December 04, 2017

Did you know that the FDA approved two different synthetic cannabinoid medications that are currently on the market? 

Marinol is a synthetic medication that was originally approved by the FDA in 1985 to treat nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy, and then later approved to treat appetite loss in patients with AIDS. The main active ingredient in Marinol is called dronabinol, a generic name for man-made THC. Marinol comes in the form of capsules that are either 2.5, 5, or 10mg worth of medication.

Cesamet was originally approved by the FDA in 1985 but then withdrew the approval in 1989. Valeant Pharmaceuticals received the rights to Cesamet and got it approved by the FDA in 2006. Cesamet is prescribed in the United States to treat nausea due to chemotherapy, as well as to help manage chronic pain. The active ingredient in Cesamet is also a synthetic cannabinoid called nabilone. Unlike Marinol, Cesamet is a synthetic cannabinoid thatmimics THC. It isn't synthetic THC.

Let's discuss cost. These medications are expensive, much more expensive than buying a similar cannabis product at a dispensary. Another point that is made constantly about both of the above medications is that the medication does not contain any of the other cannabinoids and terpenes that are found in the plant extract. Different cannabinoids and terpenes have therapeutic properties of their own, which is lacking in the pharmaceuticals. As mentioned in my administration method blog post, the psychoactive effects of digested cannabis are much stronger than other methods of administration. Research has pointed in the direction that other cannabinoids can help mediate or "downplay" the "high" that results from cannabis. These capsules do not contain any other cannabinoids, and users have mentioned a stronger psychoactive effect from Marinol and Cesamet than of other cannabis products with the same amount of THC. Lastly, when someone is suffering from nausea and vomiting, an edible should really be the last administration method offered. Marinol takes up to an hour to show any effects, which is a long time to wait when experiencing significant discomfort. 

Dr. Andrew Weil, the Director of Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona's College of Medicine, stated in an SFGate article in 2002 (before Cesamet was approved) that "Unfortunately, the only legal substitute available now, a prescription pill containing a synthetic THC, marijuana's main psychoactive component, is not effective enough for many patients. I hear regularly from patients that the pill does not work as well as the natural herb, and causes much greater intoxication."

Long story short, it seems that the FDA recognizes the benefits found in cannabis, but will not federally legalize cannabis for its use. What do you all think?


Mikayla Kemp
Mikayla Kemp is Director of Education at Pushr, a cannabis distributor located in southern California. Prior to joining Pushr, she worked for MedMen where she trained all of the bud tenders across their chain of retail stores. Mikayla is the co-author of the Itty Bitty Guide To Cannabis. A biologist by trade, Mikayla is passionate about cannabis, and she excels at imparting in-depth product knowledge to bud tenders at all of Pushr's retail accounts.

Pushr is a cannabis distribution company located in Southern California. The company is on a mission to push the cannabis industry forward through innovative technology, in-depth training and education, efficient supply chain management, and reliable service.