by David Downs
One of the nation's most sophisticated cannabis testing labs has yielded powerful results this spring, isolating a “low-anxiety” strain of the plant by closely tracking the potency of local crops.
The Harborside Health Center cannabis dispensary has just announced that it's offering for sale a “low-anxiety” strain of medicinal cannabis, based on findings from its new Steep Hill laboratory. The “low-anxiety” strain is a custom-bred True Blueberry crossed with OG Kush, says Harborside Health Center director Stephen DeAngelo. Patients report pain relief with very little buzz after using the custom strain.
“They're not saying that it's no buzz at all; what they're saying is that it's diminished," DeAngelo explains. "They describe it as being mellow, even, steady, not overwhelming, not producing anxiety.”
Anxiety has been a problem with modern cannabis. The Steep Hill lab has confirmed, by testing 4,000 samples, that breeders are pushing levels of psychoactive molecule THC — which can cause anxiety — to historic new heights; from a few percent decades ago to past 15 percent today.
“The standard view of cannabis is it's something people do to get high, and THC is part of the plant that gives that quality along with others,” DeAngelo notes.
But cannabis can also relieve pain, and part of the pain relief comes from another psychoactive molecule, called CBD. “CBD is another component in cannabis that is medically effective without being psychoactive,” DeAngelo explains.
The Steep Hill lab has confirmed California breeders are selecting for THC at the expense of CBD, creating a startling trend of high-THC cannabis with the potential to cause anxiety and panic attacks in new patients, and older ones. Harborside has started reversing that trend by identifying and then breeding CBD-rich strains, the first of which is on shelves now. CBD levels in the new product are around 11 percent of the the plant, compared to less than 1 percent in the majority of crops.
“Generally what we've found is if we can get anything that's got six to eight percent CBD, that's good,” DeAngelo says.
CBD-rich strains are better for cancer patients with pain, and so-called “cannabis naïve” patients who are more apt to freak out on high-THC doses.
The Steep Hill lab is a follow-up to Harborside's pilot Analytical Labs in Emeryville. For the first time, the composition and effects of California's consumer cannabis strains are being systematically correlated, and it will lead to even more discoveries, DeAngelo says.