CANNABIS IN MASS.: Healing without the high – Opinion – The Patriot Ledger, Quincy, MA


Many people hear the word “cannabis” or “marijuana,” and immediately associate it with getting high and that’s it, the conversation ends. But the plant offers so much more beyond the buzz.

Many are familiar with tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the cannabis plant’s main psychoactive compound responsible for the “high.” But cannabis is an incredibly complex plant, containing more than 400 chemical entities, 60 of which are cannabinoid compounds like THC. But unlike THC, which is also the only compound deemed illegal in the United States, the remaining compounds do not produce a high. What they do provide are a wealth of natural medicines for a myriad of medical issues throughout the entire body.

The collateral damage left in the tracks of THC’s demonization has been an unwillingness by many, including some health care providers, to explore the potential healing power held within all of the other cannabinoids – essentially making them guilty by association. Unfortunately, this even includes cannabidiol, or CBD – a compound proven effective in two rare and serious forms of epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.

This past June, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Epidiolex – the first pharmaceutical drug to ever contain cannabis-derived CBD. It will be used in the treatment of epilepsy. Previously approved drugs were made from synthetic versions of THC and CBD. This speaks volumes for the validity of CBD’s therapeutic value. But parents of children suffering with these conditions are still wary due to its association with cannabis.

One of the most important aspects of CBD is that unlike THC, CBD is non-psychoactive, meaning all of its health benefits can be utilized without getting high.

In the past few months, I’ve experienced a noticeable increase in the number of people coming out of the woodwork wondering, “What is CBD?”

So, how does it work in the body?

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), “CBD interacts with the body through our endocannabinoid system, or ECS – a complex signaling network found in all mammals. The ECS is made up of cannabinoid receptors and substances called endocannabinoids. When the endocannabinoids bind or interact with these receptors, they alter the release of neurotransmitters to relay messages between nerve cells. The ECS is constantly using endocannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors to make the necessary adjustments to keep functions such as mood, memory, appetite, pain, immune response, and temperature in a general state of balance.”

CBD comes in many forms, such as specially bred high-CBD cannabis flower strains, tinctures, topicals, time release patches and gel caps – just to name a few. An effective dosage can range from a few milligrams, up to a gram. The best way to find your therapeutic dose if you don’t have much experience using cannabis is to just start low and work your way up until you begin to feel relief. Personally, I never recommend smoking or vaporizing anything being used for medical purposes – I always suggest starting with a tincture or gel caps.

CBD has recently found its way into the mainstream – mostly due to smoke shops and gas stations carrying various brands of CBD. Like myself, you’ve probably wondered, “Is that the same CBD associated with cannabis? If so, how is it legal to purchase over the counter?”

The difference between the CBD products sold over the counter at smoke shops and those sold in medical cannabis dispensaries stems from their source – which is either cannabis or hemp.

There’s always been much confusion regarding the difference between cannabis and hemp, as the words are often used interchangeably.

Both cannabis and hemp ultimately come from the same plant species – cannabis sativa – just different parts of the plant.

The term cannabis is used when directly referring to the Cannabis Sativa plant. It is what most know as “marijuana”, and contains high levels of THC and CBD.

Hemp, on the other hand, is used to describe a Cannabis Sativa plant that contains only trace amounts of THC and CBD. Hemp is typically bred for industrial uses such as oils and topical ointments, as well as fiber for clothing and construction.

CBD extracts available for commercial sale are derived from hemp, while those produced by state-licensed cultivators are extracted from cannabis. Because hemp contains far lesscannabidiol than CBD-heavy cannabis strains, a huge amount is required to extract a small amount of CBD. Hemp-derived CBD also lacks critical secondary cannabinoids found only in natural cannabis, therefore lacking many of the therapeutic aspects. Since hemp is legal in almost every state, these products are allowed to remain on shelves.

Gregg Padula is an employee of GateHouse Media New England. He has experience in several areas of the cannabis industry, and now serves as an advocate for patients’ and workers’ rights. He can be reached at gpadula@wickedlocal.com.

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