How is Marijuana Used for Health? 7 Surprising Conditions It Treats

  1. How Is Marijuana Used to Treat Alzheimer’s Disease?
  2. Asthma, Really?
  3. Fibromyalgia Pain
  4. Calming Your Eczema
  5. Many Uses for Diabetic Patients
  6. Breaking Ground in Autism Research
  7. Easing Menstrual Cramps
  8. Conclusion
We all know some of the most common uses for medical marijuana, but how is marijuana used for other illnesses? Check out these conditions you didn’t know about.

By now, most people in America are familiar with some of the most common uses for medical marijuana. With over 2 million patients using it across the country, there’s a good chance you might even know someone who does.

You’ve probably heard that it’s used to treat nausea in cancer patients and that a lot of people find it helpful in treating symptoms of multiple sclerosis.

Maybe you’ve even seen one of the amazing videos of parents giving CBD oil to their child with epilepsy, and how it has the power to stop their seizures within minutes.

But did you know that medical marijuana has also been shown to treat autism, asthma, and Alzheimer’s? Those are just three of the seven surprising conditions that CBD and THC have been found to help.

How is marijuana used to help treat the things you haven’t heard about?

how is marijuana used

Read on to learn about how medical marijuana is completely changing the quality of life for people with these conditions. Because who knows, maybe there’s something on this list that you’ve been dealing with that could be improved.

1. How Is Marijuana Used to Treat Alzheimer’s Disease?

Scientists are still trying to figure out what is the root cause of Alzheimer’s Disease, the debilitating disorder that affects many people as they age.

One thing they know for sure is that there is a certain type of protein in the brain, called beta-amyloid proteins, which is found in all Alzheimer’s patients. There is something about the protein that causes the disease to get worse over time.

Multiple studies have found that giving THC to Alzheimer’s patients helps to lower their levels of these harmful proteins.

If that wasn’t enough to make someone willing to try medical marijuana, other studies have found that it can be helpful in treating the symptoms of Alzheimer’s as well.

These can be things like aggression, anxiety, depression, and even hallucinations, which can be really difficult to live with, for both the patient and their loved ones.

2. Asthma, Really?

It might seem counter-intuitive, but there are several other ways to get THC into your bloodstream other than smoking it. Marijuana can actually help people with asthma breathe easier.

The cannabinoids in marijuana have anti-inflammatory properties. They work in a number of ways throughout the body to help reduce swelling in areas that trigger different illnesses.

In the case of asthma sufferers, THC helps to dilate the passageways that air travels through. This lets people breathe more freely. It’s been found to be especially useful in treating asthma that’s triggered by exercise.

cannabis use for asthma

3. Fibromyalgia Pain

Fibromyalgia is another disorder whose cause is unknown in the medical community. It’s a chronic condition that causes widespread pain throughout the body and can keep people from being able to sleep at night.

Depending on how bad your fibromyalgia is, you may be experiencing severe pain, nausea and fatigue on a daily basis. These are all symptoms that medical marijuana has been shown to improve.

So while THC isn’t going to by any means “cure” your fibromyalgia, it can certainly make your day to day life much better.

4. Calming Your Eczema

One form of medical marijuana that a lot of people don’t think about it in lotions, creams, and salves.

In addition to those great anti-inflammatory properties that will naturally help treat your eczema, THC also has anti-itch and anti-microbial properties.

So a little bit of CBD cream before bed can go a long way in helping to get your eczema symptoms under control.

5. Many Uses for Diabetic Patients

People with diabetes have a hard time regulating their insulin levels. This is why diabetics always need to keep track of their blood sugar to make sure that it stays at a safe level.

Medical marijuana has been shown to help keep blood sugar levels stable, and to even cause them to produce more insulin and better regulate it.

Another big part of managing diabetes is to eat as healthy as possible to help keep your weight down. Marijuana can help with this, as it’s been linked to lower rates of obesity.

It’s important to work with a doctor to figure out the right dose and method of consumption. For instance, you’re not going to want to use a strain that increases your appetite, because that would only hurt your cause.

marijuana use for diabetes

6. Breaking Ground in Autism Research

Autism might be one of the last conditions you would think of when talking about medical marijuana, but in fact, a lot of exciting research has been done into its possible benefits.

Many people with autism have a hard time processing sensory details – lights, sounds, vibrations, smells, whatever is surrounding them. All of these things can become overwhelming to the point where they are unable to function or communicate.

Low doses of THC have been found to help people with autism be able to better process the things around them. It also helps them identify their bodies in space and time, which can be a challenge for many people.

Hope Grows for Autism is an organization started by Erica Daniels, the mother of a child with autism. Erica is advocating that more research needs to be done into the ways that medical marijuana can help people with autism.

7. Easing Menstrual Cramps

For all you ladies out there, one potential use for medical marijuana that you might not have considered is in helping to ease the pain of menstrual cramps. Because for some women they can be downright debilitating.

Whoopie Goldberg actually started her own line of marijuana-infused products that are aimed specifically at targeting menstrual cramps.

Her brand, Whoopie & Maya, sells a variety of things like tinctures, lotions and bath soaks, all designed to help you get through that time of the month with less pain.

The Possibilities for Medical Marijuana Don’t Stop There

There is research happening right now to see how medical marijuana can help people dealing with these conditions, as well as a wide range of other problems. The possible uses for medical marijuana continue to grow and become more clear as it is slowly legalized across the United States.

How is marijuana used for so many different ailments and illnesses? We’re not exactly sure, but it’s pretty amazing.

Don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions you might have about how you can use marijuana to treat conditions that are affecting you.

Study: Cannabis Inhalation Not Associated With COPD, Other Tobacco-Related Harms

London, United Kingdom: Cannabis smoke exposure, even long-term, is not positively associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer, or irreversible airway damage, according to a literature review published in the journal Breathe.

British researchers reviewed nearly 20 observational studies assessing cannabis inhalation and lung health, involving over 25,000 subjects.

Investigators reported that the available literature fails to support an association between cannabis smoke exposure and the onset of COPD, emphysema, lung cancer, shortness of breath, or irreversible airway damage. “The long-term respiratory effects of cannabis differ from traditional smoking,” authors concluded. “[C]annabis smoking does not appear to be carcinogenic.”

Researchers did identify a link between marijuana inhalation and more frequent cough, sputum production, wheezing, and chronic bronchitis – though they acknowledged that these symptoms largely cease upon quitting. Authors also acknowledged that vaporizing cannabis – a process which activates cannabinoids, but does not heat them to the point of combustion – reduces many of these symptoms.

The study’s findings are similar to those of others reporting that cannabis smoke and tobacco smoke differ significantly in their health effects, and that long-term marijuana smoke exposure is not associated with poor lung health.

For more information, contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: paul@norml.org. Full text of the study, “Marijuana and the lung: hysteria or cause for concern?”, appears in Breathe. See the NORML fact-sheet, “Cannabis Exposure and Lung Health.”

New study says CBD works best when combined with other cannabinoids

Many people know about the medical benefits of cannabidiol (CBD), a cannabinoid found in marijuana. But it turns out taking CBD alone may not be the most effective way to get those benefits, writes Joseph Misulonas.

A study conducted over a four year period in Brazil examined how CBD helped patients with epilepsy. As with many other studies on the subject, the researchers found about two-thirds of people with otherwise untreatable epilepsy showed signs of improvement when given CBD.

But more interestingly, they found that patients who received CBD that included amounts of other cannabinoids such as THC were more likely to show improvement than people who received pure CBD with no other amounts of cannabinoids. 71 percent of patients who received CBD extracts that contained small amounts of other cannabinoids showed improvement, compared to only 36 percent of patients who received pure CBD.

This study would seem to prove the idea of the “Entourage Effect,” a theory among cannabis enthusiasts that all the different cannabinoids in marijuana work together to produce the ideal effect. For instance, the presence of CBD in marijuana helps temper some of the psychoactive effects of THC. But the Entourage Effect was mostly hypothetical and there wasn’t any real scientific research backing up until now.

This research is particularly noteworthy because some states without legalized medical marijuana do allow for CBD medications that contain little to no amounts of THC for people with severe cases of epilepsy. This study would suggest that those medications are not as effective as ones that do contain a stronger presence of other cannabinoids.

Canada: Why cannabis vape pens and concentrates are illegal

Cannabis vape pens can be found in several dispensaries across Vancouver. But after October 17, cannabis concentrates and vape pens will not be allowed.

Vape pens allow cannabis users to ingest concentrated extracts from the cannabis plant.

Cannabis concentrates usually consist of THC extract, or the less psychoactive component, CBD. They are sold in either liquid form or a waxy substance.

Vape pens are portable battery-powered devices.They are easy to use, do not produce any smoke and emit little odour.

“There’s also this perception that these vape pens for cannabis give a cleaner high because you aren’t inhaling burnt plant matter like you would if you were smoking a joint,” On the Coast‘s Greenlit columnist Rohit Joseph told host Gloria Macarenko.

But the government has not yet found a way to regulate these products.

Health Concerns

Cannabis concentrates are created by an industrial process, so they are not natural products. Chemicals are commonly used to extract the cannabis molecules from the flower and create the concentrates, according to Milloy

But there are some potential benefits, says Milloy. Getting a specific dose of cannabis is much easier with vape pens than by smoking it.

The black market

A California-based company called dosist legally manufactures vaporizing products. But while the company has an office in Vancouver, it only sells its products in California due to current regulations.

“If the government’s mandate is to protect children and stamp out the black market, this is the single biggest gift that the government could give the black market. To allow for certain forms of cannabis, and not all,” said Josh Campbell, president of dosist.

Campbell says the black market will move away from selling the cannabis flower, and begin creating oil, which has much higher value and concentration. Because concentrates are unregulated, the black market will have an opportunity to make money off of them.

In the California legal market, nearly a quarter of sales in 2016 were for cannabis vape cartridges, according to marijuana delivery service Eaze. In Washington state, dry bud sales fell to 61 per cent from 87 per cent in just two years of cannabis vape cartridges being available.

Campbell says he would not be surprised if cannabis vape pens and other concentrate products surpass the dry bud market within five years of recreational legalization.

In the meantime, those purchasing concentrates will be taking a risk, says Joseph. Consumers will have no assurance of what is in the products until they are regulated.

Canada: From hydroponics to robotics, a medical cannabis grower took StarMetro through his process from seed to harvest

Hydroponics, robotics, high-powered lights — growing weed on an industrial level is a serious business. But according to one local independent grower, getting cannabis to flower is as simple as tending to a house plant.

Tom Neumann, who has a medical licence to grow and consume on his farm in Ardrossan east of Edmonton, thinks anyone who is curious should give growing a shot when it becomes legal on Oct. 17. Each household is permitted to grow four plants.

“It’s no different than growing any other plant,” Neumann said. “My parents managed apartments when I was a kid, and my brother used to grow (marijuana plants) in the hallway.”

Neumann, who recently left the construction business, got a federal licence three years ago to treat arthritis and back pain. His wife also got a growing licence after she was diagnosed with cancer, and the couple started experimenting with oils that helped her through chemotherapy. She has since finished her treatments and recovered.

Neumann’s son also obtained a medical licence and grows on the family farm. Neumann has signed on as a designated grower for a young terminal cancer patient in the community.

Together, the family is legally allowed to grow 38 plants on the farm, where Neumann took StarMetro through his process. He said anyone can get started for $100. He starts growing seeds indoors under 400-watt high-pressure sodium lights, which he estimates add about $20 to his monthly power bill.

Seeds are available at head shops, although it is currently illegal to grow them at home unless you have a medical grower’s licence. At Jupiter on Whyte Ave. in Edmonton, packs of five can run for as low as $40 while a three-pack can go for up to $150, depending on a strain’s genetics and popularity.

Neumann starts each seed in its own pot and, in general, he says the bigger the pot, the bigger the plant. He prefers planting each seed in three- to five-gallon pots in soil with a peat moss base that is enriched with compost from his farm that consists mostly fruit and vegetable scraps.


Tom Neumann tends to some young cannabis plants at his legal home grow operation on Thursday near Ardrossan, Alta. 

It takes two to nine months from seed to harvest, depending on the strain, watering four times a week with grow lights trained on the plants for 12 hours a day.

Weather permitting, Neumann prefers to move the plants outside after six weeks, allowing the plants grow taller. Outdoor plants can produce as much as 10 times the yield of an indoor plant. His biggest plant right now stands at about five feet, but he expects it to grow as high as nine feet and produce a kilogram of pot.

The plants are cut down before the buds can flower and are hung up in his cool and dark basement to dry.

“You don’t want it too humid, you don’t want it too dry,” Neumann said, adding it’s important for growers to check them every day and feel the buds. Some growers say the leaves and buds can come off the stalk once the branches are dry enough to snap, but he personally prefers to cut it before they get to that point.

Curing comes next, which is done in sealed glass jars, and the weed is periodically “burped,” meaning the cap is unscrewed for an hour to let out humidity and gas and “get rid of the stinky stuff you don’t want.” He does this every day for the first week, and every third day for the next two weeks.

His 38 plants can produce up to 20 kilograms of marijuana a year.

He has a workshop in a shed for indoor growing, and a fenced-off area at the back of his vegetable garden for the outdoor plants. Finding the right care regime depends on each individual plant and its environment, as well as the grower’s preference.

Tom Neumann talks about some of his methods for growing cannabis at his legal home grow operation on Thursday near Ardrossan, Alta.
Tom Neumann talks about some of his methods for growing cannabis at his legal home grow operation on Thursday near Ardrossan, Alta.

“It’s practice. It’s like growing tomatoes,” he said. “If you plant the first seeds and they don’t grow, then next time they grow because you did it a little different. But it’s not difficult.” Growers can use cuttings of plants — called clones — instead of seeds, but Neumann said it’s trickier because a clone will put roots down from the side of a stem and grow sideways.

In six weeks, Neumann plans to launch an interactive web series called the “Grow Show” that will teach people around the world how to grow. He will live-stream the one-hour show on his website three times a week at 4:20 p.m. PT, a sly nod to 4:20 p.m. on April 20, the time and date that many Canadian pot enthusiasts set for a synchronized smoke.

He is already offering tips and promoting the show through Twitter.

Neumann has a two-year plan for his web series that will take people all the way through extracting oils and making edibles — a process that can be dangerous. There have been recorded cases in the United States where homes have caught on fire when residents tried to make their own concentrates using butane as a solvent.

He said disasters can happen when someone is using a gas burner, or sparking a cigarette while using butane in an enclosed space. But, he insisted, the process is simple and safe when done properly. “You’ve got a liquid fuel. Don’t be stupid, you can’t put it by a fire,” he said. “If you do it outside and use common sense, there’s no danger.”

Tom Neumann shows a male cannabis plant at his legal home grow operation on Thursday near Ardrossan, Alta.
Tom Neumann shows a male cannabis plant at his legal home grow operation on Thursday near Ardrossan, Alta.

Some are nervous over the prospect of homegrowing altogether. Realtor Darcy Torhjelm said homes that have been illegal grow-ops, where residents used hydroponics and additional electricity, often have rampant mould and mildew growth from the humidity and can be hard or impossible to resell.

While those grow-ops often had hundreds of cannabis plants intended for illicit sales, he still has concerns that even four-plant houses could cause problems for buyers and sellers.

“The idea is that four plants are like having potted plants in your house, but this is different because people are growing it with an expectation of getting something back out of it — more than just beautifying the house,” Torhjelm said. “I think the unknown is the problem.”

Anand Sharma, president of the Canadian Condominium Institute, shares some of those concerns. He said it’s possible some condos will ban growing, but it would require 75 per cent of owners to agree in writing to a bylaw change.

According to Service Alberta, landlords can choose to prohibit the growing of cannabis in rental agreements, meaning many low-income residents could be shut out. But Neumann said the homegrown debate is way overblown.

“They’re comparing it to the guys that were growing it for profit in the black market, so they were renting houses to be hidden away and illegally wiring (them) because they didn’t have enough power, and they were trying to grow 50 kilograms of pot.”

Since buying weed will be easy once it’s legal, some have speculated the market will be oversaturated by licensed producers and retail shops in October. As far as Neumann’s concerned, homegrown pot is superior to mass-produced cannabis, because the latter will be packaged, shipped and stored which could compromise its freshness and potency before it reaches the consumer.

“People laugh about homegrown weed,” he said. “There is no comparison, This is craft-grown weed, because I tend them every day with these two paws and these two eyes.”

Canada: Inside the debate over whether home growing should be legal

Prohibitionists say it brings crime and impacts home values, among other things. Cannabis lovers say it’s their right to grow their own medicine.

Wherever legalization arrives, home growing, along with edibles, is always among the most contentious topics.

Conservative communities worry about odors. Police consider home grows crime incubators since it’s easy for a hobbyist to go into business. Fire Departments, also with some justification, worry about the high-pressure light bulbs and the elaborate wiring growers use.

Nowhere has home grow kicked up more of a stink than in Canada where the newly passed legalization law, C-45, allows for the home growing of four plants.

Quebec lawmakers, who have been notably unenthusiastic about legalization, fought unsuccessfully to ban home growing nationally and banned it in its strict provincial law. Manitoba and Nunavut also banned it.

The federal law, as passed, does not allow provinces to opt out. Quebec has not ruled out a legal challenge and it’s possible the discrepancy between provincial and federal law will have to be resolved by the Supreme Court.

The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) has been another major foe of home growing. In an April statement, CREA President Barb Sakkau said: “We’ve heard from homeowners and tenants across the country who are worried about living beside grow-ops. What does this do to their home value? Will this increase their rent? How safe will their kids be? Will their quality of life diminish because of the prevalence of drugs in their neighborhood?”

1 Inside the Debate Over Whether Home Growing Should Be Legal Inside the Debate Over Whether Home Growing Should Be Legal

CREA warns that even four plants can damage home values. It has also voiced concerns about home grows gestating mold and other blights. The trade group was not successful, however, in its April call for a national home grow moratorium until national regulations for the practice could be established.

In Canada, at least one industry leader has expressed skepticism about home growing. Rather than call for a ban on it, Bruce Linton, CEO of mega-grower Canopy Growth called it “good advertising” for his company, since, in his mind, homegrown product is nowhere near as good as Canopy’s.

Some experienced growers, however, disagree about the quality of homegrown product. To them, in order to ensure they consume exactly what they want to, they have to be the ones in control of the growing process. It’s an invasion for the government to consider taking that right away.

Lisa Campbell got her medical license to grow in 2013 when she was volunteering on an organic farm which was a designated grow. When she first got permission, she had a small patch of cannabis plants, including an L.A. Confidential strain, which she grew outside her modest trailer.

It’s cheaper to grow at home, she says, and “you can get high without depending on a major company.”

Jason Levin, co-founder of A Pot for Pot, a grow your own kit, says part of the reason home growing is so important now is because laws in California and Canada have cut out midsize growers, leaving primarily huge corporate farms. In Canada, there are a handful of large cultivators who got their starts in the medical market and are expected to dominate the recreational space too.

In California, an association of more than 1000 cannabis farmers recently filed a lawsuit against the state’s Department of Food and Agriculture for granting 20 percent of its licenses to just 12 licensees. Meanwhile, experts predict both markets could experience weed shortages—California because it hasn’t opened enough testing facilities to process its legal cannabis and Canada because the supply simply won’t meet the demand.

2 Inside the Debate Over Whether Home Growing Should Be Legal Inside the Debate Over Whether Home Growing Should Be Legal

Marijuana consumers—especially patients—don’t want to have to rely on the market amid all this uncertainty. Additionally, many of them prefer to grow their own because, unlike what Canopy’s Linton asserts, they believe they grow better weed than a large corporation. They want to be able to grow the strain that works best for them, how they want to grow it. Many small growers, for example, are passionate about ensuring their bud is organic and sun-grown, something which some believe enhances terpene development. Large corporations often grow their bud indoors.

Larisa Bolivar, executive director of the non-profit Cannabis Consumers Coalition, has grown for most of the 17 years she’s been in the industry. For her, she says, home growing is “a quality control thing.”

“Growing your own is fun, cause it’s not that hard,” Levin said. “You can save money, you can smoke clean product. I can consume my medicine for next to nothing for a year, as opposed to paying $60 an eighth.”

For many too, home growing is deeper than saving some money or ensuring high-quality product. Growing cannabis—like growing anything else in one’s garden—is often described by longtime cultivators as a spiritual experience.

Tim Blake, the activist and grower who started The Emerald Cup, an annual cannabis harvest festival in California, has seen quite a few changes since he planted his first crop at 16. Growers, he said, have gone from hiding their hobby to posting about it on Instagram. Throughout this time he’s remained an advocate of home growing, especially when it’s powered by sunlight. He calls it, “A natural interaction with the plant, something magical.”

“People shouldn’t go to jail for growing a few plants for themselves,” Blake says. “That’s just the way we live in this country as a free and democratic society.”

Allowing homegrown marijuana is the right thing to do

Despite the noise emanating from both the Senate and Jean-Marc Fournier, Quebec’s Minister for Canadian Relations, the current debate over whether federal or provincial law should decide if cannabis can be cultivated at home is misleading.

Arguments against home growing for safety reasons are thinly veiled attempts at establishing and maintaining a government monopoly on cannabis sales.

While federal-provincial tussles are quintessentially Canadian, this debate masks the bigger issue: limiting citizens’ rights to grow recreational cannabis at home. This right should be upheld at all costs because it makes sense legally and economically.

First, a ban on home growing would have serious consequences for Canadian taxpayers. The Allard decision in 2016 set a legal precedent favouring growing cannabis at home. The case found that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees that patients have “fair access” to cannabis, and it found that a licensed-producer-only system did not sufficiently support this.Challenging this ruling will be no small fight. Health Canada has already been under legal attack due to its inability to keep up with the demand for homegrown medical marijuana licenses. With existing delays on this issue in 28 active court cases, it is apparent that Canadians in every province are ready to fight for their right to grow. A prolonged legal battle will fall on the shoulders of already overburdened taxpayers.

Despite waits of up to six months for home grow licenses, Canada now has a critical mass of home cannabis growers. The process has been, in aggregate, unbelievably safe and successful. Today, more than 14,000 patients are growing cannabis at home.

Most patients grow between five and 15 plants indoors, although some grow more. Expert witnesses in the Allard case testified that this number of plants pose no increased risk of fires or mould, and these experts were right.

Part of this is due to the nature of home cultivation and what the average home growing setup looks like. Under the proposed Bill C-45, homeowners will be allowed to grow up to four plants at a time. This is entirely different from a commercial setup that typically has hundreds or thousands of plants. Growing hundreds of any type of plant at home would cause issues.

Israel first country to approve medical cannabis vaporiser

Israel has become the first county in the world to grant medical device approval to a vaporiser for the use of medical cannabis extracts and formulations.

The Israeli Ministry of Health has granted initial approval as a medical device to the  vaporiser used for cannabis oil formulations.

The company claims that the combination of the approved vaporiser and the targeted formulations will enable medical cannabis patients to receive more effective, consistent, and accurate dosing and delivery methods than currently accepted medical cannabis treatment methods.

Most medical cannabis patients today consume their cannabis by smoking. vaporisers remove the risks of smoking and have been proven more effective than other delivery methods.

“This approval is a significant announcement for the medical cannabis patients in Israel who will be able to use the medical vaporiser for the first time.

“We expect that due to the transition of most of the cannabis consumers to the use of vaporisers, our company is projected to reach $10 million in sales within three years in the Israeli market, while the Israeli cannabis market is expected to reach $100 million in sales within three years. The Israeli market is a platform to deliver our technology to global markets in North America and Europe.

Vaporisers will be available through the co-op.

Canada: Cannabis ‘genetics bottleneck’ a growing concern for budding licensed producers

As the number of licensed cannabis producers skyrockets ahead of federal legalization, industry leaders in B.C. fear a “genetics bottleneck” will stop newer growers from acquiring and growing unique strains.

Health Canada has doubled the number of licensed producers since last May to 88. But as these new growers sink millions of dollars into facilities, their access to diverse starting materials — seeds and seedlings — is hampered by stringent Health Canada rules that require them to be bought from a legal source, usually an established licensee or through government-approved importation from outside the country.

Meanwhile, the illicit market offers an almost-infinite variety of strains, with many cultivated and tweaked over decades by small growers whose unique crops are sought after in dispensaries. Black-market seeds can be ordered online but are not available to the licensees.

Jonathan Page, co-founder and CEO of Anandia Labs, a cannabis biotech and testing firm, said the “genetics bottleneck” is particularly troubling for new licensees seeking starting materials that will set them apart from the others, giving them a competitive edge.

“On the business side, it’s acute,” said Page, also an adjunct professor at the University of B.C. A new licensee will approach an established one for seeds or seedlings, but the established one may not be willing to part with their best genetics without onerous financial terms such as a contract for royalties, Page said.

“Essentially, they’re sort of being asked to enable their competitor or their future competitor,” he said. “It’s a system that makes it difficult for the new licensees.”

In its proposed framework for legalization, Health Canada has said it will create license categories for “micro-cultivation,” which would bring small growers on board, and “nursery” cultivation, which would provide a legal source of starting materials and allow development of new varieties.

Page believes such measures will help Health Canada toward its goal of quashing the black market, possibly allowing some to cross over from it. But he believes the new system must allow adequate variety to serve the needs of medical patients, who want options so that they can strike the right balance of THC and cannabinoids in the products they use. Cannabis market-tracking website CannStandard counted 263 dried cannabis products from 25 licensed producers as of this month, though thousands more strains exist in the black market.

When legalization comes, recreational consumers will call for diversity, too, Page said.

“Health Canada’s going to have to find a way to allow those existing genetics into this industry,” he said. “It seems pretty unlikely that they’ll allow the (regulations) to come in and say to people, ‘Oh, don’t grow the plants you’ve been growing for 20 years — go off to another licensed producer and get new genetics.’”

Page compared the issue of genetics-sharing to farmers who offer a neighbour some seeds or seedlings from their tomatoes, corn or roses.

“Really, Health Canada needs to come to grips with the fact that cannabis is a plant like any other,” Page said. “A freer, more open system of cannabis genetics is what’s needed in Canada.”

Abbotsford lawyer John Conroy, who successfully challenged Health Canada on its cannabis rules during the famous Allard case, calls the genetics bottleneck the “first seed” or “God seed” problem. He questioned why black-market growers who have been perfecting a strain for decades should have to abandon that legacy if they wish to legitimize.

“They’ve got a seed or a strain that they’re making (products) from and, in the future, it’s going to have to be from a licit source, so the issue is, how do you make that seed or strain legal going forward?” Conroy asked.

Conroy believes the answer is amnesty for those producers: “Declare what your starting product is and from now on you either use that or you get one from other legal sources.”

You May Want to Avoid These Ingredients in Cannabis Oil Vape Cartridges

By now, you’ve probably seen or tried firsthand a vaporizer with an oil cartridge. These portable vaporizers are becoming increasingly popular as they’re easy to dose and operate. Visiting a dispensary, you’ll notice different brands made with different strains, solvents, and additives. Which ingredients are safe, and which ones should be avoided?

Burning cannabis oils can produce some of the same free radicals that are formed when you burn cannabis or tobacco, which is why people have turned to vaporizing (vaping). Vaporizing means that cannabis is heated without combustion. Active ingredients are released by the heat into a fine-mist vapor. Since combustion does not occur, smoke is not created.

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People who vape cannabis perceive vaping to be safer and less harmful to their health than smoking. Cannabis vaporizers are specifically designed for inhalation without harmful smoke toxins, but how safe are materials being inhaled?

Harmful Agents to Avoid in Cannabis Oil

When vaporized, cannabis oils are frequently mixed with thinning agents for better performance in a vaporizing device. However, when some thinning agents are heated, potentially harmful carbonyl compounds can be produced.

Carbonyls are a group of cancer-causing chemicals that includes formaldehyde, which has been linked to spontaneous abortions and low birth weight. A known thermal breakdown product of propylene glycol, formaldehyde is an International Agency for Research on Cancer group 1 carcinogen.

Research in this area first began with e-cigarettes. Cannabis and e-cigarettes use different thinning agents and are heated and vaporized at different temperatures, but there are parallels that have now led researchers to begin similar research on cannabis thinning agents.

However, there is no research regarding heating of thinning agents in vaporizing devices specifically designed for cannabis. Most research of this nature has been done on e-cigarettes, which have been around for nearly a decade. One of the first studies was a 2015 study in the New England Journal of Medicine that showed hidden formaldehyde in the aerosols of e-cigarettes.

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In a very recent* August 2017 study, a team of researchers summarized the e-cigarette pulmonary toxicity by looking at human studies, animal models and cell culture studies. They described the field of research as rapidly evolving and identified research gaps and challenges, but warned that when heated to high temperatures, propylene glycol can break down into microscopic polymers that can cause damage to lung tissue.

Another 2017 study conducted at the Medical Marijuana Research Institute in Arizona, researchers looked at the byproducts produced when vaporizing cannabis oil. These popular cannabis thinning agents were studied:

  • Propylene glycol (PG or PPG)
  • Vegetable glycerin
  • Polyethylene glycol (PEG) 400
  • Medium chain triglycerides

These thinning agents were heated to 230°C (450°F), and scientists tested the resulting vapors to detect the presence of harmful compounds like formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, and acrolein.

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The results showed that polyethylene glycol 400 produced much higher acetaldehyde and formaldehyde byproducts than the other three agents. Heating of the thinning agent propylene glycol also produced significantly greater formaldehyde byproduct. Researchers concluded that individuals who vaporize cannabis oil utilizing these thinning agents may risk harmful exposures to the byproducts.

Furthermore, there has been a lack of adequate safety testing for the vape pen devices. Pre-packaged oil cartridges are not well labeled in some cases, and thinning agents are frequently developed in countries that have no regulatory controls. There are many vape pens on the market, all of which have a different heating source with different activation and temperature.

But is there conclusive evidence that vape pen consumers will develop pulmonary illnesses or cancers? No. Very little is known about either short- or long-term effects of inhalation of thinning agents like propylene glycol and others.

Thinning Agent Alternatives in Vaporizer Cartridges

Producers of vaporizer cartridges are making a mass exodus away from these thinning agents due to their health risks and the unpleasant taste they tend to carry. Instead, many are turning to terpenes as they help thin the oil while improving flavor. Others are using different extraction methods such as distillation to achieve an oil thin enough to be consumed in a cartridge without the need for additive thinners.

As vaporizing oil cartridges becomes more popular, products specifically designed for this purpose are emerging in the marketplace. When purchasing oil cartridges for your portable vaporizer, check the ingredients to see if propylene glycol and/or polyethylene glycol 400 are listed. If so, you may want to avoid them and reach for an alternative product that utilizes terpenes or more health-conscious thinning agents.

*Update 8/22/17: Since the original publication of this article, a new study from the American Physiological Society on pulmonary toxicity was released. It has since been added to this article’s analysis.