To Smoke or Not to Smoke
The current limited medical marijuana laws in Florida do not allow consumption of medical or low-THC marijuana by means of smoking the flowers. The logic behind such prohibition is understandable. The Department of Health (DOH) considers inhaling the smoke from burning medical marijuana unhealthy. DOH allows other alternative forms of medical marijuana like oils and tinctures. Such products are suitable in many cases, especially in those where medical marijuana administered to children with epilepsy or muscle spasms.
Statistically, the smokable forms of medical marijuana are leading the industry with over 55% of the market in the nation. This data shows that there is a huge demand among the patients for cannabis flowers. Over a half of the patients nationwide prefer “old school” method of cannabis consumption through smoking.
There are multiple reasons for that. First of all, it is simple. Second, the relief comes almost immediately. Third, many patients report that smoking the flower produces a significantly different medical effect in comparison to consuming an extract. The last point actually brings us to the main topic of this article.
The flavor, smell, taste and some other characteristics of cannabis are the results of the presence of different kinds of terpenes in a plant. Terpenes are organic chemical compounds that give those numerous properties to medical marijuana. Terpenes are produced in the resin glands of the cannabis plant. However, the sensory effects are not the main function of the terpenes.
Terpenes act synergistically with cannabinoids like TCH and CBD—the main chemically active compounds of cannabis—to produce the relief the patients need. This happens by means of terpenes attaching to cannabinoid receptors in a brain and affecting the chemical output. Terpenes may also modify how much cannabinoids pass through blood-brain barrier—the mechanism that protects the brain from infections. Moreover, it has been proven that terpenes are capable of suppressing the toxic effect caused by THC. Terpenes are also believed to affect the production rate of the hormones like serotonin or dopamine. These mechanisms enhance the medical effects or relief from medical marijuana. The scientific studies prove that the medical effects and relief largely depend on terpenes.
However, all these positive effects may be significantly weakened. This happens during cannabis processing. In other words, when cannabis is turned into oil, extract or any other concentrated medium, the process of conversion rids the final product of terpenes. As a result, the medical effects of cannabis can be seriously damaged due to terpenes vaporization. Therefore, the ultimate effect of the medicine is negated.
Many States, such as Colorado, California, or Washington, allow patients to smoke or vaporize marijuana flower. The example of a State that does not allow it is Pennsylvania. There, the legislature has already prohibited the smokable form of cannabis for its future industry.
The effect of such prohibition is profound. Because of this limit, the State had to integrate the growing and processing licenses into one type of a license. This, in turn, limits the business opportunities and skips one step (transaction) in the industry. This can also lead to the conflict of interest that manifest itself in the vertically integrated license States (licenses that allow growing, processing, testing, and selling cannabis just like in Florida at the moment).
In case a prohibition of medical marijuana flowers occurs in Florida in the future, there will be a significant impact on the patients, businesses, and the State. The patients may not have the most effective means of consumption. The medical marijuana businesses will lose the opportunities for investment. Finally, the State will encourage the creation of the black market within the industry and have less transparency combining the cultivation and processing licenses.