Understanding Medical Cannabis – 1.CannabisTech: Distillation becomes another invaluable step towards a better understanding of individual cannabinoids. 2. CBD Testers: World Health Organization To Possibly Reschedule Cannabis 3. Jerusalem Post: A higher calling: How Israeli marijuana research changed the world

1.CannabisTech: Distillation becomes another invaluable step towards a better understanding of individual cannabinoids.

Short path distillation is an innovative process of cannabinoid separation and recapture.
It’s highly technical but has recently become a crucial step in the production of cannabis vape products, edibles, and other refined cannabis products, which require higher purity than which is achievable through conventional extractions alone.
Cannabis isolates, also known as distillates, may be the tipping point towards full pharmaceutical preparations of cannabinoids from whole-plant origins.

The Basics Of Short Path Distillation

The distillation process and equipment are some of the most specialized aspects of commercial cannabis production.
Root Sciences and Pope Cannabis Distillation are only some of the brands explicitly targeting the cannabis industry with commercial grade short path distillation equipment.
Due to the steep learning curve on all aspects of the distillation processes, most brands provide onsite setup and training for their products.
There is no such thing as plug-and-play commercial distillation equipment.

Rosin extraction notwithstanding, most popular extractions methods used in the cannabis industry all rely on solvents such as butane, ethanol, and pressurized supercritical CO2.
The chemical compounds in cannabis, including the many cannabinoids, terpenes, and chlorophyll, dissolve in the solvent and through the process of evaporation, separate from the unwanted organic plant material to produce a concentrated final extraction.
Cannabis extractions are the input material into the short path distillation system.

The critical difference between extraction and distillation is the question of purity.
Petrochemical and CO2 extractions contain a higher potency of cannabinoids than the raw flower, but much of the unwanted plant matter remains.
An extraction contains roughly the same cannabinoids as the raw flower, just in higher concentrations.
There is no compound isolation.

The premise behind short path distillation is a molecular separation of unique compounds through a process of slow thermal heating.
Each compound in cannabis has a different vapor pressure point or boiling point.
The vapor pressure temperature is unique for each cannabinoid, terpene and any other chemical compounds.
Through precise temperature control of the distillation process, producers easily separate a cannabis extraction into one or more high-purity formulations.
Typically the final materials produced through short path distillation include one or more cannabinoids, one or more terpenes, and any leftover waxes, sugars, and heavy residues.

While distillation works in conjunction with the traditional solvent-based extraction methods, it relies on a slow thermal separation instead of needing any additional solvents.
Depending on the final purity desired, producers can also follow the initial distillation with a subsequent round.
Each round removes more impurities, clarifying the final product even further.
Some producers have recorded purities of upwards of 99 percent.
With that said, there is some concern that the quality of the product entering the distillation process will dictate the purity of the product coming out.
Some pesticide residue may remain even after distillation.

The Pharmaceutical Application Of Short Path Distillation

The addition of short path distillation to cannabinoid processing can produce purities of 95 percent or more.
As is the case with other marijuana preparations on the market, the most common cannabis distillates are the primary cannabinoids: THC and CBD, but there is a growing push to understand and isolate the lesser-known secondary cannabinoids as well as the terpenes.

Whole plant cannabis preparations are experiencing a revival, thanks to a better understanding of the synergistic effect between the dozens of known cannabis compounds.
Based on our current perceptions of the entourage effect, it’s only logical to question the need for higher purity isolates.
Are isolates crucial to the future of cannabis medicine?
There is still a case to be made for distillation for pure pharmaceutical preparations of the plant.
Distillation offers a way to produce medicine with a controlled synergistic effect.

Separating individual cannabinoids into near-pure formulations is one step closer to the creation of specialized pharmaceutical preparations of cannabinoids.
With further study and perfection of the distillation process, medical teams can personalise medicine to the patient and the disease by combining isolated cannabinoids and terpenes as needed.
Of course, there is a long way to go before researchers fully understand the intricate relationship between the individual chemical compounds of cannabis and the endocannabinoid system, but distillation is a crucial element to that process.

Short path distillation is now also evolving with the growing demand for pure secondary cannabinoids and terpenes. Producers are moving away from 99 percent pure THC isolates, and instead focusing on the isolation of novel cannabinoid and terpenes.
Now, instead of removing the terpenes completely, they are often separated from the unwanted plant material in an external chilled collection flask, only to be incorporated into the final product.
Producers are developing innovative ways to purify, separate and recombine isolated cannabinoids into interesting formulations.
Cannabis distillation is just another step towards better understanding of the individual cannabinoids, their relationship to each other and with the endocannabinoid system.

Article by  , a freelance writer focused on the medical marijuana industry, from production methods to medicinal applications.

2. CBD Testers: World Health Organization To Possibly Reschedule Cannabis

For years, many people have considered the schedule 1 labeling of cannabis as unfair and outdated
Earlier this month, members from two separate organizations – Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and International Medical Cannabis Patients Coalition (IMCPC) – delivered a powerful speech at the World Health Organization (WHO) highlighting the value of medical cannabis.

During the 40th annual meeting of the WHO Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD), which met between June 4th and 7th in Geneva, Switzerland, the panel was so moved by ASA’s and IMCPC’s testimony that they agreed to review medical cannabis and possibly reschedule it from the dreaded Schedule 1 category.
Members of the cannabis-related organizations provided the ECDD with one critical review and 3 pre-review reports regarding the positive aspects of CBD, THC, full flowers, and resin.
All the reports presented were in response to previous reports published by WHO.

Cannabis advocates came from all over the world for a chance to be part of this meeting.
For years, many people have considered the schedule 1 labeling of cannabis as unfair and outdated (it was originally scheduled in 1935).
“The current international policies on cannabis are outdated and are having a detrimental impact on patients in the United States and worldwide,” said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access,
“Furthermore these policies do not reflect the reality of over 30 countries globally that have passed medical cannabis laws.”

“The reports posted by WHO are supportive of nations considering rescheduling or de-scheduling CBD, pure-THC, cannabis, and cannabis extracts,” adds ASA Chief Science Officer, Jahan Marcu, Phd.,
“Hopefully, the work of the WHO will allow international leaders to expand access with policy recommendations and changes with reports showing that the public health risk of cannabis and its extracts are minimal.”

Should cannabis be rescheduled to a category where its medical benefits are validated, it could then be prescribed by regular doctors and possibly even be covered by certain insurance policies.


3. Jerusalem Post:  A higher calling: How Israeli marijuana research changed the world

As much of the world debates how to address marijuana use, the vast majority of American states have legalized it or allow it for medical purposes.
Global pharmaceutical companies and hospitals seeking effective treatments using cannabis should look to Professor Raphael Mechoulam, a scientist at Hebrew University.
Mechoulam, a pioneer in the field, was the first to isolate, analyze and synthesize the major psychoactive and non-psychoactive compounds in cannabis and has developed a number of revolutionary marijuana-related treatments. 

Today, roughly 147 million people use medical marijuana for effective relief of various ailments, including AIDS, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, cancer treatment side effects and Parkinson’s.
Experts believe these numbers will grow exponentially in the coming years, and Mechoulam is now widely recognized as the godfather of medical marijuana, the high priest of his field. 

Mechoulam began studying marijuana as a young professor in 1964.
He learned that researchers had isolated morphine from opium over 150 years ago and cocaine 
from coca leaves a century prior, yet no one had tried to understand cannabis and its psychoactive and non-psychoactive ingredients.
Mechoulam and his colleagues became their own test subjects and after a few months not only understood marijuana’s ingredients, but found a way to test its medicinal properties. 

Not long after Mechoulam’s human experiments with THC, the major psychoactive compound in cannabis, he applied for a grant with the US National Institutes of Health, but the response was not exactly welcoming.
“Cannabis is not important to us,” he recalls an NIH official telling him.
“When you have something relevant, call us… marijuana is not an American problem.
” At the time, not a single US lab was working on it.

In 1965, the NIH changed its tune at the insistence of a member of Congress, who was concerned about his son’s recreational use.
Mechoulam had just isolated THC for the first time and discovered its structure.
Dan Efron, head of pharmacology at the National Institute of Mental Health, promised Mechoulam financial support for further research.
In return, the professor sent the NIH the entire world supply of synthesized THC, about 10 grams, which the NIH used to conduct many of the original cannabis experiments in the United States.  

Today, thanks to Mechoulam’s research over the past half century, doctors around the world prescribe marijuana for a variety of disorders.
Mechoulam’s work catapulted Israel to the top of the field of medical marijuana testing. 

“Israel is the marijuana research capital of the world,” says Dr. Sanjay Gupta, chief medical correspondent for the Health, Medical & Wellness unit at CNN.

 Globally, there is an obstacle to wider acceptance of medical marijuana: doctors themselves.
Mechoulam believes that use of the drug is not standard practice because most physicians are not yet familiar with it and because most doctors are uncomfortable with a medicine that can be consumed by inhaling its smoke.
But Mechoulam has played a major role in dispelling misconceptions about cannabis.

“The problem is that for many years, marijuana was put on the [same] scale as cocaine and morphine,” Mechoulam says. “This is not fair. All drugs, starting from aspirin to valium, [have] side effects. One has to know how to use them.”

Until recently, pharmaceutical companies weren’t enthusiastic about applied research on the drug.
The legal ambiguity around cannabis and the difficulty of filing patents on a plant that has existed forever limit their ability to make money. 

“It is still widely believed that cannabinoids are drugs and they make you crazy, make you mad, that they don’t have therapeutic value and they are addictive,” says Manuel Guzman, a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Complutense University in Madrid and one of the world’s leading scientists studying the effects of cannabis on cancer cells.
But, according to Guzman, that’s “based on ignorance.
Knowledge takes time to get absorbed by society and the clinical community.”

At the federal level, cannabis is still illegal in the United States, which prevents serious and ongoing research on THC and on CBD, the non-psychoactive compound in cannabis.
But 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for some medical uses, and according to polling data, a majority of Americans now favor legalization for recreational purposes.
Elsewhere in the world, there is even more momentum. Israel, Canada and the Netherlands all have medical marijuana programs.
Uruguay has legalized pot and Portugal has decriminalized the drug.

All of this gives reason for optimism about the future of medical marijuana research, according to Mechoulam, who is now investigating the drug’s effects on asthma.
It is clear that his groundbreaking life’s work and “never, ever give up” attitude are slowly changing the minds of his peers. “If a Nobel Prize was given on cannabis research,” Dr. Guzman says, “Rafi would be the leading candidate.”

The writer AVI JORISCH is the author of Thou Shalt Innovate: How Israeli Ingenuity Repairs the World (Gefen Publishing) and a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council.

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