An Israeli grower has made headlines recently by developing a strain of “highless marijuana” that doesn’t produce a psychoactive effect on the user. This didn’t come as a surprise to many of California’s medical Cannabis patients who have had access to these types of strains for several years.
Cannabis contains dozens of a class of compounds called cannabinoids, which are considered to be the main active ingredients for medicinal purposes. The most well known of these cannabinoids, Δ9 tetrahydrocannabinol or just simply THC, is responsible for the majority of the ‘high’ that accompanies smoking or ingesting Cannabis (Gaoni and Mechoulam, 1964). THC is also, by far, the most abundant cannabinoid in the vast majority of modern drug strains.
What many knowledgeable Cannabis patients know is that a second cannabinoid called cannabidiol (CBD) holds considerable promise for its’ medicinal value while not producing any high at all. The list of potential medical benefits attributed to cannabidiol is long and includes potential tumor suppression, antipsychotic, pain killing, anti-inflammatory, and anti-epileptic properties (Izzo et al., 2009). CBD is also known to counteract some of the negative side effects of THC such as anxiety.
Many organizations that routinely work with medical Cannabis patients have received great feedback from members who have used these CBD rich strains to treat a variety of conditions. One such organization, the Veterans Alliance for Medical Marijuana, or VAMM, has sought out and made these strains available to veterans. It has found that many veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder in particular have a positive response to CBD rich cannabis.
“With the current veteran suicide epidemic of 18 veterans per day, VAMM seeks to educate fellow veterans about the therapeutic properties of growing plants in conjunction with using CBD-rich Cannabis in a focused effort to eliminate other harmful treatments and medications and it is showing promising results,” explained Alec Dixon, the Director of Client Relations at SC Labs and a founding member of VAMM.
The problem is breeders looking for the strongest high possible had bred most of the CBD out of Cannabis. Before laboratories like SC Labs came on the scene to give patients access to testing, there was no way for the average breeder to know what the cannabinoid content of their medicine was, other than to smoke it and see how high they got. Since cannabinoids like CBD don’t cause a high, or even counteract the high, they had all but disappeared in significant quantities from the drug strains around the world (Small et al., 1975).
When testing labs began analyzing samples in California and other states, strains with CBD contents 10 to 20 times higher than normal popped up here and there in the general Cannabis supply. Since they were extremely rare (about 1 in 1000 samples), these anomalies generated immediate interest and over the past four or five years, CBD rich strains have become increasingly available to the average medical patient.
CBD rich strains may not be for every patient, but for many they are just what the doctor ordered, literally. For many, the high is an unwanted side effect of medicinal Cannabis use. These patients can still ingest small amounts of THC, but feel little to no high. Or for many, CBD becomes the medicine of choice. Also, CBD’s list of potential applications dwarfs THC’s – meaning patients who have had mixed results with THC rich Cannabis, may only need to switch to a higher CBD content.
Many people also benefit from experimenting with the ratio of THC to CBD. Some of the common strains found on California dispensary shelves include Cannatonic, Harlequin, and AC/DC. Each of these strains have different THC to CBD ratios ranging from 1 to 2 THC to CBD all the way to 1 to 22. Patients report different effects from each strain depending on this ratio.
CBD rich strains may also be more palatable to policy makers and skeptical doctors who might otherwise be leery of endorsing the use of medical Cannabis. Also, the CBD rich Cannabis may be a more appropriate alternative for minors who find benefit from this medicine.
One thing is for certain, the emergence of CBD rich strains can only benefit the Medical Cannabis Community. The unique characteristics of this powerful medicine add a large amount of potential variety and can add a palatable alternative for a much larger swath of the potential patients who might not otherwise be open to medical Cannabis use.