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Bible Hill grad student researches methods of stabilizing cannabis oil

Amy Unicomb holds a beaker of hempseed oil. She has been trying to create a stable form of cannabis oil to use in food and health products.
Amy Unicomb holds a beaker of hempseed oil. She has been trying to create a stable form of cannabis oil to use in food and health products.

BIBLE HILL, N.S. – Seeing the effects of opiates on a family member with cancer, Amy Unicomb became convinced of the value of medical marijuana.

The opiates prevented her relative from taking part in activities she had previously enjoyed and left her feeling ill.

In an effort to improve life for others, Unicomb, a Dal AC grad student, researched methods to improve cannabis oil’s resistance to rancidity and make it more stable so that it can be used in foods and medication.

“The difficulty is producing a safe and reliable product,” she said. “The oil’s not currently very stable. It lasts about three months in a dark, cool spot.

“Things are probably going to go in the direction of edible products for medication. They’re safer and healthier than smoking, and people who aren’t familiar with marijuana products are more comfortable with them.”

She has been studying the oil for a few years, and for the last 12 months has been working with hemp oil for her Masters. Hemp and marijuana oils both react the same and spoil quickly.

“A lot of my work involved eliminating what doesn’t work and finding out how the oil reacts with other compounds,” she said. “The more we eliminate the closer we are to finding out what does work. There’s still a lot of work to be done, and we need government and citizen action.”

She said cannabis oil can be used to treat conditions including cancer, anxiety, PTSD, cardiovascular problems, immune system issues, migraines and inflammation.

“Most people want relief from the symptoms without being high or smoking. I would hate to see it acceptable for recreational use, yet patients still having trouble getting it for medical use. There’s so much evidence for its benefits.”

She hopes to have her research published by the end of the summer.

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In support of hemp

Amy Unicomb also supports the growth of hemp, which is a very environmentally friendly fibre.

Industrial hemp is grown from a different variety of cannabis sativa and is not used as a recreational drug because it contains very low levels of THC.

Compared to cotton, it uses four times less water to grow, requires two and a half times less land, and almost no pesticides.

Hemp fibre is extremely strong and durable and can be used to create many things, including clothing, rope, paper and even cars.

There are many regulations around growing hemp, which Unicomb said she believes mainly stem from misconceptions.

“People don’t understand how different the plants are,” she said. “Some people have expressed concerns about marijuana plants being hidden in hemp crops, but they don’t look the same.”

Industrial hemp plants are grown close together and are tall and narrow, more like bamboo.

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