Chemist Samantha Miller returned to the 707 Cannabis College Friday evening, April 6, for the final in her series of lectures on medical marijuana.
This lecture was directed at the medical marijuana baker, but she began with a review of cannabis basics. The main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis is THC (Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinoid). THC is produced from THCA, a non-psychoactive constituent of the plant, when the plant material is heated. To fully activate the available THC in a plant requires heating it to a temperature of 212 degrees Fahrenheit for 90 minutes. Both THC and THCA have medicinal uses such as pain relief, to treat nausea and insomnia, and to increase appetite.
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is also a constituent of cannabis, but generally occurs at much lower levels than THC. CBD also had medicinal uses and new strains are being developed to increase the amount of CBD in a plant. One of the new CBD-rich strains in called Harlequin. Cannatonic, Sour Tsunami and Stinky Pink Diesel are other CBD strains. CBD is used to treat muscle spasms, convulsions and anxiety-related disorders. Some research indicates that it is effective at inhibiting the growth of brain and breast tumors.
CBD causes alertness in some patients and should not be taken at bedtime. The effects of CBD last much longer than the effects of THC and remain active in the body for up to 12 hours. Combining THC with CBD extends the pain relief over a longer period.
Miller also talked briefly about the best growing conditions to maximize the medical value of the plant. Cannabis is adapted to desert environments so it’s important not to over-water the plant. The trichome structure is where the crystals form and if the plant is given too much water, it will not be potent. It is also important not to water in the evening. The stomata of the plant is only open during the day, so when a plant is watered in the evening, the roots cannot take up the water and send it to the leaves. Cannabis needs dry air and sustained wind or air movement to reach its full potential. It should not be watered at all during the last few days before harvest.
Light intensity also affects the strength of the plant. Miller recommends monitoring light intensity of indoor grown cannabis with a light meter. The light intensity should be checked frequently and bulbs replaced if necessary.
Light intensity for outdoor plants is a product of the overhanging canopy. The top of the plant may receive more light than the bottom due to shading.
She recommends monitoring the resin glands of the plant for color to determine when to harvest. The ideal is a gland that is 60% amber colored and only 40% clear. She also suggests that, since most CBD strains are grown from seed, the grower should test them early in their growth to determine whether they have the desired amounts of constituents.
For a variety of reasons, some patients prefer to take their medicine orally rather than inhaling it. The effects of oral medicine are more long lasting and unpredictable because of the variations among the makers of the cooked medicine. Some cooks don’t measure accurately, don’t provide proper directions for consumption and whether or not it should be taken on an empty stomach or consumed with food. And the dosages are unreliable. Being "creative" in the kitchen will change the results and the patient will not be getting a consistent quantity of medicine.
She recommends having the plant material tested for potency first before deciding how to cook it. If potency varies between plants then the cook can add or subtract plant material to keep the dosage regular. It’s important to keep careful records of each step in the process so it can be repeated. Her Pure Analytics laboratory offers a computer program to help the baker calculate the dosage of the food.
To extract the THC or CBD from the plant, Miller recommends alcohol as the best medium, but glycerin or oils are also used. The plant matter should be broken down and macerated beforehand.
Cooking does not necessarily release all the THC. Miller said that, if for instance, someone is baking cookies in a 400-degree oven, the cookies only reach 400 degrees during their last minute of baking and that is not enough to fully activate the THC.
She also recommended measuring everything in milligrams for dosage consistency.
There was a lively question and answer period following the lecture. The first question dealt with making a salve with THC to rub on joints to relieve arthritis pain. Miller said that salves do not penetrate the dermis to reach the muscle and are not effective against joint pain. Some popular salves include eucalyptus, which stimulates blood flow and this provides some relief from joint pain, but the product itself does not enter the blood stream or reach the aching joint.
She was asked about whether to use fresh plant material or dried in cooking. She said that either is acceptable, but the fresh material has high water content and that needs to be taken into account when cooking.
Some people prefer the fresh plant and use it to make green smoothies. Some like to cook the plant in a crock pot at a lower temperature over a longer time. Miller said that this method would achieve about a 50% activation of THC. Plants can also be activated in a microwave oven.
Miller said also, in response to questions, that when extracting from a plant, cannabinoids are not the whole game. There are other constituents such a chlorophyll and Vitamin C in the plant. She said that cannabis has only begun to be studied and no one is sure what role these other constituents play in the effectiveness of medical cannabis.
All three of Miller’s lectures have been video taped and will be replayed at the 707 Cannabis College at a later date. Check the college website (www.707cannabiscollege.com) for more information about that. Learn more about Pure Analytics at their website, www.pureanalytics.net.