Australia: Straight talking cannabis: An interview with LoudCloudHealth project manager Bojana Petkovic

Last Updated: 11 January 2020
Article by Paul Gregoire

Most Read Contributor in Australia, December 2019

Fibromyalgia is a medical condition that intensifies pain. Characterised by widespread musculoskeletal agony, fibro is often accompanied by fatigue, sleep and mood issues. It's more common in women than men. And there's no known cure for this neurological health disorder.

However, last week, LoudCloudHealth published an article outlining that medicinal cannabis – specifically CBD oil – can alleviate the symptoms of this chronic condition that wreaks an "invisible" havoc within the lives of many.

CBD is one of over a hundred cannabinoids found within the cannabis plant. It has the ability to connect with our cannabinoid receptors. This can then spread positive effects throughout the body via a network of these receptors known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS).

The recent article cites three studies regarding the effects that CBD can have upon fibromyalgia. And the results point to the medicine's ability to ease pain and improve sleep amongst the vast majority of patients, while many participants also reported that the medicine alleviates anxiety.

Legal, yet inaccessible

Of course, in Australia, we're all very much aware of the benefits that cannabis medicines can bring these days. Indeed, this recent realisation has been more of a rediscovery. As historian Dr John Jiggens points out, prior to the 1930s, "cannabis was widely used as a medicine" in this country.

However, those at the frontline of need are also well aware that the Coalition's 2016 established cannabis licensing scheme is a con job. The supposed legalisation of cannabis medicine has left most of the estimated 100,000 patients nationwide without an ability to source any lawful product.

And when we compare this country denying its citizenry the benefits of a plant that could be readily available, to the embracing of the medicine we're seeing in the US, it's starting to look like we're governed by politicians who are either clueless or careless or both.

Thirty three US states now permit the use of medical cannabis, and at times, we're talking, the availability of whole plant products, as well as the ability to grow your own at home. At the moment in the States, there's over 850 brands of CBD products available.

Cutting through the hype is a group of medicinal cannabis and CBD enthusiasts who have brought together years of research, with the aim of cutting through the misinformation online that surrounds the plant, in order to bring you the clear cannabis facts.

Project manager Bojana Petkovic is the author of the article on CBD and fibromyalgia. And she points to a recent infographic that the LoudCloudHealth team has produced that brings together the key points on the benefits of cannabis, as well as some other aspects people should be aware of.

Sydney Criminal Lawyers spoke with Bojana Petkovic about medicinal cannabis pros and cons, what the difference between CBD and THC is, and why it's necessary to have a site like theirs available at a time when the internet is saturated with weed information.

Firstly, Bojana, LoudCloudHealth has recently released an infographic titled the Health Pros and Cons of Weed. It was informed by the expertise of Dr Nikola Djordjevic.

Why did your organisation think it was necessary to put together this infographic at a time when so much information on cannabis is becoming available online?

True. There is a lot of information online about cannabis: its advantages and adverse effects.

However, not everyone is keen on reading long, informative articles. And our attention spans, unfortunately, are rapidly declining as we speak.

What we did here was present the pros and cons of cannabis visually, which essentially is the best way to acquire knowledge – most people are visual learners.

Basically, we tried to make quality information more appealing to the general public. I'd say we've succeeded.

In Australia, the cannabis debate involves a distinction between recreational and medicinal use.

A leading cannabis activist here, HEMP Party president Michael Balderstone, always says that there's no such thing as recreational use, as it's all basically medicinal in his view. What do you think about this assertion?

Are food supplements medicines? I see his point. And I do agree that cannabis is beneficial for our health.

Nevertheless, cannabis can be used in such a wide variety of ways that it's hard to say it's always a medicine. For instance, would you call an anti-aging cream a medicine?

CBD oil, in particular, can be added to a myriad of products. All of them are there to improve our well-being, but in different ways. Some as medicines, others as wellness products.

So, your organisation has spent years gathering information on the effects of cannabis use. Your infographic lays out the details of this.

What would you say are a couple of the pros that readers in Australia may not be so informed about?

Australia is a very interesting market for cannabis, and it appears that most Aussies will be looking forward to what cannabis can do for their chronic illnesses.

I'd say that one of the best things about cannabis is its versatility. Namely, you could be taking it for instant pain relief, but also, it's got antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties that will help you feel less anxious, or deal with your allergies.

Then, there are its neuroprotective qualities, which are very interesting for seniors and dementia prevention.

Overall, cannabis is a great immunity booster, but it takes some time to discover what form suits you best: dosage, way of administration, CBD-THC ratio, and so on.

The two main components of cannabis that are prominently discussed are CBD and THC. Many find the difference between these two cannabinoids difficult to understand. How would you simply sum up the difference between them?

If you recall chemistry lessons, there was that story of how both the diamond and the graphite in our pencil are carbon, but it's just their atoms that are arranged differently. It's the same here.

They have the same chemical structure, yet the distinctive arrangements make our body, in other words, our endocannabinoid system react differently. And I like to think of THC as a diamond in the rough, perhaps, rather than pencil graphite.

Of course, it's now common knowledge that THC is psychoactive, whereas CBD is not, or, at least, not in the same way.

Taking a bit too much CBD could make you extra active, while taking more THC than the prescribed dose can make you too relaxed for any sort of activity. This is all roughly speaking.

But, despite the many benefits you list, you also point to a number of cannabis "cons". What are some of the effects of cannabis that may prove detrimental to someone who uses the plant?

I would definitely point out its dangerous effects on young teenagers. There's research that chronic users who start consuming cannabis in their early teen years lose IQ points.

Cannabis use disorder (CUD) is a serious matter too. Though it's impossible to die from a cannabis overdose, using it irresponsibly can have grave consequences, such as cognitive and memory impairments.

Moreover, with incomplete legalisation, people are more tempted or tricked into buying low-quality cannabis and its products.

I'd say that EVALI – a vaping-related disease – in the US right now, is the perfect example of what happens when products aren't properly regulated.

Over the last decade or so, the medicinal benefits of cannabis have been rediscovered. And medical practitioners have found a range of beneficial effects the plant can have.

Considering all this, why do you think such a beneficial herb was not only banned, but demonised in the first place?

It's a long story... In the US, the Marijuana Tax Act and the war on drugs were an excellent excuse to get rid of undesirable minorities as they were associated with cannabis use.

Globally, I'd say that in time we were more encouraged to put our trust into pharmaceuticals. There was a trend for sure. And the pharmacy industry, thankfully, has progressed immensely. We should just recall the discovery of penicillin.

Still, the antibiotics craze has moved us away from natural remedies. People used to find cures in nature and its herbs. Migration to urban areas has definitely made that almost impossible now, and a pill or powder is more convenient.

Also, let's not forget we belong to a consumer society. Imagine if all the people started using CBD or cannabis for their headaches.

In the US only, the painkiller market will soon be worth $5.9 billion. Picture replacing Panadol with CBD oil and the changes that would bring for Big Pharma.

Finally, there are the taxes. The US enjoys above average cannabis taxes, because it's not legalised fully. If it were, the government would lose its direct funding.

Do the maths, and demonisation and bans make perfect financial sense.

As already mentioned, there's a lot of information and sites outlining differing aspects of weed. How does differ from what's already on offer?

What LoudCloudHealth is trying to do is give you everything there is in one place, especially regarding disease treatments. I'd say lots of our competition lacks that.

For example, our article on CBD oil and fibromyalgia will tell you everything, from a brief disease definition to the available research treating fibro, its symptoms, as well as the recommended treatments and dosage.

The FAQ sections are quite helpful for dilemmas. Also, we're confident enough to tackle controversial topics, such as the safety of CBD oil for kids, and take our stance.

Statistics pages offer pure facts and figures. The news is up-to-date, easy to skim-read, and from various areas. The infographics are there as visual stimulation.

If I may say so, I think our page is quite pleasing to the eye too.

And lastly, major developments in the legalisation of cannabis have been happening throughout the world over the last decade, predominantly starting in the States. Today, 11 US states have legalised recreational use, while 33 allow medicinal.

The entire country of Uruguay legalised the recreational use of the plant in a somewhat restricted manner, while Canada has now implemented a much more liberalised regulated recreational marketplace.

How do you see this all playing out from here? Will this trend continue, or is there a danger of backlash?

We're all very lucky to be living in such exciting times. Taking everything into consideration, the legalisation trend is bound to continue. A danger of a backlash is always present, as with any major changes in society.

There has been an increase in teen cannabis vaping in some recreational states, for instance. Legalisation is a very serious matter and, as such, affects the whole society.

Still, cannabis legalisation has more pros than cons. Just ask parents giving Epidiolex – CBD oil for epileptic seizures – to their children.

In the US, we have families moving to the states where cannabis use is approved for their disease, but not everybody is able to do that.

We should all have the right to improve our health. For some people, legalisation is a not a political-scientific dilemma, but a matter of life and death.

If cannabis can help a person live a better life or actually survive, who are we to deny them that right?

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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