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Interview with Bluebird Director of Science Lex Pelger on CBD

Recently, I was able to call Lex Pelger, Director of Science for Bluebird Botanicals. We also hooked up digitally so I could send him some further questions via email. The company provides CBD (cannabidiol) products to consumers. The CBD extract allows for some of the benefits of marijuana but without the intoxicating high. Pelger is quite passionate about the use of CBD and the science behind it.

Lex Pelger on His Interest in CBD and the Science of It

Lex Pelger.

(Slight edits have been made to the following interview dialogue for clarity and accuracy.)

Me: As a Science Director at Bluebird Botanicals, what are a few of the most common tasks you’re faced with on a daily basis?

Lex: One of the main parts of my job is education. I teach our customer care team about what’s known about the cannabinoids and human health as well as talk to customers about what might work for them. I also go to conferences and working on research questions to make sure that we have the most accurate science available. I also do a good bit of writing articles, lecturing and answering questions from journalists about the cannabinoid world.

Me: In your experience, how have you seen CBD help people affected by the THC in ordinary cannabis?

Lex: For people who do not enjoy the psychoactivity of THC or who are very sensitive to even small amounts of it, full plant extract CBD can be a great way to harness the healing powers of the cannabis without getting any kind of high.

Me: What are the most notable benefits CBD can produce in people?

Lex: CBD supports health and wellness in people via the endocannabinoid system and its interactions with the neuronal, immune and hormonal systems of the body. In general, CBD can be seen as a balancing agent for the body.

Me: Bluebird offers CBD health products in a variety of forms, such as liquid extracts and capsules. To what varying ailments do these differently-applied products pertain? Is one compound better than the others in some circumstances?

Lex: The main difference in the ingestion method is the personal preference of the person and the amount of time until onset. For people with acute needs, there are vape pens to get the cannabinoids into your system within a few seconds. For effectiveness that lasts for most of the day, people like to take the oils orally. We’ll also soon have topicals and that’s a great way to get cannabinoids into the system through the skin.

Me: What was the educational process like to get into this field of science?

Lex: For me, I spent five years reading the peer-reviewed literature and traveling the continent interviewing experts and listening to cannabis users. That was the best education.

Me: Bluebird’s website displays a growing line of “pet products.” Could you explain a few of these how they can improve the lives of domesticated animals?

Lex: The cannabinoids tend to work on mammals in the same ways. Since anything with a spinal column has an endocannabinoid system, we like having pet products to help our animal friends feel better too.

Me: Have CBD products been tested a lot on animals?

Lex: A lot of CBD has been given to animals in this country and we certainly hear good stories about the results but the scientific literature is quite scant on the topic.

Me: How do the effects of low-THC hemp differ between humans and other mammals?

Lex: There does not seem to be much difference aside from the smaller weights that necessitate giving less to smaller animals.

Me: Could you go over the relationship between CBD and someone’s endocannabinoid system?

Lex: There’s two main known receptors in the endocannabinoid system: CB1 & CB2. It’s funny but CBD doesn’t activate either of those. But it does modulate how other molecules bind to those receptors and that’s why the presence of CBD can lessen the negative psychoactive effects from THC.

CBD is actually a very wide-ranging compound with at least 80 different targets at the biochemical level of the human body. That’s why it can do so many different things for different people. Molecularly, you might compare [it] to a Swiss Army knife.
Me: The endocannabinoid system has far-reaching effects in several areas of the human body, but which other system do you think relies most heavily on it?
Lex: It is especially tied up with the neuronal system, the immune system, and the hormonal system. However, since those are still some of the most mysterious areas of science, the complete picture of these interactions is not yet formed.

Pelger Talks on the Culture and Media Behind the CBD Business

Me: Obviously, our culture has produced many notions which throw a negative light on marijuana and items associated with it. How do you think this effect can be reversed?
Lex: Storytelling and education. People believe the stories of others and as more and more people share about what the cannabinoids have done for them, more people will have the courage to give them a try.
Me: You run the Greener Grass Podcast; so you’re already working to spread the facts about hemp and its medicinal uses. As the host, what have been some of the highlights of the podcast in your opinion?
Lex: I especially loved sitting down with Dr. Julie Holland. She’s a NYC psychiatrist who doesn’t hold back and she’s great about giving the nuts and the bolts about what works.

Me: You’re the author of two novels rooted in science (The Elephant Folio and The Queer Chapter) which cover a bit of marijuana’s past as well as the endocannabinoid system. What do you think your favorite element of these novels is?
Lex: I liked watching them come together. Of course, I have outlines when I start writing but the end product grows and transforms so much that you’re utterly surprised by how it turns out. In fact, I can still sit down and read them with enjoyment because I forget exactly what happens next.
Me: How many hemp-related graphic novels do you think you’ll end up writing? Do you think you would ever stop?
Lex: If I keep following my captain Herman Melville and use the structure of Moby Dick, I just have 133 more books left to write. Luckily, I have them all sketched out and outlined on my wall so now it’s just a matter of taking the next decade or two to fill them in.
Me: Lastly, where do you see laws regulating marijuana and CBD products going in the future?
Lex: I hope that the laws around cannabis will continue to liberalize while still keeping consumer safety at the forefront. But I’ve studied too much about the history of the War on Drugs to not think that a horrible backslide will occur that continues to use the War on Marijuana as a tool of racist oppression against ‘those people’ just as Nixon originally designed it.

Scientist interview: Culum Brown [biology/fish]

A couple of weeks ago we were telling you about a study which showed that not only do fish feel pain, but they also multi task and even have cultural traditions. We liked it so much, that we included Culum Brown, the study leader, in our list of featured researchers. He was kind enough to take the time and talk a bit with us, answering some questions about his research and how intelligent fish are.
ZME: In your recent study, you wrote that fish not only feel pain, but they also multi task and have cultural traditions. I’m not very familiar with this topic, but was there really a scientific dilemma on whether or not fish feel pain, or is it just a popular misbelief?

CB: Its an odd thing. The fact that fish feel pain is generally accepted by most neuroscientists, but there are always those out there who deny it.  For the most part they are either 1) old school or 2) have a conflict of interest (eg they work for/funded by fisheries). A neuroscientist once compared them to the Flat Earth Society. So i guess in that sense its like climate change; a few deniers puts doubt into the minds of the general public.

ZME: What about cultural traditions? What kind of cultural traditions to fish exhibit? Is this something exhibited by many/species?

CB: So social learning is wide spread in fishes. We have shown in the lab that information can also move between generations. In the wild there is evidence that migration pathways are heavily influenced by cultural traditions.  For example the failure of the North Atlantic cod fishery is partly due to us fishing all the older knowledgeable individuals.

ZME: I feel that fish are not given enough attention in terms of conservation because they are not as lovable or “cute”, or because they are dismissed as non-intelligent. What is your general opinion on this? Are people’s misconceptions about fish having a detrimental effect on conservation efforts?

CB: Yes we often refer to this as the “cute and fury” factor.  Fish lack it and that is why most conservation societies use pandas or koalas as their logo.  Because of this people often lack empathy for fish.

ZME: What do you think about the general status of fish stocks? It seems pretty clear that we are exploiting them at an unsustainable rate (to say the least). How will the fish stocks likely look like in 10-20 years?

CB: Fish stocks are in dire-straits. There is no doubt. Fisheries scientists have been saying this for 200 years. But rules are not made by scientists they are made by politicians. Politicians listen to the loudest voices (in this case fishermen). Its pretty sad, because this instant satisfaction of greed will destroy the worlds fish stocks for future generations. There will be no fishing industry if they keep it up.

ZME: What’s something about your area of study (or biology in general) that you think most people don’t know (and should), or think they know but are wrong?

CB: Obviously for me the no 1 theme is that fish are not stupid. In many aspects they are just as clever as us, and certainly just as clever as most other vertebrates.  That is my take home message.

A bit of background: Culum Brown is currently associated with Macquarie University, and he describes his interests as follows:

I’m primarily interested in Behavioural Ecology and in particular predator avoidance behaviour, learning and memory in freshwater fishes. I have conducted comparative research on the behavioural ecology of predator avoidance in Austalian freshwater fishes (Uni. Queensland) as well as examining social learning in guppies and salmon at the Sub-department of Animal Behaviour, University of Cambridge. I also have an interest in the evolution of cognition and worked at the University of Edinburgh and the Smithsonian Institute on tropical poeciliids. In addition to this theoretical work, I have interests in applied research in conservation biology and fisheries management. These interests include conducting research aimed improving life skills in hatchery reared fishes utilising social learning protocols and environmental enrichment.

Interview: ‘Next year we will see the Higgs particle – or exclude its existence’

I recently came across this interview with Prof. Dr. Siegfried Bethke, Director at the Max Planck Institute of Physics in Munich, posted at Physorg, and just had to share it, because it is incredibly interesting:

Professor Bethke, particles have been colliding with each other at the LHC for two years now, the detectors have so far registered close to one thousand billion collisions. Has it brought us any further?

Bethke: We have been searching very hard, but the  has not yet been able to discover previously unknown . Even effects which would hint at new theories or even a new physics have failed to materialise.

That is a sobering thought.

Bethke: It is indeed slightly disappointing, but it is not unexpected. We knew right from the start that we would need a huge number of collisions for convincing . This is why the LHC will operate not only for two years, but for ten or 20. Secretly, we had nonetheless hoped that nature would have a surprise in store for us at an earlier stage. But still, even without nature’s help, way over 100 scientific publications have been published so far.

What are they about, if you haven’t discovered anything?

Bethke: Even if you don’t find anything, it is possible to determine exclusion limits for the phenomena you are seeking, for the super-symmetric quarks, for example, whose existence would expand the current model of particle physics. We know now that they must be at least 1,000 times heavier than protons. This sounds boring at first, but is very interesting for physicists and for the formulation of new theories. In addition, we have used the LHC as planned to check the current standard model of elementary particle physics.

What did you have to check there?

Bethke: We know that the standard model cannot be nature’s final answer. It has too many unanswered questions, it is far removed from a theory of everything. At high energies, in particular, we expect deviations. We can now test these regions for the first time at the LHC.

Bethke: On the contrary, so far the measurement results match the theoretical predictions very well, even at high energies. This is fine for the standard model, of course, but as far as a new physics is concerned, it is almost a disappointment.

And what about the mysterious Higgs particle, which is deemed to be responsible for providing elementary particles with their mass in the current model? Nobody has seen it so far.

Bethke: We have not yet seen an unambiguous positive signal, either. We can already exclude many regions, however, so that only a few corners remain for the Higgs particle to hide. We want to intensify our search at these energies in the coming year. It would be a triumph if we were to find the particle.

And if not, would it be a serious defeat?

Bethke: No, not at all. If we could definitely exclude the existence of the Higgs boson on the basis of our measurements, it would even be a revolution. We would have to scrap the . Theoreticians would have to look for an alternative theory which can conclusively describe the world down to the tiniest detail. This would be significantly more exciting than simply confirming the Higgs particle.

When will you be certain?

Bethke: The LHC has been running unexpectedly well for more than a year now and providing us with more data than we had hoped for even under the most optimistic assumptions. If it continues like this, we will have seen the  by the end of next year at the latest – or will be able to exclude its existence once and for all.

The interview was conducted by Alexander Stirn.