Janna Champagne , Bonnie Goldstein, Tracy Ryan, Dustin Sulak – All offering unique perspectives of medical cannabis insights.
Janna Champagne, founder of Integrated Holistic Care, a Southern Oregon non-profit medical and health organization dedicated to a whole-systems approach to health shares her perspectives.
Bonnie Goldstein M.D. and Medical Director of Canna-Centers Wellness and Education in Los Angeles. Also author of the book “Cannabis Revealed”: How the world’s most mis-understood plant is treating everything from chronic pain to epilepsy offers her perspectives.
Tracy Ryan, C.E.O. of Cannakids, and co-founder of SavingSophie.org With her mission of bringing non-toxic drugs to market for patients suffering from cancer and other life-altering diseases offer her views.
Dustin Sulak is an integrative osteopathic physician and leader in the emerging field of cannabinoid medicine and founder of “Integr8 Health”, a medical practice in Maine following fore than 8,000 patients using medical cannabis. Also, he founded Healer.com a medical cannabis patient education resource and sits on the board of directors of the Society of Cannabis Clinicians and happily shares his insights.
Cannabis TV is an educational program offering modern cannabis education for curious Canadians broadcast on the CHCH network in Ontario Canada.
Big Brother Canada 3 Winner, Sarah Hanlon joins us to share her personal journey with cannabis and her recent partnership with Lift & Co to develop educational cannabis content for consumers.
Nick Pateras from Lift & Co shares the big winners from the 2018 Canadian Cannabis Awards and the big changes they have coming for the 2019 awards season.
Mika from MediPharm Labs is here with our first ever edition of “The Science of Cannabis” where she teaches us all about Cannabinoids. https://www.medipharmlabs.com/
Representing the body’s response to injury, inflammation is the immune system’s way of warding off harmful stimuli. But the process is not as innocuous as it may sound. Chronic inflammation is linked with and may lead to a host of diseases, including cancer, stroke, heart disease, obesity, and autoimmune disorders such as lupus.
Now scientists are discovering how cannabis in various forms including cannabidiol (CBD) oil could wield the power to diminish inflammation and help the body regain a state of balance.
Cannabis for inflammation is a broad area of research since it encompasses so many conditions. In the past decade or so, much of the research on how cannabis can treat inflammation has been conducted on animals, and there is a clear need for more human studies and clinical trials. However, the research that is available has been encouraging and shines a spotlight on how CBD, in particular, may fight inflammation.
Can CBD oil relieve arthritis pain? A 2018 article published in Medical News Today answered this question, referencing animal studies that have demonstrated CBD’s pain relieving and anti-inflammatory effects. Receptors in the brain and immune system are affected by CBD, thus leading to a possible reduction in pain and inflammation.
A 2011 research report published in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine also examined the potential role of CBD in a variety of conditions associated with inflammation. George W. Booz, a professor in the department of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, concluded: “Inflammation and oxidative stress are intimately involved in the genesis of many human diseases. Unraveling that relationship therapeutically has proven challenging, in part because inflammation and oxidative stress “feed off” each other. However, CBD would seem to be a promising starting point for further drug development given its antioxidant (although relatively modest) and anti-inflammatory actions on immune cells … .”
More encouraging news on CBD for inflammation comes from a 2016 literature review published in BioMed Research International. Researchers cited CBD as a possible key tool in controlling the spread and growth of cancerous cells while noting a strong need for further research.
A clinical trial underway at the University of Colorado, Boulder aims to provide some of that crucial additional research. Since 2018 researchers have been testing how inflammation levels change before and after cannabis use in relation to THC and CBD blood levels. The trial is still in the preliminary stages as researchers recruit people to participate.
Swollen joints, skin rash, and prolonged fatigue are among the symptoms that lupus sufferers commonly experience. Lupus Corner has reported survey results from 781 individuals with lupus on the topic of using cannabis for various reasons, including as a treatment for their autoimmune disorder; 36% of respondents claimed that they were using cannabis either through smoking, applying CBD oil, or another method such as ingesting edibles. Among those who used cannabis as a direct strategy to manage their lupus symptoms, 83% said they would recommend it to another person with lupus. An eyebrow-raising 96% of respondents reported that their doctors had not talked with them about using cannabis to treat lupus, which indicates that most people are seeking out medical marijuana on their own.
Other patients are employing cannabis to help them recover from painful surgeries. Catherine McCormick, a 53-year-old woman who had knee replacement surgery, weaned herself off of high postoperative doses of ibuprofen and a cocktail of other medications. McCormick told The New York Times in 2018 how smoking cannabis has improved her quality of life: “I have more energy. I can walk. I’m not in pain. I feel so much better.”
The benefits these patients are experiencing can be traced, in part, to the anti-inflammatory properties of the terpenes present in cannabis. Valencene, cymene, menthol, and terpineol are just a few of the terpenes that have exhibited potential anti-inflammatory effects. But what do the medical experts have to say about how cannabis battles inflammation?
What the Experts Say
Some researchers are optimistic about how cannabis could assist with the management of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Specifically, endocannabinoids may have the ability to create a pathway that turns off the body’s inflammatory response. Research pharmacologist Randy Mrsny, Ph.D., explained in a 2018 article from Science Alert: “We need to be clear that while this is a plausible explanation for why marijuana users have reported cannabis relieves symptoms of IBD, we have thus far only evaluated this in mice and have not proven this experimentally in humans. We hope, however, that these findings will help us develop new ways to treat bowel diseases in humans.”
Further, in a 2018 article for Harvard Health Publishing, Dr. Peter Grinspoon discussed prior research on CBD in pain relief in myriad conditions related to inflammation. “CBD may offer an option for treating different types of chronic pain,” he wrote. “A study from the European Journal of Pain showed, using an animal model, CBD applied on the skin could help lower pain and inflammation due to arthritis.
“Another study demonstrated the mechanism by which CBD inhibits inflammatory and neuropathic pain, two of the most difficult types of chronic pain to treat. More study in humans is needed in this area to substantiate the claims of CBD proponents about pain control.”
The common theme in the scientific studies and in expert opinions is additional research. More clinical trials like the one in progress at the University of Colorado, Boulder are critical to understanding the possibilities and limitations of cannabis in treating chronic inflammation.
The Bottom Line
Emergent research is positive regarding the role of cannabis in reducing inflammation, but many more studies are essential.
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Spreading like wildfire alongside the cannabis legalization movement, cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-intoxicating compound of the cannabis plant that is ingraining itself as a potentially viable remedy for a number of conditions. Whether in your local coffee shop’s cappuccino or your parents’ medicine cabinet, CBD is being used for its anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-anxiety, and seizure-suppressing properties.
Since this compound is still derived from the cannabis plant, some people who are unfamiliar or frightened by THC‘s intoxicating effects might hesitate to try CBD. Some may even ponder the question, “Is it possible to take too much CBD?”
In short, the answer is: no, not really. You would have to take a CBD dosage of nearly 20,000 milligrams over a short span of time for it to be toxic to your system, according to a study published in Current Drug Safetyin 2011.
“Several studies suggest that CBD is well-tolerated and safe in humans at high doses and with chronic use,” the study states.
There are important distinctions that still need to be made between CBD and THC, which is the intoxicating cannabinoid that produces a variety of sensory and psychological effects. Think of CBD as a comforting compound that relaxes without giving you the high or stoned feeling that comes from THC.
Unlike THC, CBD can be sourced from both marijuana plants and hemp plants, the latter of which is legal in most countries as they lack the intoxicating component in sufficient quantities. In the U.S., the THC cutoff for hemp is 0.3 percent. With the passing of the 2018 Hemp Act, included in the 2018 Farm Bill on Dec. 20, 2018, products that are derived from industrially farmed hemp are now legal across the United States.
Part of the stigma that still surrounds CBD stems from the inescapable link it has to cannabis. After all, it is a substantial part of the plant. Those unfamiliar with the compound might assume that it creates an effect similar to THC, a notion that is slowly being dispelled as CBD becomes a household name on the therapeutic market.
What Science Says About CBD Dosage
Since that 2011 study was conducted, more research has been done to expand upon these previous findings. In one study, “An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies,” published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research in June 2017, the researchers confirmed the “favorable safety profile of CBD.”
CBD was established by the study as having a much better side effect profile compared with most other drugs, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that taking a hefty CBD dosage won’t have any impact on the user. There were some minor side effects reported by the subjects, including tiredness, diarrhea, and changes in appetite or weight.
While we do know that it’s extremely difficult to overconsume CBD to the point of intoxication, there is still much we don’t know about the way this compound impacts the brain and body. As the 2017 study concluded, “More clinical trials with a greater number of participants and longer chronic CBD administration are still lacking.”
As science continues on its quest to decipher the various ways that CBD affects the human body, it’s important to do as much research as possible before selecting your CBD dosage methodology. You’ll find that CBD comes in many forms, such as CBD-rich flower, isolate, concentrates, and edibles. Without much in the way of regulatory framework, the market for CBD is still a Wild West of sorts. In order to ensure that you’re getting exactly what you’re seeking out, you should always try to purchase your CBD from a licensed supplier.
Regarding CBD dosage amounts, keep in mind that just because you can’t overdose doesn’t mean you should overdo it. Australian researchers published a study in February 2019 in the European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience that found some of the three dozen participants experienced intoxication from a 400-milligram concentration of CBD. The same researchers also found that participants who consumed a low-dose 2:1 THC:CBD ratio of 8 milligrams of THC to 4 milligrams of CBD reported a stronger intoxicating experience compared with vaporizing THC alone.
It’s recommended that first-time users start with the smallest dosage possible to see how it affects them. By using softgels or capsules, it’s easier to control the CBD dosage and monitor the therapeutic impact that it has on the user’s condition.
No matter which way you choose to consume your CBD dosage, rest assured that you won’t incur any intoxicating effects.
Sue Sisley might be the first person who’d never actually used cannabis but lost her job because of the plant.
Before 2018, when she medicated with THC oil to treat herself during a breast cancer scare, Sisley had only studied cannabis in the laboratory. While working as a clinical professor of psychology at the University of Arizona in Tucson in 2012, she secured approval for an unprecedented study into the effects of marijuana on veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
But unfortunately, as Sisley soon found out, her quest to secure funding for cannabis research didn’t end there. It took a year and a half before she had finally received her marijuana research materials from the government. Three months later, in June 2014, the university suddenly developed “funding and reorganizational issues” and Sisley found herself fired.
Her experience with cannabis research isn’t unique. Since the 1960s, it’s been nearly impossible to conduct scientific studies on the effects of cannabis unless they’re directly related to addiction or harmfulness.
Sisley traveled from her home in Arizona to Austin, Texas, to speak at South By Southwest (SXSW), an annual festival that fuses that latest film, music, tech and other subjects into a massive event. At the festival’s inaugural canna-business tract, which took place from March 14 to March 16, 2019, Sisley discussed the barriers that cannabis researchers still face to this day.
The Struggle to Conduct Proper Cannabis Research
It took Sisley seven years to finally acquire the license she needed to research cannabis. She placed an order for eight kilograms, which eventually arrived in a cooler of ice packs. It turns out that the cannabis had been frozen in a locker for years.
“This wasn’t fresh flower that had just been harvested, this was moldy cannabis that was sitting there in sandwich bags,” Sisley said.
In many cases, the research difficulties begin when applying for a license from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to study cannabis. The agency categorizes cannabis as a Schedule I drug, which defines a substance as having no medical benefits and a high potential for abuse. As such, receiving a license is akin to a “golden ticket”. Without one, it’s impossible to procure cannabis from the federal government to use in clinical trials.
From Sisley’s experience with the stale product, it resembles what might be sold on the street in the ’60s. Despite the fact that the university receives a $6 million budget for marijuana production every five years, the batch she received from the university would not pass state testing in any regulated market.
The batch contained multiple strains, ground into powder supposedly to standardize the samples. It wasn’t only flower; the conglomeration of cannabis also included extraneous plant material: stems, sticks, and leaves. Even the THC and cannabidiol (CBD) levels were different from what Sisley’s team requested for their research, making it harder to properly control their experiments.
“Cannabis isn’t just one plant, there’s thousands of different ratios of THC, CBD, and terpene profiles. That’s not on the menu,” Sisley said. “What you get is a batch of high-THC or -CBD. You don’t know anything else about that cannabis.”
Beyond the poor quality, the government-issued marijuana had other defects that hindered the research process. Each batch came with a warning label stating that it had to be irradiated and sterilized before it was safe for patient consumption, so it didn’t even arrive in a usable state.
A Dawn for Cannabis Research?
Lack of accessibility and poor quality marijuana aren’t the only hurdles that cannabis researchers usually encounter. Studying other Schedule I drugs, such as heroin, requires permission from the DEA, Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Institutional Review Board (IRB). The same goes for LSD or MDMA, or ecstasy. But cannabis requires two additional agencies to sign off: the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and Public Health Service (PHS). Sisley’s Public Health Service review took a total of three years.
“The FDA has been a joy to work with, because they’re required to respond in 30 days. But these other agencies can take as long as they want, and that’s how they’ve systematically impeded cannabis research in this country,” Sisley said.
She received her certification two days after the airing of a CNN special recounting her tribulations. She doesn’t see that as a coincidence. Fortunately for researchers, this is one barrier that others won’t have to face any longer. After much lobbying, this PHS review was eliminated right before former President Barack Obama left office.
Finding test subjects also proved to be a challenge. Sisley’s study targeted veterans suffering from PTSD, yet the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) actively discouraged veterans from participating in any studies on cannabis, despite an epidemic of suicides which claimed the lives of 24,000 veterans in the three years while Sisley awaited her PHS review.
As if these barriers weren’t discouraging enough, researchers also take on a great personal risk even embarking down the path of cannabis research. Sisley’s own experience at the University of Arizona serves as a cautionary tale. Later during her trials, she lost the logistical backings of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore for similar fears of negative funding repercussions from the United States government.
“Most physicians privately admit to you that they think this plant should be legal, but they’re afraid to talk about it,” Sisley said. Scientists that do soldier forward take on a much more substantial liability than their peers studying other substances. They’re required to sign forms accepting all liability. “Imagine why scientists don’t want to do this work. It’s insane. My attorney said I shouldn’t sign this, it’s ridiculous, but I couldn’t start the study without it,” Sisley said.
The odds may be stacked against cannabis researchers, but there’s a reason for them to be optimistic. The non-profit organization Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, formed by Sisley five years ago, has been lobbying government officials and trying to inform the medical community of the unfair challenges that are still faced by cannabis researchers. States are now increasing funding for studies, most notably in Colorado, which has allocated $10 million of surplus tax revenue towards grants, $2 million of which Sisley used to fund her veteran PTSD study.
“You’re going to see data coming in the next couple years about cannabis for pediatric brain tumors, for Crohn’s disease, for insomnia,” Sisley said. “All these studies are coming to completion now, we’re really grateful.”
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The Science of Cannabis program, offered through McMaster Continuing Education and in partnership with the Peter Boris Centre for Addictions Research and the Michael G. DeGroote Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research, is designed to provide a substantive grounding in the scientific study of cannabis and the evidence base pertaining to its therapeutic applications as well as potential risks and harms.
This exciting new program is the first evidence-based, post-secondary program to focus on the science behind the substance.
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Dr. James MacKillop, Director of the Peter Boris Centre for Addictions Research, and Director of the Michael G. DeGroote Centre for Medicinal Cannabis, oversees the course development for the Science of Cannabis program and provides a comprehensive overview of what participants can expect to learn.