Meet the Air Force nurse advancing cannabis medicine through DNA testing

cannabis medicine and dna

The scientific interplay between the cannabis plant and the human endocannabinoid system has only been known since the 1990s when it was discovered in a lab in Israel led by Professor Raphael Mechoulam. Even though more research is needed, there is a tremendous amount of anecdotal evidence of people who use cannabis successfully to treat symptoms related to depression, anxiety, pain, addiction, PTSD, and inflammation.

Cherissa Jackson is a 23-year Air Force nurse veteran who has PTSD, like many others who served our country in war. Some endure severe stress, nightmares, insomnia, or depression while battling with PTSD. Suicide is also prevalent among those who have seen war. It wasn’t until after retirement that Jackson started exploring cannabis as a treatment since its use in the military is prohibited, and her training as a nurse didn’t endorse it.

cherrisa jackson cannabis medicine expert
Cherissa Jackson

Jackson’s own experience with cannabis, coupled with testimonials from fellow soldiers, led her to want to educate other veterans about it as a therapeutic and provide a way for them to access legal lab-tested cannabis products to treat their symptoms. She returned to school to learn more and received an M.S. in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy. Her determination to provide an alternative treatment to pharmaceuticals, especially to help her brothers and sisters-in-arms who were taking their lives at such a high rate because of PTSD, led to the creation of her company, WeDecode.

The future of precision cannabis medicine

WeDecode offers DNA testing to determine deficiencies in a person’s endocannabinoid system and recommends cannabis and CBD products based on their genotype to help return the body to homeostasis. DNA testing is not new, but testing the endocannabinoid system at the cellular level is.

Research shows that phytocannabinoids (CBD, THC, etc.) found in the cannabis plant can mimic those produced in our body and interact with the endocannabinoid system to keep us healthy and in homeostasis. Jackson’s scientific approach to educating and providing veterans access to products meant analyzing someone’s DNA to determine which products work best, which have the right amount of CBD, THC, and terpenes, and how much to dose for optimal health.

Beyond CBD and THC: exploring the potential of minor cannabinoids    

WeDecode partnered with Endocanna Health to utilize their patented EndoDNA™ test that uses a science-backed database to feed its algorithms and includes multiple peer-reviewed references with every DNA report. CBD, THC, and terpenes are only the beginning of what is known about the effects of phytocannabinoids on human health and wellness. 

There are over 100 other suspected cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, such as CBG, CBC, and CBN, that need further inspection. These are referred to as minor cannabinoids because the cannabis plant produces few of them, whereas CBD and THC are plentiful in the plant. As research into minor cannabinoids is verified, WeDecode will grow and expand its product recommendations to include more minor cannabinoids; until then, they are waiting for research to catch up.

Finding the right delivery method: how you take cannabis matters

How you ingest cannabis is also part of the equation for achieving optimal performance in cannabis therapy. Smoking or vaping goes directly to the brain, and edibles must travel through your digestive system, which takes longer to metabolize. Taken sublingually under the tongue with oil, it allows the cannabinoids to enter the bloodstream directly.

Unlocking your personalized cannabis therapy plan                  

Jackson claims WeDecode provides one of the most comprehensive DNA tests targeting the endocannabinoid system, an essential function for maintaining a healthy body. It contains approximately 665,000 snips of a person’s DNA, along with a holistic report about their health risks and how to mitigate them with cannabis therapy. The customized report mainly recommends products based on your DNA predispositions and metabolism. Every person’s metabolism is unique to them and dictates how their body will interact with cannabis. For example, if you have a stress condition, a 2:1 ratio of CBD to THC may be suggested.

The test is simple: all it takes is a swab of the inside of your cheeks and sending it to a HIPAA-compliant lab. Everyone is de-identified when their swab gets to the lab to avoid breaching anyone’s personal information.

A 20-minute consultation with a counselor is also included to answer any questions and ensure you understand your DNA analysis. WeDecode offers easy access to recommended CBD products in its online marketplace. Alternatively, by adding your zip code, the website will locate a dispensary near you with available cannabis products.

The future of WeDecode: empowering medical professionals                         

Jackson hopes to expand her services to medical dispensaries and medical card certifiers in the future to offer WeDecode to their patients as a more precise way to provide cannabis therapy as a treatment. And with the elderly, a fast-growing cannabis consumer, a medical professional should know if their patient is predisposed to an adverse effect of cannabis based on their medications. WeDecode is a resource to help them speak confidently about what they’re suggesting to their patients.

In the wake of increasing awareness and acceptance of cannabis as a therapeutic option, Cherissa Jackson’s pioneering efforts through WeDecode herald a new era in precision cannabis medicine. WeDecode’s science-based approach offers veterans and others a unique path to explore cannabis therapy and its potential to improve their lives. As research into the endocannabinoid system and cannabis continues to flourish, WeDecode is poised to be at the forefront of this exciting medical frontier.

This article was submitted by a guest contributor to GreenState. The author is solely responsible for its content.


Pam Chmiel is a contract marketer, publicist, podcast host, and a published writer specializing in the cannabis industry. She is based in Manhattan, NY.