British researchers have begun clinical tests to determine if THCV and cannabidol (CBD), two non-psychoactive compounds found only in the cannabis plant, can be used to effectively treat obesity and diabetes by suppressing appetite.

According to Dr. Steph Wright, director of research and development at GW Pharmaceuticals, four different Phase 2 clinical trials are currently underway. The multinational drug company is hoping to develop a treatment for “metabolic syndrome” – a risk factor for coronary artery disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes – by the end of the year.

GW Pharmaceuticals already produces Sativex, a whole plant sublingual spray that’s available by prescription only in half a dozen countries, for use in treating MS and other serious ailments. Made from marijuana plants grown at secret, legal facilities somewhere in the south of England, Sativex is currently in Phase 3 trials to enter the US market as a treatment for pain in patients with advanced cancer.

To learn more about GW Pharmaceuticals including their plans to bring Sativex stateside, check out “The British Are Coming,” a feature story from the current issue of HIGH TIMES Medical Marijuana.

In the meantime, you’re probably asking yourself: Isn’t using marijuana to suppress appetite like using Viagra to fight erections? Doesn’t ganja make you hungry? Really, really hungry?  Isn’t that the basic premise of every tired old Cheetos-laden stoner munchie gag on television and in the movies? And more seriously, aren’t we talking about the very same cannabis plant that cancer patients rely on to help them keep an appetite through chemo?     

The answer to this apparent pot paradox lies in taking a closer look at the specific cannabinoids under consideration. For while the federal government still steadfastly refuses to admit that whole plant marijuana has any proven medical use, cannabinoid science is all the rage these days, including within the Feds’ own Department of Health and Human Services, which has held Patent # US 6,630,507, covering “cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants,” since 2003.

It’s quite simple: Grow a few plants in the backyard to help your kindly old aunt treat her arthritis, and that makes both of you criminals to the Feds. Because marijuana’s not a medicine. And yet, the very same government turns around and claims the exclusive right to produce pharmaceuticals made from marijuana for particular medical uses.

In the case of this latest research project, understanding how cannabinoids can actually fight appetite requires knowing that THCV, the specific compound GW is working with, actually acts as an inhibitor to THC. Meaning that it keeps you from getting high and turns off the munchies. When combined with CBD, researchers say THCV also helps reduce cholesterol in the bloodstream, and boosts the body’s fat-burning metabolism.

Wonderful! Worthy research with incredibly potential! Just keep in mind. About ten years ago a different pharmaceutical company developed a drug called Rimonabant, designed to aid weight loss in obese patients by blocking the body’s natural cannabinoid-1 receptors. Their planned 33-month study of Rimonabant was halted after little more than a year, due to increased suicide risk among those given the drug in clinical trials.