The interest in the medicinal effects of the cannabinoids found in cannabis is growing as more and more states go medical. Meanwhile, the science isn’t. That’s why medical and industry professionals from around the world converged in Downtown Denver at the Marijuana for Medical Professionals conference last week.
The headliner of the medical conference was the scientist known as the “Father of Cannabis”, Dr. Raphael Mechoulam. He laid the scientific foundation upon which all modern cannabis knowledge is built.
Medical professionals, scientists, cultivators, and industry professionals at the top of their fields all came to hear from Mechoulam. The audience wasn’t disappointed after receiving a keynote lecture from the man who discovered the endocannabinoid system in the human body, and first isolated the THC molecule.
The beginnings of modern cannabis medicine
Mechoulam recounted his initial struggles with funding. In the early 60’s, his grant request was denied by The National Institute of Health (NIH). “Things have changed quite a bit,” joked Mechoulam. Back then, the NIH told him there’s more interest in South America for that kind of science, not America.
It’s still difficult for cannabinoid research to get the same funding as other drugs. It’s an issue the organizers of the Marijuana for Medical Professionals conference hope to bring to light.
“The data doesn’t lie,” said Ashley Picillo, Event Coordinator and founder of Point Seven Group. “When you have the most brilliant researchers and medical professionals all gathering to hear the cutting-edge knowledge coming out of the cannabis space, it legitimizes the need and requests for funding in this area.”
Decades later, the reason for NIH’s change of heart is from their new point of view. Through science, Mechoulam created a legitimized lens for cannabis research. He was a pioneer and advocate for the THC compound in a time when most people couldn’t see past the vilified plant. He revealed a new point of view from which others could see cannabis from an unbiased, scientific, and molecular level.
Fortunately, NIH researchers now admit that modulating endocannabinoid activity may have therapeutic potential in almost all diseases affecting humans.
This new medical point of view is a game changer.
It’s creating interest to study the plant from within the medical community. It’s a backwards approach to medicine from how most other drugs are researched and developed. Normally, it’s the medical world introducing their drug to the patients, not the patients advocating to research their drug.
A call to action
“It’s a call to action, it’s time to do clinical trials,” was Pamela Clum’s takeaway. She heard Mechoulam loud and clear. “He was the pioneer, he laid the groundwork and it was a call to action.”
Clum is a biologist and in R&D for the CBDRx company. She began her botany career with essential oils and eventually found her way to Colorado, the epicenter of cannabis research in America. She explained that there’s over 20,000 peer-reviewed papers on the medical potential of cannabis.“ There’s lots out there and Israel is at the forefront,” she said.
Cannabinoids for diabetes, cancer, and bone marrow transplant patients
Mechoulam’s keynote was a lesson in chemical biology – literally, it was an accredited course for medical professionals.
The honor of sitting through the lecture afforded attendees the ability to see the intriguing data he’s collected from countless experiments. He shared his work on CBD and diabetes – an area that he said could use a specialist with the proper background to expand upon.
One set of his experiments reveal the potential of CBD in combatting diabetes. He dosed some mice with CBD and placebos. Of the ones treated, fewer showed diabetes. “I wish someone to study diabetes and CBD in humans. This happens in mice; it can happen in humans.” Mechoulam continued, “There has been no clinical trials at all.”
His lecture on CBD and diabetes was noteworthy for bone marrow transplant patients too: When the body attacks itself, as in patients who have undergone bone marrow transplants and those with diabetes, CBD has provided positive results.
Susan Squibb is a cannabis advocate, columnist for The Cannabist, and oversees the lab operations at CBDRx. She learned a lot from Mechoulam’s keynote speech. “I’m shocked there were no trials for cannabis and cancer treatments,” she observed. His history of epilepsy treatments and his explainer of the arc of history and research on the plant was great to see – and he backed it all up with historical documents and his own studies, she said.
About the Marijuana for Medical Professionals conference
Martha Montemayor is the founder of HCU education. In partnership with Clover Leaf University and the University of the Central Caribbean School of Medicine, the medical conference was CME accredited.
Montemayor tried to work with local institutions like the University of Colorado, but they told her it was too soon for them to be involved with the conference. She persevered and got a premier keynote speaker to join the conference.
She gave a glowing review of what it’s like to work with Mechoulam. “He is fantastic and very generous with his time.” Her goal with the conference was to bridge the knowledge gap between what we know and what the recommending doctors know.
The science is expanding
Mechoulam keenly put it out there that there’s much to explore with the role of CB2. “There’s nothing on the market (in that area) but I expect quite a bit of that.” Another area he wishes more people would conduct clinical studies on is with CBD and lowering anxiety.
Surprising to many attendees, he also predicted CBD would become an anti-schizophrenia compound in the next two years. In his closing remarks, Mechoulam said “fatty acids like amino acids, and derivatives may lead to better understanding of biological processes and novel drugs.” It was a call to action for professionals around the world.
The opportunities are universal
The conference hosted people involved with cannabis from plant to patient. It’s important for everyone involved with cannabis to hear the cutting-edge research, said attendee Mara Bilibagkich MD, CCFP.
Mechoulam already has colleagues all over the world, in places such as Greece, Canada, Siberia, Italy, Maryland, and England. He frequently travels the world to collaborate with them, except for Siberia, he jokes.
Recently there was a cannabinoid meeting, but it was -25 and Mechoulam said ‘thanks but no thanks.’ “Coming from the semi-tropical climate of Israel, I can’t possibly go to a climate like Siberia,” he said lightheartedly.