Cannabis is conjuring up a storm in the world of natural medicine. That’s because cannabis contains healthy compounds called endocannabinoids. The two best-known endocannabinoids are THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (Cannabidiol), but cannabis contains 113 active cannabinoids.
THC is the psychoactive compound that gives cannabis users a “high” while CBD is the healing compound that helps fight cancer, manage epilepsy, treat PTSD and many other diseases.
How Cannabis Heals
Other plants and produce contain cannabinoids too, which react with our endocannabinoid system, which is composed of cannabinoid receptors in your brain and central and peripheral nervous system .
This system is so important that your body also produces its own cannabinoids, which help regulate homeostasis (2).
Studies have been giving increasing attention to the endocannabinoid system: there are over 20,000 articles searchable on PubMed detailing the effects of cannabinoids (3).
Cannabis is very easy to grow and harvest, making it incredibly accessible in countries where it’s legal. Many people suffering from chronic illnesses turn towards cannabis to successfully replace their prescription drugs. One survey by the Drug and Alcohol Review found that 80% of respondents used medical cannabis instead of their prescription medication (4).
Since legalization is taking the world by storm, Big Pharma is trying to stay in the money game by through claiming a right to the intellectual property (by way of a patent) on specifically isolated cannabinoids.
The Problem with Synthetic Cannabis
Lab-grown medicines may mimic plants, but they don’t always achieve the same desired effect.
For example, Marinol, Solvay Pharmaceuticals Inc, is a synthetic drug that improves appetite in people suffering from HIV, cancer, and immune conditions (5).
“Dronabinol, the active ingredient in MARINOL® Capsules, is synthetic delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (delta-9-THC). Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol is also a naturally occurring component of Cannabis sativa L. (Marijuana),” explains the FDA (6).
Synthetic cannabis is marketed as a safe alternative to natural marijuana, but it can actually be dangerous. In a recent French Press Release published in Ouest France, a synthetic cannabinoid biotrial conducted by Portuguese pharmaceutical company Bial left six people hospitalized at the University Hospital of Rennes. One of the six was later declared dead (7).
As news of the death broke out, media outlets began wrongly reporting cannabis research as dangerous and deadly. However, Marisol Touraine, France’s Minister of Health cleared up the misunderstanding by affirming that cannabis was not involved in the biotrial or the hospitalizations.
The pill in question is in Phase 1 of its clinical trial and so far it’s unknown why the drug caused such negative effects. Since cannabis is still illegal in France, cancer patients cannot look towards the much-safer natural cannabis to increase appetite and suppress nausea.
As cannabis gains its legal status around the world, Big Pharma is rushing to privatize and claim different cannabinoids while they still can. Many are even competing with cannabis companies on the stock market.