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How to Break the Government's Cruel Blockade on Cannabis Research

Oakland's Harborside Health Center is conducting a groundbreaking survey, using its own patient pool to catalog the research potential of cannabis.

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So, HHC’s survey takes into account not only the strain of cannabis each patient is using and evaluating, but also the particular batch of cannabis and the unique cannabinoid profile.

“For example you would have a questionnaire where somebody would be evaluating Purple Kush—that’s not just Purple Kush but a particular batch of Purple Kush,” says DeAngelo. “Every batch of cannabis that comes through here gets a unique identifier.”

He notes that the question of what gives cannabis such a therapeutic effect is something that is only beginning to be analyzed as there are more than 65 identified cannabinoids, and those can combine in an almost infinite number of ratios, one to another.

In theory, he says, over the course of two, three, four years of implementing questionnaire responses, the resulting database will allow the user to ask things like: “What did the largest number of multiple sclerosis patients prefer? Which strain did they prefer least? What’s the chemical difference—what’s the difference in cannabinoid profile between those two different strains of cannabis? So that we can start developing an actual, objective way of at least identifying cannabinoid profile with symptoms.”

In addition to asking patients to evaluate cannabis against other cannabis, the survey asks patients to evaluate cannabis compared with pharmaceutical drugs they’ve used to treat the same symptoms.

“So, we’ll also be able to go [into the database] and ask questions like, ‘Find all of the patients who used narcotic painkillers prior to using cannabis and identify which strain of cannabis was most preferred by those patients as a substitute, or as a way to wean themselves off of the dependent medicine. There’s obviously huge, huge research potential for dependency issues there.“

April M. Short is an associate editor at AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter @AprilMShort.