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What is medical cannabis

By Health House

Firstly we want to make it clear that Health House does not support the commercialisation of recreational cannabis. We believe that cannabis should only be used as a medicine and that medicines should be prescribed by doctors. Patients need the support of health professionals when taking any medicine, especially when there are side effects to manage.

Using cannabis for recreational intoxication is technically overdosing on a medicine and this should not be encouraged. Medicines should be taken only as directed by a doctor/health professional.

Health House believes cannabis is a natural herbal product that will be beneficial for certain patients and certain conditions. There is a lot of good quality research that in our opinion prove this to an acceptable standard (refer Shaun Holt’s book Medical Cannabis Book - A brief guide for New Zealanders, for more details).

The purpose of our medical cannabis research and development project has been to determine the best plant(s) for medical use only.

CBD good, THC bad? Not necessarily.

There is a lot of confusion about the types of cannabis and a lot of misinformation in the public area.

One of the biggest confusions is about two main active ingredients in cannabis, CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). You will hear that CBD is the "good medical ingredient” and THC is the “bad ingredient that gets you high”. Many people are stating that we should just use CBD and avoid THC, then proceed to put CBD into every imaginable product for almost every condition.

Unfortunately this is both simplistic and incorrect. THC is a very important ingredient and CBD alone is generally not very effective and for many medical cannabis conditions CBD is not effective at all. Many studies have shown that patients would need many times the dose of CBD compared to a product that has both CBD and a small amount of THC. Many patients confirm that pure CBD does not give them the relief they seek.

Hemp and CBD

You may wonder why CBD is so prevalent overseas and promoted so heavily. This is mainly due to the law regarding the definition of hemp. Now hemp is just a form/type of cannabis, but it must legally have very low levels of THC and has been more readily available (though still requiring a licence). CBD extracted from hemp is big business, but in our opinion this is not the best product. Although CBD can be extracted from hemp, it makes more sense to grow a high CBD cannabis plant that has a small amount of THC as well and extract the oil from that.

Figure one is a chart showing the differences between the various types of cannabis.

Cannabis and soil

Cannabis is very efficient at extracting minerals and metals from the soil as it grows. This can be beneficial when it extracts the good minerals and this is why hemp seeds are very nutritious. It is not so beneficial when the soil has a lot of heavy metals or pesticide residue. When CBD is extracted from hemp plants, the extraction process can increase the concentration of these negative elements, resulting in high levels of heavy metals and pesticides in the oil. In New Zealand it appears that it is not going to be legal to make a medicine from hemp, so this is a pleasing decision by the regulators.

Medical versus recreational cannabis

Many people claim that there is no difference between recreational/intoxicating cannabis and medical cannabis. Respectfully I believe this is incorrect and that medical cannabis plants should have more CBD than THC. Illegal breeders have been growing plants that have a high level of THC with very low CBD. Naturally and historically it seems that cannabis plants would have balanced levels with slightly more CBD than THC.

The pie charts below show the differences between the main medical types of cannabis and the intoxicating type. These levels are based on our test results of actual plants we grew.

Note: we did not actually intend to grow the very high intoxicating THC plant. A strain that we were told would be balanced, turned out to not be balanced. This is why our research was important, it allowed us to identify strains that are appropriate for medical use and eliminate those that were not.

My research indicates that the cannabis plant naturally had a ratio of approx. 2 parts CBD to 1 part THC. The high CBD and high THC strains are the result of man’s interference and cross breeding.

Will medical cannabis get me intoxicated?

The most common concern with patients in respect of cannabis is “will it get me intoxicated?” The people we speak to who are interested in medical cannabis do not want this side effect. They want to be able to function normally while still getting relief from the various symptoms that they are considering taking cannabis for.

While the dosage of cannabis is variable depending on each person, with proper management avoiding intoxicating side effects should not be difficult.

The dosage of THC at which the medical benefits arise is low and the level at which negative side effects arise is quite high. We are going to conduct a small clinical trial with our cannabis to confirm these exact levels, but overseas research indicates doses of 5-20 milligrams.

You can see from figure two that providing the dose is managed (by way of prescription), it is not difficult to avoid the negative side effects of intoxication.

The other beneficial part of medical cannabis is that the higher the CBD level, the less chance of the negative side effects. Of course everyone is different and the method a patient uses to take medical cannabis will influence this. Having a good quality clinical trial to determine the dose is very important.

In our next catalogue we will talk about the different methods of taking medical cannabis and how they affect the body differently. We will also talk about the non-intoxicating cannabis acids (THCa and CBDa) and the clinical trial.

Please note :

Medical cannabis is a PRESCRIPTION ONLY MEDICINE and should be discussed with your doctor.

Please DO NOT ask us to supply you with cannabis as we cannot.

All media enquiries should be directed to Dr Shaun Holt.