Mobile Drug-Testing Devices Doubtful Accuracy and An Australian Cannabis Enquiry Needed

In Australia, thousands are prosecuted every year for Cannabis use while driving. Research at the University of Sydney Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics suggests the devices currently used return both false positives and negatives. This new research calls into question the reliability of the two devices used for mobile ‘drug’ testing (MDT) in New South Wales (NSW) and other Australian states. These devices were used in the prosecution of almost 10,000 Cannabis users for ‘drug driving’ in NSW in 2016 (the last year for which data are available).

Professor Iain McGregor is the Academic Director of the Lambert Initiative.

Professor Iain McGregor, Academic Director of the Lambert Initiative

The study, published in the journal Drug Testing and Analysis, found that the devices frequently failed to detect high concentrations of tetrahydro-cannabinol (THC). False negative rates were 9% and 16% for the two devices but they also sometimes gave a positive result when saliva THC concentrations were very low or negligible (false positive rate of 5% and 10%). “Detecting impairment due to Cannabis use is an important goal in promoting road safety but using saliva tests to do this appears fraught with issues”, said Professor Iain McGregor, Academic Director of the Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics and senior author of the study.

The study, led by PhD student Thomas Arkell, was part of a larger study  looking at the effects of vaporised Cannabis on drivingIn the same way breathalysers can detect whether a driver has a blood alcohol concentration of more than 0.05%, these devices are meant to detect whether a driver has more than a certain defined amount of THC in saliva. If so, the test should come back positive. Study participants were occasional Cannabis users who consumed two different types of Cannabis or placebo Cannabis on three separate test days.

Participants had saliva tested at baseline and regular intervals after Cannabis consumption using the Securetec DrugWipe and the Draeger DrugTest 5000 – the same types of devices in use around Australia for MDT. The study tested 14 participants on two devices where the participants had vaporised placebo Cannabis, THC-dominant Cannabis, or Cannabis containing equivalent concentrations of THC and cannabidiol (CBD). In all, there were more than 300 separate tests taken. Participants were also tested for driving performance on a state-of-the-art driving simulator. rdt3

As well as using the two MDT test devices, the researchers collected separate saliva samples in order to measure exactly how much THC was in each participant’s saliva at the time of each test. This ‘confirmatory’ test used a highly accurate laboratory mass spectrometer. “What we found was that these test results often came back positive when they should have been negative, or conversely that they came back negative when they should have actually been positive”, Mr Arkell said. 

The study also found measures of accuracy, specificity and sensitivity of the two devices fell below levels recommended by EU authorities. The rationale for mobile drug testing is based on the success of the RBT program pioneered in Australia. But while there is a very clear link between alcohol intake, blood alcohol content measured in a breathalyser and intoxication, THC levels in saliva do not reliably reflect Cannabis intake or ‘intoxication’.

“We should instead be focusing on developing novel methods for detecting drivers who are actually impaired by Cannabis. The two devices used by police in MDT were never designed to measure impairment. Authorities in other jurisdictions, such as Canada, remain far more cautious in their use of such devices”Professor McGregor said. Professor McGregor also said that when people use THC capsules or suppositories, neither of which leave traces of THC in the oral cavity, users have zero THC in their saliva, but can be heavily ‘intoxicated’.rdt2

Additionally, people tested in this study would often feel too impaired to drive two hours after vaporising Cannabis but would give a negative saliva test with the two devices. Conversely other people in the study presented with negligible levels of THC in their saliva and no driving impairment, but tested positive with the MDT devices at the detection thresholds used in the study.  There is also the issue of passive smoking, Professor McGregor said that at least two overseas studies had shown people passively exposed to the Cannabis smoke of others can exhibit salivary levels of THC that would generate a positive test result.

The number of mobile ‘drug’ tests being conducted each year continues to rise, with NSW Police planning to conduct 200,000 of these tests in 2020. Study lead Mr Arkell said; “Given that these tests can cost at least $40 each, and potentially lead to serious life-changing penalties for drivers, it is imperative that these concerns around reliability and accuracy are addressed”. 

Michael Balderstone, President, Australian HEMP Party and Nimbin HEMP Embassy, noted in the September 2019 Nimbin Good Times “There’s a more reliable occupancy rate in jails than hotels and the new Serco prison near Grafton, on track to open next year and employ 600 people, is sure to be a safe investment for Macquarie Bank and the others up to their neck in this sordid business … they created Cannabis cautioning to stop young people getting criminal records and lessen minor pot charges filling the courts”. 

“That enabled the likes of Scomo to argue, ‘We’ve dealt with Cannabis, unless you’re a wicked drug dealer, you just get a caution, a slap on the wrist’. And now it’s a new level of political cunning we’re hearing regularly. ‘We’ve dealt with medical Cannabis, it’s legal now’. Omitting to tell us you have to be almost dead to access the legal mediweed and it’s incredibly ridiculously expensive. And all imported! And you’re not allowed to drive if you use it”.MardiGrass2015

“99% of Australian Cannabis users are unaffected by the medical Cannabis legislation, but politicians act like they’ve dealt with the issue. Reviewing the Cannabis laws has been totally swept aside by the medical debate and barely one percent of users are even helped by the changes, Meanwhile ice is on a rampage. They just don’t get it, and why would they? It’s like having teetotallers in charge of alcohol regulations”. 

Michael Balderstone further told the Nimbin Good Times, why we need a Cannabis enquiry; “The Sex, now Reason, Party … came to visit and pick our brains about the Victorian government’s ‘Inquiry into the Use of Cannabis in Victoria’. Fiona (Patten) is the chair of the Legal and Social Issues Committee. The actual  wording of the Terms of Reference reads … 

On 30th May 2019, the Legislative Council agreed to the following motion: That this house, requires the Legal and Social Issues Committee to inquire into, consider and report, by no later than 2 March 2020, into the best means to:
• prevent young people and children from accessing and using Cannabis in Victoria;
• protect public health and public safety in relation to the use of Cannabis in Victoria;
• implement health education campaigns and programs to ensure children and young people are aware of the dangers of drug use, in particular, Cannabis use;
• prevent criminal activity relating to the illegal Cannabis trade in Victoria;
• assess the health, mental health, and social impacts of Cannabis use on people who use Cannabis, their families and carers;
• and further requires the Committee to assess models from international  jurisdictions that have been successful in achieving these outcomes and consider how they may be adapted for Victoria”.

Image result for australian mediweed

“We mostly talked about models for the future, something we’ve been dreaming about in Nimbin for decades. These are my suggestions … First up let’s acknowledge prohibiting Cannabis causes more trouble than it prevents. Pretty much everyone agrees on that, it’s just what do we do next. Or, how do we get out of the mess? So first step, stop hunting pot users and if you must, treat it as a health issue”.

“Police have better things to do and it will start reversing Aussie ‘drug’ trends which are very much about not getting busted so don’t use weed, it stinks and its bulky and you have to smoke it … the easiest bust by far. Pills and powders are a cinch to hide in comparison. Then, critically, I would legalise home growing. We can argue forever about how many plants, but it’s significant California and Colorado both allow six plants. More would be great so try for ten … ”.

“Then comes the most difficult bit of regulations, supply. I’m all for the Hemployment model. There’s 100,000 jobs out there waiting to happen and there’s also plenty of Centrelink recipients that can do a complete turnaround and become taxpayers. Fuck giving the few grow and supply licences to the same old, rich, few. In Canada … seven of the 10 licensed producers are partners with global pharma giants”.cropped-medical-weed.jpg

“I’d put a ceiling on … supply licences so Big Pharma and the like are out of the picture and … let’s licence quantity. So every pound you sell is taxed as well as checked for mould and contaminants. A licence to sell a maximum of 100 lbs say at current prices, will give Aussie expertise which has been accumulating for fifty years now a chance to partake. A Dispensary licence is another matter but let’s get it out of the chemist and into the hands of people who know the subject”.

Watching North America try countless regulatory models over more than 20 years now, we have a unique opportunity to learn from their mistakes. California has had legal medical pot since 1996 and it’s just no big deal on the entire west coast of America now. Two years ago I watched suited businessmen queue with long haired hippies to buy joints or deals at any amount of dispensaries. It was so simple and so obviously no big deal for anyone”.

“Driving also can be no big deal. Most people are safer drivers with their usual ‘drugs’ inside them. Millions taking pharmaceuticals every morning first thing; pilots use speed to make sure they stay awake. Regular Cannabis users as well as heroin or methadone users are the same as pharma users. They’re all going to be safer with their usual medications on board. Road safety has to be about impairment, and police can easily and quickly tell if someone is impaired”.

r1312451_18074843“While they’re doing the breathalyser test they can get an idea of someone’s state of mind and if they want to look further then asking a driver a few questions or to hop out of the car and walk in a straight line will take less time than  waiting for the saliva stick to show up or not. ‘Drug’ test people then if you think they’re impaired and save fifty bucks on every little blue licky stick also. We can’t have machines doing everything for us, or we’ll turn into idiots”.

Background – Use of roadside saliva tests in Canada for impairment in question



Cannabis to Treat Opioid Addiction

Medical Cannabis

In the United States in 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared an ‘opioid epidemic’. This announcement came on the heels of two decades of medical over-prescribing practices, leading to opioid misuse and abuse, resulting in soaring rates of overdoses across the US. Too little, too late? Addiction isn’t a new problem. The human body is inherently vulnerable to addiction through the action of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine, a prominent chemical messenger, is released in response to rewarding and pleasurable events. Its role is to reinforce biologically relevant and necessary behaviours, including eating, sleeping and sex.

However, humans and other animals are at risk of becoming dependent on the dopamine ‘rush’ and can, therefore, develop an addiction to these behaviours whereby their body becomes dependent on the increased dopamine to function at baseline. Just like food or sex, substances like alcohol and opioids can lead to dopamine release. Opioids are derived from the poppy plant and are a key component of illicit drugs (like heroin) and pain medications (like oxycodone). While opioid medications have been used for many years to treat pain, a few crucial factors converged in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s that led to an opioid-addicted US.

Image result for new york medcan for opioid addiction

In 1996, healthcare professionals were urged to pay closer attention to the pain reported by their patients – a recommendation bordering on being a requirement, prompting recognition of pain as the ‘fifth vital sign’. The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organisation heightened the urgency to treat pain in their published guidelines and US Congress declared the first decade of the 21st century to be the “Decade of Pain Control and Research”. These events and associated policy changes sent a jolting ripple effect through the medical community that resulted in greatly increased prescriptions for pain medications.

Concurrently, Purdue Pharmaceuticals, the manufacturer of OxyContin®, began aggressively marketing their prescription opioids, spending $200 million on advertising. Their tactics included down-playing the potential risk of addiction and dependency caused by opioid medications. As a result, OxyContin® sales soared from $48 million in 1996 to almost $1.1 billion in 2000. While Purdue eventually faced criminal and civil charges, by then, the damage to America had already been done. In 2017 there were 47,600 opioid-related deaths in the US. While prescription opioids certainly contributed to these statistics, many of these deaths involved heroin; those who take opioid medications are at significantly higher risk of using heroin, due to its lower cost and easier access.

In fact, the nature of the opioid epidemic fundamentally shifted the way addiction is viewed in the US. Government initiatives have invested in strategies to reduce access to prescription opioid medications but this does nothing to help patients with chronic pain who need treatment, nor those recovering from addiction. Fortunately, there is an overwhelming amount of data supporting Cannabis as both an effective agent for pain relief and an aide in helping people recover from opioid addiction. The idea of using Cannabis to treat pain is not new – in fact, ancient Chinese civilisations used Cannabis for joint pain and inflammation before it came to the West (Cannabis is one of the ancient Chinese ‘50 Fundamental Herbs’).

Opioids, derived from the poppy plant, have also been historically used for pain control; however, unlike Cannabis, those who used opioids quickly learned of the risk of addiction. Cannabis shares some physiological similarities to opioids, as short-term use increases dopamine to relieve pain. However, Cannabis increases dopamine via cannabinoid receptors, while opioids increase it via opioid receptors. Additionally, the increase in dopamine levels from Cannabis does not persist over time and, therefore, the risk of possible dependence is significantly lower.

Image result for cannabis for pain and opioid addiction

The effects of Cannabis on pain have been demonstrated across many studies. A meta-analysis of 28 clinical trials conducted on Cannabis and pain ranging from 1948-2015 reported positive findings, concluding Cannabis is effective in treating pain with a reasonable safety profile. Cannabis has therefore been approved to treat chronic pain in the majority of US states where its use is legalised. But, what about treating opioid addiction and not just pain? US states with legalised medical’ Cannabis have significantly lower levels of opioid use and opioid-related deaths.

A study in 2016 found a 64% reduction in opioid use in American patients who used Cannabis for their chronic pain. Studies have shown Cannabis may be effective in reducing craving for opioids and easing withdrawal symptoms. Based on this evidence and the unrelenting opioid crisis, New Jersey and Pennsylvania added opioid addiction as a qualifying condition for ‘medical’ Cannabis and other states like New Mexico, Maryland, Connecticut and Ohio are drafting similar policies. New York and Illinois allow patients prescribed opioids to receive ‘medical’ Cannabis instead.

Image result for cannabis for pain and opioid addiction

These policies certainly represent tremendous progress toward helping patients use ‘medical’ Cannabis to treat their pain and potentially aid them in recovery as they transition off opioids. However, Cannabis still remains a Schedule I substance at the federal level in the US, which restricts patients’ access to it and continues to slow critical research. Despite growing awareness and recognition of the potential for Cannabis in alleviating the epidemic caused by opioid addiction, ending prohibition entirely is the only way to further progress and alleviate the opioid crisis in the United States.

Adapted from Medical Cannabis for Opioid Addiction: A Two-Pronged Approach, Part 1 and Medical Cannabis for Opioid Addiction: A Two-Pronged Approach, Part 2


Four Cannabinoid Receptors that Stop Inflammation and Kill Pain


Cannabinoids interact with each cannabinoid receptor type in the body, sometimes in tandem and sometimes in competition. Each activation gives a response to dampen pain stimuli and reduce inflammation. Cannabinoid receptor types, CBand CB2, are proteins embedded in cell membranes. These surface proteins attach to another protein which determines signalling direction: activation or inhibition (tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), for example, activates). The signal that goes out depends on which molecule binds to the receptor. Cannabinoids also activate many other receptors in the human body.

CB receptors

CB1 and CB2 receptors are the most common. The main difference between the two is in their distribution throughout the body: CB1 is highly expressed in neurons within the brain (except the respiratory centre, where it is almost non-existent). CB2 is present in 100-fold lower numbers in the central nervous system and mainly expresses on immune cells, including those of the brain (microglia). The classical effects, in the brain, for CB1 activation are reductions in neuro-transmitter release. CB2 activation dampens microglial activation and reduces neuro-inflammation. These are the basic mechanisms to reduce pain (anti-nociception).

A unique feature of CB1 and CB2 receptors is their ability to “team up” with other neuro-receptors, such as dopamine, opioid, orexigenic (appetite regulator) and adenosine. This cooperation changes their neuro-transmission. In the periphery of the body (outside the central nervous system), reduction of inflammation and neuropathic injury has been primarily ascribed to the activation of CB2. CB2 receptors are present in the peripheral nerves, as well as within the inflamed lining of joints and skin. Reduction of colitis in rodents, for example, has been possible using cannabinoids that act through CB2 receptors. Doctors also managed it with cannabigerol (CBG) acting through CB2.

Cannabinoid receptor type

The GPR55 receptor, a more recently discovered cannabinoid receptor of the non-classical type, regulates neuro-inflammatory responses. GPR55, like CB1 and CB2 attaches to the cellular membrane. It associates with an effector protein inside the cell. GPR55 is part of the central nervous system, expressed in the hypothalamus, thalamus and mid-brain. It modulates anti-nociceptive responses in animals. GPR55 activation can either be pro- or anti-nociceptive depending on the type of injury.


For example, co-activation of CB2 and GPR55 increases microglia activity and neuro-inflammation, while CB2 alone decreases these responses. The anti-inflammatory and pain relieving effects of cannabidiol (CBD) come from how CBD is an inhibitor (antagonist) of GPR55, coupled with the fact that it activates CB2. The effect of THC is a bit cloudier. Knowledge of GPR55 potential in therapeutic applications is still in its infancy and needs many more studies to explore its effects further.

Another non-classical type of cannabinoid receptor is PPARg, which operates by completely different modes of action compared to CB1, CB2 and GPR55. It belongs to a nuclear hormone receptor family, which, when activated, makes alterations at the level of gene expression. Unlike classical receptors that embed in the cellular membrane and exert their actions via activation of signalling cascades within the cell, PPARg directly affects expression of genes involved in inflammation. Scientists have found it in many tissue types, including adipose, muscle, brain and in immune cells. The endocannabinoid anandamide also interacts with PPARg.

Cannabinoid receptor type

Isolation of THC led to the discovery of the Endocannabinoid System (ECS), an atypical neuro-transmission system that modulates release of other neuro-transmitters and participates in many biological processes, including the cascade of inflammatory responses. Due to a myriad of neuro-protective, anti-neuro-inflammatory and anti-oxidant actions, cannabinoids have been cogitated as possible therapeutic agents for neuro-degenerative disorders that combine inflammatory responses, such as Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Huntington and Parkinson Diseases. AD sufferers exhibit increased microglial CB1 and CB2 receptor expression, suggesting a role for cannabinoids.Cannabis

THC competitively inhibits the enzyme acetylcholinesterase (AChE). A common feature in the AD brain is the presence of AChE. Multiple in vivo studies have also shown CBD reduces neuro-inflammation in dementia and AD. Some suggest the mechanism of action involves CBD acting as PPARg agonist. When CBD activates PPARg, there is reduced gene expression in inflammation from oxidative stress. This decreases neuronal cell death in studies and promotes neurogenesis. A 2017 study in the British Journal of Pharmacology, showed the acid form of THC, tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCa), found in the raw plant, has a similar effect on PPARg. THCa activates PPARg with more potency than its decarboxylated counterpart THC. THCa also improves motor deficits, prevents neuro-toxicity and reduces neuro-inflammation. 

Cannabinoids also exert their actions on the ion channel, TRPV1. This ion channel is different from usual cannabinoid receptors in that it allows passage of specific ions (sodium and calcium), that trigger a painful burning sensation. Known activators of TRPV1 include temperature above 43oC (which is a protective mechanism that will make us seek strategies to cool off), acidic conditions (such as when we eat a hot chilli pepper), or eating a compound in wasabi. Furthermore, CBoccurs along with TRPV1. TRPV1 ion channels have desensitisation potential. This explains why we build tolerances to increasingly spicy food.Capsaicin

An interesting application of the interaction between Cannabis, TRPV1 and capsaicin (an extract from chilli peppers with analgesic properties) involves the purported ‘Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome’, which is actually Azadirachtin poisoning and not a clinical disorder at all, a complete misdiagnosis and total misnomer! Capsaicin is a neuropeptide releasing agent selective for primary sensory peripheral neurons, producing desensitisation analgesia and as such when used topically, capsaicin aids in controlling peripheral nerve pain.

The severe nausea and vomiting that characterise poisoning by Neem products can be ameliorated in part by rubbing capsaicin on the skin. Cessation of Cannabis treated with Azadirachtin or increasing use of untreated Cannabis are both effective treatments for the toxic effects of the otherwise seemingly harmless Neem. The full characterisation of the interplay between TRPV1, capsaicin and hyperalgesia (enhanced pain response) has not been completed yet, but will prove useful.


Adapted from Four Types of Cannabinoid Receptors for Killing Pain and Stopping Inflammation


Cannabis Tinctures

In many states of the United States and across Canada, dispensaries and health food stores have shelves lined with little amber or blue glass dropper bottles. Easy to purchase and use, tinctures offer a tried-and-true mode of Cannabis consumption that has been around since long before the days of legalisation. A dropper or two of a liquid tincture placed under the tongue is a solid sub-lingual delivery mechanism that can lead to quick absorption and lasting effects. But what exactly is in a tincture? Tinctures have been used in ancient and modern herbalism for centuries and are, at a basic level, an alcohol extract of an herb.

The two necessary ingredients to any tincture are thus alcohol and an amount of the botanical from which to derive an extract. In the case of Cannabis tinctures, this means the most basic ingredients are alcohol and Cannabis. Ethanol, or grain alcohol, is the most common base for a tincture, but the extract can also be done by soaking plant material in oil or in vegetable glycerine under normal ambient conditions. A saturated MCT oil, such as coconut oil, is a common carrier for this type of tincture. A vegetable glycerine tincture is the least common due to the availability of glycerine and the fact it can lead to a less potent tincture.


Cannabis tinctures are made by soaking Cannabis flowers (buds) in alcohol (leaf trim, hash and kief can also be used). The alcohol extracts the terpenes, cannabinoids and other compounds from the Cannabis (for the full ‘Entourage Effect’), into a liquid that contains a high concentration of active compounds. Alcohol preserves the compounds, which is important since it takes longer to consume tinctures as opposed to other forms of Cannabis. A DIY or homemade tincture would involve soaking raw Cannabis in a strong grain-derived alcohol and leaving it to soak in a dark glass container for several weeks.

Tinctures are often darker than post-processed concentrates which have undergone clean-up steps like winterisation to remove undesirable plant molecules like waxes, lipids and chlorophyll that are soluble in the alcohol. A commercial application would involve a similar process while using laboratory equipment to adhere to standards and regulations for cleanliness and quantity. Cannabis should be decarboxylated prior to being placed in the alcohol (or oil/glycerine) solution if the intent is to consume the activated THC instead of the inactive THC-A. While a strict tincture only consists of the carrier liquid and herb base, many tinctures available for public consumption in North America contain other ingredients.


Many additions are based on flavour and/or recipe desires and are not essential in the creation of a tincture. Honey, Mint, Lavender and many other herbs can be added to a Cannabis tincture and are often included to make a more proprietary blend that brands can use to distinguish themselves in the marketplace. Cannabis tinctures are usually stored in glass dropper bottles, which help preserve the tincture for longer by blocking out sunlight. One of the benefits of using tinctures is the alcohol allows the body to absorb the medicine faster. Most tinctures are taken by placing a few drops under the tongue, known as sublingual administration.

When you take a tincture sublingually, the cannabinoids are absorbed rapidly by the blood vessels lining the inner tissues of the mouth, resulting in a quick onset of effects. Tinctures can also be ingested orally, such as by swallowing or mixing it with food. If you consume a tincture orally, the cannabinoids must be absorbed through the stomach and gastrointestinal tract and through the liver (in particular) and take significantly longer to enter the bloodstream. Depending on whether the Cannabis is decarboxylated first, tinctures may contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in its active form or non-active form (THCa). Most people choose to decarboxylate their Cannabis before making a tincture, allowing them to take full advantage of the medical benefits of THC. 

thcWhile medical uses of THC are still being researched, there is evidence it can be helpful in treating a wide range of conditions and disorders, including nausea, vomiting, poor appetite, pain, multiple sclerosis, cancer, Crohn’s disease, PTSD, anxiety, depression, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, sleep apnoea, glaucoma, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and many others. However, if you do not decarboxylate your Cannabis, you will receive the benefits of tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, THC acid or THCa, found in the flowers, leaves and stems of young Cannabis plants.

Biosynthesised by the trichomes, THCa plays a critical role in protecting the trichomes, and thus the plants themselves, from insects and other predators. Furthermore, THCa is no more ‘psychoactive’ than CBD, thus allaying parental concerns about getting their children ‘high’ (an unfounded, prohibitionist-driven fear). THCa is one of the cannabinoids primarily found in fresh Cannabis, although in variable amounts, according to CannLabs. Once the Cannabis plant is exposed to heat, such as vaporising, THCa decarboxylates to THC. What happens on a molecular level is that the carbon dioxide in the Cannabis is released; as a carbon atom in the acid is lost, THCa is converted to neuro-active THC. THCa acts as a cannabinoid receptor agonist and in so doing, also provides neuro-protective (brain protection) effects.

North American Recipes

Australian Recipes (Nimbin HEMP Embassy)

(including Cold and Hot Methods, Glycerine and Oil-based Methods)Effects of Cannabis Tinctures

Tinctures can be felt as quickly as 15 minutes after dosing and the effects last for a shorter period of time compared to edibles. Tincture efficacy usually peaks about 90 minutes after consumption and can last 4 to 8 hours, depending on the dose. Because the effects can be felt so quickly, dosing with a tincture is easier than dosing with an edible. As with any form of Cannabis, you should start with a small dose to gauge your tolerance and to avoid any possible, initial, unwanted effects of ‘over-consuming’. If you’re taking a Cannabis tincture for the first time, start off with about 1 ml and adjust (upwards or downwards) as necessary. CBD-min-1-800x445

There are three ways to consume Cannabis tinctures: sublingually, orally or with food. To take a tincture sublingually, drop desired dose under the tongue and hold for 30 seconds before swallowing. This method will produce quicker, stronger effects because the tincture is absorbed into the bloodstream through the inner lining of the mouth. You can take Cannabis tinctures orally by adding a few drops to a beverage such as a smoothie, juice or even a ‘mocktail’. Alternatively, you can swallow the tincture on its own like any liquid medicine. When you take a tincture orally rather than sublingually, it must be absorbed through the digestive system, so it will take longer to feel the effects.

Tinctures taken orally have a similar effect to edibles and can take up to an hour to start Cannabis tinctureworking. Tinctures can also be combined with food to make a tincture edible. The difference between a tincture edible and a fat-based edible is the latter is harder to dose and can produce a longer, more intense effect (including euphoria). If you consume a tincture mixed with food, it will take the digestive system more time to absorb than if you took the tincture sublingually. Cannabis tinctures may be added to a variety of foods such as puddings, ice creams, dressings and sauces.

There are many advantages to taking Cannabis tinctures, with a major one being how easy they are to make at home. You can make your own Cannabis tincture (links above) and, while there are many different recipes, these are some of the most popular. When preparing a Cannabis tincture, you usually must decarboxylate (or ‘decarb’) your plant material. Decarboxylation is the process of heating Cannabis to activate the compounds in the plant. Specifically, this will convert THCa into THC and allow you to experience all the effects of whole-plant Cannabis. If you choose to skip this step, your tincture will mostly contain THCa.

Epsilon Apothecaries, (California, US) has a downloadable Extraction Basics Guide (pdf), the Epsilon Essentials Guide Series, comprises a novice approach to the creation of three special supplements: tincture extract of Cannabis, essential extract of Cannabis and supplemental extract of Cannabis. Readers can learn how to create therapeutic grade supplements at home, following in the footsteps of Epsilon’s decade-long track record of success in a variety of cases. The Epsilon Essentials Guide is free of charge, the company’s website says, “All we ask is your respect in return”.

Adapted from What’s in a Tincture? and Cannabis Tinctures: Uses, Effects and Recipes


Terpene, Beta-Caryophyllene, Therapeutic Uses


Beta-caryophyllene or β-caryophyllene (βCP), is a natural bicyclic sesquiterpene commonly found in:

  • Basil (Thai, in particular)Cloves
  • Black Caraway
  • Black Pepper
  • Cinnamon (true)
  • Cloves
  • Copaiba Oil
  • Hops
  • Lavender
  • Oregano
  • Rosemary
  • Ylang Ylang



With a rich spicy odour and flavour it is present in all Cannabis strains. Strains that have tested high in βCP are Sour Diesel, Skywalker OG, Chemdawg, Rockstar, Bubba Kush and OG Kush. Caryophyllene oxide takes part in the defence system of plants, functioning as an insecticide and an anti-fungal. Drug sniffing dogs use caryophyllene oxide to identify Cannabis, it is also an approved food additive used for flavouring. Various studies have shown βCP’s therapeutic uses to include:

  • Alcohol craving reduction
  • Analgaesic – pain relief
  • Anti-bacterial 
  • Anti-cancer
  • Anti-coagulant (properties)
  • Anti-depressant 
  • Anti-fungal – Caryophyllene and Cannabichromene (CBC) join in defence against fungi; caryophyllene oxide has shown clinical effectiveness against certain fungal infections
  • Anti-inflammatory on two levels, one is blocking prostaglandins’ inflammatory pathway (also occurs with myrcene and pinene), the other is as a CB2 agonist
  • Anti-nociceptive (blocking detection of painful or injurious stimulus by sensory neurons)
  • Anti-oxidant – prevents oxidation damage to other molecules in the body
  • Antiseptic
  • Anti-proliferative – inhibits cancer cell growth
  • Anti-seizure
  • Anxiolytic – relieves anxiety
  • Gastric protection effects
  • Neuroprotective – slows damage to the nervous system and brain

And, much like the cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD), this terpene can be a good combatant for deemed ‘uncomfortable’ amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in the system. The medical establishment stands poised to accept Cannabis and its active constituents as legitimate medicinal compounds. An article in the Journal of the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons advocated for increasing the scrutiny of cannabinoids as a potential alternative to narcotics and anti-inflammatory steroids in the modulation of pain. βCP, has shown potential in recent years as a modulator of pain and inflammation. There are two main cannabinoid receptors in the human body, so-called CB1 and CB2βCP has been shown to selectively activate the CB2 receptor. While CB1 is especially localised in the central nervous system (CNS), CB2 can be found mainly in the peripheries, especially in white blood cells that mediate inflammation and cellular immunity.fztaqa0yr4lgedjehbot_cannabinoid-receptors

It’s hypothesised that by βCP binding to and activating the CBreceptor, it mediates and enhances the same activity as that caused by the cannabinoid class of compounds, providing some scientific rationale for the often bespoken entourage effect. To that effect, a European study was conducted to see how βCP modulates the pain-relieving capabilities of both strong opioids and molecular mimics of THC termed CB2-agonists. It successfully demonstrated (in mice) that βCP does indeed work through the CB2 receptor and that it even enhances the pain-relief provided by morphine. The authors postulated that this may illuminate the path towards making a combinatorial βCP and narcotic pharmaceutical mixture to administer for relief of cancer-induced pain. Besides the anti-nociception activity described above, βCP specifically alters several key pathways important for cancer development. Therefore, a pharmaceutical mixture that not only provides pain-relief, but also actively down-regulates the cancer from developing itself, obviously represents a win-win situation.


An astrocyte grown in tissue culture stained with
Fibrillary Acid Protein (GFAP) and Vimentin.

Switching gears to a discussion of a different terpene and system, another study aimed at testing molecular targets of brain cells that have become actively inflamed. The brain contains two main types of cells: neurons, or excitatory cells and glial, or non-excitatory cells. The purpose of the glial cells is, generally speaking, to support the neurons. Astrocytes (see above) are a type of glial cell that carry out a lot of the metabolic activity required to 1) feed neurons, and 2) keep the local electrolyte environment of the neuron well-adjusted. When the CNS undergoes injury, a healing process called gliosis, meaning inflammation of the surrounding glial cells, takes place. The study, which was done in cells in a lab rather than a living being (in vitro), examined the effects of how Linalool affects the ability of astrocytes to become less inflamed and the results showed promise. There is a large and growing body of research that is exploring the use of terpenes for treating all kinds of pain, from neuropathic and muscular all the way to headaches and migraines. We think that terpene formulations providing tangible relief for pain are going to hit the market hard, and soon.

Adapted from Terpenes for PainCaryophyllene Terpene Profile C15H24 and Cannabis Terpenes and Their Benefits – Caryophyllene Geraniol and Humulene.


Cooking with a Canadian Cannabis Chef

chef John MacNeil zennabis cooking with cannabisRed Seal chef John MacNeil

A chef earns a Red Seal accreditation by demonstrating superior skills, knowledge and passing a national exam. Canadian John MacNeil is from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, but worked at Michelin-rated restaurants in Europe and then made a name for himself in Calgary, where he was an executive chef of the award-winning Italian restaurant, Teatro Ristorante.

He opened The Black Pig Bistro in the city’s trendy Bridgeland area five years ago. He later sold it to his business partners and started reTreat Edibles, which sells baking mixes formulated to accommodate the addition of Cannabis. He starts by emphasising the importance of origin. “You should only use legally produced Cannabis to ensure it’s clean and safe” he says. “People don’t scrutinise Cannabis the way they scrutinise food, but they should”. 

How does Cannabis affect the flavour of a dish?

Like wine grapes, Cannabis comes in countless strains with various flavours including, for example, citrus, berry, mint and pine. These flavours are created by aromatic oils called terpenes, which are secreted in the same glands that produce Cannabis compounds including Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD). Terpenes form part of the flavour profile of a Cannabis-infused dish so it’s important to select ones that complement the other ingredients.coriander-leaves-and-seeds

How much Cannabis should be included in a dish?

MacNeil compares learning how much Cannabis to include in a dish to learning how to cook steak properly. You overcook then undercook before learning to make it just right. It takes practice to find out where the sweet spot is, he says. Dosing varies from one individual to the next depending on a person’s previous history of Cannabis consumption, gastrointestinal factors, and the sensitivity of his or her endocannabinoid system.

Most experts recommend a starting dose of no more than 2.5 mg of bud for beginners. However, since effects vary based on each person consuming, MacNeil does not make dosing recommendations. Also, it takes awhile for edibles to take effect so beginners often make the mistake of ingesting too much too soon. MacNeil and other experts advise beginners to wait around two hours before deciding whether to take a second dose.

What is one of the most popular Cannabis-infused items people make at home?

Many people express an interest in Cannabis-infused brownies. MacNeil recommends using Thai coconut milk and French chocolate. To infuse Cannabis into chocolate brownies and other baked goods, many people use the whole plant, drying, curing and then grinding it into a flour-like substance and combining  it with cooking oil or butter.naturaloil

Cooking with Cannabis Recipes by Chef John MacNeil

Adapted from, Cooking with Cannabis: Tips From a Red Seal Chef

Terpenes Treat Oxidative Stress

The majority of research on Cannabis has been conducted on the two most familiar compounds – cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). However, the lesser-studied terpene constituents, also produced in the trichomes, have been shown to possess key biochemical properties that make them well-suited for therapeutic applications. Terpenes are also believed to interact with cannabinoids to produce an “entourage effect” – a synergy of biochemical interactions that provide holistic medicinal benefits. While terpenes are essential components of Cannabis, they are by no means exclusive to it, as they can be found in flowering plants. Limonene contributes to the fragrance of citrus and Linalool, lavender. The shared chemical properties across terpenes and their physiological effects have provided clues as to the specific medicinal properties of Cannabis-derived terpenes. Pre-clinical trials have shown that certain terpenes possess anti-oxidant properties. 

While many consumer products are labelled as “antioxidants” to promote health, only substances proven to prevent the oxidation of fundamental biological compounds such as proteins, carbohydrates and fats, are scientifically considered “antioxidants”. When oxygen is broken down in the body, it produces free radicals, or atoms with unpaired electrons. An abundance of free radicals can causes damage, as they are highly reactive and unstable – this is called oxidative stress. The damage caused by oxidative stress has been linked to multiple conditions, including autoimmune and cardiovascular diseases. Nitric oxide (NO), an essential signalling molecule in the body, is a free radical and during the process of creating NO, additional free radicals are produced. NO levels have been linked to increased oxidative stress and associated disease. While erroneous (or exaggerated) claims abound, several terpenes, such as those found in Rosemary, are proven to possess antioxidant properties through inhibition of NO production.

Similar effects have been found for Cannabis terpenes. One study evaluated three Cannabis chemotypes and analysed their terpenoid content. Applying high concentrations of different terpenes inhibited production of NO in cell cultures and reduced production of reactive oxygen intermediates, byproducts of oxygen metabolism. These terpenes also reduced swelling and pain perception (measured by muscle retraction) in an animal model of paw inflammation. Another study found that Myrcene significantly reduced NO production in a cellular model of osteoarthritis. However, this effect was exclusive to Myrcene; while Limonene produced a smaller degree of inhibition, E-caryophyllene showed no effect. These results indicate that some terpenes may possess more potent effects on oxidative stress than others. Additional research is necessary to better understand how terpenes impact NO production, as well as other forms of oxidative stress, to better evaluate how they could be potentially used as antioxidants.lavender-essential-oils

Adapted from Antioxidant Properties of Cannabis-derived Terpenes Fighting oxidative stress