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      Analysis of Cannabis Seizures in NSW, Australia: Cannabis Potency and Cannabinoid Profile

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          Abstract

          Recent analysis of the cannabinoid content of cannabis plants suggests a shift towards use of high potency plant material with high levels of Δ 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and low levels of other phytocannabinoids, particularly cannabidiol (CBD). Use of this type of cannabis is thought by some to predispose to greater adverse outcomes on mental health and fewer therapeutic benefits. Australia has one of the highest per capita rates of cannabis use in the world yet there has been no previous systematic analysis of the cannabis being used. In the present study we examined the cannabinoid content of 206 cannabis samples that had been confiscated by police from recreational users holding 15 g of cannabis or less, under the New South Wales “Cannabis Cautioning” scheme. A further 26 “Known Provenance” samples were analysed that had been seized by police from larger indoor or outdoor cultivation sites rather than from street level users. An HPLC method was used to determine the content of 9 cannabinoids: THC, CBD, cannabigerol (CBG), and their plant-based carboxylic acid precursors THC-A, CBD-A and CBG-A, as well as cannabichromene (CBC), cannabinol (CBN) and tetrahydrocannabivarin (THC-V). The “Cannabis Cautioning” samples showed high mean THC content (THC+THC-A = 14.88%) and low mean CBD content (CBD+CBD-A = 0.14%). A modest level of CBG was detected (CBG+CBG-A = 1.18%) and very low levels of CBC, CBN and THC-V (<0.1%). “Known Provenance” samples showed no significant differences in THC content between those seized from indoor versus outdoor cultivation sites. The present analysis echoes trends reported in other countries towards the use of high potency cannabis with very low CBD content. The implications for public health outcomes and harm reduction strategies are discussed.

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          Most cited references 36

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          Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects.

           Ethan Russo (2011)
          Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has been the primary focus of cannabis research since 1964, when Raphael Mechoulam isolated and synthesized it. More recently, the synergistic contributions of cannabidiol to cannabis pharmacology and analgesia have been scientifically demonstrated. Other phytocannabinoids, including tetrahydrocannabivarin, cannabigerol and cannabichromene, exert additional effects of therapeutic interest. Innovative conventional plant breeding has yielded cannabis chemotypes expressing high titres of each component for future study. This review will explore another echelon of phytotherapeutic agents, the cannabis terpenoids: limonene, myrcene, α-pinene, linalool, β-caryophyllene, caryophyllene oxide, nerolidol and phytol. Terpenoids share a precursor with phytocannabinoids, and are all flavour and fragrance components common to human diets that have been designated Generally Recognized as Safe by the US Food and Drug Administration and other regulatory agencies. Terpenoids are quite potent, and affect animal and even human behaviour when inhaled from ambient air at serum levels in the single digits ng·mL(-1) . They display unique therapeutic effects that may contribute meaningfully to the entourage effects of cannabis-based medicinal extracts. Particular focus will be placed on phytocannabinoid-terpenoid interactions that could produce synergy with respect to treatment of pain, inflammation, depression, anxiety, addiction, epilepsy, cancer, fungal and bacterial infections (including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). Scientific evidence is presented for non-cannabinoid plant components as putative antidotes to intoxicating effects of THC that could increase its therapeutic index. Methods for investigating entourage effects in future experiments will be proposed. Phytocannabinoid-terpenoid synergy, if proven, increases the likelihood that an extensive pipeline of new therapeutic products is possible from this venerable plant. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/bph.2011.163.issue-7. © 2011 The Author. British Journal of Pharmacology © 2011 The British Pharmacological Society.
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            Potency trends of Δ9-THC and other cannabinoids in confiscated cannabis preparations from 1993 to 2008.

            The University of Mississippi has a contract with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to carry out a variety of research activities dealing with cannabis, including the Potency Monitoring (PM) program, which provides analytical potency data on cannabis preparations confiscated in the United States. This report provides data on 46,211 samples seized and analyzed by gas chromatography-flame ionization detection (GC-FID) during 1993-2008. The data showed an upward trend in the mean Δ(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ(9)-THC) content of all confiscated cannabis preparations, which increased from 3.4% in 1993 to 8.8% in 2008. Hashish potencies did not increase consistently during this period; however, the mean yearly potency varied from 2.5-9.2% (1993-2003) to 12.0-29.3% (2004-2008). Hash oil potencies also varied considerably during this period (16.8 ± 16.3%). The increase in cannabis preparation potency is mainly due to the increase in the potency of nondomestic versus domestic samples. © 2010 American Academy of Forensic Sciences.
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              Impact of cannabidiol on the acute memory and psychotomimetic effects of smoked cannabis: naturalistic study: naturalistic study [corrected].

              The two main constituents of cannabis, cannabidiol and Δ(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), have opposing effects both pharmacologically and behaviourally when administered in the laboratory. Street cannabis is known to contain varying levels of each cannabinoid. To study how the varying levels of cannabidiol and THC have an impact on the acute effects of the drug in naturalistic settings. Cannabis users (n = 134) were tested 7 days apart on measures of memory and psychotomimetic symptoms, once while they were drug free and once while acutely intoxicated by their own chosen smoked cannabis. Using an unprecedented methodology, a sample of cannabis (as well as saliva) was collected from each user and analysed for levels of cannabinoids. On the basis of highest and lowest cannabidiol content of cannabis, two groups of individuals were directly compared. Groups did not differ in the THC content of the cannabis they smoked. Unlike the marked impairment in prose recall of individuals who smoked cannabis low in cannabidiol, participants smoking cannabis high in cannabidiol showed no memory impairment. Cannabidiol content did not affect psychotomimetic symptoms, which were elevated in both groups when intoxicated. The antagonistic effects of cannabidiol at the CB(1) receptor are probably responsible for its profile in smoked cannabis, attenuating the memory-impairing effects of THC. In terms of harm reduction, users should be made aware of the higher risk of memory impairment associated with smoking low-cannabidiol strains of cannabis like 'skunk' and encouraged to use strains containing higher levels of cannabidiol.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Role: Editor
                Journal
                PLoS One
                PLoS ONE
                plos
                plosone
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                1932-6203
                2013
                24 July 2013
                : 8
                : 7
                Affiliations
                [1 ]National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, Australia
                [2 ]Discipline of Pharmacology, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia
                [3 ]Brain and Mind Research Institute, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia
                [4 ]School of Psychology, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia
                The Scripps Research Institute, United States of America
                Author notes

                Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

                Conceived and designed the experiments: WS AW KML JCA ISM. Performed the experiments: AW KML JCA ISM. Analyzed the data: WS AW ISM. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: AW KML JCA ISM. Wrote the paper: WS AW ISM.

                Article
                PONE-D-13-11940
                10.1371/journal.pone.0070052
                3722200
                23894589
                c8e2e835-7d8e-475c-a896-d6d82cb17061

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

                Page count
                Pages: 9
                Funding
                This research was funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing through the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre ( http://ncpic.org.au/). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
                Categories
                Research Article
                Chemistry
                Analytical Chemistry
                Chemical Analysis
                Quantitative Analysis
                Chromatography
                Liquid Chromatography
                Phytochemistry
                Phytochemicals
                Medicine
                Drugs and Devices
                Behavioral Pharmacology
                Recreational Drug Use
                Mental Health
                Psychiatry
                Psychoses
                Substance Abuse

                Uncategorized

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