There Is No Such Thing as CBD-Only Cannabis
A chemist and a neuroscientist walk into a grow room.
No, this is not a joke. To Dr. Jahan Marcu, Senior Science Advisor at Americans for Safe Access (ASA), this is very serious stuff, because in this case, the two scientists in question happen to be Dr. Geoffrey Guy, Chairman of GW Pharmaceuticals in England, and Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who needs no introduction. Half an hour into Gupta’s medical marijuana documentary sequel for CNN, “Weed 2,” Dr. Guy opens a greenhouse door with a flourish to reveal the company’s football-field long cannabis cultivation space. Gupta, immediately noticing the pungent smell of flowering cannabis, asks Guy how he feels about the odor.
“I’m not particularly partial to the smell,” Guy replied.
For Dr. Marcu, hearing such an answer was bizarre. “GW knows how important the terpenes are,” said Marcu, referring to the class of organic compounds which gives cannabis its famous smell. “GW standardizes their processes to guarantee terpene consistency.”
The reason, according to Marcu and the other experts who joined ASA for an internet videochat discussing their reactions to Gupta’s documentary, is the so-called “entourage effect” referenced by Gupta’s documentary. Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, the grandfather of cannabinoid research, is quoted as saying that THC usually doesn’t provide the same medical benefit by itself as when in the presence of its lesser-known cousin, CBD. But to Marcu, the entourage effect goes much, much further than that – and he’s got the research to prove it.
As Ethan Russo – a senior medical adviser at GW – discovered in 2011, the terpenes present in cannabis flowers don’t just provide scent and flavor to cannabis flower but also contribute to the entourage effect in their own way, which means that the fragrant organic molecules provide therapeutic benefits heretofore barely understood.
For Marcu, this pharmacological model explains the fallacy of the legislative fad to legalize only CBD, a compound which has been shown to have medical benefits and supposedly provides no intoxicating effect – a claim at which Marcu scoffs. “CBD is psychoactive,” he said. “It’s not like THC, it has a unique and different mechanism, but it does go into the brain and have an effect.” Perhaps that is why the FDA recently clarified that, as far as it’s concerned, CBD is still a Schedule I drug, regardless of the legislative ardor beginning to sweep statehouses as elected representatives begin to educate themselves about the complex chemistry of cannabis. But there’s an even greater flaw to the thinking underlying “CBD-only” bills: “There is no such thing as CBD-only cannabis,” Marcu said. “And if there were, it would not be effective.”
As the entourage effect has shown, cannabis works best as a whole plant. That means research growers like Dr. Guy must produce plants with plenty of THC, CBD and the rest of the cannabinoids; but it also means terpenes, too – regardless of whether they like the smell. And the same entourage effect also means that the latest legislative trend sweeping America’s state houses is missing the forest for the trees.
Article by Jeremy Daw of The Leaf Online