Last Thursday, January 12th, The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research was released by National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine to some fanfare on global media. While reaction by the cannabis community has so far been muted, or characterized by simply summarizing the results, perhaps one of the most lucid analyses comes from the Maryland Marijuana Doctor website, which essentially concludes that there is not a lot of new information here, other than the fact that much more research needs to be done. I couldn’t agree more.
There is one glaring flaw in the good work the National Academies people have done: they have based conclusions on flawed process. In most studies to date, very little attention has been paid to the cannabis strain used in the study. As we know, over the past 80 years of prohibition the 200-odd “landraces” that existed then have now grown to over 9,000 strains according to Cannabis Reports. Generally, little or no attention has been paid to the chemotype of the plant medicine being used by the test group – it’s just referred to as cannabis sativa.
What if a high-CBD strain was used for a particular study? Or a high-CBD and high-THC strain? Or, a strain known to have certain effects because of other cannabinoids at play combined with certain terpenes? The Entourage Effect is real, and unless a given study identifies an optimal strain when testing against health conditions, the conclusions are by necessity inaccurate at best. This flawed approach calls into question the conclusions outlined, but certainly supports their main conclusion: that much more organized and systematic research is required.