Vaporization A “Safe And Effective” Cannabinoid Delivery System, Study Says

Leiden, the Netherlands: Vaporization is a “safe and effective” cannabinoid delivery system for patients desiring the rapid onset of action associated with inhalation, but who are seeking to avoid the respiratory risks of smoking, according to clinical trial data to be published in the Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Researchers at Leiden University’s Institute of Biology (the Netherlands) found that use of the Volcano vaporizing device delivered set doses of THC to subjects in a reproducible manner while suppressing the intake of respiratory toxins.

“Our results show that with the Volcano, a safe and effective cannabinoid delivery system seems to be available to patients,” investigators concluded. “The final pulmonal uptake of THC is comparable to the smoking of cannabis, while avoiding the respiratory disadvantages of smoking.”

Cannabis smoke contains many of the same carcinogens as tobacco smoke, including greater concentrations of certain aromatic hydrocarbons such as benzopyrene, prompting concerns that chronic marijuana inhalation may be a risk factor for tobacco-use related cancers. Previous research by California NORML and others have demonstrated that cannabis vaporization suppresses many potentially harmful respiratory toxins by heating cannabis to a temperature where active cannabinoid vapors form (typically around 180-190 degrees Celsius), but below the point of combustion where noxious smoke and associated toxins (i.e., carcinogenic hydrocarbons) are produced (near 230 degrees Celsius).

A 2004 protocol by California NORML and MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) to investigate the types of emissions produced by cannabis vaporization was recently rejected after an 18-month regulatory delay by NIDA (US National Institute on Drug Abuse), which stated that the study would “not add to the scientific knowledge base in a significant way.”

“The US Institute of Medicine and others have repeatedly called for the creation of a non-smoked, rapid-onset cannabis delivery system to administer reproducible doses of active cannabinoids to patients,” said NORML Advisory Board member Dr. Mitch Earleywine, author of Understanding Marijuana: A New Look at the Scientific Evidence. “These data confirm that vaporization can deliver all the essential components of medical marijuana safely and effectively while suppressing the intake of carcinogenic smoke. Now the Drug Czar’s office and the Food and Drug Administration can rest assured that patients may receive the therapeutic relief they need without suffering from the unwanted health risks associated with smoking.”

For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director, or Paul Armentano, NORML Senior Policy Analyst, at (202) 483-5500. Full text of the study, “Evaluation of a vaporization device (Volcano) for the pulmonary administration of tetrahydrocannabinol,” will appear in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences.