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When you smoke, vape, or eat cannabis, you obtain the cannabinoids THC and CBD from any of the thousands of different strains of cannabis plants. Until now, this was really the only way to get those cannabinoids, and trust me, it worked great.
But a recent announcement from a man who knows more about these cannabinoids than most revealed that he has perfected a way to create THC and CBD in a lab setting. Meaning we may soon have the option of selecting our THC from the plant, or from the lab. Better living through chemistry? Maybe.
Merry Jane looks at news from Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, professor of medicinal chemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and he’s someone of considerable note in the cannabis world. As Merry Jane writes: “In the early 1960s, Mechoulam and his team of researchers discovered the existence of CBD, THC, and other cannabinoids. ‘Our first paper was on the structure of cannabidiol (CBD), and a bit later we isolated for the first time THC in pure form and elucidated its structure,’ Mechoulam told the International League Against Epilepsy. In 1980, the professor conducted clinical tests that concluded that CBD could prove an effective treatment against epilepsy.” (Don’t ask why it took 30-plus years for mainstream medicine to recognize this and take action, or you could develop a rage headache.)
The good doctor has stayed busy since, and announced last week that EPM, the company he co-founded with, among others, “six universities from Israel, the UK, and Canada, and two medical corporations” (per Merry Jane), has found a way to produce synthetic THC and CBD acids.
Simply put, these acids—THC-A and CBD-A—are the precursors to the THC and CBD you find in cannabis that has been cut down, cured, and made ready to smoke, vape, or eat. These acids are only found in living plants, and are highly difficult to both isolate and preserve, although some Oregon brands such as Dirty Arm Farm have managed to do so rather well.
These acids have tremendous medical value, in particular for the treatment of a wide range of nausea and anxiety disorders. That ranges from those undergoing chemo, those with PTSD, and virtually every single person I know for the past two years living in the US who follows the national news. (#ITMFA)
“Naturally-occurring CBD acid (CBD-A) has been found to be a thousand times more potent than pure CBD at binding to serotonin receptors linked to alleviating nausea and anxiety. In a study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology last year, Mechoulam and his team of researchers found that their synthetic version of CBD acid, known as cannabidiolic acid methyl ester, can potentially replicate these effects.”
NBC News spoke with Dr. Mechoulam and some of the people involved in EPM and the cannabis research industry. Those conversations gave notable insight as to how the pharmaceutical industry views cannabis as a medicine, which may pivot with these synthetic acids. (Disclaimer: The pharmaceutical industry overall is Satan incarnate, and I concur it’s entirely possible that anything stated may be a well-rehearsed fake-out.)
Dan Peer, managing director of the Center for Translational Medicine and head of the Cancer Biology Research Center at Tel Aviv University, performed tests with acids and inflammatory bowel disease. He’s keen on their potential, and told NBC News, “It’s an interesting molecule that potentially doesn’t have side effects. It works like a steroid. If it doesn’t have adverse effects, then you have a replacement, which is great.”
That “molecule” part of Peer’s statement carries over in the manner of which EPM markets these acids. According to EPM co-founder Reshef Swisa, “We are not a drug developer. We are a molecule developer.” The company has received one patent for its process, with more than a dozen more being reviewed, and plan to market and license their “molecules” to pharmaceutical companies. He thinks the first products will be for psoriasis and inflammation related to arthritis, IBD, and other related conditions.
EPM’s unique products may appeal to Big Pharma more than cannabis plant medicine has, due to the challenges of stabilizing those acids for use in drugs. NBC spoke with reps for several major pharmaceutical companies who brushed off the idea that they were looking into using cannabis to develop new products.
“‘Lilly is not engaged in cannabis research and does not plan on being engaged in cannabis research in the future,’ Nicole S. Herbert, a spokesperson for pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly, wrote in an email.
“A Pfizer spokesperson, Sally Beatty, said the company ‘abandoned’ its cannabis-related patents after it ended research into treating cancer and inflammatory pain.
“‘Years ago we investigated a class of compounds for potential therapeutic value in treating cancer pain and inflammatory pain. Our work in this area was confined to the lab, never tested in patients, and eventually discontinued,’ Beatty said.”