cooked into butter or mixed with hash and kief and then baked in the oven. Heating dried cannabis to the correct temperature for enough time releases that carbon dioxide and creates THC.
In contrast, in tinctures, cannabis is neither heated nor baked; it is simply soaked in high proof alcohol. Decarboxylation never takes place and the resulting product favours THCA over THC. This may offer respite for some symptoms but will not produce the full THC effect.
Conventional methods of preparing and ingesting cannabis result in imprecise and incomplete decarboxylation, and any preparation other than smoking requires extraction of the active cannabinoids into a secondary medium that picks up the THC and other active cannabinoids.
These result in drawbacks to patients. While smoking cannabis necessarily creates harmful carcinogens through destructive pyrolysis of numerous plant compounds, as well as irritation to the lung tissue, eating cannabis requires a significant period of time before onset of effects, and the uptake through the gastrointestinal tract is uneven and incomplete.
Innovation in the fast growing medicinal marijuana industry is much needed, especially to develop new delivery methods of the full spectrum of cannabinoids to patients.
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>