Noting marijuana has been in use in Eastern medicine for millennia, neuroscientist Jokūbas Žiburkus said it’s exciting to be in a field Western medicine is just beginning to explore.
“Studies are coming along slowly, but the interest is enormous,” said Žiburkus, an associate professor at the University of Houston. “We will, as scientists, be busy for the next century, trying to understand this plant and its benefits.”
Žiburkus’ lab in Houston is conducting research on epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease, with a focus on cannabinoid effects on the brain and treatments for neurological disorders.
As part of an Aug. 17 medical education event for doctors and healthcare professionals in Delaware, Žiburkus will be talking about medical marijuana and the human endocannabinoid system.
Žiburkus described the system as a collection of cell receptors the human body produces naturally that act as a negative feedback system against molecular-level antagonists. Marijuana, he said, also produces cannabinoids.
“We produce our own weed, inside our own bodies,” he said, laughing.
Žiburkus said he’s coming to Delaware to begin to change the stigma associated with medical marijuana for adults and children.
The stigma is there, he said, but changes take time and perseverance. Right now, said Žiburkus, there’s a lack of knowledge, and marijuana is thought of as an intoxicant.
“But there’s a huge medicinal application,” he said, “There will be a paradigm change.”
Žiburkus said beyond the stigma, there are other significant roadblocks. There are different laws in different countries, he said. Even within the United States, there are different laws from state to state, he said.
“It’s a fragmented market. A standardization is needed because patients need to feel safe consuming,” he said.
Despite limitations, Žiburkus said the the global medical marijuana industry is exploding.
“There’s near exponential growth in the field,” he said.
Žiburkus is scheduled to speak at 5 p.m. and again at 7 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 17, at the Wilmington Sheraton, 422 Delaware Ave., Wilmington.
The event is free. Žiburkus’ appearance is sponsored by Israel-based medical marijuana research company Tikun Olam, Massachusetts-based medical marijuana consultant Marimed and Delaware’s First State Compassion Centers.