February 11, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 73  

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Synthetic marijuana just as good?

By Christopher Smeenk
Gazette Staff

Ill pot smokers looking to do away with the pink elephants might finally get some help from another drug.

Known as dexanabinol, the drug is currently in the third and final phase of clinical trials at Pharmos, said Gale Smith, the company’s director of corporate development. “Dexanabinol is considered a member of the cannabinoid family and is a synthetic form of THC, which is the active ingredient in marijuana,” she said.

Used to treat people who have suffered traumatic brain injuries, Smith said the drug is similar but not exactly identical to marijuana. “It’s like trying to fit a left glove onto a right hand,” she said, noting it allows for all the positive medical effects of cannabis, without any of the psychotropic effects.

Despite this technological progress, some local pot smokers are objecting. “Some people get great enjoyment by relaxing, sitting back and lighting up a joint,” said a London Compassion Centre staff member who identified himself only as Rob. The LCC is an organization that provides chronically ill people with medical marijuana. “I like to keep the synthetics I put into my body to a minimum,” he said.

Other possible applications of the drug include people who have suffered a stroke, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, as well as patients recovering from heart surgery, Smith explained.

To be effective, he said, a patient must receive a one-time injection of the drug within six hours of brain trauma, adding Pharmos currently estimates the cost to be between US$4,000 and US$6,000 per treatment.

“For four to six thousand dollars, you can grow 35 to 50 pounds of natural, organic marijuana in the earth,” said Pete Young of Organic Traveller, a hemp shop located in downtown London. “That’s enough to treat five suffering people for over a year.”

P.J. Sparks, a third-year health sciences student, pointed out some possible benefits of the synthetic form. “It’s well known that smoking weed has adverse effects on the lungs.

“Maybe the artificial drug would be less conspicuous,” he added. “And you won’t smell.”



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