Cannabis and coronavirus: Take 2

Remember back in March 2020 — eons ago, right? —  when former NFL player turned CBD purveyor Kyle Turley publicly stated that CBD could prevent / cure coronavirus? He was promptly and roundly pilloried, even chastised by the Food and Drug Administration. 

Curt Robbins and I mentioned Turley on March 30, when we discussed cannabis and coronavirus in segment 6 of Twenty 4:20

Our take at the time: It’s irresponsible and possibly dangerous to suggest that cannabis or CBD could prevent or cure coronavirus… but, for some conditions afflicting people in this stressful time, including anxiety and insomnia, cannabis and CBD could be helpful. Curt was very careful to make the distinction, based on his conversations with well-qualified doctors, that CBD might help with some of the symptoms, but it does not prevent or cure coronavirus.

Skepticism is appropriate. So is optimism.

Call me a doubting Thomas, but until there are rigorous studies — of the same kind that must be completed before pharmaceuticals make it to market —  it would be premature to endorse cannabis or CBD use as a preventative or cure, for anything really. And many of those studies, for many disease states, are now under way, including for coronavirus.

And yet… it’s getting interesting: There is growing evidence that cannabis compounds, specifically CBD and terpenes, could help stem the damage inflicted by the dreaded cytokine storm, in which coronavirus turns our own immune system against us, often fatally. As reported by Forbes contributor Emily Earlenbaugh, new research from Israeli researchers led by Prof. David “Dedi” Meiri, Ph.D., indicates that CBD and the right terpenes might outperform the anti-inflammatory steroids that doctors are now prescribing to coronavirus patients

Earlenbaugh wrote on July 21: “Reports from the study show that a combination of CBD with terpenes was 3 times more effective at inhibiting cytokine activity than dexamethasone, a corticosteroid which a recent study found to be an effective treatment for COVID-19 cytokine storms.” 

Wait, put the bong down. 

Wearing maskThis is not a slam dunk. The Israeli team is testing —  rigorously, as the Israelis are in general far ahead on cannabinoid science —  a proprietary formulation of 30 terpenes in combination with CBD and with the most common steroids being used for this purpose. So we’re not talking about toking up a storm with your basic spliff. It must also be noted, this is an in-vitro study, nothing has been tested on actual humans yet. Further, once the study is completed, it will need to be published and peer reviewed, which is the normal process for pharmaceuticals that make it to market.  

There have been other reports, out of the University of Lethbridge in Canada, and the University of Nebraska and the Texas Biomedical Research Institute that have also shown promise, preliminarily, in using cannabis and / or CBD to fight coronavirus. 

It can be frustrating to hear these reports. We are all impatient after months of being holed up. Wouldn't it be great if cannabis — or anything — could put a real dent in this pandemic? But we must give scientists time to conduct the kind of studies that yield medicinal solutions that doctors can prescribe with confidence. That’s how our healthcare system, as broken as it is, works today. 

More cannabis research now, please.

It might seem extreme and even foolish to insist that cannabis be held to the same standards as pharmaceutical drugs, which can take 10 years of research and $1 billion to bring to market. Even after all that, some of these drugs still have horrendous and sometimes even fatal side effects, while there’s no record of cannabis having ever killed anyone — it’s about as toxic as water. 

Yes, our science and medical establishment could / would / should have been seriously studying the medicinal power of cannabis over the last 80 years. I'm not a doctor or scientist, but I'm going to go ahead and say it’s criminally stupid that we are so far behind on cannabis. We have much catching up to do. I hope there are ways to expedite the studies going on now, so that we can give cannabis the best chance to ease suffering and possibly save lives. It can be a weapon against many forms of disease, and for overall wellness, for millions of people.

But what can you and I do now? 

Educate ourselves. 

Pay attention to the educators I feature on my podcast, like Curt Robbins, Mara Gordon, Benjamin Caplan, M.D., Peter Grinspoon, M.D., Tom Folan, M.D., and David Nathan, M.D. among others. This will help you increase your knowledge of the cannabis plant and it’s amazing potential. 

Get involved locally. 

Listen to podcast episodes with activists like Andrew DeAngelo, Keith Stroup, Joe Dolce, Rob Meija, Abbie Epstein, Kristin Yoder and others. Reach out to others in your community to help fight the anti-cannabis stigma that still exists. 

Protect your cannabis rights.

As we now know better than ever, elections have consequences. If we don’t want the next virus, or whatever future catastrophe is in store, to catch us flat-footed, we need to elect smart, responsible people who believe in science and respect our individual rights.

Vote to protect and extend your cannabis rights, so we can discover what this plant is truly capable of, and live better lives as a result. And tell your family and friends to do the same. Our future depends on it.  

 

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