Hey, Israel: You Didn’t Invent THC-Free Weed, Nature Did


A flower of the Israeli THC-free, high-CBD cannabis strain “Avidekel” on display

From time to time, we hear about this group or that claiming to have “invented” a “new strain” of cannabis, one that offers the health benefits of marijuana without the high, seen by many researchers and some patients as an undesirable “side effect.” Whenever you hear such claims, try to remember that THC-free weed wasn’t invented or developed by any scientific team or cannabis breeder — it developed in nature itself.
While that contention itself is controversial — with many patients maintaining that the cannabis high itself is part of its therapeutic effects — recent research showing that cannabidiol (CBD) is responsible for some of marijuana’s healthy effects have led to speculation about the medicinal use of THC-free strains, those which don’t include tetrahydrocannabinol, the main psychoactive component of grass.

The dichotomy between the mainstream press and its, shall we say, somewhat uninformed views of marijuana, and the marijuana community’s own sources of information sometimes leads to amusing juxtapositions, revealing a bifurcation between “official reality” and scientific fact.

The latest example of modern-day researchers claiming to have invented something (THC-free marijuana with high levels of CBD) which already exists in nature — comes from Israel, where the medical marijuana group Tikun Olam has created a strain of cannabis calked Avidekel, reports Victoria Bekiempis at The Village Voice.
The Israeli researchers aren’t the first, and undoubtedly won’t be the last, to claim they’ve invented THC-free marijuana. Back in 2010 David Lampach of Oakland’s Steep Hill Labs, breathlessly announced that the medical cannabis testing outfit had “discovered” a CBD-dominant strain, likening the discovery to striking gold.
The comparison was somewhat ironic since high CBD weed with almost no THC has grown wild all over the Midwest for years; locals call it “ditch weed” and the plants are the feral remnants of the agricultural hemp crop that used to beautify American fields. CBD is the main cannabinoid found in ditch weed, according to a federal research team from The University of Mississippi.
Ditch weed was found to contain from 2.5 percent to 2.4 percent CBD, according to a research group headed by Mahmoud ElSohly, Ph.D. ElSohly is best known for supervising the only federally approved cannabis grow site in the United States, on The University of Mississippi campus at Oxford.
Meanwhile, back in Israel, Avidekel provides many of the helpful medicinal effects of marijuana, but without getting you high, since that’s sometimes seen as an unwanted side effect, reports The Week. In Israel, marijuana is illegal except for medicinal use, but more than 9,000 patients are allowed to use it to treat cancer, Parkinson’s, Crohn’s, PTSD, and other conditions.
The Israeli researchers began breeding cannabis plants in 2009 to develop a strain that did away with THC and contained high levels of CBD. About six months ago, they debuted their first result, Avidekel, which contains 15.8 percent CBD, giving it strong anti-inflammatory properties, and insignificant amounts of THC.
“It’s a huge advantage,” said one 35-year-old patient who recently had a tumor removed from her spine, reports Maayan Lubell at Reuters. “I can smoke during the day, function with a lot less pain and still be focused, work, and drive. It’s a great gift.”
Clinical trials testing Avidekel’s medicinal effectiveness won’t begin for a few more months.