Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Chemical Composition of Marijuana ………………….………………….............................…………… 4
Chapter 2: Medical Benefits of Marijuana ………………………..………………………..............................……….. 8
Chapter 3: Importance of Lab Equipment Processing for Medical Marijuana………………..................12
About Genie Scientific………………………………………………………………………..................................................16
The history of marijuana (cannabis) in America is a long and winding
road. Though the general populace used the plant throughout the 1800s
with few legal restrictions—laws occasionally cropped up at the state
and local levels—the coming of the new century gave rise to various
efforts to demonize marijuana as detrimental to the public health. The
passage of the federal Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 made recreational use
effectively illegal throughout the country by placing huge barriers in the
way of anyone who wished to consume cannabis.
It wasn’t until the latter third of the 20th century that evidence of
marijuana’s health benefits began piling up. Not only was “reefer
madness” gradually exposed as hysteria with no scientific basis, it
became clear that cannabis could even promote physical well-being by
counteracting certain bodily illnesses. The state of California became
a cutting-edge force in the legalization of cannabis with the passage of
Proposition 215 (1996), which permitted the use of cannabis for medical
purposes with approval from the patient’s physician.
Today, it is widely accepted by the public that marijuana has a valid
place in the world of medicine. Yet a lot of misinformation still persists.
As cannabis takes on increasing importance as a curative and palliative
drug, it is vital to progress beyond the conventional view of marijuana
as primarily a “party” accessory in order to grasp exactly what it is and
what it does.
Marijuana is essentially the products—leaves, stems, seeds—of the plants Cannabis sativa,
Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. When ingested via smoking or eating, marijuana
produces psychoactive effects including euphoria and altered consciousness. As we will soon
see, the beneficial effects of this drug go beyond a temporary “high.”
To date, no fewer than 483 chemical compounds have been identified in cannabis. This collection
of compounds includes over 60 cannabinoids, whose effect on human neurotransmitters
account for the characteristic psychoactive effects of marijuana.
A comprehensive analysis of the chemical composition of cannabis would require substantially
more space than we have here. However, it may be instructive to explore the most common
cannabinoids and the effects they have on the human body.
What Cannabinoids Do
Marijuana creates its distinctive mood-altering effects by interacting with various cannabinoid
receptors found throughout the human body. Our knowledge of these receptors remains
incomplete. So far, researchers have classified these receptors into two subtypes: CB1 (located
chiefly in the central nervous system) and CB2 (located chiefly in the immune system).
Cannabinoids found in marijuana include tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabigerol (CBG),
cannabichromene (CBC), cannabidiol (CBD), cannabinol (CBN), and cannabinodiol (CBDL). Let’s
take a closer look at a few of these important chemical compounds.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – THC is by far the most important cannabinoid found in cannabis,
and it is principally responsible for the unique psychoactive effects of marijuana. It works by
binding itself to the CB1 and CB2 receptors and triggering a response. The liver transforms
THC into the metabolite 11-Hydroxy-Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (11-OH-THC), which retains
psychoactive properties, and then to the secondary metabolite 11-Nor-9-carboxy-THC (11-COOH-
THC). 11-COOH-THC remains in the body for days, and can be picked up by urine tests designed
to detect cannabis use.
Cannabidiol (CBD) – CBD is the second most common of the cannabinoids found in cannabis.
Strangely, it seems to lack strong psychoactive effects, due to its limited binding affinity with
the CB1 and CB2 receptors. It does, however, seem to enhance the effectiveness of THC—
and its medical benefits—by lengthening its period of potency. CBD holds great promise as a
therapeutic aid for a number of medical conditions.
Cannabigerol (CBG) – CBG binds to several receptors in the body, with a particular affinity for
the alpha-2 adrenergic receptor of the central nervous system. It has no notable psychoactive
effects, but seems to provide a range of medical benefits, including pain and anxiety relief.
Cannabinol (CBN) – Another psychoactive cannabinoid, CBN binds to the CB1 and CB2
receptors. It is noted for its sedative, painkilling effects, and may provide a measure of
protection against the dangerous MRSA bacteria as well.1
Flavonoids – Cannabis has more than twenty distinct types of flavonoids, which are plant
metabolites that can be found in everything from wine to peanuts. They’re noted for their strong
anti-oxidation and anti-inflammatory effects. Flavonoids that are unique to cannabis are referred
to as cannaflavins.
As we noted earlier, this is far from a complete overview of the topic.
Medical Benefits of
At the present time, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) does not
officially recognize marijuana as a medically beneficial substance. It is classified as a Schedule
I drug (“no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse”), along with heroin,
LSD, peyote, and ecstasy—but not cocaine and methamphetamine, as those are listed in the less
restrictive Schedule II.2
Marijuana has held the Schedule I classification since the passage of the Controlled Substances
Act (CSA) in 1970, which introduced this system of formally categorizing drugs according to their
perceived danger to public health. Since the CSA went into effect, however, a number of scientific
studies have been published attesting to the varied health benefits of marijuana. A number of
commentators have pointed to these studies as ample reason to take the substance off Schedule I.
It is true that the science of “medical marijuana,” as it’s called, remains a highly disputed subject.
More research needs to be done. Even so, the evidence that has been gathered to date—in the
form of scientific studies and surveys—suggest that marijuana may provide a wide range of
medical benefits. Here we’ll explore some potential uses for medical marijuana.
One recent study found that cannabidiol (CBD)—one of the major cannabinoids, as
previously mentioned—can significantly reduce the incidence of seizures in patients
suffering from “treatment-resistant” epilepsy. The study, published in the December 23,
2015, issue of Lancet Neurology, reported a 36.5% reduction in motor seizures among
participants, who ranged in age from 1 to 30. More promisingly, most of the patients
displayed no adverse reactions to CBD.3
A 2014 study found that cannabis may relieve symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, a
degenerative neurological disorder that develops primarily in older adults. Conducted on
22 patients who each smoked cannabis for thirty minutes, the study pointed to significant
improvements in tremor, rigidity, and bradykinesia (excessively slow body movement
characteristic of this disorder). In addition, tested patients reported improved sleep and
The Journal of Leukocyte Biology reported in 2013 that synthetic compounds that stimulate
the cannabinoid CB2 receptors of white blood cells can weaken HIV-1 (the most common
HIV strain). Researchers found that the activity of the CB2 receptors served both to inhibit
the growth of HIV infections and to protect the patient from certain complications relating
A 2015 Columbia University study found that opioid-addicted patients who were given
dronabinol (essentially a man-made version of THC) reported a substantial decrease in
withdrawal symptoms as compared with a placebo group. The study linked consumption
of marijuana with decreased severity of anxiety and insomnia.6
Cannabis also holds promise in the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS), a debilitating
autoimmune disorder with no extant cure. A study published in a 2013 issue of the
Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology discovered that CBD and THC lower the levels of
inflammatory molecules associated with this disorder. Although the study was performed
on mice, it is likely that these cannabinoids may have analogous effects in human beings.7
Here’s another study—this time from the journal Neuropharmacology (April 2016)—
highlighting the potential health benefits of cannabidiol (CBD). This particular study
showed CBD produces anti-depressant effects in laboratory mice that had undergone
bulbectomy surgery. Mice treated in the experiment exhibited increased production of
serotonin and glutamate, which play important roles in cognitive function.8
Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease reported in 2014 that tiny doses of THC can sharply reduce
production of the protein amyloid beta, which is strongly linked to the development of this
The July 2013 issue of The American Journal of Medicine revealed that regular marijuana
users may be less likely to develop diabetes. The study tracked over 4,000 adults over
the years 2005-2010. The results of this study demonstrated that “marijuana use was
associated with lower levels of fasting insulin and HOMA-IR [i.e., insulin resistance].” It also
revealed that marijuana use was associated with smaller waistlines.10
A 2009 study in the journal Neurotoxicology and Teratology revealed that marijuana may
protect the brain from the damaging effects of binge alcohol drinking. Researchers at UC
San Diego found that heavy drinkers who also smoke marijuana showed substantially less
damage to white matter in the brain than drinkers who do not smoke. The researchers
speculated that marijuana may partly counteract the oxidative harm associated with
Cannabis also seems to protect the brain from the harm caused by intracerebral
hemorrhaging (ICH). That is the conclusion formed by an international research team
who examined 725 patients suffering from this condition. Patients who tested positive
for cannabinoids displayed a lower level of disability at the time of discharge than those
who had no cannabinoids in their system. The 2016 study, published in the journal
Cerebrovascular Diseases, offers still more evidence pointing to the neuroprotective
qualities of cannabis.12
Due in large part to the profusion of studies on the topic, support for marijuana as medicine is
steadily increasing among the general public. Some people have taken to smoking marijuana
not for recreation but primarily to gain relief from chronic pain and other afflictions. This sort
of informal therapy is often undertaken without formal supervision, using marijuana products
obtained from extralegal sources. However, this is not the ideal solution for people who suffer
from legitimate medical conditions.
Problems with “street” marijuana
Marijuana purchased from traditional off-the-books sources does not benefit from any kind
of quality control—you never know exactly what you’re getting. It’s not simply a matter
of potentially subjecting oneself to harmful substances, like pesticides. Medicine must be
administered in a precise way to ensure optimal effectiveness; this is why prescription drugs
come with exact instructions regarding the amount to be consumed, and the interval between
consumption. With street marijuana, you can never be certain about the purity of the substance
you’re putting in your body.
This issue persists even when marijuana is obtained from licensed dispensaries, which tend to
use unprocessed plant material that must be ingested in large quantities in order to create the
desired therapeutic effects. In addition, the fact that medical marijuana is still forbidden at the
federal level means that the various public health departments of the government (e.g., FDA)
have been slow to provide guidelines that might promote healthier processing techniques.
As a result, a number of laboratories have taken on the responsibility of processing marijuana so
it can be safely and effectively used for medicinal purposes.
High-tech laboratory processing
As medical marijuana moves into the mainstream of our society, it is important to standardize
its processing. Marijuana users deserve the security of knowing that the drug they consume has
been subjected to proper oversight. This is far from a science-fiction fantasy—it’s happening
right now. Here’s a brief overview of a sample lab procedure currently being used to produce
high-grade medical marijuana.
Screening – When a laboratory receives a batch of marijuana from the grower, the plant
is tested to ensure that it is both suitably potent and free from dangerous contaminants.
Dehydration – Moisture is removed from the plant.
Crushing – The plant is then ground into powder.
Extraction – The crushed plant is then turned into oil via a CO2 extraction method,
resulting in a pure cannabis concentrate.
Distillation & Separation – At this point, the lipids and fats are filtered out of the oil.
This process should lead to the manufacture of high-quality marijuana—but only if it is carried
out properly. Lab processing is not without its hazards. For example, the procedure of crushing
the plant into powder form tends to generate a massive room-filling dust cloud. Personnel in the
immediate area must wear protective clothing to avoid getting this dust in their eyes and lungs.
In addition, the use of high-pressure gas during extraction also poses dangers.
To mitigate these hazards, labs must utilize state-of-the-art equipment such as reliable
fume hoods, flame-resistant tables, sturdy workstations, and secure cabinets. Standardized
equipment is key to ensuring that the public will be able to enjoy the benefits of high-grade,
An increasing number of reputable scientific studies support the
argument that marijuana proponents have made for decades: the plant
is more than just a recreational drug—it has legitimate medical uses as
well. With the gradual acceptance of medical marijuana, we can expect
upgrades in manufacturing processes, such as standardization of
production techniques and advances in laboratory equipment, to ensure
that this drug meets safety and purity guidelines.
Established in 1979, Genie Scientific designs and manufactures
durable, highly innovative laboratory products, including fume
hoods, custom tables, workstations, and related apparatus. The
company also offers lab design and installation services. Genie
Scientific is headquartered in Fountain Valley, California.
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