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No ‘high’ in this type of marijuana

Here’s something for Minnesota lawmakers to consider as they ponder whether to legalize marijuana for medical reasons.              

In Israel,   researchers have grown marijuana that can ease the pain of some diseases without getting patients high.

Marijuana has more than 60 chemical compounds called cannabinoids. THC is perhaps the best known, less for its medical benefits than for its psychoactive properties that give people a “high” feeling.

But marijuana also contains cannabidiol, or CBD, a substance that some researchers say has anti-inflammatory benefits.

Unlike THC, it hardly binds to the brain’s receptors and can therefore work without getting patients stoned.

Tikun Olam, the company developing the plant, began its research on CBD-enhanced cannabis in 2009 and about six months ago came up with a strain called Avidekel.

It contains 15.8 percent CBD but only traces — less than 1 percent — of THC, according to Reuters news service.

Recreational marijuana is illegal in Israel, but medicinal use has been permitted since 1993. It is used to treat about 9,000 people in Israel suffering from illnesses such as cancer, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“It’s a huge advantage,” said one 35-year-old patient, according to Reuters. “I can smoke during the day, function with a lot less pain and still be focused, work and drive. It is a great gift.”

The woman began suffering chronic pains after a tumor was removed from her spine. She began using regular THC-containing marijuana eight months ago. Two months ago, she tried Avidekel.

“The difference is huge. Before, I would only smoke at the end of the day and stay in pain.”

Now, she said, with the doctored marijuana, “my life is so much better.”

Ruth Gallily of the Hebrew University, who works for Tikun Olam and has been studying CBD for more than 12 years, said she has found that the substance has impressive anti-inflammatory qualities.

She has been testing the company’s CBD-enhanced cannabis on mice and expects clinical trials to begin in a few months.

If found to be safe and effective, non-high medical marijuana could be used for treating diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, colitis, liver inflammation, heart disease and diabetes with no side effects.

On Friday morning, a Minnesota Senate committee advanced a bill to legalize medical marijuana on a 7-3 vote, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

The legislation next will be taken up by a rules committee in the Senate next week.

The bill would give patients with certain medical conditions access to a limited amount of marijuana.

Patients would need to obtain certification from a doctor that they might benefit from marijuana; they would then obtain cannabis from a dispensary.

At the start of Friday’s hearing, the bill was amended to tighten access by patients and improve standards for those who work in or operate dispensaries, and to include a study on the evidence for medical marijuana.