Project CBD: Will The Industry Support The Movement?

  • by Allen St. Pierre, Former NORML Executive Director March 14, 2011

    By Fred Gardner

    Project CBD has just sent out its introductory pitch to California dispensaries. ProjectCBD.org is the medical marijuana movement living up to its name,” explains outreach coordinator Sarah Russo, optimistically, as she asks the dispensaries to participate in a “collective research effort.” But what are the chances that the dispensary owners, intent on building their own brands, will support a venture aimed at advancing the movement as a whole?

    CBD, in case you’re just joining us, is Cannabidiol —a component of the Cannabis plant known to have anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor and other beneficial medical effects. CBD is not psychoactive and actually counters the psychoactive effects of THC. It is the predominant cannabinoid in hemp —plants grown to produce fiber or growing wild. CBD levels go down and THC levels go up when plants are bred to maximize psychoactive effect, as they have been in the U.S. for many generations of plants and people.

    It was widely assumed for a long time that CBD had been almost entirely bred out of the Cannabis being grown in California for medical/commercial purposes. And because no analytic chemistry labs were testing Cannabis samples before the winter of 2008-09, there was no way to assess cannabinoid content. Overseas things were different. For many years researchers have been exploring the medical potential of CBD, and G.W. Pharmaceuticals conducted successful clinical trials and got U.K. government approval to market Sativex, a whole-plant extract with equal amounts of CBD and THC, for use by MS patients. Canada and Spain have also issued approvals for Sativex.

    The situation in California changed in 2008 when Steve DeAngelo arranged for a lab to test the Cannabis he was providing at Oakland’s Harborside Health Center. DeAngelo had to fund a start-up to accomplish this. When Harborside opened in 2006 he had phoned every analytic lab in the Bay Area and been turned down when he mentioned the C word. In the spring of ’08 he decided to back two entrepreneurs who were launching a lab —the aptly named “Steep Hill”— and to supply them with a large, steady stream of samples to test for mold and cannabinoid content (THC, CBD and CBN, a breakdown product indicative of freshness). At least eight more labs have started testing Cannabis in California since then, and there are labs in Montana and Colorado. ProjectCBD’s Russo says, “We seem to hear from a new lab every week.”

    It turns out that CBD is not all that rare —about one in every 600 samples tested by the labs is found to be high in CBD. Evidently, that’s the rate at which a mutation occurs resulting in an excess of the enzyme that transforms a precursor molecule of CBD and THC into one or the other. More than 25 CBD-rich strains have been identified, and Russo says, “We seem to hear about a new strain every week, too”

    The prospect of CBD-rich cannabis becoming available prompted the Society of Cannabis Clinicians to plan a data collection effort. Jeffrey Hergenrather, MD, President of the SCC, had spent years listening to talks about CBD at meetings of the International Cannabinoid Research Society, wishing he could observe its effects on real patients. Hergenrather and co-worker Stacey Kerr, MD have now drafted a survey aimed at documenting patients’ answers to some basic questions about the effects of CBD-rich Cannabis. (For purposes of data collection, “CBD-rich” has been defined as 4% or more CBD, regardless of THC content. The amount of CBD that a given strain contains isn’t the only factor influencing the effects it will exert when ingested. The ratio of CBD to THC may be as or more important. Terpenoid and flavonoid content also appear to be very important.)

    Project CBD was launched to publicize and promote the SCC survey(s). Martin A. Lee, the author of Acid Dreams, had been writing about CBD for O’Shaughnessy’s and convinced your correspondent that its re(introduction) into the grassroots supply was going to be a huge, ongoing story and would warrant its own journal of sorts. Over the past year we put a lot of effort into encouraging production by plant breeders and growers who had strains testing high in CBD. Many dispensary owners have been reluctant to stock CBD-rich strains because their present customers are seeking —or are not adverse to— Cannabis that causes euphoria or sedation. In other words, THC content sells, it’s a sure thing. Why should a dispensary spend money and devote shelf space to a type of Cannabis that most medical users haven’t heard of and whose effects are unproven?

    Growers, in turn, have to anticipate the wants of dispensary buyers, and are reluctant to devote valuable garden space to plants for which there is no established market. ?Demand at the dispensary level might not take off until effectiveness is established. Which might not happen until significant numbers of patients have tried CBD-rich Cannabis and taken the SCC survey to report their results. Or, as Martin says, “there could be a tsunami of interest any day now.”

    ProjectCBD.org provides the whole story to date and a “CBDiary” noting recent developments. The big news as of March 1: for the first time, a California grower has “stabilized” a CBD-rich strain. Lawrence Ringo of the Southern Humboldt Seed Collective is now offering seeds of “Sour Tsunami” that have a one-in-four chance of containing 10-11% CBD (and 6-7% THC).

    Read all about it here.

    Fred Gardner is the managing editor of O’Shaughnessy’s, the journal of cannabis in clinical practice. His email is fred@plebesite.com.

    NORML’s updated primer on existing and potential cannabinoid and cannabis therapies is found here.

    33 responses to “Project CBD: Will The Industry Support The Movement?”

    1. David762 says:

      Please pardon my conflicted state.

      While THC has been proven to be medicinally beneficial as an active ingredient of cannabis, CBD also has been proven to also be medically beneficial as an active ingredient of industrial hemp. Most of the commercial focus to date has been on the former, THC.

      The $64.00 (or rather $64 Billion USD) question is: “Does the breeding of either cannabis or industrial hemp make these key active ingredients of medical benefit mutually exclusive, an either THC or CBD “Hobson’s Choice”?” Such cannabis pathfinders as Lawrence Ringo of the Southern Humboldt Seed Collective would seem to indicate that these are not mutually exclusive, as seen in their breeding of “Sour Tsunami”.

      Such a genetic “crossing” offers some hope that at some future point that when both cannabis and industrial hemp are again fully legal, there need not be a conflict between cannabis and industrial hemp growers. The prospect of the pollen of vast tracts of industrial hemp contaminating medicinal cannabis, degrading it beyond usefulness, might be alarmist. The vision of medicinal cannabis rich in THC having to be grown under strict indoor|greenhouse laboratory conditions, with HEPA filters and “bunny-suited” growers almost defies economic viability.

      With cannabis sativa|indica|ruderalis increasingly being considered the most beneficial of all plants under human cultivation, literally the “Tree of Life”, it is reassuring that some new advancements are being made in addressing seemingly conflicting genetic traits of it’s medical botany.

      For that, both ProjectCBD.org and the Southern Humboldt Seed Collective deserve our support. “Sour Tsunami” looks like a “must have” strain for medical marijuana growers to acquire.

    2. Anonymous says:

      isnt this the pill thats aready out which people complain about giving adverse effects? the point i am making is that in the plant everything is in balence, when you concentrate and remove it from nature its can and will go bad…

      [Paul Armentano responds: The FDA-approved pill, dronabinol, contains synthetic THC and no CBD, or any other cannabinoids for that matter.]

    3. Conservative Christian says:

      Some good news out of Montana: The medi-mj repeal bill has failed in committee: “Four Democratic senators, jointed by Republican Sens. Chas Vincent of Libby and Terry Murphy of Cardwell, opposed the bill.”

      THANK YOU to those senators who had the courage and vision to realize that prohibition is causing more harm than good. It’s great to see that both Democrats and Republicans can come together on this important, timely law. Montana is a better state because of your efforts today, protecting the citizens of Montana from those who would put them in jail over a little marijuana. THANK YOU!!!!

    4. Luke says:

      My opinion – awesome, just awesome. This is exactly what this movement needs – experts worldwide refuting the position of “no medical value.” The research above states that the higher the CBD content, the better the benefits for medical use, yet the lower the pstchoactives. For one thing, I can hear ol’ Phillip and RJ chearing from here. A cigarette that not only is much, much safer to smoke, but one that could very easily replace “the brown cousin.” I am an avid and dedicated smoker (about 1 1/2 to 2 packs a day), and I have been waiting for this strain for a very long time (I wanna quit tobacco). Now, I just have to wait for it to become legal, so I can replace my “reds” with “greens”. It’s always been just a matterof time, folks. And from this news, I can hear the big hand moving up yet another notch.

    5. […] NORML Executive Director, medical cannabis. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 […]

    6. DRodman says:

      CBD is AMAZING when it comes to treating Social Anxiety Disorder and Panic Attacks. Seriously more awareneness needs to be raised for people with high social anxiety and panic attacks to try a high CBD strain rather than pills such as benzos or antidepressants.

      I recently tried a strain from a local dispo known as “Cannatonic” which was tested by a lab revealing close to 8% CBD, almost twice that of the THC (around 4%). And as someone who has been severely anxious with panic attacks for a very long time and has tried different treatments, I must say that this high CBD strain with an almost 2:1 ratio has been much more helpful than the pills.

      I urge everyone with anxiety issues (at least those in dispo states) to search online for a dispensary that sells a high CBD strain. Here in Boulder there are only a few that I know of, most strains are mostly THC with relatively high CBD levels being 1-2%. This 8% strain is incredible.

    7. DRodman says:


      This seems to support my anecdotal report of how helpful CBD is for social anxiety.

    8. MrsRatsRectum says:

      That’s nice, dear. You have to get the IRS off the back of the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana in Fairfax first, though. Dispensaries and other interested parties may have to pool their money to do a Larry Flynt and have Woody Harrelson have all the money brought into the courtroom and dumped on the floor in front of the judge and the cameras. You know the camera footage will become a huge news meme.

      You’d better take care of what’s going on with Lynnette Shaw of the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana. The IRS can’t be allowed to pull this shit, and lock up people for it or put people out of business for it. This is the whole thing where Holder gave it public to let people believe that as long as the cannabis enterprises are in compliance with state law that the federal government will not take action against them, and here we fuckin’ go again. Someone get in there and help her straighten out the record keeping, and make the IRS to back off from the DC end of things.

      “Shaw said the IRS disallowed her deductions — for buying marijuana, hiring employees, securing office space and more — based on section 280E of the federal tax code, which states that no deduction shall be allowed for any business trafficking in controlled substances. Under federal law, marijuana is classified as a schedule I controlled substance, a category of drugs not considered legitimate for medical use — despite voters’ 1996 approval of Proposition 215, which legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes in California.” from Cannabis Culture.


    9. A Concerned American Citizen says:

      A lifetime ago I was recommended a high CBD strain while visiting a coffee shop in Amsterdam. It was the MOST relaxed, and calm, and peaceful, I have EVER felt while using cannabis. There was no “edginess” or anxiety no matter how much I used (and I am prone to paranoia and anxiety)! It is an experience I have been longing to repeat for a very long time and I have been anxiously waiting for America to “discover” this wonderful aspect of cannabis!

      The medical implications are seemingly endless. CBD strains could be used as sleep aids, anti-anxiety treatments, muscle relaxants, and even pain killers!

      As advocates of cannabis we must support this research.