Weed Wars

Dispatches from the California Marijuana Front

May 17, 2010
Marijuana used in research lacks potency of dispensary brands

MAJ MEDICAL CANNABIS.JPGDr. Barth Wilsey, a UC Davis clinical researcher, used a supply of government-produced marijuana cigarettes when he conducted an important study showing benefits of cannabis in reducing neuropathic pain.

Wilsey, spotlighted in Sunday's Sacramento Bee California Forum story, Research offers contrasting views of marijuana, conducted clinical trials on 38 patients.

His research revealed that patients smoking marijuana cigarettes with 3.5 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive substance in cannabis, got the same pain relief as those whose smoked pot with 7 percent THC but had reduced cognitive impairment.

Wilsey is now conducting additional research to see if medical pot users can still obtain pain relief at even lower doses.

Yet as they branch out into other studies, marijuana researchers may need to consider that government pot - cultivated for research at the University of Mississippi - is decidedly less potent than what is sold in many California medical marijuana dispensaries.

For example, some of the more popular meds at Harborside Health Center, are triple the potency of what Wilsey used in his study.

Harborside, which tests its product for THC, sells an OG Kush strain that tops out at 24 percent THC with a lower potency level of eight percent. Its Mango OG tops out at 22 percent with a low potency of about 14 percent - well above the highest-potency smoke in the clinical trials.

Wilsey's work was part of nearly a decade of state-funded studies conducted by the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research at UC San Diego.

Wilsey said considerable more medical cannabis research is needed - ideally with hundreds of patient subjects, not just a few dozen.

And judging by what is on the shelf at Harborside and elsewhere, future studies may need to consider what is on the market.

Pictured: Marijuana strains at Harborside Medical Center offer more potency than government-produced pot for clinical studies. Michael Allen Jones/mjones@sacbee.com

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