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Advocates are fighting to legalize marijuana. The University of Mississippi has the only legally grown marijuana crop in the nation.
Faculty members and student researchers have now developed a new patch that could potentially provide help to patients who need it.
Dr. Mahmoud ElSohly is a faculty member in the School of Pharmacy at Ole Miss. During a tour of his lab where he has been working for nearly seven years to find alternative ways to use THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, Dr. ElSohly reveals a suppository did not go over so well.
"Jay Leno was, had it on his show, when we first came up with the product and said, you know, 'Dr. ElSohly at Ole Miss has developed a way to administer marijuana by suppository. You know how he came up with this idea?' He said, 'well he was smoking a joint and then he saw the cops and he went' [makes hand motion]," Dr. ElSohly said.
But with his team, Dr. ElSohly pressed ahead. Over 77,000 samples were prepared for analysis on this project, and although the WLBT News team was permitted to walk around freely, Dr. ElSohly reminded the crew we were under constant surveillance by the Drug Enforcement Agency. Some of the areas were so sensitive protective gear was a must.
The patch developed at Ole Miss could help patients overcome problems associated with taking the drug in pill form. The patch is placed above the gum line.
"In addition to pain, it will include things like reducing intraocular pressure and therefore would be good for glaucoma. [It] will be good for alleviating the nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy; it would also be good for appetite stimulation for patients suffering from the syndrome, anti-inflammatory activity, anti-anxiety," explains Dr. ElSohly.
The formulas for the patch were screened in rabbits, then pigs at UMC in Jackson.
"So we're not really introducing anything strange to the body, other than the THC itself. We are just having to make it so that we'll make it possible to be absorbed through the mucus," ElSohly said.
Dr. ElSohly believes they have found the right formula.
"Because of the way it is absorbed it's almost like it's absorbed through the lungs, like the smoke. When you smoke, it goes to the lungs, to the whole, entire body before going to the liver. Unlike the oral [which] goes to the liver first and then goes to the rest of the body," ElSohly explained.
Two other scientists worked with Dr. ElSohly on the development of the patch. The discovery is expected to take medicine and these researchers to a new high. Dr. ElSohly reveals, however, is not a fan of legalizing marijuana.
"The problem with smoking marijuana is that when you smoke [the drug], you take even a single puff, you absorb so much all at once, which rushes into the brain and causes side effects of smoking marijuana," warns Dr. ElSohly. "If the high is too high, then you actually end up with the opposite activity of the high, which is the paranoia, the dysphoria, and the problems associated with that."
The Ole Miss scientists who call themselves investigators, credit the National Institutes of Health Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence with kick starting the project with a grant that provided funding. They also say those grants have helped them train and mentor future investigators.
Dr. ElSohly says marijuana is developed in grow labs not the fields. The fields have not been used since 2007. We also found out most of the pot confiscated by law enforcement in this state is analyzed at Ole Miss.