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European Biopharmaceutical Review

Trial by Fire




Cannabis policy change is sweeping across the globe. One by one, countries, states, and territories are turning back a century of cannabis prohibition, at times led by a chorus of voters, outraged patient groups, or sometimes championed by only a single mother.

Cannabis is not a therapeutic drug born in the usual way. It is not a molecule designed, conceived, or synthesised and then selected by chance from a library of designer candidate compounds. It was not discovered by accident by an observant scientist. Cannabis sativa is, in fact, not one thing at all, but the botanical factory of a chemical symphony that has evolved alongside humans for over millennia (1).

For a long time, we understood this and simply harnessed its abilities. Nicholas Culpeper wrote of hemp in his book from 1649, later known as The Complete Herbal, which read that it is "so well known… I shall not need to write any description of it” (2). Whether or not “…the juice dropped into the ears kills worms in them”, as he so colourfully describes, is, of course, subject to interpretation.

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Dr Mark A Ware is currently the Chief Medical Officer at Canopy Growth Corporation. He has taken a leave of absence as Associate Professor in Family Medicine and Anesthesia at McGill University, Canada, from July 2018 to work in this capacity. His research has been funded and supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, FRQS, private foundations, and pharma companies. He has published over 100 papers on cannabis and pain research in academic journals, written six book chapters, and given hundreds of lectures to health professionals and the public on cannabis over the last 20 years. He served as a consultant to several large corporate and academic research programmes internationally and has advised the Canadian Federal Government on cannabis policy since 2001 and 2016, serving as the Vice Chair of the Federal Task Force on the legalisation and regulation of cannabis in Canada.
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