Why it’s important not to demonize THC in the quest to legitimize cannabis as a medicine.
The fight to legitimize medical cannabis has been an uphill battle fraught with pushback from billion-dollar pharmaceutical corporations, persecution, stigma, political controversy, and outright propaganda. For individuals using the plant to cope, this environment has been a waking nightmare, with CBD oil being taken from critically ill children, those children being taken from parents, parents being taken to jail for consuming cannabis or giving cannabis-derived medicines to their kids, and valuable medicine being confiscated and destroyed on the daily. To say this constitutes cruel and unusual punishment is an understatement.
Many of the arguments opposing legalization center on the euphoric effects of THC, which can make cannabis unsuitable for certain populations. Because of this, well-meaning advocates have been keen to present CBD as “the medicinal compound” and THC as its less valuable psychoactive counterpart – but this does a disservice to such a wonderfully complex story. In truth, the many compounds in the cannabis plant work best when administered together, forming an “entourage effect” and becoming more than the sum of their parts. It’s important not to demonize a medicine as valuable as THC, even if it means more people are on board with legalization.
CBD is pretty darn magical. With more than 6 confirmed medical uses and at least 20 that are currently under review, it can feel like there’s nothing that CBD can’t do. However, it’s important to recognize the limitations of a drug as much as we celebrate its value, and CBD is no exception. When it comes down to it, there are some things that THC can just do better. Where for example, CBD is known to diminish appetite in a number of people. THC, on the other hand, is famous for its appetite stimulation, even having been approved for the treatment of nausea, vomiting, and lack of appetite associated with chemotherapy.
THC also seems to be more effective at treating certain types of pain. However, the best pain relief has been achieved through the combination of THC and CBD, bringing us back to the entourage effect – a number of studies have shown that THC and CBD work best together, especially in the treatment of nausea, cancer, tremor, spasticity, and other conditions that respond positively to both CBD and THC. In most cases, CBD becomes a more valuable medicine when combined with THC!
Research has demonstrated that full-spectrum cannabis preparations are much more effective than isolated cannabinoids, and have a more predictable relationship with the body. Where isolated CBD has a very narrow therapeutic range and was difficult to dose, researchers found that a full-spectrum cannabinoid-rich CBD formula was more predictable and much more effective at treating pain and inflammation.
Another benefit of THC-CBD combination therapy is that CBD can reduce or eliminate almost all of the negative side effects of THC, including anxiety, paranoia, and short-term memory impairment, meaning the benefits of THC can be achieved largely without the common negative side-effects used to argue against THC as a medicine.
As we can see, CBD and THC are a lot more yin and yang than yes and no. While it’s tempting to present cannabis’ many medicinal properties as the fortunate result of one “miracle” compound like CBD, it’s ultimately the complexity and diversity of the cannabis plant that makes it so valuable!
Lana Tong is an aspiring Biochemist and Squirrel Behavioral Psychologist based in Victoria, British Columbia. She's passionate about cannabis as a medicine, entheogen, food, fiber crop, and so much more. Lana hopes to one day swim in a pool filled with organic CBD oil. We all have dreams - right?!