Cutting-Edge Cannabis Research: Valuable Lessons from Neuroscientist Dr. Adie Poe
Dr. Adie Wilson-Poe is a neuroscientist whose ground-breaking research on opioid addiction has led to consistent grants by the National Institute on Drug Abuse to continue her work.
She’s partnered with a representative in politics who shares her passion for educating people about the healing effects of cannabis as opposed to harmful and highly addictive pharmaceuticals.
Her dedication to finding ways to combat the ever-growing problem with prescription drug addiction in America helped her to co-found Habu Health, a research group committed to imbuing consumer confidence in their cannabis purchases through scientific evidence.
VIRIDE couldn’t wait to chat with Dr. Poe about her unwavering commitment to making sure her fact-based research of the cannabis plant is heard by all.
Recently Dr. Poe’s Habu Health teamed up with Goldleaf to edit the latest Patient Journal. You can read more about these beautiful journals in our interview with Goldleaf founder Charles McElroy.
Viride: You've published several studies on how cannabis can reduce one's opioid consumption and potential overdose. One of your pamphlets was handed out by Representative Earl Blumenauer during a House Subcommittee on the opioid crisis. How did the two of you meet and begin working together?
Dr. Adie Poe: I headed a fundraiser for a political actions committee that he founded to support other campaigns, for those running for office who supported cannabis. I ran into his aide and gave her
The Physician’s Guide to Cannabis Assisted Opioid Reduction. It was something I had sitting on my hard drive. I’d been gathering a simple bullet list for people to digest with all the information they’d need to make a decision. I’d emailed it in on a Friday night and by Tuesday it was already in the hands of all the congress people in D.C. It was exactly what I’d been working toward for so long. It was my moral obligation as someone as intimate with scientific and medical literature as I am to say something. If I continue to sit on this pile of references in the Ivory Tower of academia, then I’m not doing my service to the public appropriately.
V: Do you feel we are making progress with legalization?
AP: It’s inevitable. It is exactly like climate change or the Civil Rights Movement. No matter what people want or what their generations long belief systems are, this is evidence. This is the way of the future and it will happen at some point. I completely sympathize and understand that it is difficult for people to fundamentally change their framework and get rid of their fear of their children’s safety and highway safety and addiction. I understand why they would be afraid of this. The evidence is what it is. We already have enough facts to let us know what the relative danger of cannabis is compared to other things which are not scheduled at all, like alcohol. This will happen and I’m more than happy to lend my knowledge of the scientific literature to enable it to happen as quickly as possible.
V: With your experience, what are your thoughts on the addictive properties of cannabis?
AP: It absolutely is, in the sense that anything that is rewarding is addictive. So, there are people who are addicted (I don’t like to use the word addicted). We can say that we have diagnosable addictive disorders. This is a biological phenomenon, not a psychological weakness. So yes, it is absolutely true that people can develop a dependence on the reward or the good feeling they get from a lot of things. People are addicted to online shopping, eating, gambling and sugar and many other things because it makes you feel good. Cannabis is no different. Cannabis use disorder is a very real diagnosable disorder. There are absolutely individuals who use so much cannabis that their bodies develop a physical dependence. They experience withdrawal symptoms if they don’t use cannabis. They are using so much of it that it interferes in their lives some way. Those are symptoms that make it qualify for a disorder. However, if you look at the magnitude of those symptoms compared to the magnitude or life impact of other addictive substances, it has far less health impact and overall impact on someone’s life than, for instance, nicotine. That has more detrimental effects according to the literature. If we are looking at a harm reduction approach, it is less dangerous than other things.
AP: Goldleaf founder Charles McElroy sent me the last edition of their journal and it was apparent to me that there were some relatively long-standing mythologies that were present in the journal. We agreed that patients need accurate information, not to learn ideas that are old wives’ tales. They need accurate information about the process of using cannabis. We went through the journal page by page to make sure we cut out words like strain. Strain is something in biology that we use to talk about a variety of virus’ or bacteria. It is not used in botany at all. The word cultivar or cultivated variety is what we use in botany. That is why we’ve gone through the journal and updated that vernacular. Things of that nature. Getting away from “strain recommendations” because it is not about the genetics of the plant or what the cultivator happened to label it as. This has to do with pharmacology. What are the molecules in the plants you are consuming and how do those molecules affect your experience. Giving people a tool to make sure they can achieve consistent, reliable and desirable results is what’s important. We are empowering the consumer through this education to allow them to receive reliable results.
V: What is your involvement in the Cultivation Classic?
AP: Last May, I was invited to be a keynote speaker. It was all my favorite people and it was such an amazing event. I thoroughly support the mission of having scientifically rigorous cannabis competitions. This year, I agreed to work a lot more closely with the executive director Steph Barnhart and all our other amazing partners to really take this to the next level. Previously, cultivars made it onto the podium simply by the judges answering one question which was, on a scale of one to ten, how much did you like this particular flower? If people are going to fill out a google sheet, we might as well ask them more involved questions like what exactly did it do for you? What did it do to your mind? What did it do to your body? What did id do to your ability to think or be creative? Did it stimulate your appetite? We took all these extremely complex plant characteristics, the genetics and the chemistry and paired it with detailed feedback with how it made them feel. This kind of endeavor has never been undertaken before in human history and it is my absolute favorite thing to be doing with my time right now.
V: You are definitely busy. Is there anything exciting you are working on in what limited free time you have?
AP: My company has a software startup. It is a bunch of us PhD nerds putting our heads together to do something cool. That’s the most exciting side project that I have going on. I’m fortunate that my job is based in St. Louis at Washington University, but because I have a longstanding collaboration out here in running experiments in the Portland area, I do get to spend a lot of my time out here. My email and calendar are always quite full, but every day I feel so privileged that this is what I get to do because this is an historic time and a revolution. I’m grateful to be a part of it.
V: It is great to have people putting the science behind the importance of cannabis. Do you think this kind of research will help push the cannabis movement forward?
AP: Yes. If you look at what the FDA would like to see to make cannabis a schedule 2 or 3 drug, or remove it from the schedule entirely, they want more research. The patients want more research and doctors don’t know what to tell their patients because they need to see more evidence. Anything we can do to put more evidence out into the world is going to make people happy and I’m glad to be spending my time doing that.