Weed Ed | The magic of CBD
A medical revolution is on the horizon, and it's spelt 'CBD'. It's short for cannabidiol, the chemical compound of the ganja plant that is as effective at reducing seizures as it is for pain management.
Across the world, including here in Jamaica, stories of the 'miraculous difference' are plenty after persons have replaced more popular, and dangerous, opioids with cannabidiol.
In 2018, the CBD market became a US$1-billion business. While stigmas and reluctances remain around THC, the psychoactive compound in ganja, CBD's non-psychoactive quality has made its medical acceptance more likely.
CBD is effective at treating a range of ailments due to its interaction with our endocannabinoid system, a physiological function all mammals have that allows our bodies to process CBD and THC.
CBD also interacts with receptors of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that moderates blood pressure and feelings of fear and anxiety and reduces depression. These physiological responses to CBD mean it can potentially address conditions from sleep disorders, to chronic pain, to symptoms of discomfort from cancer treatment.
Backed by WHO
CBD's safety has also been backed by the World Health Organization, which noted in a report, "In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential. To date, there is no evidence of public health-related problems associated with the use of pure CBD."
The powerful US Food and Drug Administration, earlier this year, also approved the first-ever cannabis-derived medicine, Epidiolex, which contains CBD.
Locally, CBD presence and use are notable. One of the chief suppliers of products to the local market is Zimmer and Co, a Montego Bay-based health and wellness distribution company.
Zimmer and Co has positioned itself as the premier supplier of CBD throughout the Caribbean and has been striking strategic partnerships for global distribution.
The company is led by CEO T'Shura Gibbs, who said, Zimmer and Co has 140 CBD products in its portfolio, with 15 available for the local market.
According to Gibbs, the company currently supplies more than 200 pharmacies across the island, and "depending on the classification of the product, they can be sold over the counter via the pharmacy or by prescription".
By law, local CBD products must be registered with the Ministry of Health and should only be dispensed by a pharmacy. In response to increased public curiosity around medical ganja, the health ministry, in a press release earlier this year, stated: "According to the Food and Drugs Act (1975), any substance manufactured, sold or represented for use in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention of a disease, disorder or symptom is classified as a drug and must be registered and the requisite permits obtained from the Ministry of Health."
LEGITIMACY ADDED TO CBD
The ministry also highlighted that the Pharmacy Act requires that the dispensing and retailing of cannabis products must be done "at a registered pharmacy and by a registered pharmacist".
"The fact that the pharmacies are now carrying CBD and that the Ministry of Health is registering these products adds legitimacy to CBD as a medicinal drug," said Jessy Golding, a pharmacist and owner of CJ Professional Pharmacy in Montego Bay, St James.
Golding said that in Montego Bay, there has been wide acceptance of CBD, and he estimates that around 80 per cent of medical practitioners in the west "are CBD-friendly".
He describes himself as a self-taught pharmacology cannabis expert and said he had always wanted to offer CBD products to his patients and started doing so in June.
Golding's pharmacy stocks seven CBD products, with application methods ranging from topicals for skin conditions to more potent sublingual drops and suppositories.
He argued that lack of information is the biggest hurdle the CBD sector faces and that more education will lead to better-informed choices by patients.
"It's very hard to not believe in the product when you see and hear of all the wonderful feedback," said Golding. "I have doctor friends who I've introduced the products to just recently, and their patients are reporting improvement in pain management, insomnia and anxiety," added Golding.
The global CBD industry is expected to double in four years, reaching a value of about US$2 billion by 2022, and a key United States legislation passed recently will most likely spur the industry.
On December 20, US President Donald Trump signed the Farm Bill, decriminalising hemp, the primary source of CBD oil. Hemp, like ganja, was classified as a Schedule 1 drug.
The federal legalisation of hemp means that farmers no longer have to fear the law, hemp companies will soon be able to access banking services, and more conclusive research can take place on CBD's interaction with the body.
Given CBD's potential to treat a range of ailments, this bill will most likely prompt more investment in the industry.
The future of CBD locally is to be seen. Jamaica was one of the first countries to research and develop a medical product from ganja with Professor Manley West's groundbreaking creation of Canasol (and later Asmathol). The application of ganja as medicine is also culturally familiar for many Jamaicans, and with the appropriate legislation, more persons will be able to benefit from its true medical value.
"The (US) Farm Bill passage, we feel, will drive tremendous growth in the market for CBD," said Gibbs.
"As populations gain a better understanding of CBD and the endocannabinoid system in their bodies, we see tremendous opportunities to deliver medicine both in Jamaica and our global markets," she declared.