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CBD Oil – That’s all you need, right?

by 420insightAugust 5, 2014

by Amber Langston

Since Governor Nixon signed Missouri HB 2238 a few weeks ago, many people have been asking questions about the first law to allow cannabis in our state since WWII. Suddenly, soccer moms everywhere are hearing about this amazing new substance from the marijuana plant that saves the lives of toddlers and doesn’t get anyone “high.” Seemingly, there is a way for legalization’s opponents to address all of this marijuana business in one fell swoop without anyone putting smoke in their lungs or falling into a senseless fit of horrid, cannabis-induced giggles.

It’s easy to understand getting swept up in the bright lights of cannabis once you see them. A moment of crystallization occurs when someone really understands for the first time that cannabis saves lives, and the possibility of a plant-based panacea suddenly seems real.

But cannabis is not everything you want it to be.

What I mean is that we are still learning. While the assertion is false that we don’t have enough science to know the long-term effects of marijuana, the truth is that there are at least 85 different types of cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. The two most commonly known are Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD), which get you “high” and treat epileptic seizures, respectively. The idea that concentrated CBD oil does not contain THC, and therefore is not psychoactive, is very attractive to folks who are afraid of the unknown variable associated with altered mind states. (Never mind that traditional pharmaceutical drugs used to treat the same conditions are not only mind-altering but can also have extreme negative physical side effects, including death.)

But CBD isn’t just good for seizures. It has shown great promise for combating pain, nausea, diabetes, tumor growth, and other neurological disorders among other things. And since we now have this new system emerging in Missouri, then we can just expand CBD oil for these other patients and that will solve all of our problems, right?

Not exactly.

Even opponents will acknowledge that marijuana gives you “the munchies” when you use it. In the world of science, it’s called appetite stimulation, and it’s really important for people who are undergoing chemotherapy or are clinically anorexic. But that doesn’t come from CBD — it appears to occur with consumption of THC. Ever heard of marijuana being used for glaucoma? That’s also THC doing the work. At least, THC is partially doing the work. THC and CBD have been the most researched constituents, but dozens more are barely understood.

In 2011, the California Medical Association endorsed full legalization of marijuana, but not because they want more people to consume cannabis. Rather, they view legalization as the most effective means to gaining the science necessary to help people with disease and illness because they now know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that marijuana is a medicine. However, they can’t prove it on paper until the federal government eases restrictions and allows it to be studied.
Cannlabs, a marijuana testing facility in Denver, has been working to better understand the science of cannabis through repeated testing of constituents in medical marijuana being distributed in the state of Colorado. Although there are about 85 confirmed cannabinoids which have been isolated, Cannlabs has teased out nine cannabinoids from various marijuana strains and correlated them to various diseases and illnesses for which patients are being treated. As you can see here on their website, CBD does address more symptoms than any other cannabinoid listed. But CBD does not do everything, nor does it just neatly work in isolation from other cannabinoids.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta addresses this issue in Weed2: Cannabis Madness, the second of his medical cannabis series on CNN. In Weed2, Gupta shows the amazing recovery effect of CBD oil on epileptic children. But he also points out that CBD in isolation is not enough. His assessment is that these cannabinoids work in tandem, and that there is positive medical effect from the synergisms of the many different cannabinoids. He calls it “the entourage effect.” We just don’t know yet specifically how that works at the molecular level, largely because of our staunch political position.

Cannabis is not what you want it to be — it just is what it is. Right now, we’re still finding out exactly what that means. And while it is a nice thought that we could create effective drugs without side effects, that doesn’t really happen even in the best-case pharmaceutical scenarios. So why do we hold that standard to cannabis?

Until we change the status quo and accept the whole marijuana plant in this country, we are perpetuating the suffering of thousands of Missourians who may benefit from this non-lethal, potentially life-saving medicine. Producing CBD oil for children with epilepsy is a noble first step, but let us not be satisfied nor silenced about the bigger cannabis conversation.

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