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Potcast: A Dearth of Marijuana Research Means 'Herban Legends' Abound

The federal government’s classification of marijuana as a schedule one narcotic has prohibited widespread and rigorous clinical studies on how the drug affects people. That’s left open the door to all sorts of strange ideas and assumptions about what the components of marijuana actually do.

  • Jamie Corroon and Michelle Sexton are naturopathic doctors who consult with patients on the medical value of marijuana. / Photo by Kinsee Morlan

The federal government’s classification of marijuana as a schedule one narcotic has prohibited widespread and rigorous clinical studies on how the drug affects people.

That’s left open the door to all sorts of strange ideas and assumptions about what the components of marijuana actually do — what one might call “herban legends.” For instance, evidence showing that CBD, a non-psychoactive compound made from cannabis, can alleviate pain is weak, and the distinctions between marijuana strains indica and sativa are likely not nearly as pronounced or important as dispensaries claim.

In this episode of the Voice San Diego Potcast, Kinsee Morlan and I talked with researchers and consultants Michelle Sexton and Jamie Corroon about what the medical literature actually shows and where the research might be headed.

“I don’t want to suggest that a person’s subjective experience is not important, because at the end of the day we don’t care as long as they’re experiencing the outcome they want to experience,” said Corroon. “But if we want to make claims about what we think this thing does or that thing doesn’t do, then we need to have a little bit more scientific scrutiny.”

Sexton is also an assistant adjunct professor in the department of anesthesiology at UC San Diego, where the work of the medical center, as KPBS reported recently, suggests there’s a tipping point to using THC, a psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, for pain management.

Funding still remains a problem, and getting products through the FDA isn’t easy, but there’s growing interest in the scientific world.

“Researchers who 10 years ago wouldn’t have considered looking into this now want to be in the middle of it,” Sexton said.

Also in the podcast, we caught up with some of the cannabis vendors at the EarthFair in Balboa Park, and witnessed a group of Christian activists disrupting the weed-friendly celebration. We also sent our friend and photojournalist Vito Di Stefano to San Diego’s “Bayked by the Bay,” a music and food festival held, of course, on 4/20.

Email us your ideas for future episodes.


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