NICI Advisory Board Member and Senior Advisor to the Israel Ministry of Health, Dr. Michael Dor, has a lot to say about the future of cannabis research and just where to find the biggest opportunities.
Cannabis legalization is an incredibly disruptive force.
As a Senior Medical Advisor at the Israeli Ministry of Health’s Medical Cannabis Unit, I get to see much of this disruption first hand. And as an Advisory Board Member for the National Institute of Cannabis Investors, you’ll be hearing from me about some of the incredible opportunities in cannabis science driving this disruption.
Ending prohibition will ultimately legitimize hundreds of billions of black market marijuana sales. And bringing these sales into the legal light means revenues – and profits – for cannabis entrepreneurs, investors, and businesses.
But the industry that is rapidly emerging will do far more than shift these revenues from one set of pockets to the other. It will create entirely new markets on the back of even larger, far more established industries.
This eruption of opportunity onto a field with such a large, pre-existing market has resulted in a massive acceleration of cannabis research and product development during the last few years. Fueling this acceleration is the number of countries and companies promoting or sponsoring research into new medicinal and recreational cannabis products.
This list grows daily, and understanding how the compounds found in cannabis work together lies at the heart of much of this research.
But what we are finding takes us far beyond common cannabis knowledge…
Beyond THC and CBD
The first direction of research and product development is to clearly distinguish cannabidiol (CBD) from tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Because these two compounds are so prevalent in the cannabis plant, the known effects of CBD and THC are far better understood than the other cannabinoids.
Of these two, CBD is the primary cannabinoid ingredient without psychoactive activity. It is effective in controlling pain and suppressing immune activities – and we get these benefits without paying the price of the psychoactive side effects that come with the use of THC. This difference makes CBD products more attractive for most applications.
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Unfortunately, treating and curing diseases is not that simple.
The cannabis plant includes 150 cannabinoids and two more groups – flavonoids and terpenes. The exact role of each ingredient is not clear, but we are learning that in most cases using a single cannabinoid – one of the 150 – does not work.
The pharmaceutical companies that make the most of this effect stand to gain significantly, while those that don’t could see their profit models threatened.
And the true breakthrough will come from understanding how they all work together.
A Family Effect
From the research, it is obvious that a better effect can be achieved by using the whole plant.
Doing so provides exposure to all of the cannabinoids, plus the terpenes and flavonoids. But the relative percentage of the components is the key to the desired effect.
Professor Raphael Mechoulam, who was the first person to identify THC, called this phenomenon “the entourage effect.” We also used to call it “the Familia effect.” The specific cannabinoid is not nearly as strong when it is alone – it needs “family” support to do the work.
When you have hundreds of ingredients, and you don’t know which one is effective and what combination is needed to cure different diseases, it is difficult to plan research and develop a program and produce medications. Matters are even more complicated because the content of the plant changes frequently as a result of many factors like light or temperature. For real research, you need the amounts and proportions of cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes to remain constant during the entire course of research.
But while it is important to understand the entourage effect, it is very unlikely that all the cannabinoids are needed all the time.
Allow me to share a powerful example of the phenomenon I’m writing about.
Working Together Against Cancer
Two teams of Israeli researchers tried to identify the cannabinoids that are capable of stopping the growth of different cancer tissues. The results were really promising. They succeeded, using a process of elimination, to identify four cannabinoids that “did the job” and stopped the cancer’s tissue growth. Removing any of the four cannabinoids caused the effect to disappear.
Those results gave a new and deeper understanding to the meaning of the entourage effect.
It was also a very promising direction for the future development of anti-cancer medications.
These new directions include identification of the genetics of the plant and the ability to identify the human genetics so we will be able to achieve a matching that will enable a truly “personalized medicine.”
The expectations for the future include more specific knowledge of other cannabinoids and the ability to make the matching between the specific combinations of cannabis and the different diseases.
And there is no doubt we are just beginning to learn about all that the cannabis plant has to offer.
Dr. Michael Dor
Senior Medical Advisor, Israeli Ministry of Health
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9 responses to “It Takes More than Common Cannabis Knowledge to Profit”
April 30 2019