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Taking Weed Seriously: Company Scans Your Brain To Recommend Medicinal Strains

Now that 23 states have some form of medical marijuana program, the remarkable shift in the legal landscape has led to the growth of a startup culture focused on bringing innovation to an area with extraordinary business potential.

According to Forbes, marijuana stocks are up 147 percent this year– an uptick that has attracted names like former Alaska Democratic Sen. Mike Gravel to the industry. Gravel recently announced that he’s stepping in as CEO of a new marijuana company called Kush.

One of the most recent entrants to the field has been PotBotics, a company developing EEG brain imaging technology to determine which marijuana strains are best suited for treating specific conditions.

“We’re trying to start the process of quantification to determine how cannabinoids help different users,” David Goldstein, cofounder and director of communications at PotBotics told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Patients are recommended medical marijuana for a whole plethora of reasons and given a general recommendation. What we’re looking to do is tie specific cannabinoids to pain relief.”

“Rather than throwing a strain at you, we’ll tell you about cannabinoid levels. Our hope is to elevate medicinal cannabis to the point where patients are educated when going to the dispensary.”

When a doctor gives a recommendation to a patient, that patient is at the mercy of uncertified dispensary workers, who often only have anecdotal evidence to offer when discussing marijuana strains.

Right now, the company, based in New York and San Francisco, is looking at epilepsy as a major test case, preferring EEG brain imaging over CAT scans because of affordability. The point of using EEGs on patients is to try and pin down pain levels scientifically, instead of relying on patients trying to give a one-to-10 subjective assessment of pain levels, which are often difficult to handle. With the use of EEGs, patients can figure out how strains actually impact them on a neural level.

BrainBot, one of the company’s main products in development, is a medical grade EEG helmet and software overlay designed for doctors to bring professional evaluation to medical marijuana recommendations.

“Medical marijuana went off track in California when doctors started giving out recommendations as a cash business, rather than a serious enterprise based on concrete evaluation of patient health. We felt that there needed to be some kind of procedure, so that the focus is turned back to the patient,” Goldstein said.

Part of the problem at dispensaries has been a lack of standardization. While strains may have the same name from store to store, there’s no guarantee that they have the same cannabinoid content because the molecular level is strongly affected by altitude and temperature changes.

In states with some sort of legal marijuana regime, new laws are coming out that require dispensaries to test strains. Colorado, for example, mandates that dispensaries test strains on nine cannabinoid levels. The regulatory field is still a maze, and states are still in negotiation with dispensaries on taxation ad health standards. But what seems certain is the continued entrance of promising companies to an industry that could be bigger than the NFL by 2020.

Follow Jonah Bennett on Twitter

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