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Big Pharma Seeks to Capitalize on Pain-Reducing Compound Derived From Cannabis (Marijuana)

Truthout – By Maryam Henein – Saturday, 21 May 2016

2016_0520weed
Pictured: (Image: Lauren Walker / Truthout)

The medicinal properties of cannabidiol (better known as CBD), a compound found in the Cannabis sativa L. plant species, are quickly drawing the attention of scientists, plant-medicine lovers, dietary-supplement companies, venture capitalists, professional athletes and Big Pharma — not to mention people living with serious, chronic medical conditions. Insiders predict the burgeoning market will be as profitable as the NFL.

Today, if you run a search on PubMed.gov, a medical research database, you’ll find more than 1,500 academic articles on cannabidiol.

Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD has no euphoric properties whatsoever, and carries no street value. What it does offer, however, are a host of health benefits. According to a 2013 review published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, CBD has been shown to reduce pain and inflammation and also has anticonvulsant, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor and antidepressant properties.

Despite CBD’s incredible profile and ability to reduce human suffering, there’s a continuing debate over its legal status. Parts of the law are fuzzy and up for interpretation, depending on whom you ask.

“There is this issue of speaking out of both sides of one’s mouth when we discuss CBD,” said Joy Beckerman, president of Hemp Ace International, a Seattle-based consulting firm.

For instance, the jury is still out when it comes to a whole slew of issues surrounding the plant compound: Is CBD truly legal in all 50 states, just some states or none at all? Meanwhile, it’s also unclear as to whether CBD is more legal if it’s being imported into the country compared to being grown on American soil. And finally is it safe to sell across state lines? And how about “CBD-only” medical marijuana laws? (Seventeen states, including Alabama and Florida, have legalized CBD for medical use while keeping THC illegal.)

“All of those questions have information but they don’t have answers because [the law is] that gray and it’s that developing,” said Beckerman, who also teaches a seminar for existing practicing licensed attorneys titled “The Curious Legal Status of CBD and Industrial Hemp-Derived Cannabinoids.”

According to CBD manufacturers, US regulatory arms, such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Customs and Border Protection (within the Department of Homeland Security), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Department of Justice, are making it increasingly difficult for dietary supplement companies to sell CBD. They say the current atmosphere is reminiscent of alcohol prohibition in the 1920s.

Some selling “CBD-rich hemp oil” have experienced significant disruptions to their businesses: big sums of money frozen by credit card companies or PayPal, customs agents seizing products at the border and FDA-issued warning notices.

“The [FDA’s] punishments for running afoul of their endless regulations (that, often, their reps don’t know well) can range from a mere letter and a fine to complete shutdown of operations without recourse,” said Jennifer Carney, a journalist who is versed in cannabis compliance. “The FDA is the most unforgiving agency with very minimal oversight, and has rules that seem to apply to some (little guys) but not to Big Pharma.”

Big Pharma Moves In

GW Pharmaceuticals, a “biopharmaceutical company focused on discovering, developing and commercializing novel therapeutics from its proprietary cannabinoid product platform,” is being praised as the leading pharmaceutical company exploring cannabinoid drugs.

While there are other pharmaceutical firms devising cannabidiol-based medications, GW Pharmaceuticals has applied for numerous drug patents that specify particular formulations of CBD and THC to treat cancer pain, childhood epilepsy and multiple sclerosis (MS) — conditions the Cannabis sativa L. plant has been treating for several hundred years.

Some fear that just as the 20-year-long fight to legalize medical marijuana begins to see substantial success, Big Pharma is now swooping in to monopolize both the THC (typically referred to as medical marijuana) and CBD markets. They are often classified together since both compounds are derived from the same plant.

Read entire article here

Posted by Teri Perticone

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