b'SENSE, NONSENSE AND SCIENCEBY: JOE SCHWARCZTHE (CANNABIS) STORY CONTINUES I n the quest for preventative measuresinjected with the new-fangled hypoder- to treat neuropathic pain and spasticity and treatment of COVID-19, no stonemic syringe. The nail in the coffin wasin multiple sclerosis. It is also approved in is being left unturned. That includespounded in by the Marijuana Tax Act. Canada for treatment of MS symptoms as investigating cannabis, a plant that has aThat nail started to be pulled outwell as for pain due to cancer. fascinating history of medicinal applica- in the 1940s when American chemistsCannabis research is complicated tions, but its use is clouded by individualsmanaged to isolate cannabidiol (CBD)by the discovery that there are several who just want to get stoned. and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) fromtypes of cannabinoid receptors in the Cannabis plants were cultivated asplant extract, making the study of thesebody, with THC interacting with some and early as 3000 B.C. in East Asia for fibre,compounds possible. This was no smallCBD engaging others. There is some hope but ancient Chinese texts also mentionaccomplishment given that the canna- that CBD may have potential in treating psychoactive effects and medicinal usesbis plant contains over 400 compoundsParkinsons disease, Alzheimers disease, for conditions ranging from constipationincluding about 100 that have similardepression, insomnia, anxiety, bipolar to malaria. India also has a long history ofmolecular structures and are termeddisorder, post-traumatic stress disorder using marijuana both as an intoxicant andcannabinoids. The most famous of theseand schizophrenia. Randomized clinical a drug. Dried leaves, known as bang,is THC because of its potent psychoactivetrials are needed to see for which of these were smoked or boiled with milk andeffects. No such effect was found for CBD. conditions CBD works and at what dosage. sugar to make a sweet called majoonIn the 1960s, Israeli chemist RaphaelRecently researchers at the University and the resin scraped from the plant wasMechoulam determined the molecu- of Lethbridge explored the use of Cannabis highly prized for its potency to producelar structure of these compounds andsativa extracts with a high concentration exhilaration.discovered why it is that cannabinoidsof cannabidiol (CBD) to reduce the chance The modern use of cannabis as med- have a pharmacological effect. It turnsof infection by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. It is icine can be traced back to Dr. Williamout that these compounds interact withwell known that for the virus to invade a Brooke OShaughnessy, a British physi- receptors in the brain for anandamide,cell it first has to attach to a receptor on cian who in 1833 landed a job with thea neurotransmitter that plays a role inthe cells surface. That receptor is the angi-East India Company. He found wide- sleep patterns, pain sensation, appetite,otension-2 converting enzyme (ACE2) that spread use of cannabis in India, but it wasand pleasure.is formed by instructions from genes in the in a haphazard fashion. OShaughnessyStimulated by historical anecdotescells DNA. Extracts of Cannabis sativa decided that science should be infusedof marijuanas effectiveness in epilepsy,were found to down regulate the expres-into the use of cannabis and tried differ- Mechoulam collaborated with Braziliansion of these genes, meaning that fewer ent doses of resin on arthritis patientsresearchers in a small trial and found thatreceptor molecules are produced. That finding that they were relieved of pain.when 200-300 mg of CBD was added toin turn means the virus has fewer recep-His most impressive results, however,the usual antiseizure medications, epi- tors with which to interact and a reduced were with tetanus. Cannabis was ableleptic patients had a dramatic reductionchance of invading the cell. to prevent the powerful spasms that arein seizures. Further research eventuallyThe researchers suggest that appro-characteristic of this bacterial infection.led to the introduction of highly purifiedpriate cannabis extracts could be used OShaughnessys publication ofCBD extracted from cannabis plants forto formulate mouthwashes and gargles his experiments with cannabis in 1842treating Dravet Syndrome and Lennox- to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-stimulated physicians to explore theGastaut syndrome, two types of child- 19. But before we get too excited about drug further. Russell Reynolds, Queenhood epilepsy. this, lets point out that this study was Victorias physician, found that canna- Epidiolex is the first drug approvedcarried out in the lab on isolated cells, bis was effective in treating migraine,in the U.S. whose active ingredient CBDnot in humans, and not even in animals. A epilepsy, spasm, convulsions as well asis extracted from the plant although syn- cell culture study like this is very far from nerve and muscle pain. By 1850, cannabisthetic THC under the name Marinol (dron- a clinical trial and all it means is that was listed in pharmacopoeias in Europeabinol) has been available since 1985 forfurther trials are warranted, including and the U.S. but fell out of favour becauseboosting appetite in people undergoingtesting the safety of cannabis in patients plant extracts were too variable in com- chemotherapy. In the U.K., a specificinfected with the coronavirus. And so, the position and furthermore could not beextract of cannabis was approved in 2010fascinating story of cannabis continues. EUROPEAN-SEED.COMIEUROPEAN SEED I 55'