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Sat Oct 01 22:36:24 CAT 2016

Israeli scientists say this dagga is totally kosher

Reuters | 04 July, 2012 16:07
A worker tends to cannabis plants at a plantation near the northern Israeli city of Safed.
Image by: Reuters

They grow it in a secret location in northern Israel.

A tall fence, security cameras and an armed guard protect them from criminals. A hint of their sweet-scented blossom carries in the air: rows and rows of cannabis plants, as far as the eye can see.

It is here, at a medical marijuana plantation atop the hills of the Galilee, where researchers say they have developed marijuana that can be used to ease the symptoms of some ailments without getting patients high.

Cannabis has more than 60 constituents called cannabinoids.

THC is perhaps the best known of those, less so for its medical benefits and more for its psychoactive properties that give people a "high".

But cannabis also contains cannabidiol, or CBD, a substance that some researchers say has anti-inflammatory benefits. Unlike THC, it hardly binds to the brain's receptors and can therefore work without getting patients stoned.

"Sometimes the high is an unwanted side effect," said Zack Klein, head of development at Tikun Olam, the company that developed the THC-free but CBD-rich plant.

Tikun Olam began its research on CBD-enhanced cannabis in 2009 and about six months ago they came up with Avidekel, Klein said, a cannabis strain that contains 15.8% CBD and only traces of THC, less than 1%.

Marijuana is an illegal drug in Israel.

Medicinal use of it was first permitted in 1993, according to the health ministry.

Today cannabis is used in Israel to treat 9000 people suffering from illnesses such as cancer, Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis, Crohn's disease and post-traumatic stress disorder, according to Israel's health ministry.

Raphael Mechoulam, a professor of medicinal chemistry at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, said: "It is possible that (Avidekel's) CBD to THC ratio is the highest among medical marijuana companies in the world, but the industry is not very organised, so one cannot keep exact track of what each company is doing."

Although there have been no clinical trials performed on humans, Mechoulam said Avidekel showed promise as a potent anti-inflammatory.

Avidekel is a new strain of a plant that is already permitted for medical use so there is nothing stopping patients who are already being treated with marijuana from trying Avidekel.

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