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Friday, June 14, 2024

Science is Serendipitous: The “good” part of cannabis

You might tell me that all parts of cannabis are good (while lighting up in your bathtub), but I’m going to mention a specific feature that has benefits to the scientific community. It’s not THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), but a compound called CBD (cannabidiol). Where THC has been associated with the mind-altering, “feel-good” high that users get, CBD does not produce this feeling, but rather has more useful medical benefits. Why do scientists care about cannabis? It’s not because of its use as a recreational drug, but its potential use for curing diseases. The cannabis people use for recreation is manufactured to be completely devoid of CBD, so don’t expect to cure cancer by smoking a joint. The secret lies in CBD, which can be extracted and used to treat neurological problems. Cannabis is sometimes vilified as a good-for-nothing, get-high drug, but it actually has amazing properties to benefit from. The scientific community should invest in further study of cannabis to discover all of the parts that can actually help our society.

The reason why I’m looking at CBD is because it has a wider range of medical applications than any other currently known product from cannabis. It’s what the scientific community should be investing in for further study. If you didn’t know, cannabis has several (85 or more) active cannabinoids that scientists can extract and study. When looking into why cannabis gave us a “high” feeling when smoked, researchers found the substance known as THC. They figured out that THC interacts with our brain and causes signals and pathways to change, thus altering the feeling in our mind. It was also found to be useful in managing neurological disorders. The flip side to that is that THC also has adverse effects such as potential toxicity, development of psychosis and even cerebral activity. The studies have been inconclusive as to if the benefit of THC actually outweighs the adverse effects. Fortunately, there is something else we can use, which I think scientists should be focused on — CBD.

CBD also comes from cannabis, and can be extracted just like THC for use in drugs. What’s interesting about CBD is that it does not give patients a “high” feeling and can actually reverse some of the adverse effects that are caused by THC. It’s a much better alternative for medicinal use than THC. The United States government even approved the status of CBD in its drug form (Epidiolex) as qualifying to treat a disease, which is a hard thing to do considering marijuana is classified as one of the “most dangerous” drugs with no medical purpose. Medical cannabis facilities outside of the U.S are also developing cannabis plants that have only CBD as the main ingredient and no THC. What I am seeing within the scientific community, and even in governments that shun cannabis, is an acceptance of the use of CBD to benefit society.

Does this mean scientists should stop considering THC cannabis-based treatments? If you really want to get technical, I would say maybe. Currently I do not see a cause for real benefit from THC, so why use it? It does feel good, but is it really good for you? As always, science is ever evolving and we may find that THC does have real benefits. For now I would advocate the further study of CBD cannabis strains, and development of drugs that can be used by the public to manage painful disorders and diseases.

Wondering how to roll one? (Just kidding). Contact me (uwsufi@ucdavis.edu) or tweet me (@umayrsufi)!


Graphic by Jennifer Wu


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