We meet a lot of people doing amazing things in the cannabis space, but when we met Pelin Thorogood, President and Co-Founder of the Wholistic Research and Education Foundation, our minds were blown. Thorogood is a tech executive turned social entrepreneur/venture philanthropist and her approach to cannabis research is refreshing and urgently needed. In honor of Giving Tuesday, we asked Thorogood to tell us a bit more about the mission of Wholistic. We need more data on cannabis and its potential health benefits and by supporting foundations like Wholistic, you are supporting the advancement of cannabis research.
2019 has been a banner year for both the hemp-derived CBD and medical marijuana industries due to the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill which legalized hemp cultivation across the US, as well as changing public sentiment towards cannabis in general. According to a recent Gallup poll, more than 1 out of 7 people say they use CBD products, citing relief from pain (40%), anxiety (20%), insomnia (11%) and arthritis (8%) as the top reasons for use. 33 states have already legalized medical marijuana, while 11 states also allow recreational use. However, the lack of industry regulation and oversight as well as the massive black market for such products has led to systemic quality control issues. Instead of delivering on their much-expected promise, Cannabis, and hemp-derived CBD in particular, may instead pose a potential public health hazard due to wide-spread misinformation, ingredient mislabeling and/or product contamination
These current state of affairs, recently reinforced by a very cautious tone from the FDA, further underscores the importance of our mission at Wholistic Research and Education Foundation, a public nonprofit dedicated to cannabis research, education, and advocacy. The government, the public, and healthcare professionals are all in need of legitimate research on the safety and efficacy of cannabis to separate fact from fiction. Given the urgency of the situation, here are our five recommendations to get this much needed evidence-based data:
Start With “Why” Not “If”: Based on anecdotal evidence from the millions of regular cannabis users, research focus needs to be not on whether cannabis may help certain indications, but rather on the how and why. We need an understanding on its mechanism of action. We need a multi-disciplinary approach, augmenting traditional clinical trials with the latest in scientific, genetic, stem cell and imaging techniques, for a comprehensive and systematic exploration of cannabis efficacy for various conditions.
Explore Personalized Differences: While countless patients swear by cannabis, there is also a significant population who appears to experience little to no benefit. In the age of personalized medicine, we now have the tools to explore why cannabis works for some, but not others. Leveraging new technologies and methodologies, we should seek to identify biomarkers and other traits that could predict who might respond well to CBD treatment, and ultimately facilitate the use of precision medicine in the future.
Focus On Human vs Animal Trials: While animal models give us extremely valuable information on the way the body absorbs and processes various compounds and the way these compounds affect the body, animal research results can be a poor predictor to the human experience. A variety of drugs to treat brain disorders in mice, including Alzheimer's, depression and schizophrenia, have often failed to treat humans. This is likely due to subtle but important differences in mouse and human brain tissue that could affect the response to many compounds, including cannabis. What we need is human data. Yet, human clinical trials come at an enormous cost - often tens or hundreds of millions of dollars – which is what makes the next point so critical.
Learn From The Current User Population: Given tens of millions of people are currently using cannabis (CBD or marijuana) for medicinal purposes, it may be past time for messing with animal models or even full-blown, multi-year clinical trials, at least for some of the most common cannabis use cases, such as chronic pain, insomnia, and anxiety. We are in the midst of a massive uncontrolled human study right now and have an unprecedented opportunity to collect data at a very large scale from willing participants for observational studies. We can use this information to identify the types of cannabis products used to address various indications, as well as details on dose, frequency, timing of use, and delivery methods most associated with therapeutic benefit. We can also craft longitudinal studies to explore the effects of long-term use in adults, any impact on brain development in children as well as interactions with drugs or other botanicals.
Compare CBD Isolate Effects To Full Spectrum: There is already research that points to how full-spectrum CBD / cannabis can be more effective than CBD isolate. We need to further study the whole cannabis plant for any hidden interactions where seemingly inactive ingredients may actually play crucially active roles in accelerating efficacy or minimizing side effects. Also, while CBD appears as the star of the show today, it may be other “minor cannabinoids” such as CBN and CBG that may steal its thunder in the not too distant future as we continue to explore how the various cannabinoids contribute to the broader health benefits of cannabis.
People around the world have been using cannabis for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. However, with the recent explosion in cannabis use, there is now a great urgency to accurately assess its potential health benefits and risks. It was our own personal stories that drove my co-founding partner Andy Noorda and me to start the Wholistic foundation. We firmly believe it will be cutting edge science combined with a whole systems approach that will ultimately demystify and explain the power of this ancient plant. As such, we’ve already embarked on groundbreaking cannabis efficacy studies in partnership with some of the top research institutions in the US, funding nearly six million dollars to date in exactly the type of research I recommend above. Will you support our mission?
Your support today can make a significant impact in their 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 Wholistic Research and 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.
Written By: Pelin Thorogood who is a tech executive turned social entrepreneur/venture philanthropist and is currently President and Co-Founder of the Wholistic Research and Education Foundation, a public non-profit (501c3) dedicated to cannabis research, education, and advocacy.