News for the “Medical Marijuana”/420 crowd: Israeli firm grows “highless” marijuana strain
Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Friday, July 27, 2012
What if the so-called “medical marijuana” proponents could have their cake, and eat it to?
That is, what if they could have the “benefits” they claim they derive from smoking marijuana, while NOT having its intoxicating effects?
Would they still smoke it?
That would tell the story.
It certainly would.
What a drag, Israeli firm grows “highless” marijuana
By Maayan Lubell SAFED, Israel | Tue Jul 3, 2012 9:48am EDT
(Reuters) – They grow in a secret location in northern Israel. A tall fence, security cameras and an armed guard protect them from criminals. A hint of their sweet-scented blossom carries in the air: rows and rows of cannabis plants, as far as the eye can see.
It is here, at a medical marijuana plantation atop the hills of the Galilee, where researchers say they have developed marijuana that can be used to ease the symptoms of some ailments without getting patients high.
“Sometimes the high is not always what they need. Sometimes it is an unwanted side effect. For some of the people it’s not even pleasant,” said Zack Klein, head of development at . , the company that developed the plant
Cannabis has more than 60 constituents called cannabinoids. THC is perhaps the best known of those, less so for its medical benefits and more for its psychoactive properties that give people a “high” feeling.
But cannabis also contains Cannabidiol, or CBD, a substance that some researchers say has anti-inflammatory benefits. Unlike THC, it hardly binds to the brain’s receptors and can therefore work without getting patients stoned.
“CBD plants are available in different forms all over the world,” said Klein, adding that the company’s plant is free of THC and very high in CBD.
Tikun Olam began its research on CBD enhanced cannabis in 2009 and about six months ago they came up with Avidekel, Klein said, a cannabis strain that contains 15.8 percent CBD and only traces of THC, less than one percent.
Marijuana is an illegal drug in Israel. Medicinal use of it was first permitted in 1993, according to the health ministry.
Today cannabis is used in Israel to treat 9,000 people suffering from illnesses such as cancer, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease and post traumatic stress disorder, according to Israel’s health ministry.
Drug companies have also been interested in cannabis as a medicine. Britain’s GW Pharmaceuticals, with Bayer and Almirall, sells an under-the-tongue spray called Sativex that is designed to minimize highs by manipulating ratios of active ingredients.
Raphael Mechoulam, a professor of medicinal chemistry at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, said Avidekel is thought to be the first CBD-enriched cannabis plant with no THC to have been developed in Israel.
“It is possible that (Avidekel’s) CBD to THC ratio is the highest among medical marijuana companies in the world, but the industry is not very organized, so one cannot keep exact track of what each company is doing,” he explained.
Although there have been no clinical trials in humans, Mechoulam, who is a leading researcher of cannabinoids, said that Avidekel showed promise as a potent anti-inflammatory.
Ruth Gallily of the Hebrew University who works for the company and has been studying CBD for more than 12 years, said she has found that the substance has impressive anti-inflammatory qualities. She has been testing the effects of Tikun Olam’s CBD-enhanced cannabis on mice and expects clinical trials to begin in a few months.
Avidekel is a new strain of a plant that is already permitted for medical use so there is nothing stopping patients who are already being treated with marijuana from trying Avidekel. About 10 patients began using it in the past six months, Klein said.
“The cannabis plant, enriched with CBD, can be used for treating diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, colitis, liver inflammation, heart disease and diabetes,” she said, adding there are no side effects.
“It’s a huge advantage,” said one 35-year-old patient who asked not to be identified, “I can smoke during the day, function with a lot less pain and still be focused, work and drive. It is a great gift.”
The woman began suffering chronic pains after a tumor was removed from her spine. She began treatment with regular THC-containing marijuana eight months ago. Two months ago she started smoking Avidekel.
“The difference is huge. Before, I would only smoke at the end of the day and stay in pain.” Now, she said, with the highless marijuana “my life is so much better.”
Despite Avidekel’s highless benefit, Klein does not see regular marijuana disappearing any time soon. THC has its own unique effects that alleviate illness symptoms.
“Don’t worry, I think that cannabis with THC will still be (around),” he said.
Tikun Olam, Israel’s Hidden Marijuana Farm
Miriam Kresh | January 31st, 2012
Founded by a retired biologist who supplied cancer patients with home-grown marijuana, Tikun Olam farm grows the herb and gives guidance to people disabled by pain.
We may associate growing marijuana with furtive operations and police raids, but in Israel there are at least seven facilities authorized to grow the herb for medicine. See our recent post on Israel’s newly-relaxed regulations on medical marijuana. And while illegal traders make big profits, Israel’s biggest authorized cannabis suppliers simply gift it to licensed patients who can’t afford to pay.Tikun Olam is the name of the farm, and its name, which translates as “repairing the world,” reflects its idealistic origins.
Dora Cohen, a retired biologist with a big heart, began cultivating the plant in two rooms of her own home to help cancer patients. With official recognition of marijuana’s effectiveness in pain management, she and her family founded a facility with 11,000 square meters of greenhouses, automatic climate control systems, and a meteorological station.
The farm is located in an unpublicized area in the north. Police surveillance of the area is stringent, with cameras everywhere and the workers checked for smuggling. Strict safety precautions are taken when the processed marijuana is transported to patient’s homes or to Tikkun Olam’s center in Tel Aviv. When we asked the farm’s spokesperson, Yuval “Tubi” Zolotov, about visiting the farm, he explained that it entails a complicated clearing process through the police. Luckily, he gave us a good picture of medical cannabis in Israel today by phone.
Green Prophet: What’s special about medical marijuana?
Zolotov: The best-known chemical constituents of cannabis are the cannabinoids, and THC is the most famous of those. It’s the strongest one for making a person feel high. But it’s not the most important cannabinoid for medical purposes. We are working on developing other strains of cannabis with lower THC values.
Green Prophet: Do patients get high anyway?
Zolotov: Each person reacts in his/her individual way to cannabis. Our clients are sick people seeking relief from physical or psychiatric suffering. It’s an entirely different atmosphere than when a person smokes it for fun. But presumably some people do experience a mild high. On the other hand, every conventional medication for major pain relief produces side effects and dependencies. Cannabis’s are far milder.
Green Prophet: Once a person has obtained a license to buy cannabis, do they just take the cigarettes home and start smoking?
Zolotov: We provide trained guides on managing safe treatment at home. We can’t recommend dosage because every patient has an individual pain threshold which he/she must learn to manage according to need. Some patients prefer to absorb cannabis through a tincture in alcohol (administered in drops), an edible oil from the seeds, or to eat chocolate or cookies containing marijuana.
(Find Green Prophet’s recipe for Majoun marijuana candy here.)
Green Prophet: Approximately how many patients are authorized to use marijuana today?
Zolotov: It’s hard to say, because cannabis is usually issued only to patients in later stages of disease and so there are a certain number of deaths, as well as new patients, all the time. But we estimate 7000-8000 people. There are 120,000 cancer patients today in Israel; we estimate that in the future at least 40,000 of them will be using medical cannabis.
Green Prophet: Thank you, Tubi Zolotov.