Is it encouraging that we have 28 studies currently approved by the Feds addressing some claimed medical benefits of marijuana? Yes and no. The headlines suggesting a loosening of restrictions and an increase in federally approved experiments is fantastic. What is less exciting is the rest of the story.
We know that the marijuana plant has a minimum of 80 to 105 cannabinoids. Most of the research addresses either a single cannabinoid (with 6 of 100 holding center stage). Synthetic cannabinoids are also single substance research, and I'm ignoring those studies for the moment. Is it really useful, given our present state of knowledge, to look at a single cannabinoid, selected from 100 possible choices? What if a medical benefit of the plant is realized most fully when a combination of two cannabinoids are present? What if it takes three? What if maximum therapeutic benefit is realized when 30 of the cannabinoids are present?
It seems to me that the place to start is with the plant, as nature and growers grow it. If the plant shows a benefit, then it would be interesting to attempt to isolate the cannabinoid(s) responsible. The current batch of experimentation in the US is taking the opposite track. It is like trying to figure out if a car works as transportation by looking at the brakes, then, separately, at the trunk, and on and on. What about the brakes, trunk, and spark plugs?
I believe the correct math to know how many combinations of two or more cannabinoids exist, one looks at "factorials." In short, if there are 100 cannabinoids (105 is the highest claimed number I've seen), how many combinations of two or more of the 100 are there? 100 factorial is the answer. In english, that means 100x99x98x97...x2x1. My handy "googelator" tells me that the number is, and I'm not making this up,
100 factorial is 93 326 215 443 944 152 681 699 238 856 266 700 490 715 968 264 381 621 468 592 963 895 217 599 993 229 915 608 941 463 976 156 518 286 253 697 920 827 223 758 251 185 210 916 864 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000
Using a LITTLE bit of math shorthand, that number is 9.332621544×10 to the 157 power. In english again, that is about 9 PLUS 157 more zeros. I know. It's a really big number.
So, given that rather large number (well, actually, an incredibly huge number) of possible combinations, does it make any sense to look at single cannabinoids? Not to me.