Separating The Medicine And The Marijuana

Caduceus_leafWith the popularity of medical marijuana sweeping the country, scientists have been exploring exactly what benefits marijuana offers and how to exploit them. This is no different than the path taken by other plant derived medicines, but research has been limited because of the restrictions placed on testing human subjects with what amounts to an illegal narcotic. However, since legalization is moving forward, more research is entering the literature – and it may be bad news for those who are primarily interested in the high over the medical uses of marijuana.

The active ingredients in marijuana come in two “flavors.” There is the often talked about THC and the lesser known CBD. Each of these molecules comes in a few different forms, but physical and mental effects are separated into one of these two classes of compounds.

For example, THC is noted for causing the “buzz” associated with marijuana and is thought to be the addictive compound. Research out of London has shown that CBDs, on the other hand, are both safe in humans and do not cause the confusion or other mental effects THC does. Why is this important? By extracting out the CBD class of compounds, or by breeding marijuana plants to have less THC, it may be possible to have the medical properties without the high.

Research undertaken in the last five years seems to show that the medical benefits reported for marijuana are, in fact, due to the CBDs. Knowing this, scientists can now target a class of compounds that doesn’t cause addictive effects – removing the controversy of using the marijuana plant for medical purposes.

It may be a case of what you wish for not being what you thought. Marijuana legalization advocates have piggybacked on the popularity of medical marijuana, using compassion as a way to get partial legalization. But if the medical benefits are separated out from the properties recreation users want, the situation changes. Research seems to be telling us that it isn’t the THC which has desired properties, but this other class of compounds. It may certainly come to pass that CBDs are offered for medical purposes while the plant remains illegal.

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