Thought Leaders In Cannabis: Sara Jane Ward, PhD – Assistant Professor of Pharmacology

Hi I’m Sara Jane Ward. I’m an assistant professor at the Lewis
Katz School of Medicine at Temple University in the Center for Substance Abuse Research
and Department of Pharmacology. There are three general
classifications I like to think of as far as what cannabinoids are. There are the phytocannabinoids that are specific
types of chemicals found in cannabis sativa. There are the endogenous cannabinoids that
our bodies synthesize and use for a lot of basic physiological functions. And there are also synthetic cannabinoids
that can be synthesized in a laboratory to mimic the effects of phytocannabinoids
or endocannabinoids. We do a lot of research on the
phytocannabinoid cannabidiol. It’s a non-psychoactive cannabinoid. And the benefit of that is that although it
produces a lot of the positive effects that we associate with cannabis, it doesn’t produce
things like stimulating your appetite, altering perception and mood. The other approach that we take is testing
lab-synthesized cannabinoids. Again, those that can target more of the beneficial
effects of cannabinoids while trying to decrease some of the psychoactive or unwanted effects. I think one of the most challenging things
about cannabis moving forward, and this is a challenge for doctors
and for researchers, is that it’s not one medicine. Like we think of taking a Tylenol
or even using morphine. If you talk about cannabis, you’re talking
about over 100 different phytocannabinoids as well as a whole host of other chemicals. It makes it more difficult for researchers
to try to really target what in this plant is working. Is it a host of these chemicals working together? Is it one or two primary chemicals? So I think probably what makes the
plant produce all of these interesting and potentially therapeutic effects, also makes it challenging to think
of it as a medicine. There are some people who are,
I believe, resistant to thinking about individual phytocannabinoids
as being therapeutic because they so strongly believe that the whole plant contains the magic of its therapeutic benefits. On the flipside, I do believe that if you
solely focus on a single component of the plant, you really could be missing potential
synergistic effects of this multitude of compounds that could be really therapeutically important. I think one of the most exciting
things that’s happened is how these new medical marijuana
legislations occurring across the country and changes in perception, are really bringing different groups
of people together. Bringing the medical community and the research
community and industry and patients all together in a way that I hadn’t
seen even five years ago, so that we can all learn from
each other’s perceptions and experiences and knowledge.

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