Dr. Pavel Kubu has a profound mission: Deciphering one of the most complex, maligned plants on the planet. His mission-critical methodology: analytical science.
Dr. Kubu is the founder and CEO of the International Cannabis and Cannabanoid Institute (ICCI), a coalition of activists, politicians, scientists and businesses established in December, 2015. He is also the founder of the International Medical Cannabis Patient Coalition.
Medical cannabis proponents are demanding more scientific research on cannabis – now. But it’s a tricky thing to do right, especially for a complex plant that is always bumping up against the Schedule 1 dilemma blocking access for researchers and scientists.
Everyone in the cannabis industry has heard the outlandish claims about cannabis that have no correctly researched scientific evidence: that cannabis leads to addiction, that cannabis use leads to harder drugs, even that people are overdosing on cannabis.
But real scientists like Kubu, who is an expert in the field of medical informatics and addictology, are discovering more hard facts about cannabis that make those types of wild claims sound like the fanned hysteria they truly are.
In a 2016 report that he co-wrote with 13 other scientists and researchers from around the world, and reviewed by this author, “Cannabis and Cannabis Resin: Critical Review Preparation Document,” it was reported that a lethal dose of cannabis in humans has never happened or could ever happen. A person would have to consume nearly 1,500 pounds of cannabis within a 15 minute period to induce a theoretically lethal response, the report noted. “There is a compelling likelihood that the cannabanoids are the safest class of medicinal compounds yet studied,” the report concluded. “The relative safety profile of cannabis alone might be seen as strong motivation for further research.”
Dope sat down with Kubu to discuss his research, the mission of the ICCI and the future of cannabis discoveries.
Dope: You have spoken passionately about a scientific revolution in cannabis research. What does that mean?
Pavel Kubu: I mean the fact that all of the empirical observation which we can be reading from various patient websites or even from clinicians that are observing patients in their practice needs to be described as scientific methods to create clinical knowledge. From time to time they are very anecdotal, with very positive results or effects that we are seeing in the medical marijuana area. The international revelations about cannabis does not have any scientific background. It’s just ideological. Governments and representatives of people worldwide need to understand that there is no more space for preserving these ideological lies. There is enough scientific evidence now.
Dope: What can a body of clinical evidence help you do?
PK: With evidence-based medicine, you need to have so-called double blind randomized placebo-controlled clinical designs. It’s not sufficient to just get one study. The knowledge is being based on repeating the studies in different settings with the same protocol and the same compound, observing similar effects. You can look at a bunch of studies on a compound, for example, but you will find that they are using different protocols or they are using different bioactive compounds. So they cannot be put into the background of clinical knowledge because they are too far from each other, and often they are not controlled by placebo.
Dope: What do we know now about the plant?
PK: The beauty of cannabis studies is that we already know for sure that it’s non-toxic. The first ethical rule of medicine is to do no harm. We know that we are on the safe side already. The only question about the potential harm that can be caused is the fact that people got some adverse psychoactive effect from getting high, which, at the same time, we know can be overcome. It’s not harming the person at all, but it can be an individually uncomfortable situation. But it’s not the case where it’s damaging their livers or something like that.
Dope: What lessons about research on other medicines can be brought to bear on cannabis?
PK: Penicillin, for example, when they brought it into clinical practice, it was working. It really was helping everyone. But then the bacterial resistance started popping up, and that made the development more complex, more complicated. Then there was a push to develop a new antibiotic which will have a fuller spectrum and so on. Now we understand that all of this resistance was happening much faster than the development cycle. With cannabis, we already know how it works. We just need to get it in the ways that it can be used in clinical practice with special delivery systems and dosing. That’s why I think the revolution is in science.
Dope: What would you like to see ICCI accomplish in cannabis research?
PK: To really unlock the database of nature (laughs). Yes, that’s easy to say. But we all understand that this is probably a task that is bigger than our lifetimes right now. We are getting more and more details, and we do understand some of the complexities of cannabis already. The time is now. Ten years or even 20 years ago, there were no tools to deal with this profound complexity that we see in medical cannabis. But now we have these analytical tools, which can enable even immediate response back to researchers, and is one of the services at ICCI that we are trying to build for all physicians worldwide.