Medical Marijuana: How Are There So Many Different Types?

We exist in a world where genetic codes can be altered on anything that lives. We have bred (cloned) animals from petri dishes. This is also the case with crops that have been used for centuries for food; primarily wheat, corn, soy and rice.

From the 1950s to today, marijuana has increased in potency, along with shifts in its use as a medicinal plant for those who suffer from specific types of pain. As breeders have created stronger strains of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana (cannabis), they have also developed specific genetic markers designed to enhance certain properties of marijuana. These properties may include pain relief, cessation of cellular development in certain types of cancer, appetite enhancement, and relaxation. Studies have attributed the active ingredients in marijuana (specific cannabinoids) with increasing the effectiveness of chemotherapy when used together.

As each cannabinoid is tested and found to be effective for use in these areas, different formulations of marijuana are bred to enhance these properties. As medical marijuana use increases, strains of marijuana are being developed and targeted for each purpose.

Cell development in cancer is being studied to find methods to stop the rapid growth and spread of cancer cells. This has been done in clinical trials, using marijuana, for liver, lung and breast cancer, with positive results in mice. Because there are specific strengths of a cannabinoid used to gain these results, marijuana with these high doses of Delta 9-THC are being tested for further medicinal use in fighting cancer cell growth.

The technology used for breeding seed for other purposes is used to increase the strength of certain cannabinoids in marijuana. Much as drought-resistant or pest-resistant seed is developed for food crops, seed to grow marijuana with specific genetic markers is done. Hybrid marijuana is nothing new. In the years following the explosive growth in popularity of pot in the 1960s and 1970s, new breeds, types and strains of marijuana emerged in the market place. Maui Wowie, Panama Red, and others became popular, as breeders learned how to take the specifics of each breed and pollinate plants for properties suited to growing climate and desired outcomes. The names generally come from the breeder, some are quite creative and some speak to qualities of the plants.

There are two basic species of cannabis grown for use as a drug. They are cannabis sativa and cannabis indica. There are physical properties indicative of each species. There is another species that is primarily wild and used for products containing no THC, one active cannabinoid in marijuana. Hemp products may come from those plants with no or very low THC content.

Various regions and growing climates around the world determine the strain(s) of marijuana grown there. These will have specific properties that growers continue to develop for maximum production. When there are specified side effects of these strains, the chemical compounds involved are bred back into those plants, increasing their potency and efficacy for those purposes.

Marijuana has been used for centuries for its medicinal properties. These are being recognized scientifically and tested to prove their validity. As they are created, new uses for medical marijuana may be found.

Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work and a CATC IV in addictions counseling. She teaches meditation and mindfulness, specializing in addiction and trauma. She also leads workshops and seminars on treatment of addictive disorders and stress reduction.

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