Alibi V.28 No.9 • Feb 28-March 6, 2019 

News on the Green

Mining App Data

Americans continue to fall victim to fatal opioid overdoses with alarming frequency. The use of cannabis as an analgesic substitute for prescription opioids—sans side effects, drug interactions and fatality risk—continues to grow. US cannabis policy barriers at the federal level have kept American scientists from collecting relevant patient data via cannabis administration studies. University of New Mexico researchers recently found a forward-thinking way around that prohibition by mining cannabis patient data collected by a mobile app.

With data sourced from Releaf App—an open, non-incentivized cannabis education and symptom relief-tracking app—UNM research scientists looked for correlations between dosage, product type, combustion method, cannabis subspecies (indica, sativa, hybrid) and constituent cannabinoids (THC, CBD) and overall clinical outcomes, especially symptom relief and side effects. Associate professors Sarah See Stith, of the Department of Economics, and Jacob Miguel Vigil, of the Department of Psychology, published their findings, “The Association Between Cannabis Product Characteristics and Symptom Relief” on Feb. 25 in peer-reviewed journal Scientific Reports.

Amid Releaf App user feedback on health status, medication choice and overall clinical outcome, Stith and Vigil found the most important factor for optimal symptom relief in a variety of conditions is a cannabis product’s tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, makeup. Here in New Mexico, the amount of THC and CBD in medical cannabis products is expressed on packaging as a percentage, such as “21.9% THC” or “8% CBD.” By addressing a dearth of practical knowledge—like available cannabis products and characteristics that influence consumer choices or affect symptom intensity—this study offers an alternative path to cannabis patient data for other American research scientists.

In the Ballpark

Writing for Forbes, KushCo CEO Nick Kovacevich advises cautious optimism about the emergence of a national cannabis brand. As the author notes, “Cannabis branding is at the ‘national anthem’ stage, meaning there’s a lot of activity and anticipation, and all the players are suited up and ready to go, but the real game hasn’t started—yet.”

Kovacevich breaks down barriers to national cannabis brand-building, such as restricted access to digital and televised advertising and social media promotion tools, state-by-state packaging, logo and branding requirements and interstate transport constraints and a resulting inability to establish a nationwide distribution system.

All of these problems are intimately tied to the federal prohibition of cannabis; although three-quarters of US states now allow medical or recreational cannabis use, its federal prohibition continues to stymy the American cannabis industry’s potential for exponential growth.

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