The Emerging Science of Cannabidiol (CBD): An Argument for Keeping Medical Marijuana Laws Independent of Recreational Marijuana Laws
Strain-specific properties of cannabis have been observed for centuries. Plants that are grown for hemp-related uses are not useful for recreational purposes, since they are deliberately selected for fiber quality and low concentrations of the psychoactive molecule, Delta-9-tetrahydrocannibinol (THC). As we progress in the cultural acceptance of both recreational and medical cannabis, we also progress in our scientific understanding of the strain-specific qualities.
Of special note are the many molecules related to THC that do not manifest the same psychoactive properties as THC, but, in some cases, appear to have very specific physiological effects. Some reports imply that there are as many as 97 THC-related alkaloids found in various strains of cannabis (although it should be noted that many of these are likely to be biosynthetic intermediates with little or no function in the human body). The growing field of agricultural genetics has been the most important contributor to the diversity now seen in cannabis strains for medical and recreational use.
Give credit to the scientists, who over the last century have illegally hybridized various species of cannabis sativa (for hemp and flower), cannabis indica (short habit and flower), and cannabis ruderalis (outdoor rigor) to produce the diversity of strains now present in our culture. While it has also been essentially illegal to use federal research funds to study cannabis science, even medical cannabis, some scientific details are beginning to emerge thanks to both private funding and funding from countries where cannabis production has remained legal.
In remarkable harmony with the progress of the internet and social media, some uncontrolled/observational cannabis science is starting to become statistical, which is a form of empirical science. A trend which continues to gain traction, as dispensaries and companies like knox medical continue to grow, then so does our empirical data. The word is out that strains containing high concentrations of cannabidiol (CBD) are particularly good for treating a variety of central nervous system disorders, in particular epilepsy and seizures in children. Consequently, the top cbd oil products are becoming more and more sought after due to their health benefits. The magic of combining genetics with social media has resulted in a growing support of strains that provide the physically soothing effects of CBD, but contain little or no THC, like the hemp-producing strains (which, by the way, typically also contain CBD). With the help of companies such as slickvapes, it has never been easier for people to get their hands on the necessary equipment and accessories to be able to consume products such as CBD oil for health reasons. Since most of us would want our children to wait until adulthood to experiment with the psychoactive components of recreational cannabis, it seems reasonable to use CBD-heavy strains for the medical treatment of children.
There has been much debate about whether children should use any form of cannabis, even medical cannabis, so calls for supporting science abound. One thing is for certain, and known scientifically. Some cannabis strains produce lots of THC, and have remained the most desirable for recreational use. So, should cannabis strains of distinct medical value really fall under the same regulation and taxation if they produce none of the psychoactive properties of THC-rich cannabis strains? In my opinion, clearly not.
David N. Baldwin, Ph.D.
Dr. David Baldwin holds a PhD in microbiology from the University of Washington and degrees in genetics and French from the University of California-Berkeley. He has developed coursework in drug discovery for the UW bioengineering department and currently teaches a scientific course on cannabis at Shoreline Community College. Look for his “Science of Cannabis” column, only on the Solstice blog.