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Everything you need to know about medical cannabis



Plant doctor and cannabis expert, Dr Callie Seaman answers some of the common questions about medical cannabis and explains how pharmaceutical products differ from those found in the related wellness industry.

Earlier this year, Dr Callie Seaman, director of UK hydroponics company, Aqualabs, took a trip to Denmark to visit the licensed research and development medical cannabis cultivation facility, Cannabis Pharm.

Over the last couple of years she has been working with the facility to optimise their growing process and study the secondary metabolite production.

Dr Callie Seaman

After talking with many parents and patients Dr Seaman realised that many did not know how their medicines were produced.

At the end of last year the team at Aqualabs produced a film for Medical Cannabis Awareness Week to highlight the process of cannabis cultivation and extraction.

Here Dr Seaman answers some of the most common questions about medical cannabis and where it comes from.

What are Terpenoids, Flavonoids and Cannabinoids?

Terpenoids are a class of organic chemicals that include cannabinoids and terpenes. Terpenes are aromatic, volatile compounds that create the smell and flavour of plants but also have medicinal qualities. Cannabinoids are more widely known about secondary metabolite within cannabis. They include THC, CBD, CBN and many others. Phytocannabinoids are found within plants; they mimic endocannabinoids that are produced within the human body such as Anandamide and 2AG (2-Arachidonoyl Glycerol).

Can you eliminate THC from your medicine?

THC generates a fair amount of fear for many people, but the reality is it does have medicinal properties. It’s true that it’s what gets you high, inducing a euphoric feeling. But THC isn’t toxic, so you can’t overdose from it although it can produce a very overwhelming sensation. Many strains of cannabis have been bred to have higher levels of CBD and very low levels of THC. Similarly, THC can be removed through the various extraction processes.

Isolate vs full plant extract.

Maybe the easiest way to explain this is to look at the example of sugar. Sugar beets grow in the ground before being dug up and turned into molasses; a thick, brown solution that contains a mix of all the sugars that can be taken from a sugar beet. This is a ‘full plant extract’ of the sugar beet. Molasses can then be further refined into granulated sugar; the fine white powder we’re used to seeing in the supermarket. This is an isolate; a single compound of sucrose in an ultra-pure form.

In what forms are cannabis-based medicines (CBM) available?

CBM comes in many forms. ‘Flower’ and ‘floss’ are both names for the dried cannabis flower, which is prescribed across Europe and North America. This is generally used for pain relief and is smoked or vapourised. Quite often patients prefer a liquid or tablet which they’re more comfortable taking. This can come in the form of tinctures, balms, juicing solutions and concentrated cannabis oil. Similarly, CBM can be formulated into suppositories, cremes and topicals.

What’s the difference between cannabis from clinics and online or high-street CBD?

All cannabis can be medicinal, but there are diseases that require a high standard of product which is consistent and free from microbes. THC and CBN, being psychotropic, are Schedule 1 drugs that require a doctor’s prescription, so they aren’t available on the wellness market. CBD on the wellness market can often be a hemp oil, missing the breadth of compounds that can be found in pharmaceutical grade products.

What are the steps taken to keep products safe for consumption?

Aspergillus lives between the cells of a plant. Smoking the plant can introduce it into the lungs, potentially causing lung disease. Testing in a clinical setting can prevent it from getting into the system. E.coli, salmonella and other human pathogenic disease can live in soil, on surfaces and on our hands so the strict cleaning regimes practiced by pharmaceutical facilities help to ensure the cultivation process prevents the spread of these diseases. Other issues found in untested CMB that can be hazardous to human health include heavy metals, pesticides and residual solvents.

You can watch the full “Where does medical cannabis come from?” video on YouTube, recorded as part of Medical Cannabis Awareness Week 2020 for the PLEA Community.


Six big cannabis sector stories you might have missed this week



It’s been another week of big news in the cannabis world.

At Cannabis Health, our in depth coverage of the ongoing growth of cannabis as a medical and wellness product continues

Meanwhile, over at Cannabis Wealth, we’ve been following all the big industry and policy news in a week which has seen some important developments..

Been busy and want to get caught up in a hurry?

Here are the six things you need to read to stay in the loop this week.

1. Reprieve for medical cannabis patients

The Department of Health has reached an agreement with Dutch officials to extend the supply of medical cannabis oils to existing patients in the UK until 2022.

Medical cannabis patients, living with severe, life-threatening epilepsy were left without access to medication when the UK left the EU at the end of last year.

Medical cannabis

Families, whose children are prescribed Bedrocan oils in the UK but must obtain their prescription through the Transvaal pharmacy in the Netherlands, were given two weeks notice that their medication could no longer be dispensed following the end of the Brexit transition period on 31, December 2020.

Read the full story.

2. UK largest’s medical cannabis trial reports back

The first findings from the UK’s largest medical cannabis patient study show quality of life improved by more than 50 percent.

Preliminary results from Drug Science’s Project Twenty21 study, have found medical cannabis significantly improves quality of life for people with life-limiting conditions such as chronic pain, multiple sclerosis (MS) Tourette’s syndrome and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Published on Tuesday 11 May, the report is the first real-world data to be collected on medical cannabis in the UK.

Read more here.

3. Harrowing first-hand account of medical cannabis user
Diagnosed with a personality disorder and experiencing debilitating anxiety which left him housebound, Craig – whose name has been changed – had exhausted all treatment options and was losing all hope.
He speaks about how medical cannabis helped save his life here.

4. CBD market set to shrink

The UK’s CBD sector looks set to shrink significantly as the roll out of new regulations continues to batter the industry.

The FSA has confirmed to Cannabis Wealth it received applications for 803 different CBD products – but only 42 have been advanced to the next stage of the process so far.

More than half of all applications (445) were ‘incomplete’ and a further 41 have been withdrawn altogether.

Read the full story here.

5. CBD not linked to single doping case

CBD has not been linked to a single failed drugs test in UK sport despite fears about the undeclared levels of THC in some products.

The World Anti-Doping Agency removed the cannabinoid from its banned substances list in 2017 and since then several high profile athletes have publicly endorsed CBD products.

Even though CBD – which has no psychoactive properties – is not banned, the UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) still warns athletes to be cautious with treatments.

Read our exclusive report here.

6. School’s out for cannabis class

The first class on a pioneering university medical cannabis course have concluded their first year of studies.

The research programme at the Humboldt-Universitat zu Berlin examines the medical and nutritional uses of cannabis, production and the legal and economic frameworks of the business.

It’s the latest sign that medical cannabis is becoming a part of the mainstream education offering and a positive indication that new industry leaders will emerge in the coming years.

Full story here.

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Science finds a way for medical cannabis to relieve pain without side effects

Researchers have developed a molecule that allows THC to fight pain without the side effects.



Medical cannabis
Many people living with chronic pain have found that cannabis can provide relief. 

Scientists may have developed a molecule which could allow medical cannabis to provide pain relief without any side effects.

Many people live with chronic pain, and in some cases, cannabis can provide relief. 

But the drug also can significantly impact memory and other cognitive functions. 

Now, researchers have developed a peptide that, in mice, allowed THC to fight pain without the side effects.

According to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) around 20 percent of adults in the states experienced chronic pain in 2019. 

In some studies, medical cannabis has been helpful in relieving pain from migraines, neuropathy, cancer and other conditions, but the side effects can present hurdles for widespread therapeutic use.

Previously, researchers identified two peptides [molecules which are made up of amino acids] that disrupt an interaction between a receptor that is the target of THC and another that binds serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates learning, memory and other cognitive functions. 

When the researchers injected the peptides into the brains of mice, the mice had fewer memory problems caused by THC. 

Now, this team, led by Rafael Maldonado, David Andreu and colleagues, has gone one step further to improve these peptides to make them smaller, more stable, orally active and able to cross the blood-brain barrier.

Based on data from molecular dynamic simulations, the researchers designed two peptides that were less than half the length of the original ones but preserved their receptor binding and other functions. 

They also optimised the peptide sequences for improved cell entry, stability and ability to cross the blood-brain barrier. 

Then, the researchers gave the most promising peptide to mice orally, along with a THC injection, and tested the mice’s pain threshold and memory. 

Mice treated with both THC and the optimised peptide reaped the pain-relieving benefits of THC and also showed improved memory compared with mice treated with THC alone. 

Importantly, multiple treatments with the peptide did not evoke an immune response. 

Reporting in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, researchers say that these findings suggest the optimised peptide is an ideal drug candidate for reducing cognitive side effects from cannabis-based pain management.

The abstract that accompanies this paper can be viewed here.

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Dutch Government to supply medical cannabis for UK patients until 2022

The Department of Health has reached an agreement to continue the supply of Bedrocan oils



The Dutch Government will supply medical cannabis to UK patients until 2022

The Department of Health has reached an agreement with Dutch officials to extend the supply of medical cannabis oils to existing patients in the UK until 2022.

Medical cannabis patients, living with severe, life-threatening epilepsy were left without access to medication when the UK left the EU at the end of last year. 

Families, whose children are prescribed Bedrocan oils in the UK but must obtain their prescription through the Transvaal pharmacy in the Netherlands, were given two weeks notice that their medication could no longer be dispensed following the end of the Brexit transition period on 31, December 2020. 

After outrage from campaigners, the Dutch government agreed to continue supplying the life-saving products until 1 July, 2021 while a more permanent solution was reached.

This waiver period has now been extended until 1 January, 2022.

Health ministers promised to work with officials in the Netherlands to find a “long-term” solution, but according to those at the forefront of the campaign, there is still “some way to go”.

Hannah Deacon and son Alfie Dingley

Hannah Deacon’s son Alfie Dingley, who is prescribed Bedrocan products for a rare form of epilepsy, recently celebrated one year seizure-free.

In a letter to Deacon on Thursday 13 May, the DofH said it was working with the Dutch government, Bedrocan and the Transvaal pharmacy to proceed as “quickly as possible” with the UK production of these medicines.

It added that domestic production is “complex” and that manufacturing “unlicensed herbal medicines” comes with “significant challenges”. 

Deacon said that the UK production of Bedrocan products was the “only solution”.

While other cannabis-based medicines are available in the UK, experts have warned that there is ‘significant variation’ from one product to the next and switching an epilepsy patient’s treatment could be ‘life-threatening’.

“With the 1 July deadline for Bedrolite supply to cease from the Netherlands looming ever closer, we made it clear we wanted an extension to the agreement to stop the situation becoming dangerous for Alfie and the other patients receiving this vital medicine,” commented Deacon.

“The long term solution of Bedrocan products being made in the UK still has some way to go, but it can be the only solution and we thank everyone who is working very hard to achieve this. 

“This is still a long way off from being okay, but for now we have the pressure taken off on the supply issue.”

With limited access to medical cannabis on the NHS, families are still calling for the Government to help fund their children’s prescriptions, which can cost thousands of pounds each month.

Deacon added: “The ever-pressing issue of financial burden on the many families and patients wishing to use medical cannabis in the UK remains and this is a huge issue which needs dealing with.

“There are many ways in which the Government could step in and help access for very vulnerable people and we will continue working as hard as we can to make things better for all.”

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