Much more than just smoke – from marijuana to medicinal cannabis derived therapeutics

Much more than just smoke – from marijuana to medicinal cannabis derived therapeutics


The history of cannabis begins already in antiquity and its therapeutic use has been documented for 2700 years. In the year 1850, cannabis was included in the United States Pharmacopoeia (USP) before it was deleted in 1942, after a new legislation in 1937 classified cannabis as a narcotic and was subsequently prohibited. Since that time, the story of cannabis has been told by baby boomer generations as “the mind-expanding, peace-making smoke” that can land you in jail.

But beside the psychotropic effects, many patients and even doctors swore by the effectiveness of cannabinoids in important therapeutic areas like chronic pain, terminal cancer, and multiple sclerosis. Due to the illegal status these applications remained anecdotal until its legalization. Within a short period thereafter scientific interest took off at a rocket speed triggering a flood of clinical studies with parts of the cannabis plant, its resin or extracts investigating different indications. Until today only a few products were approved by regulatory authorities using either synthetic Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) (Marinol ®, Syndros®, Cesamed®) or plant derived standardized cannabidiol (CBD) or CBD/THC extracts (Epididex®, Sativex®). Overconfidence in cannabis per se was soon challenged by many failed endpoints in clinical trials. These setbacks led to more basic research on the different cannabis varieties, the active components, their pharmacology and metabolomics, structure-activity relationships, synergistic effects of compounds (entourage effect) and targeted receptors. The more these research progresses the more we understand the complex nature of cannabis as well as the multitude of chemical compounds and structures with the potential of novel therapeutic application.

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