What Role Do Chemistry Professionals Play in the Cannabis Industry?

by | Aug 7, 2019

Where there are industry demand and investment, there is also innovation. As the cannabis industry continues to move from an illicit marketplace into a more lucrative sector, technological and chemical innovation is becoming a core aspect of market development. So, what roles do chemistry professionals play in the cannabis industry and, more specifically, market development? 

According to ArcView Market Research, BDS Analytics, the cannabis industry could reach a value of $50 Billion in just ten years. An unchanging marketplace lacking advancements will not fuel this explosive growth. The demand for cannabis yield is present, but with the coming years, consumer demand will begin to expand to include more efficient and specific products. 

One of the main areas seeing rapid growth is in agricultural technology. It has already been made clear that as the legal market skyrockets, as does the demand for cannabis. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that cultivators are seeking innovative agricultural technology to increase cultivation efficiency.

Tissue Culture

Chemistry professionals play a vital role in the current (and imminent) research of cannabis tissue culture. In this process, a sterile environment becomes the backdrop for micro pieces of the plant to be harnessed and used to produce a higher yield of identical clones. The goal of this is to reach a new height of consistent quality on a grand scale. However, the chemists' role is not an easy one, as the time for the original samples to mature is lengthy. 

Bio-Tech Breeding

As the commercial demand grows for pristine quality and consistency, chemistry professionals are introducing biotech breeding. Chemists working with cannabis will begin to delve into more genetic manipulation, similar to many genetically modified foods that are grown today to meet the demand. The purpose of this will be to offer a higher yield of enhanced cannabis strains and products, allowing consumer access to specific and isolated properties and effects. 

Medical Cannabis

Chemistry professionals play a role in existing sectors as well, such as oils, tinctures, and vape pens. Consumers are beginning to show an increased interest in alternative methods of ingestion, aside from smoking and patients relying on medical cannabis are seeking alternative approaches. For this reason, professionals are developing alternative intake methods, such as oral delivery methods, for medical marijuana patients. 

Extracts that are used for these products are being continuingly formulated to offer high quality and efficiency. These extracts and concentrations are formulated into various oils, which can either be used to produce tinctures or packaged into capsules. One of the most pivotal functions that these intake methods can offer is precise dosing, an essential factor for the medical marijuana patient. 

Moreover, products straying from the typical smoking and inhalation ingestion method are proving increasingly popular amongst consumers. Chemistry professionals are regularly involved in advancing research and application of extraction technology. 

Nanotechnology and Bioavailability

Cannabis products are typically slow-acting, and the dosing does not comply with any particular amount or concentration. While this may not present liabilities to the recreational user, it can be a challenge for the medical marijuana patient. By researching improved extraction methods and technology, chemists can harness nano-technology to offer a faster acting and more precise product to the market. 

Chemists have already begun to use Nano-technology to increase the bioavailability Of CBD and chemists began research into this area of innovation to answer the problem that more 'traditional' cannabis products had of being slow-releasing with relatively low bioavailability. Looking ahead, chemistry professionals will be working towards continuing advancements in research and development in nanotechnology and bioavailability, which is a key factor pushing the industry towards growth and maturation. 

Understanding the Biochemistry

Under a more general scope, chemists play an essential role in the cannabis industry. Up until 1937, when the U.S. implemented cannabis prohibition, cannabis tinctures were the most widely applied form of cannabis 'medicine.' After the ban, however, critical research into the biochemistry of the cannabis plant was significantly halted. 

Now that the industry is gaining legal traction in major countries like the U.S. and Canada, researchers can begin to delve into important aspects of the cannabis plant, such as biochemistry.  WIth bioavailability, chemists can understand how the plant compounds specifically interact with the human body systems, how different methods of ingestion can affect the various effects, and the specific biochemical make-up of the plant itself, including terpenes, phytochemicals, and other compounds. 

So far, CBD and THC have taken center stage. However, chemists have understood that the full cannabinoid and terpene profile could be just as important, with cannabinoids such as CBG having strong anti-anxiety and OCD treatment potential. 

Genome Sequencing

Research into the genome sequencing for the cannabis plant has already commenced. With it, chemists and researchers have discovered more about the plant's metabolism- information that is critical to how the plant produces and secretes the cannabinoids that are stored in the plant's trichomes. Since the onset of genome sequencing, chemists have been able to identify ways to enhance the extraction of these Phytocannabinoids and which enzymes are responsible for cannabinoid production. 

Legalization has done more than open the market for consumers and businesses. As cannabis emerged from the realm of an illicit marketplace, it has progressed with innovation into a complex area of study and research. Chemist professionals are the fuel driving innovation and maturation in the cannabis industry.