Synergy of effects

Ngaio Bealum is a Sacramento comedian, activist and marijuana expert. Email him questions at

Entourage effect? Care to give us a little more detail?

It would be an honor and a delight. When discussing cannabis, the “entourage effect” refers to how the hundreds of different compounds in the cannabis plant combine to make a medicine greater than the sum of its parts. Studies show that it isn’t just CBD or THC, but a combination of CBD and THC (plus some terpenes, and other cannabinoids) that create the best effects. Ethan Russo published a study in 2010 and uses words such as “synergy.” “Considered ensemble, the preceding body of information supports the concept that selective breeding of cannabis chemotypes rich in ameliorative phytocannabinoid and terpenoid content offer complementary pharmacological activities that may strengthen and broaden clinical applications and improve the therapeutic index of cannabis extracts containing THC, or other base phytocannabinoids,” he states. That’s a fancy way of saying: Yes, cannabis is generally more effective as a medicine when the chemicals are mixed instead of separated.

Does weed cause psychosis?

Not if you are mentally healthy to begin with. There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that people prone to schizophrenia or other psychoses are not well served by using cannabis, especially if they are consuming large amounts of THC. However, there are also some studies that show large amounts of CBD (like 600 milligrams per day) can be a great help to people with schizophrenia. Annita Bassir Nia wrote an overview of studies about mental illness and CBD for the Psychiatric Times. Her conclusion: “In addition to the potential therapeutic effects of CBD for schizophrenia, CBD may also have a role in preventing or treating the psychosis related to recreational use of cannabis in vulnerable individuals. Cannabis continues to be the most commonly used illicit drug in the U.S., and with the spreading legalization for medical and recreational purposes, a lower proportion of people perceive the risk associated with regular cannabis use. At the same time, there is a decreasing ratio of CBD-to-THC in street cannabis from 1:14 in 1995 to 1:80 in 2014. Low CBD content may affect the overall impact of frequent cannabis use on mental health, which may become evident in the future. When discussing the medicinal use of cannabis, it is important to distinguish CBD, with its potential beneficial effects, from THC, with its controversial adverse effects, especially on individuals with psychotic disorders.”

Yes that’s a long sentence. Academics are paid by the syllable. I disagree with the last part of her conclusion. The adverse side effects of THC are fairly well known. Anxiety, paranoia—the munchies (nothing so controversial about that). Okay, the munchies are a gift and a curse. But to say that CBD is “good” and THC is “bad” is a bit of a reach. The point is: Weed is not for everyone. If you have a history of mental illness, you may want to check in with your health care professionals before consuming cannabis.