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OPINIONS: CannMed 2016 highlights importance of medical cannabis research

By John Dvorak
Special to Cannabis Daily Record

It was a humbling experience watching more than a dozen doctors, researchers and citizen scientists present at CannMed 2016: a Personalized Cannabinoid Medicine Conference hosted by Courtagen Life Sciences and Medicinal Genomics April 10-11, 2016.

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This groundbreaking conference took place in Boston, a world-renowned hub of medical research and life-sciences innovation. Holding the conference at Harvard Medical School gives much needed credibility to the realm of cannabinoid research.

The overriding theme of the conference was not if cannabis should be used, but how it can be used to treat myriad ailments.

Several presenters including keynote speaker Raphael Mechoulam bemoaned the fact that more clinical research is needed to provide scientifically based quantifiable data so doctors can make the most informed medical decisions.

The major stumbling block to this is the designation of cannabis as a Schedule I narcotic. Talks ran the gamut from technical discussions of DNA and genetic testing to emotional testimonies by physicians determined to provide the best patient care regardless of the federal government’s intransigence.

This is a very personal issue for many as they try to help loved ones when conventional methods have failed. People with refractory epilepsy, approximately one-third of all cases, do not respond well to traditional medicines and this is where cannabis is showing great promise.

The cannabis flower contains numerous cannabinoids and terpenes that can be combined in an almost infinite number of ways to produce different results. The interaction of these compounds is known as the entourage effect and is directly related to the efforts of Medicinal Genomics as they work to identify the genetic makeup and therapeutic properties of thousands of cannabis strains.

While THC has been extensively studied, much more research is needed into non-psychoactive components like CBD. There is a growing sentiment that most uses of cannabis should be regulated not as a narcotic but as a food supplement.

Cannabis has a very wide dosing range and is well tolerated by patients with minimal side effects. There is an optimum dosage of cannabis known as the biphasic dose response. Higher doses can actually decrease a treatment’s effectiveness. For some, a few milligrams work best. Interestingly, children are often able to tolerate higher amounts of psychoactive cannabinoids than adults.

Another exciting concept discussed involves comorbidity, the simultaneous presence of two or more chronic diseases or conditions, such as migraines, fibromyalgia, PTSD and irritable bowel syndrome. Cannabis is proving effective at treating many of these seemingly unrelated symptoms.

Case after case was presented of patients (oftentimes children) with intractable ailments being helped with cannabis. While these single patient trials may not carry the weight of large double blind studies, they still showcase the incredible versatility of cannabis and the vast complexity of the endocannabinoid system. CannMed 2016 will no doubt inspire many physicians to do further research into this plant. Fortunately, they will be determining not if cannabis should be used, but how.

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