One of the most often raised objections to the use of marijuana for medical purposes is a fear of people taking it recreationally. This is a fate that has already befallen a number of prescription drugs, and marijuana, of course, is frequently used recreationally already.
However, the compounds that give cannabis its healing powers aren’t the ones that make people consider it fun. The marijuana part of medical marijuana is chiefly a substance called tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. There are receptors that respond to THC in the parts of the brain that govern pleasure, memory, concentration and sensory and time perception. The reaction of the receptors to the stimulus leads to the sensations associated with being high.
On the other hand, cannabidiol, or CBD, is completely ignored by those receptors. CBD, a painkiller, is responsible for the medical half of medical marijuana, and is often the only part medicinal users need—or want. Researcher Zach Klein notes that people who are using cannabis for its therapeutic properties often find the high an unwanted side effect, particularly people who need medical marijuana treatment but also need to stay functional.
Klein is head of development at an Israeli medical marijuana company called Tikkun Olam, Hebrew for “repairing the world.” Using genetic techniques, Tikkun Olam is creating medical marijuana that delivers the health benefits alone.
The company has created a strain called Avidekel which has more than 16 times as much CBD as THC, possibly the highest ratio of any extant strain.
Other companies are taking different tacks, such as extracting the CBD from the plant and delivering it in a different form. This has the advantage of consistent dosing, but in many cases at the cost of efficiency of delivery, since smoking actually gets the active ingredients into the system faster. Moreover, there is some evidence that trace amounts of THC—which Avidekel contains—can enhance the effectiveness of CBD.