See Magazine
December 13, 2005

Ragga little pills
Cannabis-based drugs are storming the pharmaceutical industry

Ever since a government grow-op in Flin Flon, Manitoba failed to turn in properly potent pot for now-legal prescriptions, the free market has taken a foothold, putting a variety of new pot-based products on the market.
Sativex, a “cannibinoidal spray” has received the most press by far, primarily because it delivers marijuana’s active ingredient–tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)–without the need of a pipe or rolling paper. The drug helps ease the neurological symptoms of Mulitple Sclerosis sufferers.

Meanwhile, a more modest product call Med-Marijuana has hit pharmacy shelves across the country, promising pain relief for osteo-arthritis sufferers. The natural remedy carries a low profile in legalization debates since there’s no potential to get high: all it offers is a dose of marijuana-seed oil in a gel caplet. But the product has rapidly gained a following in a middle-aged population tired of testing every new anti-inflammatory, pain-killing, gut-corroding arthritis pill being pushed by the mainstream pharmaceutical industry.
Shirley Martin, a 53 year-old arthritis sufferer, is Alberta’s first distributor of the herbal remedy. She began promoting the natural remedy after trying Med-Marijuana on the advice of her sister, another arthritis sufferer.

“I’m open minded. I’ve never even tried marijuana, never smoked it, but I’m not a prude,” she said.
Arthritis hit Martin’s sister hard. Barely able to cope with climbing a staircase on her worst days, she fell into a depression. Conventional painkillers didn’t help much, so she tried out Med-Marijuana, and found some relief. Martin followed suit.
“I get a little emotional about it. Having arthritis for so many years, it’s pretty amazing to go just a day without any pain,” the pill promoter said. “Once you get past the ‘tee hee, it’s marijuana’ thing, it’s a serious product.”
Martin scored big by getting the product into 19 Super Drug Mart’s in Calgary, but average folk in rural Alberta are also buying in. Med-Marijuana is now sold in pharmacies in Drumheller, Okotoks, Airdre, and Strathmore. This week the pills are due to hit the shelves in Ft. McMurray’s Real Canadian Superstore.

Med-Marijuana is little more than hemp oil derived from what the company calls “pharmaceutical quality” cannabis seed pressings. The key ingredient, GLA (Gamma Linolenic Acid), is also found in Evening Primrose Oil (but in far lesser quantity, according to Med-Marijuana), and is an essential Omega 6 fatty acid.

Most North American diets already contain too much Omega 6, which contributes to long-term diseases such as heart disease, cancer, asthma, arthritis, and depression as well as, possibly, increased risk of infection, according the University of Maryland Medical Centre.
But not all Omega 6’s are equal. GLA has even been found to counter the inflammation caused by a high Omega 6 diet. And it has a history of folk use for the treatment of allergies and muscle stiffness. The University observed that scientific studies are mixed on the overall benefit of GLA, but tend to support Med-Marijuana’s claim that the GLA-rich essential oil could provide benefits to many sufferers of many different ailments. The University outlined evidence supporting the use of GLA to help ease symptoms like the numbness some diabetics feel in their extremities; Sjögren’s syndrome (often demonstrated, ironically, by dry eyes and dry mouth); menopause and premenstrual syndrome; eczema and allergies; attention deficit hyperactivity disorder; and genetically linked obesity.

Natural supplement producers aren’t the only ones jumping on (or off) the pot wagon. Pharmaceutical corporation Sanofi-Aventis plans an early 2006 release of a weight loss/anti-obesity drug called Acomplia. The company’s scientists, working from the observation that pot users get “the munchies” after smoking, guessed that blocking cannabinoid receptors might reduce the urge to eat. The great hope is that the drug will help users shed pounds without suffering the amphetamine side effects associated with other weight loss drugs. Clinical trials are said to be promising. No word on whether this legal drug will kill your illegal buzz too