If it came from a skeptic of his standing, people might actually believe it. The scientists are now testing CBD as a prophylactic to prevent schizophrenia from even emerging. Jacobson’s dealer in Oakland seemed to be selling harder stuff as well, which made her very nervous.
Unlike the better-known marijuana molecule delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, CBD isn’t psychoactive; it doesn’t get users high. But in the late 1990s, scientists at the National Institutes of Health discovered that it could produce remarkable medicinal effects. In test tubes, the molecule shielded neurons from oxidative stress, a damaging process common in many neurological disorders, including epilepsy.
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But her impression was that he was having a difficult time selling this particular product does CBD do anything — kilos of California-grown cannabis — precisely because it wouldn’t get anyone very high. With her black-market stash in hand, Jacobson entered what she calls her R.& D. As suspected, the cannabis she had acquired illegally in Oakland was high in CBD and low in THC. She set up a lab in her garage — and then proceeded to fail miserably, for months, to extract anything of much use.
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Word of this success spread through the network of medical-marijuana professionals, and early in 2013, someone called on behalf of the CNN medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta. Gupta, who is a neurosurgeon, had previously argued against the legalization of medical cannabis, but he now wanted to do a show on it. After much discussion, Paige Figi and Joel Stanley, the Boulder-based cannabis grower who had produced the extract for Charlotte, decided to invite Gupta to tell their story.
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And the show, which aired in August 2013, catapulted Charlotte’s story to national prominence and Figi into a new, unexpected phase in her life. A community began to coalesce in Colorado Springs, made up of epileptic children and their families. In 2011, as a last resort, Charlotte’s mother, Paige, gave her a CBD-rich extract, acquired from a local grower, via feeding tube. (Medical cannabis has been legal in Colorado since 2000.) The seizures almost entirely disappeared.
Only under the tutelage of two University of California, Davis, scientists did she make progress. The technique she developed required heating cannabis plants in ethanol to extract the cannabinoids. Next, a machine that created a vacuum sucked the green-tinted liquid through a tube filled with carbon powder. The molecules in the extract moved through the powder at different speeds, depending on their weight and other characteristics, yielding different “fractions” that she could test for CBD and THC content. Then she heated the resulting green solution until the alcohol evaporated, leaving a green paste.
Finally, nearly a year after starting, she had a cannabis extract that was high in CBD and lacked measurable THC. Yet when 30 American Medical Association members were surveyed, starting in 1929, 29 disagreed with claims about the dangers posed by cannabis. One said the proposals to outlaw it were “absolute rot.” But the hysteria Anslinger helped stir up worked politically. A plant that people had used medicinally for thousands of years was now driven underground. The idea to try cannabis extract came to David after he found out that the federal government held a patent on cannabidiol, a molecule derived from the cannabis plant that is commonly referred to as CBD.