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How Regulation Can Save The Medical Marijuana Industry

By Laura Kuhl
Jun 29, 2018

Even amid the positive hype surrounding marijuana legalization in Canada cannabis still faces an uphill battle in the United States. It’s Schedule I status forces limitations on research and education. It also threatens the safety of marijuana users. Conducting proper testing and developing safety standards for cannabis is close to impossible with its current controlled status.

Legitimizing a Schedule, I drug in the United States is no easy task. Last year, California experienced these difficulties firsthand when many of the state’s pot growers faced recalls and shutdowns for selling unregulated cannabis. Without regulations, pesticides and potency levels cannot be tested, and an unhealthy product can get into hands of medical patients and consumers.

“That’s one of the biggest reasons for regulation: to establish rules that protect public safety and improve the quality of the product,” Alex Traverso, spokesman for California’s Bureau of Cannabis Control, told The Cannabist last winter.

A standardized research procedure is necessary to understand marijuana’s physiological and psychological effects. Regulation paves the way for proper testing and research by giving universities and cannabis businesses the legal parameters in which to study marijuana. With a better understanding of cannabis, companies, cultivators, and doctors can recommend the right doses for medicinal and recreational pot users.

Difficulties in Dosage

Both cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main active ingredients in marijuana, have medical properties, at least according to some research. Medical cannabis does not need to be high in THC, the psychoactive component, for users to feel the possible health benefits. But each person is different, and doses should reflect the proper CBD to THC ratio for their needs.

CannTab Therapeutics’ (CSE:PILL) is one company studying proper dosing. In June, the company announced the release of their new extended-release cannabis tablets. According to a statement, the tablets “offer a reliable and uniform dosage over several hours.” Each treatment is developed in-house with select strains to give patients the correct desired effects. It is also easier to control and standardize a dose in traditional pill form. Health Canada recently approved CannTab’s future research for more oral and extended-release forms of medical cannabis.

How patients consume marijuana is very important to dosage. There are many different ways users can partake in CBD or recreational marijuana. Each method influences the physiological effects, and each comes with their own risks and benefits. For example, High Times recently published an article on the health risks smoking marijuana poses over the use of tinctures or vape pens. This information might be old hat to seasoned pot smokers, but for the growing market of new users, it can all be very overwhelming. Oral pills and tablets are a familiar way for new patients to discover medical marijuana.

Canopy Growth Corporation (TSX.WEED) (NGSE.CGC) is also bringing their own set of standardized pills to the under-regulated cannabis industry. Last week, they launched a line of color-coded cannabis softgels through Spectrum Cannabis, a medical subsidiary. Each color represents a different ratio of THC and CBD content in a consistent dose that is aimed at helping doctors and patients choose the right treatment for individual symptoms. According to a statement, Canopy Growth will continue to develop more easy-to-dose options for their medical customers.

Standardizing Medical Marijuana

German insurance company Techniker Krankenkasse (TK) recently published a report on the use of medical marijuana by German citizens. On record, there are 16,000 medical marijuana users in Germany using cannabis to treat a range of diseases and disorders, including AIDS, ADD, and Epilepsy. Marijuana claims cost the insurance giant $2.7 million in 2017.

But their report covers more than just the cost of medical marijuana. TK found an interesting relationship between the doses of traditional flower and Germany’s cannabis-based pharmaceutical drug Dronabinol. Patients given flower were allowed up to three grams per day while patients taking Dronabinol were given only thirty milligrams. This finding kicks up growing interest in the differences between cannabis types and methods and what this means for dosing.

In that same vein, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania funded a study by the Institute for Research on Cannabinoids (IROC). The IROC study focused primarily on CBD but found that incorrect dosing resulted in the mislabeling of many CBD products online. Only one-third of products were correctly labeled. Over forty percent of products contained more CBD than advertised, and twenty-six percent had less. The study notes that the products containing less CBD than what was on their label presented the most prominent risk because they “could negate any potential clinical response.”

“These findings highlight the need for manufacturing and testing standards, and oversight of medical cannabis products,” the authors concluded.

While the American government is otherwise delayed in their response to both recreational and medical cannabis, marijuana companies are rising to meet the call. GW Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:GWPH) won FDA approval this week for their cannabis-based epilepsy treatment Epidolex. GW presented research to the FDA prior to approval, a pivotal move toward legitimizing marijuana’s medical capabilities. The company’s research indicated that a 10mg to 20mg dose of Epidolex greatly reduced patients’ seizures when combined with their existing seizure treatments.

GW Pharmaceuticals aims to have Epidolex available by fall of this year, the same time recreational sales are set to begin in Canada. Cannabis companies have the opportunity to bring standardization to pot in a process that could be streamlined for new marijuana investment opportunities in the not-so-distant future.

 

*Photo Credit: Dank Depot

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