Small Business

From brain diseases to pets, start-ups develop new cannabis cures

Cannabis for concussions
Cannabis for concussions

As recreational use of marijuana ramps up, entrepreneurs are trying their hand at cashing in on the green rush.

At the East Coast Cannabis Business Expo in midtown Manhattan, creative start-ups are finding new applications for cannabidiol—or CBD, for short—the cannabis compound that has medical properties.

That compound, CBD, should not be confused with another marijuana compound tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, which is the component that causes users to get high.

Some unique ventures are focused on CBD-related, medical applications. One small business is targeting cannabis treatments for injured athletes; while another is focusing on cannabis products for pets.

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Marijuana sales overall are taking off as recreational use of cannabis is legal in Colorado and Washington state, and pot can be purchased for medicinal use in 23 states and Washington, D.C.

Would you give pot to your pet?
Would you give pot to your pet?

Pot for pooches

San Diego-based HempMeds has developed cannabis pet food, treats and oils that help animals that may suffer from anxiety, digestive issues, seizures and more.

Rob Streisfeld, a consultant for HempMeds, says CBD is naturally found in the cannabis plant, and will not get your dogs and cats stoned.

"It's non-psychoactive, so it doesn't get your pets high," Streisfeld said."It does have tremendous benefits and potential to help with seizures, anxiety and all other benefits regarding neuro-protection."

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Jaroslav Frank | Getty Images

CBD is still being heavily-researched for medicinal use, says Streisfeld. But Andrew Hard, a spokesman for HempMeds, says the regulatory process is much slower for pets than it is for people.

"Bizarrely enough we have products out there for people right now, but for animals its moving much more slowly," he says. "Sometimes the regulation for animals is more stringent than it is for people."

HempMeds eventually will need to secure regulatory approval, but the company says it already has accepted orders.

Tackling traumatic head injury

KannaLife Sciences, based in West Hills, New York, is hoping to tackle traumatic brain injuries with CBD-focused applications.

The company signed a license with the National Institutes of Health in August to develop treatments, which in turn will seek Food and Drug Administration approval in the next three to five years.

KannaLife hopes its products will help treat degenerative brain diseases for patients—including professional athletes.

The medications are designed to help those with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or CTE, which is a degenerative brain ailment found in professional athletes, alongside Hepatic Encephalopathy or HE, which is a loss of brain function due to liver disease, according to Dean Petkanas, founder and chief executive of KannaLife.

"We think we can bring a product to market that can be a neuro-protectant and can prevent neuronal decay," Petkanas says.

Marvin Washington, former NFL player and KannaLife spokesman, has been outspoken about the need to develop a CBD-based drug for professional athletes as an alternative to the prescription drugs they are currently given.

"The pain pills they're taking now, I think they're heavy on your lungs and kidneys," Washington said. "They can eat the lining up out of your stomach," he said.