Our non-profit organization that we set up about 2 years ago has been doing a lot of work educating physicians around the medical cannabis issue. We have realized there is a need for physicians to be taught more and they really appreciate hearing it from other physicians, who either have experience with patients, who are doing research like myself. And this group, its call the Canadian Consortium for the Investigation of Cannabinoids, its a fairly big mouthful, but the CCIC for short, is the group, and that has been really rewarding.
I think that as we accept the medical utility of cannabis. We are going to start to dig more deeply in to the cannabinoids the key constituents of the marijuana plant that are providing this benefit. From a pharmaceutical company perspective, I think there is going to be an interest in trying to isolate those compounds. Or trying to work within the endogenous cannabinoids system that system of cannabinoids, which is functioning within all of us all the time with, out any external influence. Trying to target that with medications that can up regulate the level of cannabinoids in our bodies can eliminate the break down of cannabinoids. So perhaps getting a cannabinoid effect without really taking in a cannabinoid but by enhancing our own endogenous levels. So I think that is one area the pharmaceutical industry is going to be taking. I think another area is trying to improve the over all quality and regulation of herbal cannabis.
I think another very exciting field about cannabis medicines, is the potential effect that cannabiniods and maybe some of the other components of the marijuana plant may have against cancer cells. Interestingly, although this work was initially being done the National Cancer Institute in the 1970s. It disappeared in the United States and most of this work is done in Spain and Italy. And many of my colleagues in those countries are very enthusiastic about the anti cancer activities of cannabiniods and how they work in many different places in the cancer cell cycle. To lead to arrest of cell division, cell migration and metastasis and cell invasiveness. So I think that there is a lot to be studied in this field too that is very exciting.
Treating Yourself, a medical marijuana journal for patients by patients, in a recent article posses several questions, one of the most obvious being: how could anybody give psychostimulants (like Ritalin and Adderall), amphetamines and methamphetamines, to children?
Cannabinoids are immune system modulators, with the specific CB2 cannabinoid receptor found on most cells on the immune system, promoting the Th2 response while inhibiting the Th1 response. The Th1 immune response is critical for fighting infections caused by specific infectious agents while the Th2 response promotes the humoral arm of the immune system. It turns down the Th1 immune response, is characterized by antibody production, and is typically anti-inflammatory. The Th1 and Th2 pathways are functionally balanced to optimally meet the survival needs of an organism in its environment. Many autoimmune and other age-related diseases (such as MS, arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and diabetes) are characterized by an excessive Th1-driven immune response at the site of the tissue damage involved.
Science has found two cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2 (so far) as part of our ‘receptor’ category within the human endocannabinoid system but with further research we’ll soon begin to understand much more about this system (internal compounds much like marijuana). This system also includes degradation, synthesis, and transport. Some of these compounds date back roughly 600 million years and can be found in hundreds of life forms and it is through these life forms that this system evolved with us.
Earlier you mentioned that maybe I was opposed to medical marijuana and I said no I was just dubious. And I certainly was dubious about the use of cannabis in treating ADD/ ADHD. But that was because I didn’t know anything and when I looked into it, I found out that there were at least 40 papers written before 2000 dealing with the endo-cannabinioid system, cannabis, and ADD/ ADHD. And that as early as 1998 efforts had been made in Oregon to add ADD/ ADHD to the list of conditions for which cannabis was appropriate or legal in the state of Oregon. I began to have people mention that they were able to focus and concentrate more with cannabis. I had people tell me that their grades went from Ds and Fs to As and Bs when they started using marijuana in Jr High School. I had one patient come in and attributed their graduating from the maritime academy to smoking marijuana. And another person who said that they were able to get their PHD as a result of smoking marijuana. I started looking into this and found that there were hundreds of research studies that had been done which provided some of the information as to why this might work.
There are a group of researchers around the world, that are very interested in the endocannabinoid system, interested in how that works, how it functions. Elger is one of those people. He and another PHD named Nichol wrote an article that appeared in Scientific America which I believe is entitled The Brains on Marijuana. We have discovered, we meaning scientists not me, at least two endocannabinoids, two different 21 carbon molecules that have receptor sites that can be stimulated by Cannabis. And Cannabis of course, has 66, at least 66 cannabinoids and those are 21 carbon molecules that may have different side chain and every time you have a different side chain you have a different substance.
My name is Sunil Aggarwal. I am a trainee in the medical scientist program at the University of Washington, 4th year medical student, I hold a PhD in medical geography. Recently I was a medical student delegate to the American Medical Association. Cannabis is a botanical medicine that has an established track record of safety, non-toxicity, for 3 millennia of documented history. And effectiveness that’ been shown in numerous highly randomized control trials, all the way to case reports from numerous cultures around the world. Plus the psychologically activating properties of cannabis, which I thought, were important for stress reduction and quality of life. Plus it’s discovery, it helped caused us to discover a signaling system, in humans and throughout most living organisms, called the cannabinoid signaling system which was fascinating from a neuro-scientific standpoint for me.