Cannabis (2)
Section Grower Morgan Blenk inspects a marijuana plant clone before planting it at Tweed Marijuana Inc in Smith's Falls, Ontario, March 19, 2014. Reuters/Blair Gable

The Victorian government has awarded the first commercial permit for medicinal cannabis. This brings patients suffering from various illnesses a step closer to procuring marijuana for relief.

Agriculture Victoria has transferred the cannabis plants from its growing centre to Cann Group Limited in Melbourne. The recent state budget has included $28.5 million for establishing the Office of Medicinal Cannabis which will regulate the manufacturing as well as clinical framework. According to The Australian, the government will be advised by an independent medical advisory committee.

Meanwhile, a new study has found an active compound in the cannabis plant that could improve the negative symptoms of schizophrenia. The compound Cannabidiol needs to be separated from the cannabis plant. Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute (IHMRI) researchers have been studying the effect of Cannabidiol on mental illness.

Blunted emotional expression and social withdrawal are some of the negative and cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia. The isolated active compound in marijuana has been shown to improve cognition in stroke and Alzheimer’s disease patients.

In the latest study, Cannabidiol was able to restore cognition. It also restored social behaviour and working memory in rodents. Ashleigh Osborne, University of Wollongong PhD candidate, said that the compound could be used as a pharmaceutical drug. The study compared treated rats to untreated ones. Findings are very promising, but more research is needed before clinical trials begin. This is the first such study that has proven that Cannabidiol may be used to treat Schizophrenia symptoms still unaddressed by current medicines.

“We wanted to see if Cannabidiol could alleviate the symptoms of schizophrenia that aren't addressed by current antipsychotic drugs ... This is really important because current antipsychotic drugs don't address the cognitive deficits, which approximately 80 per cent of patients with schizophrenia experience. Also antipsychotic drugs come with a range of negative side effects and Cannabidiol showed no weight gain side effects,” Osborne told ABC.

The researchers hope that the findings will help schizophrenia sufferers in the future once clinical trials begin. The findings of the study have been published in the journal Nature.

Recently, it was revealed that marijuana can be used as part of harm reduction techniques for treating severe addiction to other drugs. Harm reduction is a strategy wherein addicts are treated with acceptance rather than abstinence. Thus, a coke or heroin addict can be healed over time using marijuana.

The strategy involves a friendlier and a less disciplined approach to reduce drug use in people who are simply unwilling to quit. [In Case You Missed: Cannabis now being used to treat severe drug addiction; Medical marijuana company AusCann ready to expand]