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3OYS Investigates: The Right Dose Part 1

Ole Miss has been the site of the Marijuana Project for 54 years
Published: Apr. 14, 2022 at 9:54 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - There are many questions about cannabis, it’s uses and side effects, especially since medical marijuana is now legal in Mississippi.

The first and, for many years, the only place in the nation to have a legal grow facility is located at the University of Mississippi. It has been there for 54 years.

We went to the campus to talk with leading researchers about medical cannabis and the most effective ways to use it. We talk with Dr. Mahmoud ElSohly in the first part of our special report, The Right Dose.

He shares his concerns and hopes for how the cannabis plant is used.

Dr. ElSohly has been working with Cannabis since 1976. He makes it clear the facility has...
Dr. ElSohly has been working with Cannabis since 1976. He makes it clear the facility has nothing to do with medical marijuana in Mississippi.(WLBT)

There are no plants growing right now on the 12 acres, but in the inside grow facility there are plants flourishing under specialized lights, fans and environment.

Dr. ElSohly said, “We can do it like this. Yeah, you can smell it. Very good. You can smell it. Cannabis is a very good plant. It has a lot of potential, but it needs to be used with specific controls to make sure that it is safe to be used and is effective for the indication that it has been prescribed for.”

At the youngest stage for these plants, the work is so sensitive that protective gear is worn. Our photojournalist had to wear covering for his shoes to get the video.

To give you an idea of how fast the plants grow, the taller plants are about a year old. Whereas the smaller plants are two-to-two-and-a-half months old.

Dr. Mahmoud ElSholy has been the Director of the Marijuana Project and Professor of Pharmaceutics at Ole Miss for 47 years. He has been working with cannabis since 1976.

He makes it clear this facility has nothing to do with medical marijuana in Mississippi.

Dr. ElSohly says cannabis has been used for thousands of years but there are still many...
Dr. ElSohly says cannabis has been used for thousands of years but there are still many questions about the right dose.(WLBT)

“We are not, this project here is funded by the National Institutes on Drug Abuse which started way back in 1968. The chemistry of the cannabis plant has not been really known for all these years although the plant has been used for thousands of years. But the chemistry, what was causing this plant to act on the brain and to do the activities that it does was not known until 1964,” said Dr. ElSohly.

ElSholy also says there is no doubt cannabis is addictive.

“The true scientific evidence shows that cannabis is addictive. Okay. So there’s no question about that.”

He explains his main concern.

“How much of this material and, most importantly, what is that material? When you go to a dispensary and you get something out of the, on the shelf, what is the chemistry of that, what is in there besides just THC or CBD or something. That’s not known and have you taken this material, taken it through clinical trials, placebo controls, clinical science to show that if you use this material under these conditions, which includes how much dose, how frequently you have to take it and all of that… that you can get the benefit without getting the side effects. That has not been done.”

Dr. ElSohly also explained some pharmaceutical companies are not willing to invest what it will take to develop cannabis as a drug.

“There is a reason why the pharmaceutical industry has not taken marijuana and developed a cigarette for, you know, let’s say pain, or a cigarette for your blood pressure or a cigarette for anxiety, or whatever. They haven’t done that because the amount of money that needs to be spent to get that done and get it done properly is a lot.”

Ole Miss was the site of the first and only place in the nation for a legal grow facility.
Ole Miss was the site of the first and only place in the nation for a legal grow facility.(WLBT)

The work at Ole Miss focuses on the chemistry of the cannabis plant.

“If we are not going to control the use of cannabis, not only in Mississippi but in the United States in general, we’re gonna have a new generation that’s gonna be zombies, honestly speaking.”

Dr. ElSholy tells us the science shows cannabis does affect the brain, especially in young people.

“It does make you lose perception of time and distance and so on, and so, for this, if used outside of certain limits and that’s why it’s so important to define what is the dose.”

The doctor is proud of the work at Ole Miss and says they have to be doing something right to have this program for over five decades. He also says he is hopeful of what is ahead.

”I’m looking forward to some of the drugs we are developing out from this plant that are going to be prescription drugs that will be available to do what this plant will do and do away with the smoking per se, but people of course have a preference of the smoking, it’s okay with me. I wouldn’t do it myself.”

Dr. ElSohly also said there has to be more study on the dosage. He emphasizes safety is the priority.

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