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Yesterday evening, over dinner, my friend and I couldn’t help but overhear a man on another table espousing the benefits of cannabis. Over a tiramisu, he stressed how cannabis can cure all ills including cancer and Alzheimer’s (There is some pre-clinical evidence, for these claims, but not all of the literature agrees). What our pro-cannabis lobbyist failed to mention, however, is that the modern cannabis is increasingly ditching the health giving cannabinoids in favour of more and more of the psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
A new study from Australia has now backed up these results. Wendy Swift of the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of New South Wales, and colleagues, used high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) to analyse the cannabinoid profile of cannabis confiscated from users by the police. They found that the seized weed showed high levels of THC (at least 15% in about half of the samples) but negligible amounts of any of the therapeutically useful cannabinoids. Good for getting wasted perhaps but not for the benefits I heard promoted last night.
Digging down in the paper though, it seems there is a wide degree of variability in what is, it has to be admitted, quite a small sample (n = 206). The team say there was no difference between the profiles of outdoor and indoor grown weed overall but one of the samples contained a much higher proportion of cannabidiol (CBD) than all the others (6.5% when the mean was 0.14%). CBD has got a lot of attention for its anti-emetic and anticancer properties and I can’t help but wonder if somewhere in New South Wales there’s a supplier breeding high CBD weed for medicinal use. It certainly wouldn’t surprise me.
What we can say for now is that this study shows that cannabis is getting stronger and stronger. I wonder if that might change as more people, like my ‘friend’ from last night, become aware of the benefits of the other cannabinoids in cannabis, and the benefits beyond getting stoned.