OTSEGO, Minn. — A new strain of marijuana plant could slash costs for medical cannabis users in Minnesota.
Minnesota Medical Solutions, one of two medical cannabis operators in the state, announced the creation of a new strain with a higher cannabidiol (CBD) content than any cannabis plant known.
The new strain, named the Katelyn Faith strain, was cultivated through months of germination research, MinnMed CEO Dr. Kyle Kingsley said at the company’s Otsego greenhouse and laboratory.
This is likely the most CBD-rich strain in the world, though it’s difficult to know for sure because testing is not as rigorous and transparent as it should be.
The two primary medical components in a cannabis plant, CBD and tetrahyrdocannabinol (THC) are sometimes used to treat different ailments. THC is used in cancer treatment, while CBD helps patients with seizure conditions.
What makes Katelyn Faith special is its CBD to THC ratio. Most medical cannabis has a 1-to-1 ratio.
Katelyn Faith has a ratio of 34-to-1, according to third-party lab testing.
Such a high ratio is “highly unusual,” Kingsley said. America’s most famous medical cannabis strain, called Charlotte’s Web, has only about a 20-to-1 ratio.
Katelyn Faith was named after Katelyn Faith Pauling, an 8-year-old girl from Montevideo, Minn., who died in March due to complications from Batten disease, which causes seizures. She often accompanied her parents, who are medical cannabis advocates who fought to bring the treatment to Minnesota.
“We named this special plant after a special little girl,” Kingsley said. “It would not have helped cure her disease, but it likely would have made a positive effect on her quality of life at the end.”
Users of Katelyn Faith will not experience an intoxicating high associated with illicit marijuana use, Kingsley said. THC is the chemical in cannabis that causes intoxication, and even 1-to-1 CBD ratio cannabis causes very little impairment.
“If you brought Katelyn Faith to a Grateful Dead concert, you won’t make many friends,” Kingsley said. “Charlotte’s Web was commonly known as ‘Hippies’ Disappointment’ before its medical use; Katelyn Faith would probably be ‘Hippies’ Despair.’
“There wouldn’t be enough THC in this entire plant to cause intoxication,” he said, gesturing to a 2½-feet-tall Katelyn Faith plant that was a few weeks old.
Kingsley said MinnMed currently has a roughly 50-50 split of those using CBD and THC, although many have a combination of the two. He said those with conditions such as epilepsy and Batten disease stand to benefit the most from Katelyn Faith.
“The big winner of all of this is the patients,” Kingsley said.
Charlotte’s Web caused an influx of patients to flock to Colorado in 2013 when it became available for medical use. Kingsley said Katelyn Faith could cause a similar “medical refugee” rush to Minnesota like Colorado experienced, as federal law does not allow the transportation of cannabis across state lines, even in seed form.
“It could happen,” Kingsley said of patients moving to Minnesota from out of state. “We look forward to providing medicine to any patients who qualify.”
To be eligible for medical cannabis in Minnesota, patients must be a resident of the state and have one of the following qualifying conditions: cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, Tourette syndrome, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), seizures, severe muscle spasms, Crohn’s disease or a terminal illness with a life expectancy of less than a year. Those experiencing intractable pain — or pain that has not responded to other treatments or has an indeterminate source — are eligible starting Aug. 1, 2016.
The development of Katelyn Faith began about 10 months ago, as thousands of seeds were developed by MinnMed horticulturalists — through natural methods, not artificial genetic modification, Kingsley said.
Kingsley said the strain will help vastly improve MinnMed’s production efficiency, and he anticipates it to drive a drop in medical cannabis costs for patients. He said current patients can spend anywhere from $100 to $1,000 per month for medicine, but most fall between $200 and $400. Kingsley wasn’t able to definitively say how much patients stand to save through the development and use of Katelyn Faith, saying it depended on enrollment numbers.