Technology abounds in advancement of medical marijuana research
By Marguerite Arnold
While medical research is still in its infancy in the United States due to the continued classification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug, there are clearly signs that greater legalization is speeding up and expanding research and development. Perhaps equally interesting is that this is happening in many countries throughout the world, and not just within the borders of the U.S.
“Increasing pro-medical cannabis legislation has opened doors to numerous clinical and pre-clinical studies that test the efficacy of medical cannabis on conditions like epilepsy, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, pain, Alzheimer’s, PTSD and inflammation,” said Alex Topchishvili, marketing director of PotBotics, an American cannabis technology company. “The data from these studies goes a long way in adding credibility to this new industry and pushing it to more medical standards that are embraced by healthcare practitioners across the world.”
“Legalization contributes to much that is good,” said Chris Bunka, CEO of Lexaria, the Canadian producer of ViPova food products. “Our R&D is leading to potential breakthroughs that open business opportunities in a number of sectors.”
Lexaria hopes to capitalize on the growing understanding of the impact of cannabinoids on many serious illnesses. The company owns pending patents to combine cannabinoids with food and fatty acid to improve the absorption of cannabinoids ingested orally. Currently, smoking is seen as the most efficient way to deliver cannabinoids to the bloodstream. That may change in the near future.
“Smoking is traditionally the most effective way to absorb cannabinoids — an average of 30% absorption,” Bunka said. “Edibles are much healthier than smoking, but have poor absorption of about 5%. Lexaria’s technology is laboratory tested to achieve 499% higher absorption of CBD into intestinal tissue, than CBD alone.”
One of the most interesting areas of development is the increasingly scientific approach and tools to select strains of cannabis, particularly for medical patients.
Topchishvili said PotBiotic’s products are designed to “streamline the selection and recommendation process to a point where personal recommendations can be made without the need for patients to experiment with different strains themselves.”
The company’s first product, BrainBot, is “a wireless EEG device that allows general practitioners to analyze neural response to cannabinoid stimulants,” Topchishvili said. The company’s other product, PotBot, “uses scientific data and crowdsourced reviews to recommend cannabinoid levels, custom strains, and consumption methods to patients via in-store kiosk, desktop and mobile apps.”
Topchishvili is also very excited about the future.
“I think that data mining capabilities will be integrated into the core architecture of every cannabis-related product and service with an on/off switch. The data acquisition from connected devices can provide tremendous insights for dispensaries, cultivators, doctors, and the pharmaceutical industry,” he said.
He also sees a huge upside to this, especially as such efforts are integrated into overall health care provisions.
“The word of this century in health care and medicine has been personalized,” he said. “Uncertainty has no place in medical marijuana recommendation, and tools like PotBotics will inevitably streamline and elevate the cannabis selection process to new industry standards.”
While it is still largely stalled in the United States right now, medical research has blossomed in Israel. The fact that the American government funded a great deal of this in the past through the National Institutes of Health while banning funds for domestic researchers is just one part of the story. Nevertheless, the Israeli cannabinoid medical research effort at this point is more than 40 years old and still leading the global pack on innovation.
Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, whose major claim to fame was discovering THC, spoke about the work and products of Kalytera Therapeutics, a cannabis pharmaceutical company for which he is a scientific advisor.
“Lowering the legal barriers for keeping and doing research with cannabis makes it easier for us to advance our research,” Mechoulam said. “If we are successful, our new drugs may replace — to a large extent — the use of medicinal cannabis, which is not a well-defined drug and hence many physicians refrain from using it. Our company is looking at new cannabinoid derivatives as improved medicinal agents.”
Marguerite Arnold is a freelance journalist and the author of “Green: The First 12 Months of Modern American Marijuana Reform.”