With 23 states currently supporting some form of legal Marijuana (with more on the way) and the Feds leaving state rights alone, Marijuana is in a unique place. Despite being a multibillion dollar industry, major corporations have been forced to sit on the sidelines (to avoid federal problems) while smaller businesses and entrepreneurs have been able to take advantage of the semi-legal status of marijuana– largely without regulation of any kind.
As a result, the market has been flooded with numerous products and cures that claim to possess a wide array of medicinal properties. Unfortunately, unlike medicine that’s produced in a highly-regulated laboratory setting according to standardized “good laboratory practices” (GLP), most of these cures are being made in back-yards and garages with chemicals purchased at the hardware store by less-than-qualified “chemists” like Rick Simpson (except in Colorado where they’ve adopted some very smart regulations regarding the manufacture of concentrates). In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the more common treatments available and consider their benefits from a scientific perspective.
This was perhaps the hottest growing MMJ product of 2014. It’s been known since the 1960’s that THC wasn’t the only active component in Marijuana and by the 90’s, doctors had discovered two separate cannabinoid receptors in the brain (used for a natural cannabinoid produced in our brains called anandamide) and had come to realize that these “complimentary” cannabinoids played an important part in Marijuana’s medicinal properties as THC. In 2007, an article published in The Journal of Chemistry and Biodiversity outlined the benefits of one in particular: Cannabidiol otherwise known as CBD. It appears to exhibit many of the desired medicinal properties found in marijuana without any psychedelic effects but unfortunately decades of selective breeding for THC have made CBD concentrations low in comparison to THC.
The most effective way to consume CBD is through concentrate… HOWEVER… There’s no feasible, practical way to separate CBD from THC so these oils are essentially regular extracts of “high CBD” strains of marijuana, some purporting to be as high as 17% CBD with little to no THC (<1%) (though such measurements are not particularly accurate and should be taken with a grain of salt). There has been some controversy with people selling hemp oil as a medicinal equivalent to CBD oil (since hemp is legal to ship anywhere in the US but CBD is not) but it’s well documented that hemp does not contain enough cannabinoids to have any beneficial effects.
Rick Simpson Oil
Allow me to preface with this: Never ingest Rick Simpson Oil (RSO). I had always heard mention of Rick Simpson Oil (it became popular after his documentary Run From The Cure gained traction in “alternative medicine” circles) but never understood exactly what it was until I visited Rick Simpson’s website today. Words cannot express the horror I felt as I read through the site with my hands on my head, occasionally letting out an audible “oh my god” as I studied his methodology and procedure.
The man is just plain uneducated and the product he’s been encouraging is downright dangerous for consumption. Where did Rick Simpson get his chemistry education? By inhaling too much aerosol while spraying adhesive on asbestos covered boiler pipes and falling backwards off a ladder. Let the stupidity of that sink in. The man should have won a Darwin award but amazingly he survived– though not without head trauma requiring medication. After years of taking said medication, Rick claims he was miraculously cured by ingesting a marijuana concentrate he created himself using paint thinner and that later, that the same oil would be used topically to cure Melanoma. Seriously. And people desperate or stupid enough to overlook both science and common sense bought in to it. But what makes RSO dangerous? Rick Simpson claims he uses “light aliphatic naptha” (aka petroleum ether) or “99% Isopropyl alcohol” and confidently states that “for a solvent to be effective, it should be 100% pure and 100% pure alcohol is hard to find.” Rick Simpson is an idiot.
1. Medicinal-grade petroleum ether for drug manufacture, which is really just a mixture of straight-chain alkanes (pentane, hexane, heptane, etc.), is nearly impossible to obtain if you’re not a legitimate laboratory doing 100% legal chemistry that would involve such a solvent. I know this because it was difficult to obtain solvents like this even while working for the chemistry department of a well-regarded state university, it is never sold with no questions asked. And by definition, petroleum ether is mixture of solvents. So much for needing the solvent to be “100% pure”
2. We know that in fact, what Rick thinks is “pure” petroleum ether (sold as paint thinner) is very likely adulterated with actually toxic, carcinogenic chemicals like benzene and toluene or in the best case scenario, contain some mixture of ligroins (heavier hydrocarbons like octane, decane… essentially gasoline) which would have too high a boiling point to effectively remove without the use of a vacuum pump. How do I know this? Because I’m an actual chemist and took all of 5 minutes to read the Material Data Safety Sheets (MSDS) for all available Napthas/Petroleum Ethers/Benzines/ aliphatic hydrocarbon solvents available for purchase in any form. Nice going, Rick.
3. There’s no such thing as 100% alcohol, there will always be some water present because water and isopropyl form an azeotrope. Way to keep it scientific, Rick. Also, as anyone who’s ever tried quick was isoprpyl hash (QWISO) could tell you, it’s very unpleasant to smoke and the isopropyl would evaporate far below the temperatures required to carboxylate the concentrate for oral consumption though a quick hot bath could potentially yield an effective topical product– if such a thing even exists. That’s just from one paragraph from his page (I could go on), you really should read it if you get a chance. *Spolier alert* a 2×2 piece of wood and rice cooker are involved. AVOID AT ALL COSTS.
When it comes to obtaining a concentrated dose of cannabinoids, there is no more proven method than directly smoking or vaporizing potent marijuana or for a stronger dose, BHO extract that has been vacuum purged. As I mentioned earlier, Colorado has adopted new regulations that require bho manufacturers to used closed loop systems and vacuum purging which not only reduce the chance of explosion; they make for better extracts with less than 30 part per million (ppm) of butane present (far, FAR below safe food levels approved by the FDA.
The reason butane is the solvent of choice is because of how easily it is removed from the final product. Any significant health benefits seen after the use of the above mentioned products is likely due to the amazing ability of the human body to regenerate itself… marijuana merely eases the discomfort of With no regulation, the marijuana industry is essentially the wild west of business. Be careful who you trust out there, it’s up to you not to ingest toxic chemicals. Remember… “When in doubt, smoke a joint”