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Medicinal Cannabis - The Green Fairy Phenomenon

Abstract

Frustration at the restrictions to access prescribed cannabinoids in New Zealand has resulted in a black market of home-made cannabis-based products for medicinal use. These products are being made, and marketed illegally, by individuals calling themselves ‘Green Fairies’. The products take many forms and are being used to treat a range of illnesses and symptoms including pain, insomnia, anxiety, and seizures. Analytical extraction methods were developed to determine the cannabinoid content in a variety of matrices, principally those that are soluble in methanol and those that are soluble in hexane. An LC-MS/MS method was developed that detected THC, THCA, CBD, CBDA, CBG, CBGA, CBN, THCV, and CBC with lower detection limits around 0.001 mg of cannabinoid per gram (mg g−1) of product. One hundred ‘Green Fairy’ samples have been analysed to determine the cannabinoid content, including 12 fully extracted cannabis oil (FECO) samples, 12 ethanolic tinctures, 6 vape juices, 39 oily liquids with olive oil, hemp seed oil, or medium chain triglycerides (MCT) as a base, and 31 waxy solids made using coconut oil. Nine named cannabis plant cultivars purported to be used to make these products have also been analysed. The results of the analyses show that these Green Fairy products contain a wide range of cannabinoid concentrations and the claim that a product was high in CBD was often not correct. The proposed dose size was not specified for these products, but few would provide what is considered an effective dose when compared with the administration of commercially purified cannabinoid products available by prescription. For many products the manufacturer had specified which cannabis cultivar had been used but a comparison of cannabinoid ratios showed a lack of consistency within products said to be made from the same strain. Analysis of named cannabis cultivars available showed little variation in the relative amounts of THC and CBD.

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