Louisville, Kentucky-based Sullivan University announced on Tuesday that it will offer an Introduction to Cannabis Studies course online for the coming semester. Dr. Tonnie L. Renfro, chair of Social and Behavioral Science at Sullivan described the course as “broad coverage” of the psychological, social, economic, and legal issues related to the plant and the burgeoning industry.
“While the social implications of the industry and the interest in the topic is becoming very important in academic research and as a field of study, the course is intended to be academic and objectively focused without attempting to be involved in any social movement. The course can be important for many students in various programs, as a general education elective, giving an additional choice for students.” – Renfro in a statement
The Kentucky House approved a medical cannabis legalization bill in February. The proposal was assigned to the state Senate Judiciary Committee in March; however, committee chairman Sen. Whitney Westerfield indicated that the measure wouldn’t get a hearing until he was “OK with it.”
Kentucky does allow hemp cultivation and manufacturing and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R) was one of the key lawmakers behind the push for federal hemp legalization in 2018.
The Sullivan University cannabis course’s learning outcomes include the culture of cannabis use, ethical social, and legal impacts of cannabis, media depictions of cannabis, sociological and psychological theories associated with cannabis culture, social perceptions of cannabis normalization, social controls relative to cannabis use, and the emergence of the modern cannabis industry in the U.S.
A new cannabinoid has been discovered, and the ramifications could be massive. Scientists funded by the UNIHEMP research project have discovered a new psychoactive molecule: Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabiphorol, or THCP; and they believe that there are great scientific implications for the phytocannabinoid.
Phytocannabinoids are cannabinoid molecules that are specifically produced by plants. There are several types of cannabinoids, including endocannabinoids, synthetic cannabinoids, and phytocannabinoids.
Endocannabinoids are compounds that are produced within the body by an organism’s endocannabinoid system; and synthetic cannabinoids are man-made chemicals that cannot be found in nature. Phytocannabinoids, on the other hand, are a different beast altogether. They are those that naturally occur in plants and are found in a variety, including echinacea. However, the plant species in which phytocannabinoids are most prominent is cannabis.
Because of cannabis’ status as a Schedule I controlled substance in the US, there are several barriers that prohibit the scientific study of the plant and its constituents. Thus, a considerable portion of cannabis research takes place abroad. Many clinical and laboratory studies of cannabis take place in Israel and Canada, where there is federal research funding to support this work; but, the newly discovered THCP was characterized by a group of Italian scientists.
Unlike the US, government funding for cannabis research is relatively commonplace in Europe. The discovery of THCP was enabled by the UNIHEMP project, which is sponsored by the European Regional Development Fund. A multi-disciplinary team of Italian scientists was responsible for the discovery of this novel cannabinoid, led by Giuseppe Cannazza of the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia.
Throughout the duration of the project, the group studied a medicinal cannabis cultivar, dubbed FM2, which was supplied by the Military Chemical Pharmaceutical Institute in Florence. Using a variety of scientific characterization techniques, the researchers observed two novel cannabinoids, THCP and CBDP, and isolated them from other cannabinoids that were present. Following this discovery, the group artificially synthesized THCP and CBDP to create reference materials, and the synthesized versions were successfully used to verify the natural expression of the two cannabinoids in the FM2 cultivar.
After the confirmation of the identity of the two cannabinoids, the group turned its focus to THCP. To study the compound, they pursued an in vitro experiment with cultured cells. This experiment tested the binding affinity of THCP with CB1 and CB2 receptors, using synthetic cannabinoids as reference materials. It was shown that, when comparing THCP-related results to the previously reported data of other cannabinoids against the CB1 receptor, THCP is 33-times more active than delta-9 THC.
This finding is critical because the group also found that the chemical was present in FM2 at 0.0029%, whereas THC was found to be expressed at 3.9%; so, even in smaller amounts, THCP is more active than THC.
They also tested the cannabimimetic activity of the molecule. Cannabimimetic activity is a measure of how well a substance replicates the effects of more well-characterized cannabinoids which bind to the CB1receptor. An in vivo experiment involving mice was performed. Herein, the influence of THCP on body temperature, spontaneous activity, immobility, and pain was determined — the results of these tests confirmed that THCP acts similarly to other cannabinoids like delta-9 THC.
Will THCP be important?
According to the study, even at lower doses, THCP has more cannabimimetic activity than THC. Further, the group posits that THCP could account for the wide variability of patient responses in cannabis-based therapies, even amongst cultivars with equal THC doses. This means that cannabis’ psychotropic effects, which the scientific community attributes to THC, may actually be due to the presence of THCP.
Unfortunately, none of the original researchers could be reached for comment. However, experts in the field do have varying opinions regarding the study. Dr. Cecilia J. Hillard of the Medical College of Wisconsin said, “I think it is well designed.” She goes on, “[The study] has two important gaps, in my opinion. First, they should have compared the in vivo effects of THCP to that of THC ‘head to head’ so that relative potencies could be assessed. Second, I would like to know whether THCP has greater efficacy to activate the [CB1 receptor] in particular. THC is relatively safe because it has low efficacy at the receptor. If THCP has high efficacy (like the synthetic analogs that have also increased the tail length), it is a more concerning finding, as it would suggest that strains making a lot of THCP could be more dangerous to use than those that do not.”
Expanding on how THCP could be more dangerous, Hillard continued, “The so-called ‘spice’ compounds are synthetic agonists of the CB1 receptor. They are full agonists, meaning that they are very strong activators of the CB1 receptor. Compared to THC, these drugs have significant adverse effects and produce significant dependence (addiction). So, my issue is that we do not know yet whether THCP is like THC, a partial agonist, or like the synthetic compounds, a full agonist. And my concern is that, if it is the latter, cannabis strains high in THCP will have more adverse effects than those that are low.”
Dr. Samuel Banister of The University of Sydney states, “[The study] was well designed and executed,” concurring with Dr. Hillard. However, he goes on to disagree with the group’s assessment that THCP may account for the variability of psychotropic effects across various cannabis cultivars: “While this possibility cannot be ruled out, the known potency differences for THC and THCP at cannabinoid receptors is relatively small, while the difference in abundance of each in cannabis is enormous. The same is true of CBD and CBDP, although CBD requires even higher doses to achieve many of its pharmacological effects. For this reason, I do not feel that minor or trace phytocannabinoids like THCP or CBDP contribute significantly to the psychoactive effects of different cannabis strains.”
How this novel cannabinoid plays out in both medical and recreational use is yet to be determined, as much more research is needed. Nonetheless, this new evidence suggests that analytical laboratories in US regulated markets may need to expand their testing panel to include THCP.
City College of San Francisco is rolling out a two-year cannabis studies degree program for the fall semester – an expansion to the cannabis industry courses it already offers, San Francisco News reports. The college first announced it would offer industry-related courses in 2017.
The associate degree program requires three courses: Introduction to Cannabis – which the college has offered previously – Anthropology of Cannabis, and Psychology of Psychoactive Drugs. Students must also take four electives.
Jennifer Dawgert Carlin, Chair of the Behavioral Sciences Department and head of the program, told the News that students could use the degree as a “specialized area” to transfer to a four-year program and study public policy, anthropology, or public health.
“We’re not here to teach people what to think about cannabis and the subjects. Our job is to teach people how to think about it. Our hope is that students will come and not only learn about cannabis if they want to be working in the industry, but also to understand how powerfully important cannabis as a concept and as a phenomenon is.” – Carlin to the San Francisco Examiner
CCSF Chancellor Rajen Vurdien told the Examiner that the program “shows how fast the college moves to address societal problems and issues and at the same time to address the needs of the job market as they emerge.”
When the college first announced it would offer a cannabis industry-related course, it was a partnership with the United Food and Commercial Workers union and Oakland-based Oaksterdam University and program enrollees had to be sponsored by the UFCW or another union with apprenticeship programs in the cannabis space.
California’s Long Beach City College is set to offer its first class focused solely on the cannabis industry, the Long Beach Business Journal reports. The eight-week class will cover cultivation, retail, the history of cannabis in California, and an overview of the state’s seed-to-sale system.
Joe Rogoway, a cannabis industry attorney and the course’s lead instructor, called the course students’ “portal” to the industry and called it “an important first step” for students “interested in engaging with the cannabis industry on a professional level.”
The curriculum was designed with members of the Long Beach Cannabis Association.
Nate Winokur, an LBCA member and founder and owner of BelCosta Labs who will be teaching a class in the fall, said collaborators “decided to introduce something that, at its heart, would introduce different businesses and license types to each other.”
“I, for one, am hoping for cannabis to be treated a lot more seriously as things go on and I think that proper education surrounding that has a lot to do with it.” – Winkour to the Business Journal
The course is part of the community college’s workforce development program and the first class is expected to admit 30-35 students. Kathy Scott, LBCC executive vice president of academic affairs, said the class mirrors others in the workforce development program, in that it’s “industry-driven, industry-requested, and it’s taught by the industry.”
Throughout the U.S., colleges and universities with both medical and adult-use cannabis programs have started offering industry-centric degree and certificate programs. The LBCC course will cost $395.
Pueblo County, Colorado is awarding $2.3 million in scholarships to local students using cannabis-derived taxes, the Pueblo Chieftain reports. The total is the largest scholarship disbursement in county history and officials said that all 729 program applicants were likely to receive scholarship awards.
Janelle Quick, director of the Pueblo Hispanic Education Foundation, told the Chieftain that the scholarships range from $1,200 to $2,000 depending on the student’s grade point average, essay scores, community service, and their contribution through the federal student loan program commonly known as FAFSA. Students can use the scholarships for any accredited institute of higher education. The Pueblo Hispanic Education Foundation will receive $676,800 for scholarships that it will disburse instead of the county.
In 2015, Pueblo County voters passed an initiative that requires the first half of cannabis excise tax dollars to go toward scholarships, while the remaining can be used for capital infrastructure projects.
Dru Spinuzzi, vice-president of the Pueblo Hispanic Education Foundation, said that the first year of the program students only received $250 in scholarship funds from the program.
In April, Denver-based cannabis-tech company Veriheal said it would offer $10,000 in scholarships to students interested in the cannabis industry. The company said 10 students would receive $1,000 each.
Pueblo is one of two counties in the state that allocates cannabis excise taxes for local purposes. The scholarships will be used for the upcoming fall and spring semesters.
We recently connected with Dr. Macsay for this written interview covering the intersection of CBD and other naturopathic medicines, Neurogan‘s specific approach to the CBD industry, the need for more cannabinoid education among consumers, and more!
Ganjapreneur: What is your personal relationship with CBD & cannabis?
Dr. Thomas Macsay: I have been using Cannabis intermittently since I was 15 years old, but I was always intrigued by it and its relationship to countercultures from a young age, so I have quite a long relationship with it. It was definitely the first plant, as it is for many, that really grabbed my curiosity due to its powerful neurological effects. My initial experiences with cannabis opened up my mind to a whole new world of plant possibilities and powers that I was previously aware of but never really had the visceral knowledge of what that meant.
My intermittent relationship has been quite interesting. When I was younger I only smoked with friends during school breaks and holidays, but as I started making my way through college it became a tool that helped me deal with boredom and stress related to school. During the end of my second year of college, I was living in my family’s house with a group of friends who would regularly have many other friends over to smoke cannabis. To make a long story short, I ended up getting arrested after the cops were called one night as I chose to take the blame for all the cannabis and paraphernalia in the house.
I sadly hadn’t even been smoking that night as I was studying for an exam the next day and was waiting to get dinner with my girlfriend at the time. As I sat in the cell I regretted taking the blame as I truly believed I had surely ruined my chances of becoming a doctor or being able to have a successful career that would allow me to live a life of comfort and contentment. Furthermore the fact that I was not a citizen of the country also led to a 7-year immigration case that prevented me from traveling to my home country to see any of my extended family.
For most of those 7 years, I had very little desire to smoke cannabis at all as it would trigger feelings and sensations of panic, paranoia, stress…. all the typical side effects of cannabis consumption. It wasn’t until I was back in medical school and feeling the stress and pressure of pursuing 2 doctorates while working with multiple non-profits and medical associations that I decided to start using cannabis again as a stress reliever. I will proudly say that cannabis helped me immensely when studying daunting and boring subjects, dealing with overwhelming stress while giving me the ability to let go of the thoughts constantly running through my mind.
We live in a hustle and bustle world that is hard not to get caught up in, I believe cannabis can alter the lens we view it through to help relieve some of the burden of the experience that many adults and young adults feel on a day to day basis. After years of consuming cannabis again, I have become more deeply interested in cannabis and its effects in combination with other plant medicines. It has truly been a joy to share and learn more about this powerful plant over this time span.
I can’t say that I have always enjoyed cannabis, but I have always, always deeply respected it as a powerful medicine and healing tool, something that anyone should be able to consume and use if they so choose.
How did you originally get involved in the CBD industry?
I got my start in the CBD industry a few years ago after a lifelong interest in herbal medicine and cannabis. I was approached with opportunities that would allow me to marry a formal medical education with various backgrounds in herbalism and natural therapies. I began work on formulating products for two companies concurrently with one being a cutting edge supplement brand while the other was a traditional herbalism based CBD brand. The former products were developed with the help of a team of pharmacists and doctors working together to produce one of a kind nanotech herbal extract capsules paired with CBD. The latter being a company that I co-founded and managed development, branding, marketing, production, logistics, and sales.
I was extremely motivated to jump into these opportunities headfirst when they were presented to me. Here was a true, so-called door or gateway, through CBD into people’s minds that had previously been closed off to plant-based medicine and alternative therapies. If masses of people were recognizing the powerful effects of a plant-based extract then surely they would understand that plants as a whole offer a plethora of healing qualities and medicinal constituents. This would be an even more likely possibility if CBD and hemp extracts were directly combined with other medicinal plants (we now see tons of companies with combination products)
The companies I worked with made it their mission and vision to offer educational platforms that not only provided safe and efficacious products but also medically relevant educational information about alternative therapies and plant-based medicine directly from a team of doctors passionate about cannabis and holistic medicine. Furthermore, we focused our abilities to provide clinical-grade products made to the highest standards so they could be used as tools by healthcare practitioners.
Throughout the process of helping build and launch these companies, I was able to spend time working and living on hemp farms, in hemp drying facilities, and extraction facilities as well. With a broad overview of the hemp industry, I have begun consulting with a few select companies who align with my mission as a cannabis professional and have also begun working with international clients to provide clinical training and oversight regarding CBD for physicians who are otherwise inexperienced or uneducated on its use as a powerful tool in clinical practice.
How is Neurogan’s product development process influenced by your extensive wellness background?
I have worked with Neurogan to make sure that the information that we put forward regarding our products and their articles/press is medically relevant and accurate. We have worked together to provide simple, yet powerful tools that customers and patients can use to find a safe and effective product while taking the right dose of that product. Together we hope to continue providing information, as well as honest, and transparent articles regarding CBD and other botanical-based medicine. Lastly, we will be working on products that combine herbal medicine and hemp together in unique yet powerful ways that provide an extremely enjoyable end-user experience.
Why does Neurogan choose to use Danish hemp in the production process? Does the team work with local farmers or have a farm in Denmark?
Being a Danish citizen myself, I know firsthand how fertile and lush nature is throughout Denmark. Pristine small family farms dot the countryside connecting small townships throughout much of the country outside of the city centers. Many families have direct ties to the land, and these farms provide much of the food that people in the country eat which keeps things local and fresh. Along with this comes closer ties to the earth and its bounty which means that many people still rely on old folk remedies or medicinal plants that grow in the wild.
The Vikings also have a long history of using hemp for creating rope, clothes, and more which Neurogan decided to continue by tapping into close family ties at these farms in the countryside. Today Neurogan grows the bulk of its hemp on their family farm in Denmark, with every aspect owned and operated by the owners of Neurogan, so that the standards of cultivation can remain high and in line with the quality Neurogan loves to deliver.
Why did the company decide to launch a high-potency CBD line? Can you describe the research and development process that goes into creating new Neurogan products?
Having a high potency line is essential for any company that wants to align with the medicinal and healing qualities of CBD and hemp as a whole, as opposed to companies who are making various products such as energy drinks, candy, and other enticing edibles that do not provide much of a dose or any dose at all for that reason.
Yes, CBD can have great benefits for the casual user, but the people who really need it are those with advanced and complex diseases that may not have any other safe or effective alternative therapies left. For individuals with diseases that require a higher dose of CBD, it is important that they have access to high-potency products at a fair price. Furthermore, many clinicians will require higher doses of CBD or cannabinoids in general as a part of a treatment plan giving Neurogan a place on every doctor’s shelf.
With so many products making false claims, how can a CBD consumer be more knowledgeable and make an educated decision when shopping?
It’s tough being a CBD consumer in today’s market. This is especially true when the highest quality and most renowned products are typically more expensive which will lead some to search for cheaper options.
First and foremost, companies that make explicit claims or offer their products as a potential treatment option for any medical condition shouldn’t be trusted as they are operating outside of their legal scope. Flashy claims are always made to entice the consumer to buy a product that may or may not work for them. These types of products are likely of lower quality and cost less than premium brands in the marketplace.
Education is absolutely essential for individuals who are shopping for CBD products. There are countless online resources that focus only on cannabis and hemp-related education. If the website does not sell any products and provides well-sourced articles, it’s likely a good source of information that is unbiased and free of marketing tactics. Most premium brands will also provide great educational material and transparency when it comes to their operations, processes, and products.
Real CBD companies are legally required to provide testing results on their products. This allows customers to see for themselves if the product they’re getting contains the stated CBD values and is free of impurities. Companies who refuse to share their testing results or do not provide them with a product purchase may have something to hide and should be considered carefully.
Finally, anyone considering CBD or cannabis-based products to treat health problems should consult a primary care physician and/or a cannabis health professional. Health professionals, especially those with a strong understanding of cannabis-based medicine, will be able to direct you towards a reputable product with a dose and form that is appropriate for your needs.
The company recently held a test of 12 CBD products, finding no CBD in any of them. Why did Neurogan use their resources to conduct this research, and what does it say about the ever-expanding CBD market?
Neurogan was hoping to shed light on the fact that there are still many shady and fraudulent companies/individuals who are trying to take advantage of the uninformed customer who is looking to find an affordable product or is maybe buying a hemp/cannabis-based product for the first time and is hoping to find something cheaper. This, unfortunately, is not something new, and there are many shady underground sources of “CBD” or “hemp oil” products on the market that may or may not have any cannabinoids in them. Even worse, these products will have other narcotics or agents added to them to increase the effects experienced by the consumer.
Individuals need to be educated on these facts as they can be harmed by fake products or they may just be throwing their money away. In either case, Neurogan wants to help protect consumers from these types of companies/individuals who sell fake products while also providing information on how to find a proper product and how one can read a chemical analysis to tell if the product actually contains the number of cannabinoids as stated on the label.
Unfortunately, this trend of fake products will likely continue into the future as laws are set in stone and proper oversight from the FDA and DEA shapes up. Until then information is the most powerful weapon that we can provide to individuals in order to prevent them from wasting their money or risking consumption of harmful agents.
How does Neurogan maintain transparency in their product line from seed to sale?
Neurogan seeks to maintain complete transparency through every step of the cultivation process, which is easy for us, because we have a hand in each step.
All of the crops are grown at founder Dan Hamp’s family farm in his home country of Denmark. We love growing outdoor hemp in Denmark because the country’s conditions are perfect from April to October to slow-grow full-spectrum, high-quality CBD in soil free of heavy-metals and harmful pesticides. Once the crops are in full bloom, they are picked and dried over a two-month period before the whole hemp plant is granulated into pellets and sent to the United States.
The team receives the hemp on-site in San Diego, CA and the hemp is incorporated into custom, handmade recipes in our GMP certified facility. All finished products are sent to a third party laboratory and tested for quality before being sold to customers.
As you can see, each step is integral to providing transparency and quality that customers can trust.
Neurogan products have higher doses and are broad-spectrum; how does this benefit the consumer compared to lower dose products? What is the difference between full-spectrum and broad-spectrum?
Full-spectrum products include the full range of cannabinoids; THC, CBD, and over 100 other cannabinoids. Studies have shown that plant extracts that are considered full-spectrum typically have increased benefits and lower dosage with decreased side effects. This happens as a result of the components in the extract interacting with each other and the body’s receptors.
Broad-spectrum extracts are almost identical to full-spectrum extracts except for the fact that they do not contain any THC. This means that a Neurogan’s broad spectrum product still provides much of the synergistic qualities seen with a full-spectrum extract but is just right for those who prefer to avoid THC ingestion at all costs.
By providing a wide and higher range of dosages, Neurogan offers products that will be effective at helping many customers alleviate complaints with targeted dosages at a fair price point. Lower dosed products can still be very expensive and may not have enough CBD to even help customers deal with some of their complaints. These products are typically also isolated or are made with lower quality extracts that can be unsafe or completely ineffective for the consumer.
What do you think is the biggest obstacle to educating consumers about the benefits of CBD?
The biggest obstacle to educating the consumer is probably the consumer. People always want a quick fix and they want it cheap, or they want it to be enjoyable to consume. Most of all people want to notice something right away.
Unfortunately, every single individual will react differently to the same dose of CBD consumed at the exact same time in the same setting. This is due to a myriad of reasons including genetics, diet, toxin load, medication use, mood, and so on. This means that some people will feel nothing when they take a high-quality hemp product, while some others may feel extremely “high” at the same dose.
People from both sides of the spectrum may give up on the product right away or may change their dose drastically where it either becomes ineffective or begins causing uncomfortable side effects. This is one of the reasons it is always stressed that individuals should consult their health care professional when beginning any supplements or alternative based treatment therapies.
At the end of the day, education, especially a drastic perspective shift from a typical western medicine mindset to one that takes the perspective of plant-based alternative therapies takes time. People aren’t always patient enough to take the time to educate themselves on a topic that is in itself a vast and still developing topic. This is especially true if said individual did not have a pleasant or noticeable experience their first time around with plant-based medicine.
On top of this, the western medicine mindset continues to push plants out of the picture even though many of the most common drugs are derived from plant constituents, and that the word drug itself was originally used to describe a medicinal plant. There are now thousands upon thousands of articles that prove herbal medicine can be an equal therapeutic agent, and sometimes more effective, compared to many common medications used in clinical practice today.
Without proper acknowledgment of human tendencies and biases, it makes it hard for people to look past these facts and truly begin tapping into plants as medicinal agents. Fortunately, many people do become intrigued by the beneficial effects experienced when taking a CBD product which tends to lead them down a path of education and insight into cannabis as a whole.
Does Neurogan get involved in the local community and economy? How does the company support other entrepreneurs in the space?
As a small family-owned company, Neurogan loves to support other underdogs, and we mean that in a very real sense. Nearly two years ago, we began showing our support for San Diego-based non-profit, The Animal Pad (TAP), who rescues dogs from the streets of San Diego and Mexico. We’ve provided donations, campaigns, and initiatives in support of TAP, alongside featuring their pups on the front of our Neurogan CBD pet treat bags and having nearly 5 employees from our office adopt TAP pooches to date. We’re thrilled by the thought that our premium pet CBD has the potential to help rescue pets feel more at home.
Additionally, with San Diego being such a health and wellness conscious community, we’ve been proud to provide donations and give support to local wellness practitioners and entrepreneurs; from nutritionists, to yoga teachers, to reiki masters, and more. As a brand, we’re focused on providing people with products that can bring them the gift of wellness and in partnering with individuals who are determined to do the same through their services, we know we’re in good company.
As a business, we offer private label products to those looking to start their own CBD businesses and have really enjoyed the business consultancy role this has placed us in, as CBD is a difficult space to get started in. When it comes to our direct customers, we put a lot of our efforts towards educating our community not only when it comes to CBD, but when it comes to the importance of supporting local. We model this by doing the same ourselves and fighting to prompt a shift in thought when it comes to thoughtful consumption on every level.
Thank you, Dr. Macsay, for answering our questions about Neurogan and the state of the CBD marketplace. Visit Neurogan.com to learn more about our guest.
A survey examining the profile of the “modern cannabis consumer” by Oasis Intelligence found that 70 percent of respondents were unfamiliar with the terms “terpenes” and “entourage effect” despite a recent industry push to market the terms as points of differentiation.
Oasis Intelligence co-founder Laura Albers told The Fresh Toast that people in the industry “have a real advantage when it comes to understanding the plant from a scientific, regulation and usage perspective that is generally a requirement for those in the space.”
“However, when it comes to the average consumer, we see the needs for education are not about more advanced topics that the industry may prioritize—think terpenes, minor cannabinoids gaining popularity or even the endocannabinoid system.” – Albers to the Fresh Toast
Additionally, the cannabis consumer insight firm found half of consumers use cannabis for medical and wellness reasons, while one in five made no distinction between using cannabis for health and wellness and recreationally.
Nearly half of consumers – 48 percent – last used cannabis with someone else, a partner or a friend, and those bonds seem to drive how consumers get their information as 43 percent of respondents said friends were their “number one” source for getting cannabis information. Moreover, one in four surveyed said their last cannabis purchase was through a family member – which was more than those who purchased via a delivery service; another 22 percent said the recommendation of friends is their “primary driver” to trying a new product.
The company notes that brands and companies “can’t overlook the power of this network effect” and suggested that referral program “could have a significant impact” on harnessing the trust people have in close friends and family. Oasis notes that the study took place during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic and at that time friends and family “were a more likely source for purchasing cannabis than delivery services.”
Slightly more than half of the respondents (51 percent) said they looked to cannabis to treat anxiety, while 44 percent use it to help with depression and another 31 percent for insomnia. Oasis notes that making health or wellness claims about cannabis products runs afoul of federal laws “but the reward will be high” for companies who can both operate within the parameters of Food and Drug Administration guidance, specifically on CBD, “while conveying that they can be trusted for wellness benefits.”
In July 2019, Pennsylvania added Tourette syndrome to the list of conditions that qualify for medicinal cannabis use. Contributor Lorena Cupcake explains what Tourette syndrome is and looks at the place of cannabis when it comes to Tourette syndrome, using their own experiences as a medical cannabis patient.
Tourette Syndrome Awareness Month is recognized from May 15th to June 15th each year, inspiring some of the estimated 100,000 people living with Tourette Syndrome nationwide to share their stories with the hashtag #TouretteAwarenessMonth. As a medical cannabis patient — qualified due to my diagnosis — I’m sharing my experiences managing my condition with cannabis to help fill in the gaps in a field with little published research.
The research of neurology is hindered by the limitations of non-invasive techniques; my brain may only reveal some secrets after I’m dead. I’m telling my story while I’m still here so the conversation on the future role of cannabis in treating Tourette Syndrome can grow and gain momentum, leading to more high-quality studies, a better understanding of the behind-the-scenes biological functions, and increased access to decriminalized cannabis. Currently, only seven states including Arkansas, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Ohio have specifically approved Tourette Syndrome as a condition for medicinal cannabis use.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Tourette syndrome (often shortened to TS, or Tourette) is a neurological disorder characterized by involuntary movements and vocalizations known as “tics.” Every human experiences involuntary actions; we cringe when embarrassed, yelp when startled, and reflexively snatch our hands away from hot surfaces. These types of unconscious reactions are governed by the nervous system, which is divided into the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and parasympathetic nervous system (PNS).
To understand why people with TS have tics, and how cannabis may help with both tics and related medical conditions, it’s important to know the difference between the two divisions and the role in their body.
Fight, flight, or freeze
The SNS is most famously associated with “fight, flight, or freeze,” three evolutionary responses to danger tracing back to the caveman days. While this system can keep us out of danger, it’s overactive in people with TS, causing uncomfortable symptoms of anxiety, like rapid heartbeat, skin tingling, and chest tightness. The pressure builds unbearably until it’s released with an involuntary movement. Suddenly, there’s a wave of relief … until the pressure returns.
It’s a cycle familiar to anyone with neurobiologically similar conditions like Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (where the relief comes from giving in to a compulsion) or body-focused repetitive behavior disorders (which include conditions like Trichotillomania, a condition also called “hair-pulling disorder” by the Mayo Clinic). It’s important to realize that people with these medical issues aren’t simply lacking willpower; the basal ganglia, which would normally send inhibitory signals to suppress unwanted behaviors, isn’t functioning as effectively as it would in a neurotypical brain.
Pharmacological treatments for TS usually focus on suppressing dopamine, a messenger molecule your neurons use to initiate movements, both voluntary and not. I’ve personally had better results from cannabis, which has helped me learn to control and, more importantly, comfortably cope with tics through activation of the PNS.
Rest and digest
The parasympathetic nervous system, which slows the heart rate, increases saliva production, and stimulates the digestive tract, is nicknamed the “rest and digest” response. Many techniques exist to help activate this system, including mindfulness, meditation, and stimulation of the vagus nerve.
This 2017 Iranian journal details how the endocannabinoid system modulates the release of GABA, a neurotransmitter with receptors found throughout the parasympathetic nervous system with the ability to decrease blood pressure, reduce stress, and stimulate appetite. Rather than directly blocking tics, the right type of cannabis-based product puts me in a relaxed state where tics are less likely to occur, easier to control, and less uncomfortable to endure.
Recognizing the importance of accessibility to this treatment, numerous states have approved medical marijuana as a treatment for TS. The key to gaining acceptance nationwide may lie in raising awareness of the many biological similarities between a relatively-rare syndrome and more well-known disorders that are widely recognized to be effectively regulated with cannabis.
An anonymous survey conducted by the Prague Movement Disorder Centre found that one-quarter of the respondents had tried cannabis, with 45.9% of them going on to describe some sort of benefit. “Once I started taking CBD oil, I never had a sleepless night because I couldn’t relax my muscle groups,” septuagenarian Garry Griffin told CBD Denver following his participation in a University of Colorado study on the use of cannabidiol oil in patients with Parkinson’s Disease. “I’m not a stoner, but I am a proponent.”
The basal ganglia, mentioned earlier for its role in regulating unwanted movement, contains many endocannabinoid receptors. When cannabinoids bind with these receptors, they can help alleviate involuntary movements by assisting in the regulation of neurochemicals linked to signaling and movement.
Tics respond well to cannabis, with 82% of participants in a 1998 German study reporting improvement and one patient remaining symptom-free for an entire year. What’s missing is research that clearly explains the full role of cannabinoid receptors and the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in TS pathology and treatment, along with education, therapies, and medications that utilize those findings.
The potential of cannabis to calm spasticity, tremors, muscle tightness, muscle jerks, and pain associated with disorders like dystonia, epilepsy, and restless leg syndrome is documented, allowing insight into the significant biological impact of marijuana on movement. Until larger and more through studies can take place, the positive experiences with cannabis reported by many people with Parkinson’s, TS, and other movement disorders suggests that we have more to learn about the role of the ECS in governing movement.
Life on the spectrum
Tourette Syndrome is a spectrum disorder or a collection of conditions that share traits and characteristics. There are only so many different regions of the brain; only a limited array of neurochemicals used by the nervous system. Brain abnormalities and neurotransmitter dysfunction will often express themselves in diverse ways, with symptoms that may be associated with a range of different conditions.
People on the Tourette Syndrome Spectrum have much higher rates of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Autism Spectrum Disorder, and learning disabilities like Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder than the general public. They’re also more likely to have anxiety, personality, and mood disorders. Even if someone doesn’t qualify for dual diagnosis, they may still experience some symptoms; the reverse can be true for those with a primary diagnosis other than TS. For example, up to 50% of children with OCD experience tics.
Although these conditions are often considered separate, they share underlying biological mechanisms that link them together, which explains why cannabis may be beneficial in regulating all of them.
Over the past couple of decades I’ve been living with TS, I’ve used cannabis alongside cognitive-behavioral techniques to cope. Cognitive-Behavioral Intervention for Tics (CBIT), a type of Habit-Reversal Training, teaches people with TS to identify the premonitory urges that come before a tic. They can then choose a low-impact and easy-to-disguise movement — like squeezing a fist— over tics that can be distressing, painful, or stigmatized.
Suppressing tics can be frustrating and physically uncomfortable, so I’m grateful to have a way to “get them out of my system” while minimizing unwanted attention and avoiding tics that might be dangerous or harmful. At the same time, daily cannabis use relaxes my body, reduces my anxiety, and balances my mood, making it easier to consciously activate my PNS and less stressful to manage my tics.
I’ve learned to accept that life on the Tourette Syndrome Spectrum means that every symptom is a puzzle piece that helps me figure out how and why my body works as it does. Cannabis doesn’t just improve my quality of life; it helps me gain insight into, and control over, the two divisions of my central nervous system.
Excelsior College is launching a three-course, nine-credit graduate certificate in a cannabis control program. The course can be taken alone or applied toward the online college’s master’s degree programs.
Dr. James N. Baldwin, Excelsior president, said a variety of organizations in both public and private sectors “will require a deeper understanding of the emerging regulatory environment” as more states move toward broad legalization.
“Excelsior College’s graduate certificate will provide strong credentials and knowledge to enhance the skillset of those working or intending to work in this industry. Our interdisciplinary approach with a focus on regulations and compliance makes our program unique. We will bring together professionals from various aspects of the industry to discuss the impact of cannabis legalization on our communities, states, and nation to provide students with subject matter expertise so they can keep pace in the fast-changing industry.” — Baldwin, in a statement to Ganjapreneur
The three courses include: Risk Assessment in Cannabis Control; Interstate/International Commerce: Policy and Regulatory Environment; and Implications of Legalization of Cannabis: Policy and Compliance.
Scott Dolan, dean of graduate studies at Excelsior College, told Bezinga that the program “naturally aligned” with the college’s “disciplinary expertise in business, public health, criminal justice, and public administration,” noting that other regionally-accredited universities and colleges “have been relatively slow to respond with educational offerings” to meet the cannabis industry’s growing demand.
Excelsior College is based in New York, where medical cannabis is legal, but lawmakers have been unable to reach broad legalization agreements over the last two years. The state’s University of Buffalo School of Law earlier this year offered “The Green Rush” – a course aimed at compliance and other legal issues in the cannabis space.
As federal lawmakers in Washington continue to slow-walk — or outright oppose — the legalisation of marijuana, the budding industry is plowing ahead making crucial inroads with another institution of prestige to help lend it legitimacy: higher education.
Five universities — three public state schools and two private Catholic colleges — have partnered with cannabis education company Green Flower Media to roll out first-of-their-kind online certificate programmes beginning in June, The Independent has learned, with roughly two dozen other accredited higher education institutions also considering partnerships.
Despite the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) listing cannabis as a Schedule I drug off limits for sale and use by the public, 11 states plus Washington, DC, have legalised recreational marijuana, and 33 other states have approved its medicinal use.
In most of those states, marijuana dispensaries have been deemed “essential” businesses during the coronavirus crisis.
The US House passed a sweeping bill earlier this month that would reverse a rule prohibiting cannabis companies from using traditional banking and financial institutions, which would allow more small businesses within the industry to access money through the Treasury Department’s relief programmes aimed at keeping workers on payrolls during the health crisis. [Read more at The Independent]