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Zenleaf will operate a mixed-light cannabis cultivation and nursery facility in South Morro Hills in Oceanside. Photo via Facebook
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CBDs, THC & other initials: A physician’s approach to medicinal cannabis

This is part 1 in a series of three.

If you were to attend a recent local cannabis educational fair, you’d be surprised by the absence of “pot heads”; instead, you’d find many seniors looking for alternative ways to address pain and other medical conditions.

Alas, while there are some excellent books on the subject, it can still be difficult to find information from a medical professional on the subject for various reasons.

Many simply are not knowledgeable about the subject and hence are unable to provide guidance to their patients. Others fear legal ramifications of recommending a product that, although “legal” in California, remains illegal on a federal level.

This is intended to be an introductory guide for patients interested in the use of cannabis and related products for medicinal purposes; it is NOT a guide to getting high. Nor should this be misconstrued as medical advice. Rather, its purpose is to provide a very basic introduction for those unfamiliar with this relatively new area of medicine that has become a viable treatment option for so many. Cannabis is the scientific name for the plant commonly known as marijuana. It originated in central Asia, but is now found worldwide, and has been employed for medicinal benefits for thousands of years.

There has been debate regarding the species and subspecies of the plant, but nowadays most will make the distinction between two: cannabis sativa and cannabis indica.

Historically, one could discern between the two types by the shape of the leaf, but with the advent of hybrid types, this can be difficult.

However, in general, indica plants tend to be somewhat short, bushy with wider leaves, whereas sativa plants tend to grow tall with leaves   that are more narrow.

Cannabis has also been widely referred to as hemp and has been bred over the years to yield high fiber content for industrial uses such as the manufacture of clothing, rope, etc.

What is commonly sold as “hemp” in stores has been bred to have very low THC content, the main psychoactive constituent that induces the “high.” Hemp has gained new life with the popularization of CBD oils.

In 1971, an arbitrary line was drawn that limited hemp to a 0.3% THC ceiling and this has remained the standard since.

One cannot get “high” from this form of hemp, but it is possible that one might see other benefits.

Dr. Pearson is a board-certified Family and Sports Medicine physician who has been practicing in North County since 1988. His office is located in Carlsbad Village. Feel free to contact him with any questions at