By Dr. Gil Mobley and Steve Elliott
A tipping point has been reached in modern medicine where the medical utility of cannabis can no longer be denied in a wide variety of diseases. It effectively treats dozens of ailments from neurological conditions like multiple sclerosis and epilepsy to inflammatory conditions as in Crohn’s disease and chronic pain. Miraculously, it can also stop seizures other medications can’t touch.Patients in 21 states and D.C. have legal access to this medicine, and efforts are underway in scores of other states where legislatures are seeking access to medical cannabis for patients with certain well-defined conditions. Public support for medical cannabis remains high throughout the country.
And recently, support for medical cannabis has soared even more after Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s series on CNN highlighted his about-face on the subject. In part two of his series called WEED that aired last month, the physician discussed his transition from a doubter to staunch advocate for the use of medical cannabis along with the need for further research.
“I am more convinced than ever that it is irresponsible to not provide the best care we can, care that often may involve marijuana,” Dr. Gupta said.
The effects of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, are the most well known; it is the compound responsible for the “high” of cannabis, as well as important anti-inflammatory and anti-tumoral effects. Non-psychoactive cannabidiol, or CBD as it’s more popularly known, is the new darling of lawmakers in conservative states who sense the rising tide of popular support for medical marijuana — and would love to appear to be “doing something” — but lack the political courage or will to advocate for an actual medical marijuana law.
CBD is politically safe because, as a non-psychoactive component of cannabis, it doesn’t get anyone high, and better yet, it helps to quell seizures of the kind often found in pediatric epilepsy. So the combination of “helping kids” and “it doesn’t get you high” has proven an “in” for medical marijuana in what would otherwise have been quite forbidding places, such as the halls of power in Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi.Now, when suffering kids, sometimes dealing with hundreds of seizures a day, find relief, that’s a wonderful thing. We owe it to these youngsters and their families to do everything we can to ameliorate their suffering, and we applaud all efforts to do so.
But the disquieting fact about these no-political-risk types of laws (Alabama’s, for example, passed unanimously in both chambers, amidst much self-congratulation) was that (a) they are written so narrowly as to help only a handful of children, or perhaps none at all, according to some critics; and (b) all of the dozens of cannabinoids found in marijuana work most effective in a synergistic fashion, potentiating each others’ medical benefits in what Dr. Sanjay Gupta has called the “Entourage Effect.”
That makes it absolutely vital from a scientific and medical viewpoint that we include more than a measly TWO of the likely dozens, possibly even hundreds, of cannabinoids that contribute to the medicinal benefits of cannabis. The synergistic power of the cannabinoids working together in various ratios to both potentiate and ameliorate specific outcomes represents one of the promising areas of modern medical research. More than 85 different cannabinoids have already been isolated from cannabis, with many more likely to come.Additionally, legislators who pass these “CBD-only” laws seem to be unaware that it doesn’t even have to be a high-CBD strain to treat pediatric seizures without getting kids high. Raw THC — that is, THC which hasn’t been decarboxylated by exposure to heat, which is THCA, or THC acid — has also been shown, in early testing, to quell seizures, and it isn’t psychoactive until converted to THC by heating.
That’s important information for struggling parents who may not be able to afford the sky-high prices of CBD oil which are unfortunately occurring due to the media frenzy over cannabidiol; THC-rich strains of marijuana are much more affordable.
Here on the brink of one of the biggest scientific breakthroughs of the 21st Century, it would be a tragedy to lose much of the incredible medical potential of this plant by buckling to the political pressure of CBD-only legislation. Let’s follow the science where it takes us.
~ Dr. Gil Mobley and Steve Elliott
Editor’s note: Dr. Gil Mobley is an emergency physician living in Springfield, Missouri, where he’s practiced for 25 years. More recently, he has been an ardent medical cannabis advocate not only in Missouri but in Washington state, where he’s operated a clinic specializing in medical cannabis authorizations.