RECENTLY the government led by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) approved the first license to research and produce hemp for medicinal and industrial uses. It must be made clear that the chemical compound CBD short for cannabidiol is extracted from the cannabis sativa plant. There are hundreds of different chemical compounds produced by cannabis plants depending on traits being cultivated.
The variety of cannabis referred to as marijuana produces delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which induces a psychoactive effect in its consumers. However, it is important to note cultivars of cannabis with a high ratio of CBD to THC are referred to as hemp or bhang in local parlance. Although there is no hemp variety in the market which is THC free, specialist CBD strains contain negligible amounts of less than 0.3 percent THC. Therefore CBD does not get you high but it does provide health benefits and after extraction the leftover fibres can be used in industrial products. Furthermore certain hemp strains are only cultivated for industrial purposes due to their high fibre green mass.
Bhang grows wild all over Pakistan and has very low amount of CBD and the plant mass is not desirable for large scale industrial use. Meanwhile most of the western world has cultivated a stable CBD strain which is suitable for industrial farming. Among developing nations India has been a leader in developing genetics through their conventional seed development capabilities which allowed them to systematically adopt international varieties to their environment. They proactively educate and empower farmers to transition from water and nutrient intensive crops like cotton and corn to this new cash crop.
There is no doubt CBD products are here to stay because physicians all over the world are more willing to prescribe CBD because its effects are backed by more than popular anecdotes. However, it is not a miracle chemical compound, like any medication it has its meaningful usage. Let us consider some of these verifiable medicinal benefits:
• Treat Seizures: In 2018 after clinical trials US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of pharmaceutical-grade cannabidiol to treat Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet Syndrome in children. With regards to treatment-resistant epilepsy there are clinical studies and randomized placebo-control trials which show reduction in recurrent episodes of convulsions. • Mood disorders: After studies involving animal models determined psychiatric potential of CBD products. Pre-clinical trials among psychiatric patients suffering from anxiety-related disorders support micro dosing with CBD which made patients feel calmer. There is strong evidence that certain strains of CBD rich cannabis plants produce anxiolytic-like effects. This makes CBD a viable organic substitute for chemical based anti-depressants prescribed to patients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
• Inflammation and Arthritis: Cannabinoids help inflammatory response due to suppressing cytokines and chemokines at inflammatory sites. CBD has also helped patients suffering from autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis by increasing mobility and pain relief.
It is common sense to approach any question related to physical or mental health with caution. Most studies based on clinical trials clarify peer reviews are necessary to lend further credibility to medicinal benefits of hemp. However, one thing is for sure medicinal hemp is rightly part of alternate therapies. This is why CBD is already a billion dollar industry and Pakistan has not taken advantage of this export opportunity.
— The writer is freelance columnist.