If you find yourself in the doctors chair at the office of Dr. William Courtney, Willits, California you will be advised; we shouldn’t be smoking our marijuana, we should be eating it!  After I read the story in the Washington Post, “Form of medical marijuana won’t get you high but is creating quite a buzz” written by Karl Vick,  I decided to look into it more.

CBD (Cannabidiol), one of the main constituents of the cannabis plant has been proven medically to relieve convulsion, inflammation, anxiety and nausea, as well as inhibit cancer cell growth.  Recent studies have shown it to be an effective atypical anti-psychotic in treating schizophrenia.  CBD also interferes with the amount of THC your brain processes, balancing the psychotropic effect of marijuana.

In my report,Sativex: Liquid medical marijuana, I talked about GW Phamacueticals, a British company who, with Japanese pharmaceuticals company Otsuka,  have been granted permission by the New drug Administration and the FDA to enter into late stage trials here in the US for treatment of cancer pain and the side effects of chemotherapy with their cannabinoid based oral mouth spray, Sativex.  The THC/CBD spray is already available to patients in the United Kingdom, Canada and Spain for the treatment of MS.

According to GW Pharma’s cultivation FAQ their scientists in the UK can precisely control the cannabinoid composition of the plant and they have bred an extremely CBD high strain. Both Dr. Courtney and some of his patients tried to find a similar strain available here in Northern California but to no avail.  Recently, an emboldened lab, operating in the hope they can avoid DEA interference here in the Bay Area has begun testing plants for CBD, THC and  pathogens like mold.  Steep Hill Lab has found only one bankable strain, “Soma A+” that contained significantly more CBD than any other strain tested.

“What has happened is, almost all strains available in America through the black market are THC concentrates,” said Ethan Russo, a Seattle area physician who is senior medical adviser to GW. “The CBD in almost all cases has been bred out. The reason, cannabis in this country has been cultivated for its intoxicating effect.”

“It’s going to be a few years yet,” said Russo, who in the mid-’90s left his neurology practice in Montana, concerned by the toxic side effects of medicines he was prescribing. He returned from a sabbatical to Peru convinced that marijuana holds the greatest potential among medicinal plants.

“There’s a tendency to discount claims when something appears to be good for everything, but there’s a reason this is the case,” he said. “CBD works on receptors, and as it turns out, we have cannabinoids in our bodies, endogenous cannabinoids, that turn out to be very effective at regulating immune functions, nerve functions, bone functions.”

Russo: “The endogenous cannabinoid system acts as a modulator in fine-tuning a lot of these systems, and if something is deranged biochemically in a person’s body, it may well be that a cannabinoid system can bring things back into balance.”

On an important side note, laboratory studies on cannabinoids including CBD, by other companies and research schools has been largely hindered by federal restrictions on marijuana research.

The catch 22 is the continued classification of cannabis as a Schedule I drug.  This impedes research on marijuana’s therapeutic value, thereby making it’s re-evaluation and re-scheduling  through the normal drug approval process extremely unlikely. In fact, speaking to The New York Times in a January 19, 2010 article entitled, “Researchers Find Medical Study of Marijuana Discouraged,” NIDA spokeswoman Shirley Simson said“As the National Institute on Drug Abuse, our focus is primarily on the negative consequences of marijuana use. We generally do not fund research focused on the potential beneficial medical effects of marijuana.”

In the perhaps $15 billion underground economy that flows from marijuana in California: No one knows for certain what they’re buying. “I can’t breed analytically,” said Jim Hill, a pot farmer in Mendocino’s Potter Valley. “I can only go by patient anecdote: ‘Yeah, that really worked for me.’ I can’t go by graph paper.” reports the Washington Post article.

Sixties activist Fred Gardner edits O’Shaughnessy’s, a quarterly devoted to medical marijuana and named for the physician who brought cannabis to the attention of European medicos. “I think people owe it to the industry, owe it to the people, to do something honestly medical,” Gardner said. “And CBD is honestly medical.”

CBD’s could finally be the link between medical marijuana and science.

Back to Dr. Courtney in Mendocino- maybe nowhere else in the country could a cannabis doctor advise growing 40 plants — enough for one juicing each day on the 45-day cycle required of the auto-flowering strain. What’s striking is the number of patients who truly do not want to get high.  Juicing the fresh leaves instead of burning the dried plant matter does not deliver the same concentrate of THC (the psychoactive component) and recent research has shown that CBD works better consumed raw.  The THC needs heat for activation and because of that,  the raw leaves don’t produce a “high”.  The doctor recommends that his patients mix the cannabis juice (1 part) with carrot juice (10 parts) to counteract the bitterness. Information I found online explained that any cannabis plant has the highest CBD at 70-90 days after sowing.  After 90 days they rapidly produce more THC.  He recommends drinking the juice three times a day.

Unfortunately for most of us, growing 40 plants on constant light cycles so you can provide yourself with enough fresh leaves for juicing will never be a viable option but it’s very interesting to see where this movement could go and what new cannabis products could come of it.  Once labs can analyze the medicine, the cultivators can begin to use selective breeding techniques to develop strains that have a higher or more balanced CBD to THC ratio and then identify them as such.

Dr. William Courtney is pioneering  the raw cannabis concept and for his own validation he explains, he only need look to his once seriously ill girlfriend who consumes the fresh juice daily and has made a recovery from several debilitating illness’ which are chronicled in herNew Settlement interview found on Dr. Courtney’s website, Leaves of Grass.  His site includes links to several articles and studies regarding cannabinoid research and interviews with him on the topic so check it out for more information.

I’ve also been advised by a patient that is planning to grow medicine for fresh juicing, that a very CBD high strain was tested at Spannabis this year called “Cannatonic” and seeds may be available online.  If anyone has any feedback on this topic or any experience with juicing cannabis, please comment.