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Medical professionals in 23 states and Washington, D.C., can now legally recommend that a patient suffering from a severe or debilitating medical condition can use marijuana to help treat symptoms and side effects. But since marijuana continues to be classified as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, the drug has “no currently accepted medical use in treatment” in the eyes of the U.S. federal government. As a result, the research into which kinds of marijuana a patient should use to treat particular symptoms or conditions has been limited.
Once a patient obtains a recommendation to use cannabis from a doctor in a medical marijuana state, he or she is largely dependent on the “budtenders” at local dispensaries to help determine which strains of marijuana would offer the most effective treatment. Patients who are recommended medical marijuana are given very little information on the different strains available to them on the market. For new smokers and returning baby boomers, this buying decision process can be particularly frustrating. For baby boomers that smoked marijuana in their college dorms in the ‘60’s and ‘70s, it was an act of rebellion and a communal experience to be shared with your friends. Those returning to marijuana today are more likely to use it as anti-inflammatory than anti-establishment.
As for parents with children that require marijuana treatment for conditions like epilepsy, there is very limited information from doctors when it comes to choosing the appropriate strain, delivery method and cannabinoid level best suited for their children (Dr. Sanjay Gupta touched on this point in his compelling recent documentary, Weed 2 – Cannabis Madness). Budtenders that work at dispensaries can recommend strains based only on crowdsourced reviews and their own personal experiences rather than hard scientific data. And since no medical marijuana expertise is required to become a budtender, recommendations are easily prone to error.
At PotBotics, we are working to reduce patients’ reliance on a “roll of the dice” by identifying and quantifying the effects different cannabinoids have on patients with various disease states. Two of our product offerings, PotBot and BrainBot, streamline the selection process to a point where personal recommendations can be made without the need for patients to experiment with different strains themselves. BrainBot allows general practitioners to utilize a high-frequency brain-function monitoring system to quantifiably evaluate the brain’s reaction to marijuana by capturing and analyzing brain waves using an EEG (electroencephalogram). PotBot on the other hand is a consumer-facing, artificially intelligent recommendation engine that uses cutting edge neural-net algorithms to recommend custom strains every time a customer uses PotBot’s intuitive sales interface.
The word of this century in healthcare and medicine has been “personalized.” More and more pharmaceutical companies are embracing the concept of personalized medicine from research and development to commercialization, supported by electronic records, decision support systems, and tests analyzing specific biomarkers. It is clear that for new treatment methods to receive approval they have to be effective, and to be effective they have to target highly segmented populations. There is no reason why the same kind of personalized recommendation methodology should not be used for medical marijuana.
We may not know exactly what the future of the marijuana industry will look like, but we do know that while many people and companies are fighting to be the largest cultivator, or have the largest dispensary, those of us involved in ancillary businesses already see tremendous potential. Uncertainty has no place in medical marijuana recommendation, and tools like PotBotics will inevitably streamline and elevate the cannabis selection process to new industry standards.
Photo Credit: Alex Raths under public domain