We get a lot of questions from patients, activists and others that are confused by the glut of half-researched local news stories about medical marijuana. Because of this hodgepodge of information, which is more often than not centered around a catchy headline rather than patient education, we thought we would highlight the questions we most often see. If you have a question about medical marijuana, CBD or cannabis oil that we haven’t answered then feel free to contact us and we’ll try to help you out.
6 frequently asked questions about medical marijuana
What Are Cannabinoids?
Cannabinoids are the 85 active chemical compounds present in cannabis. The two most well-known cannabinoids are CBD, cannabidiol and THC, tetrahydrocannabinol. Our bodies, like all vertebrate species, are equipped with an endocannabinoid system that includes cannabinoid receptors. Like a lock and key, cannabinoids fit together with the body’s endocannabinoid system to work toward one end goal: homeostasis. This is the maintenance of a stable internal environment.
What is CBD?
CBD, or cannabidiol, is quickly becoming the star of the show in the medical marijuana movement, because it promises relief from many different diseases and conditions without the intoxicating properties of THC. Several states have passed what are known as CBD oil laws, which allow qualifying patients to possess, or offer a defense from prosecution for possessing, cannabis oil. Each of these CBD oil laws are different and have created a patchwork of laws related to decriminalization and legalization of CBD that can sometimes be difficult to understand.
Most of the states that have passed CBD-only legislation have done so with the intention of eliminating THC from the medicine but some states, like Georgia, are slowly catching on to the many undeniable benefits of THC and are beginning to allow patients to possess what is being called Low THC Cannabis Oil. Early in 2015, for instance, Georgia passed the Haleigh’s Hope Act, which allows up to 5% THC so long as there is at least an equal amount of CBD in the medicine as well. The law will allow patients to possess 20 fluid ounces of low THC oil that would be administered in an oil-based formula, not smoked.
In 2014, Alabama passed a research bill called Carly’s Law, which was delayed at least a year after passage due to the requirement lawmakers added for Federal approval. Finally, a limited number of patients are receiving an orally-administered liquid containing CBD under the brand name Epidiolex, which received orphan drug status in the U.S. for use as a treatment for Dravet syndrome.
Research on cannabis as a whole has been difficult because marijuana is classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a Schedule 1 substance, “with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse”. Dan Sutton, of Tantulus Labs, a cannabis cultivation technology company, said, “The political implications of that scheduling, from a research perspective, are limiting”. Despite the fact that there now exists more scientific research on the cannabis plant than many FDA-approved drugs, many lawmakers still say they cannot support medical marijuana programs without more research.
What Are The Benefits of CBD?
Cannabidiol is considered to have a wider scope of medical applications than THC alone, though many studies confirm that the two chemicals frequently work best when taken together (learn more about the Entourage Effect below). CBD has a number of medicinal uses, including; reducing or preventing inflammation, diabetes, alcoholism, PTSD, schizophrenia, rheumatoid arthritis, epilepsy, and cardiovascular disease. It can be helpful as a pain killer against muscle spasms and neuropathic pain as well.
CBD has a calming, sedative effect when combined with THC. This helps reduce the paranoia, anxiety and memory impairment that some patients might find uncomfortable at first. This is why CBD-rich strains have particular appeal to both older/elderly patients and children.
Perhaps one of the most startling (re)discoveries about CBD in recent years is its ability to effectively treat seizure disorders, such as Dravet Syndrome. CBD first became widely known as a potential treatment for seizures, especially in children, when a California father named Jason David teamed up with Harborside Health Center in 2011 to create a cannabis-based treatment for his son Jayden, who suffered from dozens of seizures per day. Jason, Jayden and Harborside laid the groundwork for the CBD rush we are seeing right now, and they made it possible for companies like CW Botanicals, the producers of the Charlotte’s Web brand of hemp oil, to grow and prosper. The story of the Davids and Harborside Health Center were featured in the six-episode Discovery Channel show Weed Wars.
I have heard of something called The Entourage Effect. What does that mean?
The Entourage Effect was first described as the “synergy of many different medicinal components of the plant working together” in a paper by Dr. Ethan Russo, published in the October 2011 edition of the British Journal of Pharmacology. In a therapeutic sense, THC and CBD have important effects on one another when ingested together. When present along with THC, CBD prolongs the effects of THC therapy by inhibiting the breakdown process of THC in our liver. If the THC breakdown is inhibited, its effects persist longer.
What’s the difference between Low THC oil, CBD oil, cannabis oil, RSO and FECO? These terms are confusing.
The term “cannabis oil” can be confusing, because different people often define the many different delivery methods available using the same term. But when it comes to medical applications and definitions under state law it is important to understand the difference between the applications that are available.
In short, Cannabis oil is cannabis that is distilled down to its essential active cannabinoids through the use of a medium that is able to separate the medicine from the plant. This procedure was pioneered by activist and cancer patient Rick Simpson, who created “Rick Simpson Oil”, or RSO, by using petroleum-based solvents to extract the cannabinoids from the plant material. Since Simpson’s method became so popular many have expanded on his work by introducing safer methods for extraction that don’t involve the use of harsh petrochemicals. Most cannabis oil producers now use high-proof alcohol to create cannabis oil. Large operations may use a method known as supercritical fluid extraction, which utilizes carbon dioxide as the main extraction component, to create a product known as FECO or Full Extract Cannabis Oil. FECO is often considered safer due to the fact that there is no chance the patient might ingest harmful chemicals. The downside to trying to produce FECO is that the equipment is very expensive and can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars just to get an extraction operation started.
What most people mean when they say “cannabis oil”, however, is a food-grade oil (like coconut oil, MCT oil or other fatty oils) that has been infused with cannabinoids. These oil infusions are usually known as CBD oil or low THC oil, and they typically deliver much lower doses of active cannabinoids than, say, FECO would.
If you live in a CBD-only state then you are probably looking for an infused product rather than a full extract.
I have heard cannabis might treat cancer? Is there any proof?
Since 1999 there have been several studies that show cannabis has the ability to effectively shrink tumors, cause cancer cells to die, and safely treat many aggressive forms of cancer, including brain, breast, skin, prostate, and lung cancer. In 2006 there was a study conducted at UCLA that showed smoking marijuana does not cause lung cancer, as had been previously thought, but that smoking cannabis actually protects the lungs from cancer.
More research has recently shown that cannabinoids has anti-tumor effects on the cellular level. In June 2010, a study published by the US National Library of Medicine show cannabinoids are toxic to highly malignant oral tumors, which are usually resistant to anticancer drugs. Also, a study conducted in May 2013 by the Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Public Health found that cannabinoids can reduce the 90% of skin cancer in a 20 weeks, as well as inhibiting tumor promotion.
Exciting studies that are currently being conducted at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco are demonstrating that specific amounts of THC and CBD injected into breast and brain tumors can eliminate those tumors completely in about 30 days.