Reefer research

Philippe Lucas poses with his researchPhilippe Lucas poses with his researchPhilippe Lucas, founder of the Vancouver Island Compassion Society, is working on some exciting research into the effects of medicinal cannabis.
In an exclusive interview with Cannabis Culture, Lucas explained that most studies into medical cannabis have been limited to research in test-tubes and on animals. Lucas is working with medical cannabis clubs across Canada to find out more about the effects of marijuana, specifically looking to find how different strains of cannabis affect various ailments.

“It has long been known that certain strains are more effective in alleviating certain symptoms,” explained Lucas. “A general rule of thumb is that Indicas, because of their more narcotic effect, are typically better at alleviating generalized pain than Sativas, which appear to be more effective in treating dystonic movement disorders such as MS or epilepsy.”

These different medical effects are due to the varying cannabinoid profiles of different strains. “Studies have shown that CBD is an effective anti-convulsant and anti-spasmatic,” explained Lucas. “Therefore it has been suggested that true Sativas may typically be higher in CBD than their Indica cousins.”

The specific medical effects of a cannabis strain depend on more than just whether it is an Indica or Sativa. “There are numerous strains that appear particularly effective at treating certain symptoms,” explained Lucas. “The White family, such as White Widow and White Rhino, are generally considered to be very good pain killers.”

Cannabis questionnaire

Lucas approached Dr Mark Ware from McGill University’s Pain Center to help him in his research. Dr Ware is a member of the Canadian Consortium for the Investigation of Cannabinoids in Human Therapeutics, and is one of the world’s foremost cannabis researchers. He is currently awaiting a shipment of cannabis from the US government, to begin one of two clinical cannabis studies approved and funded by Health Canada.

Lucas approached Ware to get some help in developing a questionnaire which could be circulated among the clients of Canada’s current med-pot compassion clubs. “By surveying the employees of these unique organizations,” explained Lucas, “we hope to see if there is any strain/symptom consistency within the membership of Canadian clubs.”

Lucas explained that this is only the first stage in what will be a much more thorough investigation. “Should our analysis suggest that there is a positive correlation between certain medical conditions and certain cannabis varietals, this may posit a more specific investigation into the cannabinoid profile of these strains, as well as more specific clinical research into why one varietal might be more effective than another in treating specific symptoms.”

Lucas’ survey has gone through preliminary approval with the McGill Board of Ethics, and should be underway this spring.

Hepatitis research

Lucas is also working other intriguing lines of research. He’s begun working with Dr Diana Sylvestre of the University of California, San Francisco, to study how cannabis might increase the success of Interferon treatment for hepatitis-C in intravenous drug users. In a 2002 study, Dr Sylvestre discovered that her study subjects who were smoking pot had a much higher treatment success rate than the non-users.

When Lucas heard of Sylvestre’s research, he forwarded the results to Dr Ethan Russo, a neurobiologist who is editor of the Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics.

“Dr Russo suggested that the results may be the attributable to an immunological response,” explained Lucas. “If we could prove that cannabis actually had a positive impact on the immune system , we could further defend and justify its medicinal use.”

Lucas is now working with Dr Sylvestre and the BC Compassion Club Society (BCCCS), to design an appropriate study. Together, VICS and the BCCCS provide medicine to about 500 patients with hepatitis-C. Lucas anticipates this study being concluded by the Spring.

“If the results of our study show that cannabis has a positive impact on hep-c treatment outcomes, it would not only seriously change the nature of hep-c treatment protocols, but also completely alter the US perception of cannabis as a drug of abuse with no medical value,” claimed Lucas. “In other words, our hope is that this research may result in a change of our understanding of this medicinal herb, as well as in the laws currently prohibiting its use.”

The VICS plans to start up more studies over the next year, including double-blind studies to test specific strains against various symptoms.

“It is our goal to use our unique knowledge base and membership to oversee more medicinal cannabis research than any other government or private institution in North America,” says Lucas.

“This information will not be the property of federal government or pharmaceutical interests; it will be made public so that we can all benefit from a further understanding of cannabis and its incredible medicinal properties.”Philippe Lucas poses with his research

? Philippe Lucas is the founder and director of the Vancouver Island Compassion Society and Director of Communications for DrugSense. He uses cannabis to alleviate the symptoms of his hepatitis-c.
? Philippe Lucas: 250-884-9821; email [email protected]; web
? Canadian Consortium for the Investigation of Cannabinoids in Human Therapeutics: tel 902-473-6428; email [email protected]; web