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Israeli scientists create medical marijuana strain that won't get patients high

smoking pot

(CBS News) Israeli scientists have reportedly created a new strain of marijuana with a catch: You won't get high from smoking it.

Reuters reports that Galilee-based company Tikun Olam has developed a marijuana strain called Avidekel that can be used medicinally to alleviate nausea, pain and other symptoms doctors may prescribe medical marijuana to treat.

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"Sometimes the high is not always what they need," Zack Klein, head of development at Tikun Olam, told Reuters. "Sometimes it is an unwanted side effect. For some of the people, it's not even pleasant."

Cannabis is made up of 60 chemical components called cannabinoids and the drug's main psychoactive ingredient is tetrahydrocannabinol, known simply as THC. However, the company's new plant is free of THC but high in CBD, or cannabidiol, a substance that's been tied to anti-inflammatory benefits. While THC binds to the brain's receptors to create the high feeling, the scientists say CBD barely binds and thus doesn't cause the effect.

Avidekel is already permitted for medicinal use so patients can try it at their own discretion - Reuters reports 10 patients have been using it for six months.

"It's a huge advantage," said one 35-year-old patient who suffers chronic pain after a tumor was removed from her spine who asked not to be identified, "I can smoke during the day, function with a lot less pain and still be focused, work and drive. It is a great gift."

Marijuana is illegal in Israel but medical use has been permitted since 1993 for illnesses such as cancer, Parkinson's, Crohn's, or post traumatic stress disorder.

In the U.S., 17 states and Washington D.C. currently have medical marijuana laws on the books with other states mulling legislation. Approved conditions vary by state but may include HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis and seizures.

This plant however is not the first marijuana-like treatment in development. In 1985, the FDA approved two pills containing synthetic THC to ease side-effects of chemotherapy in cancer patients called Marinol and Cesamet, HealthPop reported. Marinol was eventually approved to increase appetites of AIDS patients. Other U.S. companies have been developing formulations that could be administered through dissolving pills, creams and skin patches since patents on the drugs expired.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's position states, "smoked marijuana has not withstood the rigors of science - it is not medicine, and it is not safe."

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