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The Science Behind Medical Marijuana


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Title: The Science Behind Medical Marijuana

Table of Contents
Introduction 3 Chapter 1 Chemical Composition of
Marijuana 4 Chapter 2 Medical Benefits of
Marijuana 8 Chapter 3 Importance of Lab
Equipment Processing for Medical Marijuana 12
Conclusion 15 About Genie Scientific 16
geniesc 3
The history of marijuana (cannabis) in America is
a long and winding road. Though the general
populace used the plant throughout the 1800s
with few legal restrictionslaws occasionally
cropped up at the state and local levelsthe
coming of the new century gave rise to various
efforts to demonize marijuana as detrimental to
the public health. The passage of the federal
Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 made recreational use
effectively illegal throughout the country by
placing huge barriers in the way of anyone who
wished to consume cannabis. It wasnt until the
latter third of the 20th century that evidence of
marijuanas health benefits began piling up. Not
only was reefer madness gradually exposed as
hysteria with no scientific basis, it became
clear that cannabis could even promote physical
well-being by counteracting certain bodily
illnesses. The state of California became a
cutting-edge force in the legalization of
cannabis with the passage of Proposition 215
(1996), which permitted the use of cannabis for
medical purposes with approval from the
patients physician. Today, it is widely
accepted by the public that marijuana has a valid
place in the world of medicine. Yet a lot of
misinformation still persists. As cannabis takes
on increasing importance as a curative and
palliative drug, it is vital to progress beyond
the conventional view of marijuana as primarily
a party accessory in order to grasp exactly
what it is and what it does.
geniesc 4
Chapter 1 Chemical Composition of Marijuana
Marijuana is essentially the productsleaves,
stems, seedsof the plants Cannabis sativa,
Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. When
ingested via smoking or eating, marijuana
produces psychoactive effects including euphoria
and altered consciousness. As we will soon see,
the beneficial effects of this drug go beyond a
temporary high. To date, no fewer than 483
chemical compounds have been identified in
cannabis. This collection of compounds includes
over 60 cannabinoids, whose effect on human
neurotransmitters account for the characteristic
psychoactive effects of marijuana. A
comprehensive analysis of the chemical
composition of cannabis would require
substantially more space than we have here.
However, it may be instructive to explore the
most common cannabinoids and the effects they
have on the human body. 5
What Cannabinoids Do Marijuana creates its
distinctive mood-altering effects by interacting
with various cannabinoid receptors found
throughout the human body. Our knowledge of these
receptors remains incomplete. So far,
researchers have classified these receptors into
two subtypes CB1 (located chiefly in the
central nervous system) and CB2 (located chiefly
in the immune system). Cannabinoids found in
marijuana include tetrahydrocannabinol (THC),
cannabigerol (CBG), cannabichromene (CBC),
cannabidiol (CBD), cannabinol (CBN), and
cannabinodiol (CBDL). Lets take a closer look
at a few of these important chemical
compounds. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) THC is
by far the most important cannabinoid found in
cannabis, and it is principally responsible for
the unique psychoactive effects of marijuana. It
works by binding itself to the CB1 and CB2
receptors and triggering a response. The liver
transforms THC into the metabolite
11-Hydroxy-?9-tetrahydrocannabinol (11-OH-THC),
which retains psychoactive properties, and then
to the secondary metabolite 11-Nor-9-carboxy-THC
(11-COOH- THC). 11-COOH-THC remains in the body
for days, and can be picked up by urine tests
designed to detect cannabis use. Cannabidiol
(CBD) CBD is the second most common of the
cannabinoids found in cannabis. Strangely, it
seems to lack strong psychoactive effects, due to
its limited binding affinity with the CB1 and
CB2 receptors. It does, however, seem to enhance
the effectiveness of THC and its medical
benefitsby lengthening its period of potency.
CBD holds great promise as a therapeutic aid for
a number of medical conditions. 6
Cannabigerol (CBG) CBG binds to several
receptors in the body, with a particular affinity
for the alpha-2 adrenergic receptor of the
central nervous system. It has no notable
psychoactive effects, but seems to provide a
range of medical benefits, including pain and
anxiety relief. Cannabinol (CBN) Another
psychoactive cannabinoid, CBN binds to the CB1
and CB2 receptors. It is noted for its sedative,
painkilling effects, and may provide a measure of
protection against the dangerous MRSA bacteria
as well.1 Flavonoids Cannabis has more than
twenty distinct types of flavonoids, which are
plant metabolites that can be found in
everything from wine to peanuts. Theyre noted
for their strong anti-oxidation and
anti-inflammatory effects. Flavonoids that are
unique to cannabis are referred to as
cannaflavins. As we noted earlier, this is far
from a complete overview of the topic.
Chapter 2 Medical Benefits of Marijuana
geniesc 8
At the present time, the United States Drug
Enforcement Administration (DEA) does not
officially recognize marijuana as a medically
beneficial substance. It is classified as a
Schedule I drug (no currently accepted medical
use and a high potential for abuse), along with
heroin, LSD, peyote, and ecstasybut not cocaine
and methamphetamine, as those are listed in the
less restrictive Schedule II.2 Marijuana has
held the Schedule I classification since the
passage of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA)
in 1970, which introduced this system of formally
categorizing drugs according to their perceived
danger to public health. Since the CSA went into
effect, however, a number of scientific studies
have been published attesting to the varied
health benefits of marijuana. A number of
commentators have pointed to these studies as
ample reason to take the substance off Schedule
I. It is true that the science of medical
marijuana, as its called, remains a highly
disputed subject. More research needs to be
done. Even so, the evidence that has been
gathered to datein the form of scientific
studies and surveyssuggest that marijuana may
provide a wide range of medical benefits. Here
well explore some potential uses for medical
One recent study found that cannabidiol (CBD)one
of the major cannabinoids, as previously
mentionedcan significantly reduce the incidence
of seizures in patients suffering from
treatment-resistant epilepsy. The study,
published in the December 23, 2015, issue of
Lancet Neurology, reported a 36.5 reduction in
motor seizures among participants, who ranged in
age from 1 to 30. More promisingly, most of the
patients displayed no adverse reactions to CBD.3
Parkinson's disease
A 2014 study found that cannabis may relieve
symptoms of Parkinsons disease, a degenerative
neurological disorder that develops primarily in
older adults. Conducted on 22 patients who each
smoked cannabis for thirty minutes, the study
pointed to significant improvements in tremor,
rigidity, and bradykinesia (excessively slow body
movement characteristic of this disorder). In
addition, tested patients reported improved sleep
and pain tolerance.4
The Journal of Leukocyte Biology reported in 2013
that synthetic compounds that stimulate the
cannabinoid CB2 receptors of white blood cells
can weaken HIV-1 (the most common HIV strain).
Researchers found that the activity of the CB2
receptors served both to inhibit the growth of
HIV infections and to protect the patient from
certain complications relating to HIV.5
Opioid addiction
A 2015 Columbia University study found that
opioid-addicted patients who were given
dronabinol (essentially a man-made version of
THC) reported a substantial decrease in
withdrawal symptoms as compared with a placebo
group. The study linked consumption of marijuana
with decreased severity of anxiety and insomnia.6
Multiple sclerosis
Cannabis also holds promise in the treatment of
multiple sclerosis (MS), a debilitating
autoimmune disorder with no extant cure. A study
published in a 2013 issue of the Journal of
Neuroimmune Pharmacology discovered that CBD and
THC lower the levels of inflammatory molecules
associated with this disorder. Although the study
was performed on mice, it is likely that these
cannabinoids may have analogous effects in human
Heres another studythis time from the journal
Neuropharmacology (April 2016) highlighting the
potential health benefits of cannabidiol (CBD).
This particular study showed CBD produces
anti-depressant effects in laboratory mice that
had undergone bulbectomy surgery. Mice treated
in the experiment exhibited increased production
of serotonin and glutamate, which play important
roles in cognitive function.8
Alzheimers disease
Journal of Alzheimers Disease reported in 2014
that tiny doses of THC can sharply reduce
production of the protein amyloid beta, which is
strongly linked to the development of this
neurodegenerative disease.9
The July 2013 issue of The American Journal of
Medicine revealed that regular marijuana users
may be less likely to develop diabetes. The study
tracked over 4,000 adults over the years
2005-2010. The results of this study demonstrated
that marijuana use was associated with lower
levels of fasting insulin and HOMA-IR i.e.,
insulin resistance. It also revealed that
marijuana use was associated with smaller
Binge drinking
A 2009 study in the journal Neurotoxicology and
Teratology revealed that marijuana may protect
the brain from the damaging effects of binge
alcohol drinking. Researchers at UC San Diego
found that heavy drinkers who also smoke
marijuana showed substantially less damage to
white matter in the brain than drinkers who do
not smoke. The researchers speculated that
marijuana may partly counteract the oxidative
harm associated with alcoholism.11
Brain injury
Cannabis also seems to protect the brain from the
harm caused by intracerebral hemorrhaging (ICH).
That is the conclusion formed by an international
research team who examined 725 patients
suffering from this condition. Patients who
tested positive for cannabinoids displayed a
lower level of disability at the time of
discharge than those who had no cannabinoids in
their system. The 2016 study, published in the
journal Cerebrovascular Diseases, offers still
more evidence pointing to the neuroprotective
qualities of cannabis.12
geniesc 12
Chapter 3 Importance of Lab Equipment
Processing for Medical Marijuana
Due in large part to the profusion of studies on
the topic, support for marijuana as medicine is
steadily increasing among the general public.
Some people have taken to smoking marijuana not
for recreation but primarily to gain relief from
chronic pain and other afflictions. This sort of
informal therapy is often undertaken without
formal supervision, using marijuana products
obtained from extralegal sources. However, this
is not the ideal solution for people who suffer
from legitimate medical conditions. Problems
with street marijuana Marijuana purchased from
traditional off-the-books sources does not
benefit from any kind of quality controlyou
never know exactly what youre getting. Its not
simply a matter of potentially subjecting oneself
to harmful substances, like pesticides. Medicine
must be administered in a precise way to ensure
optimal effectiveness this is why prescription
drugs come with exact instructions regarding the
amount to be consumed, and the interval between
consumption. With street marijuana, you can never
be certain about the purity of the substance
youre putting in your body. This issue persists
even when marijuana is obtained from licensed
dispensaries, which tend to use unprocessed
plant material that must be ingested in large
quantities in order to create the desired
therapeutic effects. In addition, the fact that
medical marijuana is still forbidden at the
federal level means that the various public
health departments of the government (e.g., FDA)
have been slow to provide guidelines that might
promote healthier processing techniques. As a
result, a number of laboratories have taken on
the responsibility of processing marijuana so it
can be safely and effectively used for medicinal
purposes. 13
High-tech laboratory processing As medical
marijuana moves into the mainstream of our
society, it is important to standardize its
processing. Marijuana users deserve the security
of knowing that the drug they consume has been
subjected to proper oversight. This is far from a
science-fiction fantasyits happening right
now. Heres a brief overview of a sample lab
procedure currently being used to produce
high-grade medical marijuana. Screening When a
laboratory receives a batch of marijuana from the
grower, the plant is tested to ensure that it is
both suitably potent and free from dangerous
contaminants. Dehydration Moisture is removed
from the plant. Crushing The plant is then
ground into powder. Extraction The crushed
plant is then turned into oil via a CO2
extraction method, resulting in a pure cannabis
concentrate. Distillation Separation At this
point, the lipids and fats are filtered out of
the oil. This process should lead to the
manufacture of high-quality marijuanabut only if
it is carried out properly. Lab processing is
not without its hazards. For example, the
procedure of crushing the plant into powder form
tends to generate a massive room-filling dust
cloud. Personnel in the immediate area must wear
protective clothing to avoid getting this dust in
their eyes and lungs. In addition, the use of
high-pressure gas during extraction also poses
dangers. To mitigate these hazards, labs must
utilize state-of-the-art equipment such as
reliable fume hoods, flame-resistant tables,
sturdy workstations, and secure cabinets.
Standardized equipment is key to ensuring that
the public will be able to enjoy the benefits of
high-grade, medical marijuana. 14
Conclusion 15
An increasing number of reputable scientific
studies support the argument that marijuana
proponents have made for decades the plant is
more than just a recreational drugit has
legitimate medical uses as well. With the
gradual acceptance of medical marijuana, we can
expect upgrades in manufacturing processes, such
as standardization of production techniques and
advances in laboratory equipment, to ensure that
this drug meets safety and purity guidelines.
Genie Scientific
Established in 1979, Genie Scientific designs and
manufactures durable, highly innovative
laboratory products, including fume hoods,
custom tables, workstations, and related
apparatus. The company also offers lab design
and installation services. Genie Scientific is
headquartered in Fountain Valley, California.
geniesc 17
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12.
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