Leading the way in cannabis research, Pelin Thorogood, is the President and Co-Founder of Wholistic Research & Education Foundation and Chief Health and Research Contributor for Svn Space.
1. Could you please tell us about your personal connection to cannabis? Did you have any pre-conceived notions with cannabis?
Until a few years ago, I honestly didn’t know much about cannabis and certainly had never heard of CBD. I was vaguely aware that medical marijuana was recommended for cancer patients or in other end-of-life situations to ease pain, but outside of that I viewed cannabis as more of a recreational substance, akin to alcohol or tobacco. Little did I know about the diversity of its potential health benefits or the existence of CBD and other non-psychoactive cannabinoids.
2. What inspired you and your co-founder Andy to create the Wholistic Research & Education Foundation and can you tell us more about your mission?
I co-founded Wholistic with my friend and business partner Andy Noorda. Both of us had personally experienced the benefits of CBD and in Andy’s case, it was truly a life-changing experience.
His son Max was born with cerebral palsy and had experienced massive spasticity his whole life which interfered with his therapy. When Max turned 11, Andy started using CBD on him after learning about its anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety effects. I understand that within minutes of the initial topical CBD treatment, Max relaxed and opened his tight fist for the very first time. After three years of CBD treatments, Max is now able to throw balls, hug his father, and participate in therapy in a far more meaningful manner than ever before. The improvements to his condition—and the hope this has provided Max’s family—have been just absolutely remarkable.
Once Andy and I started asking our friends and colleagues about CBD four years ago, well before it was as popular as it is today, we found out many were using CBD for a variety of conditions. Not just epilepsy, which I know many have now heard about, but really everything from brain tumors to Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, autism to sleep, and everyday chronic pain. The breadth of the potential benefits was honestly astounding to me!
Just as interesting—especially given my analytics background—was how a lot of others indicated that CBD did not benefit them. They said, “Yeah I tried CBD, I heard about all the hype, and it doesn't work for me at all.” So, we wanted get to the bottom of how and why CBD may provide these diverse health benefits and why it worked for some people and not for others. As we looked into the medical literature, we realized there was simply not a lot of research from NIH [National Institutes of Health] or other sources primarily due to the Schedule 1 status of CBD and cannabis.
Based on what we saw, we thought it was time to bring in private money and resources for much-needed research funding, so we decided to start the Wholistic Research & Education Foundation. Our mission is to explore the health benefits of CBD-rich therapeutics with clinical and scientific research, and leverage this evidence-based data for education and advocacy. Our approach is what some call “Venture Philanthropy,” which is a model that goes far beyond writing checks. We take a deep, long-term view into what it means to invest in cutting-edge CBD research and education to improve public health and safety.
3. When you hear the FDA or media state that there is “not enough research” on cannabis or clinical trials, how would you respond?
It is absolutely true that there is not sufficient research around the safety, efficacy, or mechanisms of action for cannabis. Most of the research to date is either pre-clinical or based on animal models. While animal models give us extremely valuable information on the way the body absorbs and processes various compounds and how these compounds affect the body, animal research results can be a poor predictor to human experience. Given tens of millions of people are currently using cannabis (CBD or marijuana) for medicinal purposes, what we really need are more human studies—both clinical as well as longitudinal (to study long-term effects). We also need research that focuses on mechanisms of action so we understand how cannabis may be delivering health benefits.
4. What are some of the obstacles we face from an industry and consumer point of view?
The main obstacle to research we see is the lack of availability of cannabis and CBD products approved for research purposes. Given we have 33 medical marijuana states (and counting) and hemp-derived CBD is available across the entire country, consumers have access to countless cannabis/CBD products. Yet there is only a single approved source to procure cannabis for research purposes, which does not nearly provide the needed variety to explore the potential effects of the various strains with different cannabinoid content.
5. Who are some of your esteemed peers who are a part of the Wholistic Research & Education Foundation team/network?
I am extremely grateful for the commitment of our Board of Directors and Officers (Andy Noorda, Ted Roth, Reena Horowitz, Cheryl Pia, and Tyler Wakstein as well as Zoe McKinley, Danae Brooker, and Michael Kammins). And of course, we couldn’t do what we do without the amazing support of our Medical Advisory Committee, which includes world-renowned doctors, scientists, researchers, and policy experts who have been instrumental in all of our efforts to date.
6. What specific research or study are you most excited about in 2020?
We are very excited to be soon kicking off a study around Cannabis Efficacy for Insomnia and a separate study to explore Cannabis Efficacy for Anxiety. During the first phase of both studies, we plan to survey adult users to identify the types of cannabis products they currently take for each condition (insomnia or anxiety), as well details on dose, frequency, timing of use, and delivery methods most associated with therapeutic benefit. We are also hoping to embark on a clinical trial around cannabis efficacy for chronic pain as well as opioid cravings—an issue very near and dear to so many impacted families.
7. What advice would you give women and young girls who are “canna-curious” and want a start in this exciting industry?
As more research highlights the health benefits of cannabis, and more “transplants” from other industries (like me) join the space based on their personal stories, the stigma associated with the plant is slowly fading. So, as an entrepreneur at heart, I would encourage anyone to take a chance and get involved if they are indeed curious—especially women and young girls! Women already play such a vital role in healthcare and medicine, so it is only natural that they should be appropriately represented in this booming wellness industry as well.
About Wholistic Research & Education Foundation:
The Wholistic Research & Education Foundation is dedicated to funding clinical and scientific research to explore how and why cannabis can benefit certain health conditions, and using this evidence-based data for education and advocacy. Specifically, it:
- Applies resources to gaps in existing research, leveraging a multi-disciplinary approach.
- Educates the public and health care practitioners with research-driven data.
- Drives evidence-based drug policy at the federal level by helping translate research results to impact policy.
Other articles by Pelin Thorogood:
How to donate
Your support today can make a significant impact in the Foundation’s efforts to assess the potential health benefits and risks for Cannabis and CBD, as additional evidence-based data is urgently needed. 100% of your donation will fund the Wholistic Research & Education Foundation’s efforts to help answer just HOW and WHY CBD works (not if). If CBD has helped you or a loved one, please visit this link and click “Donate Today”. Be the change you want to see in the world, and join this modern Hemp revolution. Thank you.
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My brother who is 59 was just diagnosed with early stage dementia. I’m wondering if CBD would be beneficial to him, any studies indicating it could help? Thanks
Bravo for your efforts. I’ve been using CBD for the last year to manage reoccurring back pain as a result of back surgery over 12 years ago. I’ve not had to use any over the counter medications since and for my experience, a little CBD is all I’ve needed.