With the legalization of medical marijuana it has become essential to establish a sound scientific basis for its therapeutic use. There have been a number of claims that cannabis benefits many conditions; however, these reports are of dubious value since they are often anecdotal and frequently contradictory. The tests that form the basis of these claims lack standardization, using a wide variety of animals, methods and ways of reporting results. While some experiments have been done on isolated compounds, such as THC, most use extracts from the whole plant where the chemical composition is largely undefined. There are a vast number of compounds (over 80 cannabinoids) within cannabis plants and a tremendous variation in the chemical composition of various cultivars - plants selected for desirable characteristics that can be maintained by propagation. It is likely that the therapeutic actions of whole plant extracts are better than the individual components. Therefore, we will investigate existing cultivars and create new cultivars with different profiles.
Cannevert's research plan includes using modern analytical techniques to obtain a “fingerprint”, a chemical profile of the cultivar extracts, assessing both the raw extract and the extract processed by heat to duplicate the effect obtained by smoking. We will then administer the profiled cultivars to animals to identify their ability to treat disease conditions, thereby establishing a therapeutic profile and associated side effects. The conditions to be tested will reflect Health and Welfare Canada recommendations for medical cannabis use; these are chronic and disabling conditions such as cancer or AIDS, with associated pain, nausea and vomiting, depression and anxiety.
Our goal is to effectively treat these conditions while avoiding severe adverse effects such as analgesic addiction. Laboratory experimentation is a key step for the development of drugs to be used clinically. Because the organs and systems in animals are similar to humans, our test results will likely translate to human outcomes. We will use a battery of well-established experimental models, including standard, whole animal and cultured cell assays. By correlating chemical and therapeutic profiles, we will establish the scientific basis for the clinical use of medical cannabis and reveal the ability of individual cultivars to treat disease. Future clinical trials may lead to improved treatment for many chronic health problems.