Friday, March 03, 2017

Making cannabis safer

Nearly a year ago, I made the observation here (see the comments to this post) that it seems odd that, if countries are going to legalise cannabis use, they don't also regulate it to make it safer.   I mean, they do it with alcohol (at least within venues where it is served - and I see some places ban the sale of nearly pure ethanol as an alcoholic beverage); why should another legal drug avoid nearly all regulation as to its content?

It's been well recognized for years that THC content has been increasing, for example:  why not legalise strains with a set upper limit?   Also, it seems reasonably well established CBD can be protective of the brain - why not regulate that the sold product has to have a certain balance between it and THC?

Anyway, my very reasonable suggestion has been endorsed by some researchers in the UK.

They do note that not much is known about what a protective does of CBD might be, and the problem might be (I would guess) how many years of research it may take to be more certain about it.

But I thought its protective effects were established enough to at least know you would be doing no harm to take a stab at mandating a certain content for it.

I expect John will be along to comment on this!


John said...

They should make the mandate now because eventually they will be left with no choice but to make the mandate. For commercial purposes the problem is that it is the THC that gives the high and pain relief. The plant appears to be incapable of producing both high THC and CBD content. I'm not sure about that, it may simply be the case that the breeding has always aimed at commercial value rather than maximising both THC and CBD levels.

Boosting both will reduce harm and will probably be better health wise because CBD occupies an immune relevant receptor - CB 2 - and that can have marked anti-inflammatory properties that help a range of conditions including asthma and autoimmunity.

The optimal solution is oil for vaping and\or eating. The contents of the oil can easily be monitored and adjusted. Safer, healthier, easier to regulate cannabinoid levels and safer for the lungs. Studies on vaping for cig smokers indicate 95% reduction in nasties, probably making the risk equivalent to living in the CBD air.

Mayan said...

Prohibition tends to drive stronger variants of drugs. During prohibition, people smuggled and drank spirits because of the logistics. After prohibition, people began to consume relatively more wine and beer.

At the moment, the weight of weed determines the category of offence and penalty, so people naturally grow stronger weed. Subtracting that perverse incentive might see milder strains of weed become more common.

Steve said...

Interesting theory, Mayan, but this article about how many of the legal strains sold in Colorado are getting higher in THC rather than lower suggests it isn't right.

Note also how the cannabis industry there has argued against legislating for a maximum concentration of THC by saying "but if we do that, the black market will just supply it." That is typical of libertarian arguments - all self serving, in the interests of making money, regardless of fact and reasonable policy. It's very similar to the Tobacco Industry running PR emphasising illicit tobacco sales, as a way of encouraging less regulation of illegal tobacco.

Steve said...

Sorry - "less regulation of legal tobacco".

John said...

The issue isn't higher THC because users typically dose up to the required level of intoxication. Nor is it necessarily the THC\CBD ratio because there are many cannabinoids but we know very little of their synergistic effects. Nonetheless increasing the THC\CBD ratio is a necessary first step.

The USA govt as a 2003 patent on cannabinoids for neuroprotection, no doubt inspired by the huge number of articles demonstrating neuroprotection across a wide range of pathologies. Twenty years ago I knew that was going to happen because while studying neurodegeneration I stumbled across a seminal study(Hampson et. al., PNAS, July, 1998) which demonstrated that both THC and CBD had antioxidant potential better than Vits C and E and comparable to the best lab antioxidant available at the time. There was also a study on Mol. Pharm 2006 which found that THC was better at inhibiting the target enzyme for Alz treatment that all current drugs. So I tell my friends that hemp based products are certainly worthy of consideration. CBD is not only a potent antioxidant it also binds to a key anti-inflammatory receptor. Golden green be there.

Steve said...

John, while I appreciate that regular users develop a tolerance, and therefore may want to use stronger cannabis, there can still be a case for limiting the strength of an intoxicant so that it doesn't hit people too fast. (I'm thinking limitations on shots in nightclubs, for example.) This has been some of the problem with its legalisation in Colorado - some young person with no experience eats a whole bag of cookies, unaware of how it will affect them.

It's pretty remarkable, really, that go back to the 70's and everyone was happy enough with cannabis with way less than half the THC in some strains now.

So I think there is a case for both limiting strength, and mandating a certain CBD ratio, too.

John said...

some young person with no experience eats a whole bag of cookies, unaware of how it will affect them.

Yeah good point because eating very much slows the uptake but then it comes on very strong. Tried it a couple of times. On one occasion we ate some cookies then went to the local flea market. I can still remember standing in front of the ice cream Parlor with Debbie but couldn't approach the counter because I knew I would burst out laughing. Never had that problem with smoking because the hit is immediate. With eating though you have to wait at least .5 hour before you know how strong it is.