If Enthusiasts can stop circling the wagons and if researchers can punch a hole in the Ivory Tower we could enter a Golden Age of Exploration when it comes to our ancient relationship with cannabis.

That’s the feeling I got after attending a recent presentation here at Santa Fe’s Temple Beth Shalom by Israeli expert Dr. Nirit Bernstein – one of Israel’s top researchers into cannabis as medicine— the Israeli focus on the plant.

Under the state’s auspices she’s out to prove cannabis can be used as what we typically label “medicine”….a substance that gives predictable results.

Cleverly entitled 50 Shades of Green, Dr. Bernstein was knowledgeable but also warm and engaging. As a speaker she paced her audience and stuck to the spine of her story: Israel’s concentration on cannabis as medicine.

The underlying theme unfolded as she spoke. Basically we have a plant that’s been a part of human life for 10,000 years— as number of ancient burial sites attest – yet science is only beginning to understand how it’s various properties act.

THC for instance was only discovered (by an Israeli researcher) in 1961. And although the plant has hundreds of elements, only relative handfuls have been studied from the standpoint of scientific research— because it’s been Scheduled for so long.

And as Dr. Bernstein said since we’re talking about medicine –a whole different dynamic is at play in the study of cannabis. The number one consideration from this vantage point is: Standardization. 

This means protocols have to be followed that others investigating cannabis are not bound by.

It was a stark take-away from the talk when compared to our Wild West approach here in North America—where the distinction between “medicinal products” and what we typically call “medicine” tends to get blurred with the influence of the recreational component.

She called the Folk Medicine derived tinctures of yesterday and today, tablets and balms etc. “Medicinal Products.” She didn’t put down all the testimonials we hear from people who have successfully treated medical conditions. She just drew a line between her strategies and our approach.

Because of our particular history Enthusiasts here–Amateurs in the original sense of the word—spearhead most of the research with strains, cultivation methods and propagation because unlike Israel –which began five years ago –official support for cannabis research has lagged behind.

Is one approach better than the other? Who can say? When you travel the world you come to accept that different cultures and countries have their own way of doing things.

In Cairo for instance, though it’s officially illegal…it’s all around you.

Israel is also concerned with the sane kinds of things regarding cultivation and usage but with a different set of parameters.

I think each side can learn from the other. For instance Dr. Bernstein comes to cannabis with an expertise we normally don’t see or hear about: Soil and Water.

She shared some of her insights. As in the case of growing inside…versus outside.

She seems to favor inside growing because it offers more of the kind of standardization you have to have with medicines–that’s its essence. The thrust of Israel’s work is finding benchmarks—stable indicators of the kind of actions to expect from cannabis as a medicine.

Inside plants tend to be manicured —the whole plant gets light— the buds from top to bottom have a consistent composition of cannabis elements. A definite plus if you’re growing it to use as medicine.

By contrast outdoor plants have an uneven distribution of light. The buds at the top have full potency whereas the lower ones—who receive less light— show a much greater difference in their composition.

And when it come to adding things to the soil for growth and pest control she pointed out that some substances can actually cause a REDUCTION in CBD and other elements we might want to see.

That’s why I liked her emphasis on using Botanicals in this regard. This is Israel’s preferred method of treating soil for their cannabis. It’s less likely to interfere with the plant’s production of beneficial products.

I don’t know much about Botanicals but it sure sounds more “pure” and “organic.” Definitely something cultivators could be looking at.

All in all with so many now getting access to cannabis and the means and methods to discover it’s properties in a deeper manner—whether gonzo bio-hacking and experimentation or research in the lab– it’s looking like cannabis is at the forefront of what the late/great Terrence McKenna called The Archaic Revival.

By Dean Balsamo


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