You can learn a lot from a rat — especially if the subject is medical cannabis.
According to a just-published study from the University of Milan — you didn’t actually think medicinal marijuana research took place in this country, did you? — the administration of whole-plant cannabis extracts provides superior pain relief compared to the administration of the plant’s isolated components (such as THC) in an animal model of neuropathic pain.
"[T]he use of a standardized extract of Cannabis sativa … evoked a total relief of thermal hyperalgesia, in an experimental model of neuropathic pain, … ameliorating the effect of single cannabinoids," investigators reported. "Collectively, these findings strongly support the idea that the combination of cannabinoid and non-cannabinoid compounds, as present in [plant-derived] extracts, provide significant [therapeutic] advantages … compared with pure cannabinoids alone."
Ironically, US lawmakers and bureaucrats have long argued just the opposite — maintaining that the therapeutic use of the plant should remain illegal, but that its "active ingredients … could be isolated and developed into a variety of pharmaceuticals, such as Marinol."
So if rats can deduce that whole cannabis works better as a medicine than a single synthesized molecule, what’s stopping our politicians from reaching this same conclusion?
Paul Armentano [send him mail] is the senior policy analyst for NORML and the NORML Foundation in Washington, DC. He is the author of "Emerging Clinical Applications for Cannabis and Cannabinoids: A Review of the Scientific Literature" (2007, NORML Foundation).