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Posted 08/30/2019 in News

The Past, Present, and Future of Medical Cannabis

The Past, Present, and Future of Medical Cannabis


Back in the 2013, the month of August, there was a documentary by the name of “Weed”, was aired on US TV. It was about a kid of six years of age, called Charlotte Figi, who was suffering from Dravel syndrome. Actually, this epileptic condition used to trigger more than 300 seizures in just a week. Apart from the seizures, she also used to have severe motor and cognitive delays. They tried to treat her using all medications but all was in vain. Her neurologist together with her parents opted to try treating her with some oil extracted from a marijuana plant, since it was legally accepted in Colorado where they had been living since 2000. Amazingly, with the use of the oil, a decrease in seizures was observed, infact, after using the oil for 8 months, the girl was 99% seizure free. A confession from her mum was that even the autism-like manners disappeared. 

The kind of marijuana that was employed in her treatment had high CBD (molecule cannabidiol), and very low THC (tetrehydrocabbabinol) which is the psychoactive constituent of the plant. The Stanley family was responsible for developing this type of strain that finally was named Charlotte’s Web, after the kid. The Stanley family has started an organization by the name of Realm for Caring, which is a supplier of cannabis to those in need (patients). The term “marijuana refugee” actually came about when patients from other states where marijuana is not legalized relocated to Colorado. 

The documentary of Figi’s experience made Sanjay Gupta, the presenter of the documentary, to apologize after he reconsidered the evidence on the use of cannabis as medication, while he previously had campaigned against marijuana legalization. He also highlighted some of the places the plant was significant which included: limiting tumor growth, healing inflammatory issues, and relieving pain. Figi’s parents, together with the media coverage made influential effect in the USA. Because of their campaigns, five states were able to legalize marijuana, making the total states where medical cannabis is legalized to be 23. 

Making medicine from medicine

In August 2014, the UK reconsidered marijuana’s legal status. Norman Baker, the minister for drugs requested a review of the healing properties of marijuana. This was due to some trustworthy people who were going against the law for the purpose of healing themselves. The health sector maintained that it was not going to amend the law. Maybe, the reason they said so was that of GW Pharmaceuticals, which is based in Salisbury, were manufacturing medicines from marijuana. The license to manufacture these drugs was issued to them in 1998. It was until 2011, that Sativex, their first drug, was certified for curing various sclerosis muscle spasms. Currently, the Sativex is accepted by 23 countries fo curing the disease. Presently, a mouth spray that has both THC and CBD extracts is under test to find out if it can control cancer pain. Also, some tests are being carried out for another drug by the name of Epidiolex, which is manufactured from a CBD extract. The test is to find out if it can cure Dravet syndrome, the condition Figi had. Apart from that, clinical tests of a combination of CBD and THC are being carried out to find a cure to inflammatory bowel disease. 

In the UK, the pioneer medicine to be approved that contains marijuana is Sativex, that’s taken orally. 

GW Pharmaceuticals has some results from the tests of Epidiolex. In the month of October, 2014, these results were announced by a program in which neurologists from the U.S. did prescribe the medicine. It was noted that 40% of the patients who used to have seizures reduced seizure frequency to half. 5% of the patients were confirmed seizure free. Though there no controlled tests, the results were a success considering that other medicines portrayed a positive result. Hopes are that by 2017, Epidiolex will be able to cure Dravet syndrome. 

According to Stephen Wright, the director of GW Pharmaceuticals R&D, manufacturing drugs from marijuana is a complex task. Annually, the company has plants 200 tonnes of marijuana flowers in a secret location, these plants are cloned with various plants that are cross-bred in greenhouses that are well controlled so as to deliver quality product. He continued to say that due to the cultivation of a controlled substance, they have to frequently inspect it. Also all that is done is strictly indoors and very secure. 

Endocannabinoid system

Using marijuana as medicine can be traced millenniums ago. Rumor has it that John Russell Reynolds, the doctor to Queen Victoria, recommended cannabis to help her relieve her menstrual pain. But the real study of medicinal cannabis starts back in 1964, with Raphael Mechoulam being the leader. Since 1966, Mechoulam was at Hebrew University, where he was responsible of characterizing the THC structure, and also recognized a body’s cannabinoids which are: 2-arachidonoylglycerol and anandamide. This discovery was made in the 90s, which is the real structure of the endocannabinoid system. 

Vincenzo Di Marzo, a famous marijuana researcher from the Institute of Biomolecular Chemistry in Naples, Italy, highlighted that the function of the endocannabinoid system was to permit the human body to protect, forget, eat relax, and sleep. Through cannabonoid receptors CB1 and CB2 the endocannabinoid system controls the uptake and release of various neurotransmitters, thus acting as a thermostat in the reproductive system, endocrine network, gastrointestinal tract, cardiovascular system, immune system, and the central nervous system. CB2 receptors are located in the immune system while the CB1 receptors are situated in the brain. These receptors work similarly with other body systems. The effects that are caused by THC can be described as the CB1 receptors binding themselves causing high levels of neurotransmitters which halt these molecules re-uptake. 

The truth is that the cannabis pharmacology is more complicated than THC. A neuropharmacologist at University of Reading, UK, by the name of Ben Whalley, described that just like THC, small portions of some 107 terpenophenol cannabinoids were extracted from glandular hairs of a female cannabis sativa flower. They are: CBDV (cannabidivarin), CBD, and CBG (cannabigerol). According to Whalley, the only plant that contains these derivatives is marijuana. These compounds seem to be the un-built insect repellent that the plant has. Presently, lots of marijuana are being cultivated to boost the THC content; which is actually 25% of the weight of a dry marijuana flower. Apart from that, the flower also has 200 terpenoids which are aromatic. Actually, the characteristic odor that is smelt when one is smoking cannabis, is as a result of the terpenoids. 

Other associated effects

Though THC was discovered back in the 80s, as dronabinol for curing signs of chemoteraphy and weight loss issues, patients never liked it because of its adverse physcotropic side effects, as compared to when they used botanical marijuana. The reason to this was that gut and stomach enzymes metabolized some of the ingested THC, into 11-hydroxy-THC structure, which is powerful and has long lasting effects. Alternatively, another reason is the lack of cannabinoids like CBD. As a matter of fact, combining CBD and THC brings about limited adverse effects of THC and medical advantages. This is witnessed in Savitex, which has CBD and THC equally mixed.  For patients California - you need to know the requirements fro medical marijuana in California.