As the cannabis and hemp industries continue to gain ground in the United States, fortunately, so does the research. This past weekend in Pueblo, Colorado, researchers, and scientists gathered over a three-day event to share their latest findings, network, and collaborate about cannabis and hemp research. Chad Kinney, Ph.D., Director of the ICR, reminded the attendees of the mission of the institute is “to generate new knowledge of cannabis and its’s derivatives through research and education that improves lives and contributes to science, medicine, and society.”
Although I did not attend the Saturday session, Dr. Mohoud ElSohly from the National Center for Natural Products Research, School of Pharmacy, at the University of Mississippi delivered his keynote address during the opening plenary regarding the current state of research at Ole Miss. As the only facility in the United States licensed to cultivate cannabis for federally approved research, this monopoly is a highly controversial topic within research circles.
After the keynote address, the conference broke out into more than 20 separate sessions with topics including genomics and genetics, cultivation and manufacturing processes, medical effects and research, legal and societal impact, and industrial applications. Saturday’s meeting also included a poster session in the main ballroom showcasing 18 additional studies and their presenters.
Besides several researchers from CSU-Pueblo, the ICR conference included high-level presentations from a wide variety of facilities including Steep Hill Labs, Medicinal Genomics, University of Colorado Boulder, Weber State University, Phylos Biosciences, Rutgers University, and many others.
Sunday’s agenda started with, Dr. Karen Yescavage, Coordinator of Cannabis Studies, who addressed Cannabis across the College Curriculum. Highlighting, CSU-Pueblo’s Interdisciplinary Minor in Cannabis Studies. As one of just a handful of accredited institutions offering cannabis-focused education, this 22-credit minor includes a broad range of courses in multiple areas such as:
- Politics & Public Policy
- Criminal Justice & Law
With more than 30 separate breakout sessions scheduled for Sunday, as a journalist, I wanted to clone myself so that I could be in multiple rooms at once. However, as I continued to shuffle from session to session, I realized they were all equally valuable. For example,
- Andrea Holmes, from Doane University, spoke about the use of colorimetric arrays to test for cannabinoid content. Her technology allows printing color-changing analytes on a piece of paper with a simple inkjet printer.
- Sandy Kanapilly with PerkinElmer discussed the challenges of heavy metals analysis of cannabis and hemp, and how testing for metals will become more critical as the industry matures.
- James Parco with UCANNTECH talked about his experimentation on the effects of pressure in supercritical CO2 extraction of cannabis.
- Yuan Long, with CSU-Pueblo, shared her data analysis of online social support for substance rehabilitation and how AI could provide addicts with a new tool for help.
Over the lunch session, keynote speaker, Dr. Allyn Howlett from the Wake Forest School of Medicine delivered the Mechoulam lecture. Speaking of the historical perspective of marijuana medicine and endocannabinoid system functionality, Howlett recalled a multitude of cannabinoid-based pharmaceuticals from companies like Pfizer and Lily that she experimented with in the 1980s. While many of the compounds displayed far better results than others, few of those drugs ever made it to market.
Focused Discussion, Few Sales
For me, the best part about the ICR Conference is that it was more about the science and research and less about companies trying to sell a product. While a few vendors did set up booths outside the ballroom, their presence was not overwhelming.
Between sessions and during breaks, the discussions continued in the hallways and various seating areas scattered around the campus. This conference offered a small, intimate setting for professionals to connect with other professionals. I found myself eves-dropping on physicians discussing the concept of dosing and titration and found it encouraging to listen and watch as they conversed.
As I mingled and networked throughout the day, I discovered the one thing we all truly want is to be educated and enlightened about the many wonders of not just the plant itself, but the impact of legalization and the safety of extractions and consumables. I, for one, appreciated the lack of discussions about economic impact and investment potential.
For those who are looking for an unbiased, scientific perspective into the hemp and cannabis industries, I highly recommend putting ICR 2020, scheduled for April 4-6th next year, on your agenda.