By Veronica Morgan
When I was young, buying marijuana was easy. Sure, there were legal obstacles, but there were few strains, and only a couple of ways we knew to ingest it.
You went to your contact and asked for a three-finger bag, for $25. For you youngsters, a three-fingered bag was a sandwich-sized baggie with enough pot to equal three finger widths.
There were no fractions or weights to memorize. A Thai stick cost $10.
Most people smoked; a few adventurous folks made brownies. Some took cannabis seeds and grew their own.
Today the cannabis market is much more complex. You can smoke, vape, eat, or drink your pot. There are so many strains, with various degrees of potency that you need an expert to guide you to the right strain.
More questions are raised when we add medicinal marijuana to the mix. What makes marijuana medical? How is it different from recreational pot? A recent conversation about a new liquid cannabis called “bubble” got me thinking about how much I know (or don’t know) about the current cannabis market.
When I realized how little I understood, I was prompted to research and to write this article.
What is cannabis?
The plant we are most familiar with in the Cannabaceae family of plants is cannabis sativa, or hemp. (Interestingly, other Cannabaceae plants include hops, used for beer products, but that is another article.) Pop culture has provided more designations, such as pot, reefer, Ganga, hash, or marijuana.
There are two key components in the chemical make-up of cannabis. THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannibol) is the primary compound that provides the feeling of elation or euphoria related to pot. CBD (cannabidiol) has more medicinal properties.
In a recent interview with NPR (National Public Radio), Dr. David Casarett admitted he had been skeptical about medical marijuana, but his research proved him wrong.
Casarett discovered that CBD was highly beneficial for neuropathy, and Neuropathic pain. The doctor explained, “We know that CBD binds to receptors in the brain but not on neurons; it binds to receptors on something called microglial cells which are the cells that wrap around neurons and are responsible for some of the neuron’s structure, holding them together. But they also have an immune function. They’re sort of the brain’s immune cells.”
While cannabis remains a Schedule 1 substance, science has come up with synthetic cannabinoids to prescribe to patients. Dronabinol (aka Marinol) and Nabilone (aka Cesamet) are two of the hundreds of synthetic versions offered to relieve cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, muscle spasms/seizures, severe pain, severe nausea or wasting syndrome (Cachexia).
Realm Oil, or CBD Oil, is a liquid form which has isolated and enhanced the CBD affects for those with seizures, most particularly Dravet Syndrome.
The question that inspired this article was about “Bubble”- a pure form of THC. Just as CBD works for nerve pain, THC provides a blissful form of relaxation. Although this use is primarily considered recreational, there are health benefits to be gleaned here as well.
Dr. Casarett was so impressed with his research findings that he wrote the book, STONED: A Doctor’s Case for Medical Marijuana.
Although Casarett found many practical benefits, he did caution against edibles.
“The problems with eating [marijuana] are twofold: One is the absorption time can be widely variable, so you and I might eat a square of marijuana-infused chocolate at the same time but — because of differences in the way that our GI tracts work, differences in the degree that our livers metabolize the main forms of cannabinoids that are occurring in medical marijuana (CBD and THC) — you may feel the effects within 15 minutes, [and] I may not feel those effects for an hour or more.”
Casarett said, “So it’s fairly easy to get the active ingredients of medical marijuana by eating, but it takes some care and some timing and some familiarity with what you’re doing, how you’re doing it and what the concentrations of THC and CBD are in that gummy bear or that square of chocolate.”
As for Bubble, Dr. Casarett does not address it. Other reviewers explained that consumers need to know the difference between THC and CBD tinctures, as the effects are quite different. Critics complain that synthetics have never been tested on humans, and the safety aspects are not regulated in any way. As with any information, trust your source.