With cannabis legalization becoming a reality in North America, there’s a ripe market waiting to be filled by new and exciting innovations. Proper cannabis research and analysis must be the first port of call.
With cannabis legalization sweeping across North America over the past few years, it’s no surprise that researchers, scientists, and analysts are chomping at the bit to get their hands on a herb that’s been under prohibition for decades.
Due to being a controlled substance in almost every country in the world since the 1930s, it wasn’t just illegal to use cannabis. Criminal proceedings and jail time could be brought down on even the most innocent scientist or researcher. For that reason, apart from limited research in Canada, the US and primarily Israel, not enough is known about this medicinal herb.
The good news is, that’s all changing, and it’s changing so fast it’s hard to keep up with all the innovations and inventions. Just recently, we wrote about a new startup who will be manufacturing and marketing cannabis pizza and popcorn. There’s vape juice, CBD Gummy Bears and a whole plethora of cannabis, Hemp and CBD products available on the market today.
Third-party laboratory tests are carried out by reputable cannabis and CBD vendors, but their analysis methods leave a lot to be desired. That’s not their fault; it’s just the way it’s been; until now.
Experts from Washington State University just released the first substantial analysis of genetic and chemical characteristics of specific cannabis strains. The research, published on the Plant Physiology Journal, this month looked in-depth at genetic sequences in nine common cannabis strains.
Headed up by Bernd Markus Lange, a professor at WSU’s Institute of Biological Chemistry, the team found specific gene networks which orchestrate the strain’s production of terpenes, volatile compounds and oils. These are the things that make up the pungent smell and taste in cannabis and hemp.
The private donors who funded the study felt it was a very worthy cause. That’s because of the lack of robust research and analysis methods when it comes to cannabis, which means things are unregulated and not great for consumers.
When it comes to regulation, especially in terms of official policy moving forward, consumers need to know what they’re getting when they purchase cannabis or CBD products. There are thought to hundreds of active compounds in cannabis. The two most famous being THC, the compound that gets you high. And CBD, the compound that contains the medicine and leaves you pain-free and relaxed.
Cannabis also contains various trichomes and terpenes depending on the strain, grow quality, and other factors. Bearing in mind that cannabis is legal recreationally in 11 states, this is a ballooning industry, but one that’s hardly regulated.
Dr. Lange spoke to Forbes about the new research, explaining why it’s so vital. “Currently, only THC content is regulated,” he said. “But there are lots of open questions from a regulatory point of view: what are the biological activities of the more than 90 other cannabinoids that have been identified?
Does the nature of the consumed product (smoking, vaping, edible, etc.) affect a person’s ability to operate machinery or drive a vehicle differentially?” he asked. So many questions but not enough answer, as Lange concluded in that interview, “We certainly need more research in that area.”
Lange’s new cannabis analysis method looks at how specific cannabinoids influence the smell of the plant. In the future, the technique could also be used to look at “the distinct genetic profiles of cannabis strains and help figure out which cannabinoids they produce and in what quantities.” That is a groundbreaking thing for the cannabis industry and a measure that can’t come soon enough.
There’s no question that more robust research and analysis is required on cannabis in the near future. The brand new International Phytomedicines and Medical Cannabis Institute (IPI) at the Harvard Medical School in Boston will study cannabis and finally give people the data and answers they need to make an informed decision when using the herb.