The emergence of public companies pursuing the development of legalized cannabis products may provide a new crop of useful drugs. On March 24, 2009, Medical Marijuana became the first public corporation solely based on medical marijuana. Bruce Perlowin, the company’s CEO, established the firm as a step toward legitimizing the industry after decades of advocating the benefits of legalizing medical marijuana.
Richard Cowan, Cannabis Science’s CFO, noted that the segment got another boost on May 24 of this year when 15 members of Congress led by U.S. Representative Barney Frank (D. MA) urged the Treasury Department to set rules that encourage banks to provide financial services to medical marijuana clinics, which they consider lawful businesses. “This is just one more important step toward a realistic federal policy on medical marijuana,” Cowan noted.
A policy that would assure banks that they won't be targeted for doing business with companies that distribute medical marijuana, would definitely benefit Cannabis Sciences as it buys up experienced growers. On May 24, the company acquired RockBrook, a fully licensed dispensary providing patients in Colorado with medical marijuana as well an experienced grower of medical cannabis in accordance with state laws.
Cannabis Science used to be Gulf Onshore and changed its name after acquiring Cannex Therapeutics. The company is developing products both with and without psychoactive properties to treat disease and the symptoms of disease as well as for general health maintenance. It is looking to partner IND filing and clinical development.
Cannabis Science plans to develop a whole cannabis extract lozenge as its first pharmaceutical product. Initial findings from informal human trials using the whole-cannabis extract demonstrated that it has the capacity to enhance rapid onset pain relief through oral mucosal absorption. The lozenge is a part of the assets and know-how acquired through Cannex.
On June 1, the company said that it was working toward picking up a private company that owned complementary patented intellectual property for specific clinical-stage cannabinoid products and uses.
“It seems inevitable that at least for some period of time there will co-exist two distribution pathways for this medicine,” noted Lester Grinspoon, M.D., emeritus professor of psychiatry at Harvard and long-time advocate for the legalization of marijuana, “first, the conventional model of modern allopathic medicine through pharmacy-filled prescriptions for FDA-approved medicines, and second, a model closer to the distribution of alternative and herbal medicines, where there is little if any quality or quantity control. Either way, growing numbers of people will become familiar with cannabis and its derivative products.”
As individual U.S. states move toward either legalization of marijuana or approval of its medical use, the new corporate voices are adding to the pro-pot choir. These companies can potentially help advance the political debate by providing the long-needed clinical trials to validate specific medical applications of Cannabis sativa and its constituent compounds.
Separating psychoactive from medicinal properties through “pharmaceuticalization” of marijuana may be unrealistic. According to NIH, Cesamet “has complex effects on the central nervous system. Its effects on the mental state (i.e., "inner mental life") are similar to those of cannabis. Subjects given Cesamet may experience changes in mood (euphoria, detachment, depression, anxiety, panic, paranoia), decrements in cognitive performance and memory, a decreased ability to control drives and impulses, and alterations in the experience of reality (e.g., distortions in the perception of objects and the sense of time and hallucinations.”
At least 66 other cannabinoids are also present in cannabis, including cannabidiol, cannabinol, and tetrahydrocannabivarin, which are believed to result in different effects than those of THC alone. Apart from significant difficulties associated with titrating appropriate effective doses, inhaling smoke—which can be avoided through marijuana vaporization—and psychoactive effects, the whole weed may remain the real deal.