Medicinal Organic Marijuana

Cannabis has generated some unique challenges for established pharmaceutical processes. This is largely due to the ‘single compound, single target’ paradigm of modern medical science. This paradigm seeks to identify and extract or synthesise an individual chemical which is then tested in a clinical trial environment to measure the effect which that single chemical has on certain medical conditions. Although this process works very well most of the time, single chemical and single target pharmaceuticals may be less effective in treating complex conditions with multiple causes and effects, such as cancer. 

Cannabis is not a single chemical. It is a plant with many chemical components that vary in strength and medicinal efficacy depending on the plants genetic origin, how it is grown, how it is prepared and how it is consumed. Almost all of the chemicals found in cannabis which have – or are believed to have – medicinal bene ts are unique to the plant. These are called ‘cannabinoids’. Although scientists have identified more than a hundred unique cannabinoids so far, the most prevalent of these are Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). 

THC was the first cannabinoid to be isolated and has been the main focus of research since its discovery in 1964. In the 1990s, research into THC uncovered an “elaborate new biochemical system” in the human body which was named the “endocannabinoid system”. This system is made up of natural cannabinoid receptors which exist throughout the human body and brain. These receptors respond to cannabinoids and have been shown to affect, “A large number of pathological conditions — cardiovascular, neurodegenerative, reproductive, gastrointestinal, liver, lung, skeletal, and even psychiatric and cancer diseases” 

THC is the ‘psychoactive’ part of cannabis that produces the ‘high’ and so far has been used to treat severe nausea, severe pain and muscle spasticity. 

CBD, in contract, is not psychoactive, and so far has been used to treat severe epilepsy and several inflammatory disorders. As THC is the only cannabinoid with the potential for recreational use, illicit cannabis plants have been selectively bred to express very high levels of THC without regard for the other cannabinoids. Medical science is now beginning to breed medical-specific plants with higher levels of CBD and other cannabinoids. 

Because cannabis varies so widely, patients who use medicinal cannabis tend to prefer certain strains over others depending on their particular condition, and how their body reacts to the medicine. This is something which many patients value quite highly. For example, in 2011 Canada only provided a single strain of medicinal cannabis for patients. These patients complained that only having one strain of cannabis was ineffective for many. As a result the program went into review and in June 2013 the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) came into force with the objective of providing ‘’reasonable access to marihuana for medical purposes’’. Canada now deliberately provides patients with more choice by not restricting medicinal cannabis producers in the variety of strains they can provide, and by allowing patients to select which provider they want to use. 

Medicinal Organic MarijuanaThere are two main reasons why the traditional pharmaceutical model is not well suited to cannabis. The first is that there are hundreds of chemicals in cannabis, a vast majority of which almost nothing is known about. The research required to fully understand the plant has been hindered by political barriers, and medical science is only now beginning to catch up on several lost decades. 

The second reason is that medicinal cannabis patients often find that whole-plant cannabis medicines are more effective than pharmaceutical cannabis medicines. There is reason to believe this may be caused by a ‘synergistic effect’ or ‘entourage e ect’ from the various chemicals working together. More research is needed, but this synergy has already been observed between THC and CBD in the treatment of pain. 

This may mean that in some cases using whole-plant cannabis can be more effective than using pharmaceutical cannabis products. However, the single chemical, single target methodology of pharmaceutical science is heavily embedded in the institutions which manage pharmaceutical medicines. This is why whole-plant cannabis has had such difficulty being approved for use through existing regulatory bodies in Australia such as the Therapeutic Goods Administration. 

The world of medicine is strictly organized. Conventional medicines are carefully designed and developed in a pharmaceutical lab and thoroughly tested for safety and efficacy, before being released onto the market for a specific patient population. Cannabis is out of tune with this paradigm in multiple ways. 

For example, it is a medicine pioneered and promoted by patients and their caregivers, instead of scientific researchers or physicians. It is often consumed in its herbal form, using unconventional modes of intake such as smoking, vaporizing, tea or brownies. 

Moreover, cannabis may be used to treat difficult symptoms and improve quality of life for the chronically ill, but it also serves as a recreational drug that affects the minds of millions. This situation is further complicated by a continuously growing attention for cannabis by the media worldwide. Least of all by the business opportunities in Medicinal Organic Marijuana.