Cannabinoids: An Alphabet Soup of Opportunity

by | Oct 29, 2019

Written by Kristina Etter

A freelance writer and journalist based in Colorado, Kristi is a seasoned pro in cannabis industry content creation and reporting. Her career includes two decades of corporate IT roles at major firms like Maytag Appliances, Wells Fargo Financial, and DuPont Pioneer, which provided her with a unique perspective on the intersection of technology and cannabis.

Over 100 years ago, doctors commonly prescribed cannabis sativa and cannabis indica tinctures, for a variety of ailments. Then, in the late 30s, the United States prohibited marijuana production, possession, and consumption, as well as, marijuana research, simply based on falsehoods grown out of racism, fear, and ignorance. Just a few years later, the 12th edition of the United States Pharmacopeia officially removed cannabis from its pages.

Fast-forward to the seventies, when Richard Nixon declared war on the drug culture and called drug abuse, “public enemy number one.” And fifteen years later, in 1986, Nancy Reagan and a slew of nationally-ran advertisements and educational programs reminded us to “Just Say No.”

Ironically, all of these opinions and ideologies formed before science started to learn anything of value about cannabis. Now, after more than 80 years of persecution, is it all that surprising that cannabis production, sales, and consumption emerged from underground operations and counterculture?

Not only did the Schedule 1 status of cannabis prevent any legitimate research, but we also had to wait for the technology, knowledge, and tools necessary to unlock the secrets within the infamous herb.

Fortunately, times have changed, and technology has advanced. After the discovery of the endocannabinoid system in the late 1980s, the science and research into the individual components held within the plant’s leaves and the impact they have on this complex system accelerated all across the world. Today, we have a virtual “alphabet soup” of known cannabinoids, which are presenting a world of opportunity for multiple industries.

Cannabinoid Science and Research for Market Expansion

While research in the United States was severely limited for decades, science persists. Outside the United States, forward-thinking countries, such as Israel, have invested heavily in cannabis research and clinical trials, significantly advancing our knowledge of cannabis. As we start to learn more about the chemical composition of cannabis and the potential held within each of the individual compounds found in the once forbidden crop, new possibilities within multiple niche markets continue to arise.

Pharmaceutical Market

Denying the therapeutic potential of cannabis-derived pharmaceuticals is not only fallacious, it is illogical. While cannabis as a natural herb exhibits medicinal value, we should still encourage pharmaceutical companies to harness the broad range of abilities provided by phytocannabinoids. Companies like Pascal Biosciences are working diligently to find new treatments for cancer by amplifying the effects of THC while reducing the psychoactive side effects.

Pharmaceutical cannabis also provides physicians the ability to administer precise cannabinoid doses and formulations for otherwise difficult to treat ailments and diseases. Manufacturing for these types of cannabis products must be held to the highest standards and GMP practices.

Nutraceutical Market

Health and wellness businesses, such as herbal shops, big chain pharmacies, chiropractors, as well as massage and acupuncture clinics, and others are likely anxiously awaiting banking legislation to dive into the market. There is growing demand for natural health and wellness supplements as people shift away from the concept of sick care and start to gain awareness of alternative methods for disease prevention. As the government begins to make changes to the laws which allow banking, expect to see more and more of these businesses step into the arena.

While hemp is already moving this direction, expect to see the industrial hemp industry expand further into this market as the FDA and USDA regulations are rolled out.

Medical Cannabis Market

The presence of THC will describe the difference between the medical cannabis market and the nutraceutical market. In this market, patients will still be able to purchase full-spectrum, THC-potent products. Unlike the nutraceutical industry, the medical cannabis market consists of patients who achieve their desired results through the use of tetrahydrocannabinol.

There is a difference between medical cannabis and pharmaceutical cannabis. As the cannabis market exists today, medical cannabis consumers have a certain amount of freedom and flexibility in finding and choosing the right products and formulations which suit their needs. Obviously, this approach has worked exceptionally well for hundreds of thousands of patients.

The Vice Market

With interest already expressed by Constellation Brands and other adult beverage manufacturers, as well as, big tobacco, the vice industry is also readying for a cannabis boom. As a recreational substance, cannabis is already stealing market share from these two powerful industries, so it’s safe to surmise that they are lying in wait for the right time to make their move.

Considering a recent report published by New Frontier Data showed that 65 percent of cannabis consumers said they prefer using cannabis over drinking alcohol, adult-use cannabis legalization poses a significant threat to the alcohol industry.

More than Enough Potential to Go Around

Because of this range of markets that cannabis and hemp stand to impact, the door to opportunity is wide open to a variety of businesses, small and large. Large beverage manufacturers and nutraceutical companies will benefit from large hemp producers and bulk isolate distributors. Meanwhile, medical cannabis and many recreational consumers will prefer boutique, craft cannabis growers for full-spectrum, potent cannabis products.

Despite pseudo-legalization, lack of banking, and lingering stigmas, the dramatic growth in hemp and cannabis over the last five years has been nothing short of astounding. Likewise, the advances in our knowledge of the individual cannabinoids, terpenes, and even flavonoids are opening doors to better understanding novel, new ways for taking advantage of the benefits found in cannabis.

As science and research uncover the secrets held within these various compounds, additional market potential continues to expand. Although no one will deny that more research is certainly needed, it’s essential to continue to evaluate what we know, what current research shows, and how the market is already utilizing the various cannabinoids.

Over the next several weeks, Cannabis Tech is going to share a series of articles aimed at providing insights into what we know about cannabinoids and terpenes, research into the various compounds, and how these compounds are being extracted and marketed in the industry to date including:

  • THCa/THC
  • CBDa/CBD
  • CBGa/CBG
  • THCv
  • CBN
  • CBC
  • Delta-8-THC (∆-8-THC)

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