Scientists are creating a better pot leaf to treat ailments and illness. But what’s really inside, and is Ohio ready?

Sound science, or snake oil? We’re getting answers.
We're separating fact from fiction regarding medical and recreational marijuana. (Source: WOIO)
We're separating fact from fiction regarding medical and recreational marijuana. (Source: WOIO)
Published: Sep. 25, 2018 at 5:23 AM EDT
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CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Medical marijuana is now legal in 30 states, with thousands of people turning to it to relieve a variety of maladies. Hemp products are also gaining in popularity and are legal in all 50 states.

Is the burgeoning industry sound science, or snake oil? In Part Three of Cleveland 19’s Getting Answers Investigation, we examine the cannabis plant itself, to get answers on its medicinal value and legitimacy.

We begin with a tour of the grow facility at Kind Love, a recreational and medical marijuana company based in Denver, Colo.

At 50,000 square feet, it’s twice Ohio’s legal limit. 2,000 plants, comprising 50 different strains of marijuana are growing in climate controlled, irrigated, custom built rooms inside a massive, hangar-like building.

Dr. Idan Spitz notes how every single plant is tagged, catalogued and tracked by the company and the state. Blue tags represent recreational use, yellow tags represent medicinal.

Our tour continues down the road at Mary’s Medicinals. Dr. Jeremy Riggle, the company’s chief scientist, guides us around the laboratory. “This is a pretty significant production facility. there’s a lot of things going on here that not a lot of people would think when they think about a cannabis company.”

"A lot of the instruments you see are kind of focused on making sure we are hitting our targets with our dose in our topicals and transdermals,” he said.

When he mentions topicals and transdermals, he’s talking about their product. Mary’s specializes in alternative delivery methods to smoking. They have balms, sports creams, skin lotions, sprays, and transdermal patches.

The dose targets he’s talking about refer to the levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is the psychoactive compound in marijuana, and CBD (cannabidiol), which cannot get you high but does have medicinal properties.

“The cannabinoids are actually a more effective anti-inflammatory than ibuprofen, aspirin,” he said. He also notes that not all of Mary’s products will get a person high, because they — and other companies — are manipulating the ratio of THC and CBD’s to produce different effects for the user.

“It helps with anything from swelling in your joints to migraines to sleep,” he continued.

Cleveland 19 wanted to also get an impartial, expert opinion. We spoke with Dr. Richard Lee at University Hospitals.

“Many patients don’t realize there is an FDA-approved THC medicine available,” he said. Dronabinol mimics THC found in marijuana. It was FDA approved in 1985. Nabilone is another prescription drug with similar properties. The FDA has also approved Epidiolex, an anti-seizure medicine made from CBD, the “first FDA-approved drug that contains a purified drug substance derived from marijuana,” according to an FDA release.

While he points out the progress, he urges caution. “There are so many different delivery systems, so many different formulas, there are a lot of different strains that have been created of medical marijuana. I think there are so many different variables that there’s still a lot to learn.”

For researchers like Dr. Riggle, much of the battle for legitimacy lies in educating the public and clearing up misperceptions.

“That’s the biggest struggle. correcting misinformation and presenting accurate information.”

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