What Is CBN: Inside the Cannabinoid That Relieves Insomnia

There is perhaps no cannabinoid more misunderstood than cannabinol, or CBN as it is better known.

Once thought to be the primary source of the psychoactive effects associated with marijuana, CBN has an ancient tie to cannabis’ first concentrate, hashish, and is now being explored and isolated to provide relief for conditions like insomnia.

The Mysteries of Indian Hemp

When the United Kingdom assumed control over India in the mid-1850s, it was inevitable that the subjects of the British crown would eventually encounter and consume cannabis in one of the plants primal regions of cultivation.

The nation’s subsequent interest and concern in the plant’s resinous products led to the formation of the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission in 1893. This commission represents the first major Western attempt at understanding cannabis, the humble beginnings of the path that with current social tolerance allowing for greater research and access, we now see being being freshly paved into an ultra-modern freeway.

In the years following the commission, some scientists were intrigued enough to pry apart the mysteries of “Indian Hemp.” CBN was the first cannabinoid successfully isolated from charas (otherwise known as hand-rubbed hashish) by British researchers in 1896 and, in 1933, was the first cannabinoid to have its chemical structure successfully elucidated.

A Cannabinoid in Decay

In the early years of cannabis research, CBN was immediately and wrongly singled out as the primary instigator for cannabis’ psychoactive effects. This confusion persisted until Dr. Raphael Mechoulam isolated THC in 1964. By 1975, Mechoulam and his associates had fully explained CBN’s existence as a product of THC’s degradation by heat and light.

In this way, CBN is almost the “ghost” of THC. Years later in 2008, when Dr. Ethan Russo and an international team of scientists examined a well-preserved sample of cannabis flowers that were roughly 2,700 years old, they deduced that the flowers had a relatively high THC content because they found a large amount of CBN during testing.

Being that CBN is a product of THC’s decay, one might be asking what purpose CBN might serve, but —  as with all cannabinoids —  it seems to have a fair amount of therapeutic potential. Those early researchers weren’t entirely wrong about what CBN was doing to our bodies, though slightly confused about its place in the entourage, so to speak. Writing in 1907, English scientist David Hooper stated, “Cannabinol when taken internally induces delirium and sleep.” Modern research has backed up this statement.

“Of all the cannabinoids, CBN appears to be the most sedative,” says Steep Hill Labs.

A Good Night’s Rest

Alta California, a cannabinoid tincture company, offers an “Insomnia Relief” tincture that is advertised as being 50 percent THC and 50 percent CBN. CBN’s other wellness-enhancing properties include an ability to mitigate anxiety and PTSD conditions, which is what Prana Bio Medicinal’s P4 capsules and sublingual tinctures are designed for. And of course, as with nearly all cannabinoids, CBN is effective with pain conditions, and for such Mary’s Medicinals CBN-only transdermal patch may be a potential source of relief.

While more uses for this once overlooked cannabinoid continue to arise, the cannabis industry will be presented with a new challenge: sourcing CBN. The cannabinoid does not occur without degrading THC, and therefore must either be obtained by old product or by treating newer product to transform the THC into CBN. The latter could prove to be a costly solution for nascent companies wanting to explore the potential of CBN, but assuredly as the level of production of cannabis rises, the price for CBN will eventually reach an affordable level for all to enjoy. While one could call the cannabinoid a ghost, given its application for modern-day medicine perhaps CBN could be better understood as the benevolent spirit THC leaves behind.

Originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now. LEARN MORE

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Interactive Wordsearch – Parts of the Cannabis Plant

Today’s Weed Wordsearch is all about the different parts of the cannabis plant! Get stoned and get ready! Here is a plant-based puzzle made for chronics! WHEN YOU FIND A WORD: Click on the first and last letter to cross it off the list!

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Raw Cannabis Juice is the Next Superfood

Kale. Goji berries. Salmon. Cannabis juice?

Superfoods are all the rage among health-conscious foodies who want as many benefits as they can get from the products they put in their bodies. These unprocessed foods are known for their high nutritional value as well as their potential to reduce the risk of heart disease and possibly lower cholesterol levels. But, what if there was a more potent superfood that could not only offer preventative qualities but had curing, restorative properties as well?

Although there is plenty of information available to the public about the medical side of cannabis, there are still many people who are misinformed when it comes to the basics. In fact, there are some people who are still under the impression that smoking is the only way to experience the healing components of marijuana even though there are a number of other ways to effectively get cannabidiol (CBD) into the system.

Alternatives to smoking cannabis are becoming common knowledge due in part to the rise of ubiquity of the plant around the country. Multiple states and the District of Columbia currently allow card-carrying residents to use medical marijuana for qualified illnesses including cancer, epilepsy and glaucoma. Unfortunately, each state differs in what ailments are considered acceptable in order to be a legal patient.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and CBD both improve functioning throughout the body particularly in areas that deal with pain, nausea, convulsions and inflammation. There are also a number of emotional and psychological benefits associated with cannabis that assist in alleviating depression, anxiety and symptoms associated with schizophrenia.

Cannabis is so helpful thanks to its healing compounds that attach to receptors within the body. Because the body already has its own built-in endogenous cannabinoid system, when CBD is introduced it helps normalize functional systems in the body. Marijuana is able to be so effective because cannabinoids allow two-way communication between nerve cells.

The raw buds and leaves of cannabis plants are packed full of nutrients and compounds that are very potent in cannabidiol acid (CBDa) and tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCa). These compounds don’t produce the same high feeling like when smoking, vaporizing or eating foods with infused oils and butters. When CBDa and THCa are heated, the compounds then decarboxylate and are transformed into the CBD and THC that produce a notable high feeling.

Doctor William Courtney of the Cannabis International Foundation has been a leading advocate for the incredible benefits of raw cannabis. His research has supported the claim that without heating marijuana, the healing benefits of cannabis are maximized because it retains a higher concentration of CBD and THC in the form of CBDa and THCa. He is a leading researcher in dietary, non-heated cannabis and how it can heal the body of a number of ailments, especially when consumed as a juice like raw fruits and vegetables.

In Dr. Courtney’s short documentary, “Leaf” patient and researcher Kristen Peskuski shares her frustrating journey of navigating through life as a sufferer of systemic lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, interstitial cystitis, hypoglycemia, anemia, chronic sinusitis and chronic bacterial infections. She was taking 40 different prescribed medicines and still experienced debilitating symptoms that made her miserable.

“Physicians were just trying to make me comfortable,” she said. “They really didn’t think that there was anything more that they could do and that I may not live to be 30.”

After experimenting with juicing at the recommendation of her physician, Dr. Courtney, Peskuski’s symptoms slowly disappeared and her illnesses went into sustained remission.

The healing secret lies behind the immune system boosting process the body uses to absorb what it needs. Vitamins and enzymes rapidly enter the bloodstream when raw plants including fruits and vegetables are in liquid form, giving the digestive organs a chance to rest as the body devours a high concentration of nutrients. According to Dr. Courtney, when fresh raw cannabis is juiced and introduced to the system, its restorative properties are increased.

Dr. Courtney believes a new way of thinking about cannabis and ways to use it as liquid medicine are long overdue, though the medicinal world has been slow on popularizing the benefits of raw cannabis juice.

“While our perception/publication of these physiologic properties are new,” he says, “the phenomenal beneficial effects were there yesterday, last year, if not hundreds of millions to billions of years ago.”

As researchers and specialists in the field, Dr. Courtney and Peskuski have presented case studies at conferences and symposiums around the world in attempts to raise awareness among both the recreational and medical marijuana industry about the potential for widespread healing.

The restorative properties in cannabis can also be helpful for people who don’t experience symptoms due to an illness. In a study conducted by the Institute of Molecular Psychiatry at the University of Bonn in Germany, Andras Biokei-Gorzo found evidence that suggested activating the cannabinoid system can trigger the release of antioxidants that also act as a cleansing agent. This component can assist not only regulating, but also boosting the immune system, nerve functions and bone functions associated with the endogenous cannabinoid system.

Those curious about cannabis juice are advised against dropping everything and going into their stash to find the best buds for the juicer. Cannabis that has been dried and prepared for smoking is not suitable for juicing. The leaves and buds must be fresh in order to ensure proper digestion. Dr. Courtney recommends juicing up to 15 leaves and two large raw buds and drinking it throughout the course of a day. Because raw cannabis juice has a bitter taste, it’s also advised to mix it with another vegetable juice like carrot.

With more developments and advancements happening around the country, perhaps raw cannabis juice will become more common among patients seeking long-lasting, medicinal benefits in a more alternative way as well as health aficionados eager to get their hands on the next best thing.

Originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now

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Can Delta-8 THC Make You Fail a Drug Test?

For many potential cannabis consumers, drug testing at their place of employment is the determining factor in whether they use THC products or CBD products.

I have quite a few friends myself who would smoke cannabis regularly if they weren’t getting drug tested at work. The new Delta-8 craze has many people wondering if they can get away with smoking this milder version of marijuana and still keep their jobs. Will a drug test detect Delta-8 THC the same way it detects Delta-9? Let’s investigate.

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What is Delta-8 THC?

To understand the difference between Delta-8 THC and Delta-9 THC, you’ll have to think in terms of chemistry. Admittedly, science never my best subject in school, but some basics stuck with me. For instance, you likely know that when we make minor chemical changes to a compound, we can create something entirely different.

Take into account the air around us, O2 vs O3. When we breathe, we are breathing in O2, or molecular oxygen, comprised of two oxygen molecules held together by a covalent bond. If you simply add one more oxygen molecule to the mix you now have O3, or ozone, which is a highly reactive gas, a form of pollution, that can cause serious health complications if we breathe it in.  

Thankfully, the differences between D8 and D9 don’t break down to healthy vs deadly. Delta-8 THC only has some minor chemical differences from Delta-9, as well as some differences in effects. It’s mildly psychoactive, although it’s less intense than D9. Delta-8 is only present in trace amounts in cannabis plants, so to utilize it, this compound needs to be extracted and isolated.

As far as medical benefits of Delta 8 THC, there are many of particular interest. Numerous studies dating back to the early 1970s indicate that Delta-8 has extremely powerful effects on the immune system. It has also been observed shrinking tumors and completely eliminating nausea in patients who were sick from other medications. Much of the research was conducted by Prof. Raphael Mechoulam and his team. s

How Drug Testing for Cannabis Works

When it comes to cannabis, standard urine tests are used to detect use ranging from 1 to 45 days, roughly. Occasional users will typically be clean after 1-5 days, regular light users will take about 1-3 weeks, and for heavy daily users, expect 4 to 6 weeks to get clean.

Not Just for Getting High – The Underreported Medical Uses of THC

Contrary to popular belief, standard urine tests don’t screen for the THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) in cannabis, but rather, they detect the metabolites created by the human body when we are exposed to THC. This class of metabolites is known as THC-COOH. These metabolites are nonactive, so drug tests are only measuring exposure, NOT impairment. Marijuana impairment cannot be detected through any kind of test.  

THC-COOH is the most common name for this metabolite, and it’s read “carboxy THC”. It’s the second THC-metabolite formed in our bodies, following hydroxy-THC, immediately after exposure. THC-COOH is lipid-soluble, meaning it’s stored in our fat cells making it detectable in our systems for much longer than other substances, those that are water soluble for example.

Testing for Delta-8 THC

Yes, the above section refers to Delta-9 THC, however, Delta-8 produces these same metabolites in the body. How they get picked up by a drug test is the question, but presumably, when testing for metabolites, one can assume the test will be activated by Delta-8 as well. After all, the compounds are very similar chemically.

After a bit of research looking at the descriptions of numerous different multi-panel drug tests, I found one that specifically claims to be able to detect Delta-8 THC use. As a matter of fact, according to the package insert, this test can detect Delta 8 metabolites at lower levels than Delta 9.

The drug test description states that “Marijuana metabolite / 11-nor-Δ8-THC-9-COOH, 11-nor-9-carboxy-delta-8-Tetrahydrocannabinol, 11-nor-delta-8-Tetrahydrocannabinol-9-carboxylic acid, delta(8)-Tetrahydrocannabinol-11-oic acid, delta(6)-Tetrahydrocannabinol-7-oic acid can be detected at 30ng/mL cutoff,” compared to 50ng/mL for Delta 9.

What About System Cleansers?

There are a lot of products out there claiming to clean any trace of marijuana from your system fast, but do they actually work? Some brands say it only takes one use, others say up to 7 days. There are capsules, beverages, and even synthetic urine. Some people claim that certain vitamins and foods will do the trick. Let’s take a look at some of the most common methods and analyze their effectiveness.

I’ll start with a quick story though. Back when I was in my early 20s, I was taking a road trip from California to New Orleans with a bit of pot for my own personal use (less than 1 ounce), when I ran into an unavoidable checkpoint near the Juarez border in Texas. They had dogs, so needless to say, my weed was found, I was arrested, and after some fines and court dates, I was luckily able to avoid jail time and get 6 months of probation.

Cannabis Laws By State: A Quick Guide For Your Reference

At one point during my probation period, it was New Year’s weekend and I decided to smoke a blunt with my friends. Not the brightest idea but I figured that I could just use this stuff I saw at the local headshop called Royal Flush to clean out my system and all would be fine and good. Well, that was definitely not the case.

As per the instructions, I drank the full bottle on an empty stomach 1 hour before going to my probation meeting. It was completely disgusting but I begrudgingly finished the whole thing and confidently went on my way. Fast forward to the actual drug testing, which was supervised by a female parole officer so there was no way to pull off the synthetic urine. Well, right in front of the P.O., my urine came out completely purple, the color of the drink! Now whether it tested positive or not, I will never know because she looked at me and immediately knew that I used a system flusher.

So, head shop products, mostly a no-go. I will say from personal experience again, that synthetic urine does work, at least it did when I used many years ago. Now, certain more high-end test can detect synthetic urine as well.

Anther semi-common method is using niacin, also known as Vitamin B3. This has actually been scientifically proven to work, but if you’re consuming enough niacin to clear your urine of any drugs, you will likely also experience symptoms of niacin toxicity which include vomiting, fever, chills, and general sickness.

Drinking a lot of water, doing rigorous exercise, and even a natural cranberry juice cleanse all can be helpful, but of course, that depends entirely on the individual’s physiology and how much cannabis they consume.

Final Thoughts

Honestly, if you want to be 100% sure you won’t fail a drug test, your best bet is to just refrain from consuming any cannabis products – including hemp AND delta-8 – for about 30 days. It’s not ideal, but sometimes it’s the only way.

Looking to learn more about medical cannabis or cannabinoids? Subscribe to the Medical Cannabis Weekly newsletter. To learn more about Delta 8 THC subscribe to the DELTA 8 Weekly Newsletter


What is DELTA 8 THC (FAQ: Great resource to learn about DELTA 8THC)
DELTA 8 THC Medical Benefits (The medical background of using DELTA 8 THC products)
DELTA 8 THC Business: Risks and Rewards (Read it before opening a DELTA 8 THC business)
DELTA 8 THC Legal loophole (Explains the legal background of the DELTA-8 THC business opportunity)
DELTA 8 THC Testimonials (What people have to say about DELTA-8 THC)
DELTA 8 THC Vape Cartridges (Product review)
DELTA 8 THC Softgels (Produuct review)

DELTA 8 THC Legal Paper
DELTA 8 THC Newsletter (The DELTA 8 THC Weekly Newsletter)

The CBD Flowers Weekly newsletter (your top resource for all things smokable hemp flowers)
The Medical Cannabis Weekly newsletter (International medical cannabis business report)
DELTA 8 THC becoming illegal in the United States (according to the latest ruling of the DEA)
Synthetic Cannabinoids (Are they synthetic cannabinoids safe?)
The Endocannabinoid System Explained (Why Cannabis Is Good for Our Bodies)
Everything You Need To Know About CBD Isolate (a deep look into hemp extracts)
Your Complete Guide to EU GMP-Certified CBD Isolate and Distillate – Spotlight on the regulated EU market

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4 CBD-Centric Books for Your Alternative Reading List

Although THC usually takes center stage when it comes to conversations about cannabis, CBD has been steadily gaining popularity over the last few years. The cannabinoid’s ability to help treat various symptoms without the high typically associated with consuming marijuana has given the compound an opportunity to become a go-to alternative treatment for people seeking relief for a variety of ailments.

Strains like AC/DC, Cannatonic, Harlequin and Charlotte’s Web have been lauded by their proponents for their ability to alleviate pain, decrease symptoms of anxiety and depression, reduce inflammation, ease nausea, and even treat epilepsy. CBD has also been shown to be helpful for treating pets like cats and dogs that suffer from similar issues.

Doing research and learning more about how to incorporate CBD into your lifestyle can be helpful, especially if you’re struggling with health problems and looking for an alternative to prescription medication. If you’re feeling like you need to brush up on your CBD knowledge or learn about it for the first time, these books will set you in the right direction. These reads might also be a good resource for someone in your life who could use some schooling on how you’re choosing to treat your condition and why.

The ABCs of CBD: The Essential Guide for Parents (and Regular Folks Too)

Author Shira Adler used to be vehemently against the use of cannabis and even goes as far to describe herself as “a recovering formerly anti-pot parent.” But of course, Adler says things have changed now that she has grown to understand the healing power of CBD. This book is an educational look at all things CBD, from pop culture and politics to PTSD and ADHD. Though it’s written with parents in mind — it even includes a part about how to talk to your kids about CBD — this book is useful for anyone interested in a deeper understanding of the cannabinoid.

Healing with CBD: How Cannabidiol Can Transform Your Health without the High

For those interested in a medically focused perspective on CBD, Eileen Konieczny lends her years of experience as a registered nurse and the expertise she gained therein to offer insight into CBD, alongside scientific studies, research and patient anecdotes. The book is an easy-to-understand guide that aims to give readers the confidence to make an informed decision on whether or not CBD is right for them.

CBD: A Patient’s Guide to Medicinal Cannabis — Healing without the High

If you’re into case studies and interviews with doctors, this practical guide to treating a variety of conditions will be useful. In this book, the authors delve into the differences between CBD products derived from industrial hemp or in a lab versus those made from using the whole plant. The book also gives readers an in-depth look at the endocannabinoid system and its many functions, including appetite, mood, immunity and pain response. It also offers insight into the many different forms CBD can be utilized in, from flower to oil to tincture.

Pain Nation: Sick, Stressed, and All F*cked Up: Is CBD the Cure?

In the United States, more than 115 people die every day after overdosing on drugs like fentanyl, heroin or oxycodone and in this book, author Klee Irwin posits that CBD could be the solution to this opioid epidemic. This book is a good read for people who are interested in deepening their understanding of the modern medical industry and how it can begin to reshape its treatment practices. It’s also a good resource for people who are looking for ways to articulate why they are beginning to step away from prescription pills, or why they stepped away from pharmaceuticals in the past and embraced the benefits of cannabis instead.

TELL US, what resources do you utilize for learning about cannabinoids?

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An in-depth look at the study that discovered THCP, a cannabinoid more potent than THC

A new cannabinoid has been discovered, and the ramifications could be massive. Scientists funded by the UNIHEMP research project have discovered a new psychoactive molecule: Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabiphorol, or THCP; and they believe that there are great scientific implications for the phytocannabinoid

Phytocannabinoids are cannabinoid molecules that are specifically produced by plants. There are several types of cannabinoids, including endocannabinoids, synthetic cannabinoids, and phytocannabinoids. 

Endocannabinoids are compounds that are produced within the body by an organism’s endocannabinoid system; and synthetic cannabinoids are man-made chemicals that cannot be found in nature. Phytocannabinoids, on the other hand, are a different beast altogether. They are those that naturally occur in plants and are found in a variety, including echinacea. However, the plant species in which phytocannabinoids are most prominent is cannabis.

Because of cannabis’ status as a Schedule I controlled substance in the US, there are several barriers that prohibit the scientific study of the plant and its constituents. Thus, a considerable portion of cannabis research takes place abroad. Many clinical and laboratory studies of cannabis take place in Israel and Canada, where there is federal research funding to support this work; but, the newly discovered THCP was characterized by a group of Italian scientists.

Unlike the US, government funding for cannabis research is relatively commonplace in Europe. The discovery of THCP was enabled by the UNIHEMP project, which is sponsored by the European Regional Development Fund. A multi-disciplinary team of Italian scientists was responsible for the discovery of this novel cannabinoid, led by Giuseppe Cannazza of the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia.

The researchers’ findings were published in late 2019 in the journal Nature.

THCP is 33-times more active than THC

Throughout the duration of the project, the group studied a medicinal cannabis cultivar, dubbed FM2, which was supplied by the Military Chemical Pharmaceutical Institute in Florence. Using a variety of scientific characterization techniques, the researchers observed two novel cannabinoids, THCP and CBDP, and isolated them from other cannabinoids that were present. Following this discovery, the group artificially synthesized THCP and CBDP to create reference materials, and the synthesized versions were successfully used to verify the natural expression of the two cannabinoids in the FM2 cultivar.     

After the confirmation of the identity of the two cannabinoids, the group turned its focus to THCP. To study the compound, they pursued an in vitro experiment with cultured cells. This experiment tested the binding affinity of THCP with CB1 and CB2 receptors, using synthetic cannabinoids as reference materials. It was shown that, when comparing THCP-related results to the previously reported data of other cannabinoids against the CB1 receptor, THCP is 33-times more active than delta-9 THC. 

This finding is critical because the group also found that the chemical was present in FM2 at 0.0029%, whereas THC was found to be expressed at 3.9%; so, even in smaller amounts, THCP is more active than THC.

They also tested the cannabimimetic activity of the molecule. Cannabimimetic activity is a measure of how well a substance replicates the effects of more well-characterized cannabinoids which bind to the CB1receptor. An in vivo experiment involving mice was performed. Herein, the influence of THCP on body temperature, spontaneous activity, immobility, and pain was determined — the results of these tests confirmed that THCP acts similarly to other cannabinoids like delta-9 THC.

Will THCP be important?

According to the study, even at lower doses, THCP has more cannabimimetic activity than THC. Further, the group posits that THCP could account for the wide variability of patient responses in cannabis-based therapies, even amongst cultivars with equal THC doses. This means  that cannabis’  psychotropic effects, which the scientific community attributes to THC, may actually be due to the presence of THCP. 

Unfortunately, none of the original researchers could be reached for comment. However, experts in the field do have varying opinions regarding the study. Dr. Cecilia J. Hillard of the Medical College of Wisconsin said, “I think it is well designed.” She goes on, “[The study] has two important gaps, in my opinion. First, they should have compared the in vivo effects of THCP to that of THC ‘head to head’ so that relative potencies could be assessed. Second, I would like to know whether THCP has greater efficacy to activate the [CB1 receptor] in particular. THC is relatively safe because it has low efficacy at the receptor. If THCP has high efficacy (like the synthetic analogs that have also increased the tail length), it is a more concerning finding, as it would suggest that strains making a lot of THCP could be more dangerous to use than those that do not.” 

Expanding on how THCP could be more dangerous, Hillard continued, “The so-called ‘spice’ compounds are synthetic agonists of the CB1 receptor. They are full agonists, meaning that they are very strong activators of the CB1 receptor. Compared to THC, these drugs have significant adverse effects and produce significant dependence (addiction). So, my issue is that we do not know yet whether THCP is like THC, a partial agonist, or like the synthetic compounds, a full agonist. And my concern is that, if it is the latter, cannabis strains high in THCP will have more adverse effects than those that are low.”

Dr. Samuel Banister of The University of Sydney states, “[The study] was well designed and executed,” concurring with Dr. Hillard. However, he goes on to disagree with the group’s assessment that THCP may account for the variability of psychotropic effects across various cannabis cultivars: “While this possibility cannot be ruled out, the known potency differences for THC and THCP at cannabinoid receptors is relatively small, while the difference in abundance of each in cannabis is enormous. The same is true of CBD and CBDP, although CBD requires even higher doses to achieve many of its pharmacological effects. For this reason, I do not feel that minor or trace phytocannabinoids like THCP or CBDP contribute significantly to the psychoactive effects of different cannabis strains.” 

How this novel cannabinoid plays out in both medical and recreational use is yet to be determined, as much more research is needed. Nonetheless, this new evidence suggests that analytical laboratories in US regulated markets may need to expand their testing panel to include THCP.

Featured graphic by David Lozada/Weedmaps

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The Rise of CBD Strains

In the southern Oregon town of Takilma — a longtime hippie enclave just above the California border in the foothills of the Siskiyou Mountains — one farm is focused on developing new strains of cannabis. Their mission is not to breed for maximum THC or any particularly trendy flavor expression, but to create strains with an optimal balance between CBD, THC and various terpenes to achieve tailored effects.

The farm is called East Fork Cultivars, and its CEO Mason Walker is a former journalist and editor at the Portland Business Journal who himself uses medical marijuana to control his pain from a serious neck injury in his youth.

“Our roots are in the medical approach to cannabis breeding,” Walker says. “We started selecting varieties high in CBD for therapeutic effect.”

Pineapple Tsu: 13.7% CBD / 0.5% THC

In order to create strains that can best address specific ailments, East Fork Cultivars has focused on cultivating under three broad categories. First, they’re growing out “CBD-dominant” varieties to find phenotypes that typically have less than 1 percent THC and subtle effects, including with Ringo’s Gift, Sour Tsunami and Cenarius. Second, they’re cultivating “CBD-rich” varieties have high CBD content but also around 5 percent THC, including Bubba Kush and an East Fork original strain, Pineapple Jager. Third, they’re growing “THC-dominant” varieties that are the more typically potent strains that outlaw growers long strove for, including Strawberry Satori.

With this spectrum of cannabinoid concentrations, Walker says their selections appeal to “new cannabis consumers who are curious,” but not necessarily looking to get high.

Each fall, the team at East Fork Cultivars harvests one acre of CBD-rich cannabis from its farm in Southern Oregon’s Illinois River Valley.

Through their work developing a wide range of CBD-rich phenotypes and breeding new strains, East Fork is at the forefront of the larger CBD trend, trying to ensure that the increasing crowds of cannabis consumers looking for CBD strains have more options to choose from than the handful currently on the market.

“We’re still early on in our breeding work,” Walker says. “Of our 15 top-selling varieties, three of them we bred ourselves and the other 12 are well-established varieties that someone else bred — but we expect that number to basically flip in the next two years.”

From Llamas to Cannabis

Flowers grow between the rows at East Fork Cultivars.

East Fork was started by the brothers Nathan and Aaron Howard. Aaron, now the company’s chief operations officer, moved from his native Portland to southern Oregon about 10 years ago to grow cannabis under the state’s medical program. (Oregon voted to legalize medical marijuana in 1998, the second state to do so after California.) He initially cultivated as caregiver for a third brother, Wesley, who suffered from neurofibromatosis and epilepsy.

In 2015, Aaron was among the first cultivators in the country to start growing high-CBD strains, and the following year, purchased the 9-acre property in Takilma. At the time, the property was a llama ranch, so the East Fork team inherited three llamas along with the land. The animals have since passed on, but the company’s logo is still a llama — and the laser focus on CBD has not wavered.

Bubba Kush: 13.3 % CBD / 5.9 % THC

“We supply CBD-rich cannabis to other companies who turn it into infused products,” Walker says. “We extract oils for chocolate bars, topical salves, tinctures and beverages.”

Walker says that East Fork is shying away from selling cannabis flowers to consumers, because he thinks the end of cannabis prohibition is changing the way people want to ingest the plant.

“Back during Prohibition [in the 1920s and ’30s], people wanted high-potency moonshine,” says Walker. “With cannabis prohibition, there was the same secretiveness and incentive for high-potency stuff. Now that we’re moving out of prohibition, people are demanding more types of cannabis that are more nuanced. The same way we’re consuming more wine and beer as opposed to moonshine. Nowadays, you don’t hear people say, ‘What’s your strongest stuff?’”

Breeding for CBD

In 2017, the team at East Fork Cultivars harvested 3,300 lbs of cannabis uses garden carts and bicycles.

East Fork’s most cutting-edge work is its on-site breeding program. When selecting and testing new strains, Walker says the farm is focused on creating strains with high levels of “chemical diversity.”

“The beauty of cannabis is it’s one of the most chemically complex plants on the planet,” Walker says. “We focus a lot of time and energy and money on developing the largest diversity we can, in terms of combinations of CBD and terpenes.”

He notes that the linalool terpene, which smells like lavender, is often used to reduce anxiety, while the citrus-smelling terpene limonene is said to have an energizing effect.

“Multiple terpenes have synergistic interactions with each other, creating yet new effects,” he says. “That’s what makes cannabis really fascinating.”

One of East Fork’s original strains with notable limonene content is Wesley’s Wish, named for Wesley Howard, who found the strain gave him relief from his neurofibromatosis and epilepsy before he passed away last year. It is a cross between Pineapple Tsu and Purple Hindu Kush, which Walker describes as “one of the most popular THC-heavy strains in Oregon.” But while Purple Hindu Kush is typically more than 20 percent THC, Wesley’s Wish is only some 5 percent THC and 15 percent CBD.

Wesley’s Wish: 12.7% CBD / 4.5% THC

Another emphasis of East Fork’s breeding program is to broaden the genetic pool of high-CBD strains, especially given the problem that high-CBD strains generally have smaller yields than high-THC strains.

“There’s not a lot of genetics available that are both high-CBD and high-yield, so we’re making them ourselves,” says Walker. “We’ve had a couple of hits — varieties that are high-CBD but also high-yield, and are promising in terms of appearance and other standards cannabis is generally judged by.”

East Fork has sourced their high-CBD genetics over the past five years from California, Oregon and Europe. The farm is currently expanding their genetic library by sourcing high-THC plants from Oregon growers and collaborating on breeding projects with other farms in the adult-use system, splitting the seeds at the end of the project.

ACDC: 17.9% CBD / 0.5% THC

Walker says East Fork is headed in the direction of growing entirely from seed rather than clone. This year, their ratio is about 50/50.

“Plants grown from seed have more vigor, more pest-resistance,” Walker says. “A lot of people call them a truer expression of the plant.”

East Fork is also bred with an eye on cannabinoids besides CBD and THC. Walker mentions tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), which is believed to have appetite-suppressing qualities. He also names cannabichromene (CBC), which has shown potential to inhibit tumor growth, and cannabigerol (CBG), which research suggests may help with vision problems such as glaucoma and intraocular pressure.

Business in the Gray Zone

Under Oregon cannabis regulations, the largest licensed cannabis grow can only cultivate up to 40,000 square feet of canopy, which is an area of just under 1 acre.

In Takilma, East Fork Cultivars has reached that 40,000 square feet canopy limit on a section of their original 9-acre plot of land. On the new 24 acres, Walker says they’re planning to grow hemp.

East Fork Cultivars Co-Founder and COO Aaron Haward prepares a cannabis bouquet, combining a fresh cannabis cola with dried straw flowers.

While CBD can also be extracted from hemp, this plant — legally defined as having less than 0.3 percent THC — falls under a different legal classification than cannabis. The cannabis strains grown on the original plot are overseen by the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission, but the hemp plants on the new land will be overseen by the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

The cannabis farm is grown in a fenced-in area with a security camera system, as mandated by state law.

“The state figures the best way to keep feds at bay is to regulate the heck out of the industry,” Walker says.

The Rise of CBD Strains

Canna Tsu: 10.6% CBD / 3.3% THC

But the gray area of difference between the cannabis and hemp regulations on the federal and state levels is clearly not interfering with business. Walker says the farm brought in $830,000 in revenue last year, and is expecting $1.2 million this year.

“We sold just over 1,200 pounds of cannabis last year, and we’re on pace to sell 3,400 pounds this year—nearly triple,” he says. “About 98 percent of our sales are high-CBD strains.”

“We’re just barely starting to scratch the surface of interest in CBD,” he says. “It is having a fad moment, but I think it will have more staying power than the acai berry, for instance. I think our research over the next years will uncover extensive uses both therapeutically and in terms of just enhancing peoples’ lives.”

TELL US, what is your favorite CBD strain?

Originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now. LEARN MORE

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What Does Hemp Legalization Mean for Selling CBD

As 2018 drew to
an end, the cannabis industry faced a seismic change: Congress had passed (and President
Trump had signed) the 2018 Farm Bill, thereby legalizing hemp — defined as
cannabis with less than 0.3 percent THC. Cannabis reporters’ inboxes filled up
with statements from industry folk “celebrating” and “applauding” the federal
government for removing industrial hemp from the list of federally controlled
substances. They were mostly celebrating one thing: the cannabinoid CBD now had
a path to mainstream legality.

Despite hemp’s murky legal status before the Farm Bill, CBD has become a huge health-and-wellness trend, popping up in coffee shops, cocktail bars and health-food stores all over the country. The hemp-CBD industry ballooned to $590 million in 2018, according to Bethany Gomez, director of research for the Brightfield Group. Hemp farmers can earn $200 to $400 an acre if their crops are going into textiles, building materials and plastics. But crops heading towards CBD extraction can fetch thousands of dollars per acre, reported the Wall Street Journal.

So what does hemp legalization mean for cannabinoids such as CBD being treated as a commodity?

Unfortunately for
some hemp operators, the Farm Bill wasn’t immediately the miracle legislation
that they’d hoped for. After the bill’s passage, as the Department of
Agriculture continues to craft the rules around hemp, business owners have seen
their CBD products confiscated by U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials
and their hemp shipments seized by law enforcement for crossing state lines. The
FDA has insisted that CBD is a
drug, and therefore illegal to add to other products without FDA approval. While
the industry continues to grow, it’s still unclear how the federal agency will
manage the disconnect between CBD as a federally regulated drug and a thriving
industry that views the non-intoxicating cannabinoid as a dietary supplement.

A lack of clarity hasn’t stopped traditional retailers from jumping into the space, with both DSW and Neiman Marcus announcing in January that they would start stocking CBD cosmetics. The CBD trend is only poised to grow as mainstream companies get in on the action. But it isn’t only CBD: hemp plants can produce other cannabinoids, too.

The Other Players in the Entourage

The CBD trend will “absolutely 100%” extend to other cannabinoids, said Cristina Buccola, an attorney who has worked with marijuana and hemp companies. “There’s already a commodification of other cannabinoids, including CBG and CBDV… As more people get educated and as research avenues open up — it’s just a matter of time.”

Indeed, cannabis businesses are already developing ways to produce minor cannabinoids in greater quantities, hoping to harness their (still little-researched) therapeutic properties. Companies like Ebbu, which was acquired by Canadian cannabis giant Canopy Growth last October, see a future in which the cannabis market will be dominated by isolated cannabinoids. Other companies are looking to produce cannabinoids without the help of cannabis, such as growing them on genetically edited yeast.

The proposition
is sure to cause consternation among cannabis consumers who tout the entourage
effect of the cannabis plant. But for a more cannabis-naïve consumer, the
promise of consistent formulations could be an attractive selling point. Then
there’s the pharmaceutical industry, which has long been isolating compounds
from plants to turn them into drugs.

Pharma companies have already developed an interest in other cannabinoids. In February 2018, the FDA gave orphan drug status to a cannabigerol (CBG) derivative produced by Emerald Health Pharmaceuticals for treating Huntington’s disease. Across the pond, the European Medicines Agency gave orphan drug status for cannabidivarin (CBDV) to GW Pharmaceuticals, the company that also produces the first FDA-approved CBD drug in the U.S.

THC’s Status in the Cannabinoid Market

Given that industrial hemp can produce all these minor cannabinoids, where does that leave the much-appreciated THC? After all, there’s no meaningful difference between marijuana and industrial hemp plants, as they are now legally defined, using the arbitrary designation that hemp contains less than 0.3 percent THC. Researchers and businesses alike will find it easier to work with industrial hemp, and may choose to focus their efforts there until the feds fully legalize cannabis. But there’s definitely a long way to go before cannabinoids are truly a commodity.

If the U.S.
repeals cannabis prohibition, there are other countries to contend with.
Recently, narcotics officers raided a beauty supply store in Singapore,
confiscating a bunch of mascara. The offense? The mascara contained oil derived
from hemp seeds. Has anyone told the Singaporean authorities that the stuff
won’t get you high?

“We’re still
overcoming the stigma of cannabis in so many ways, including educating people
about THC and industrial hemp, and eliminating concerns about ‘getting high,’”
said Buccola, who demurred when asked to prognosticate about the future of the
marijuana and hemp markets.

“I don’t think we
can even put our arms around what that looks like because there are so many
layers of prohibition and misinformation to peel back before we can understand
the potential of either market.”

TELL US, do you choose products based on their cannabinoid profiles?

Originally published in print edition of Cannabis Now. LEARN MORE

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The Mother of All Cannabinoids: CBG

Despite what anyone thinks of the CBD craze of the last several years, one benefit is clear: Higher interest in cannabinoids besides THC has created a greater desire for products with a broader spectrum of cannabinoids.

One particular cannabinoid catching wider attention is CBG, or cannabigerol, which is a non-intoxicating compound grandiosely known in the cannabis world as the “Mother of All Cannabinoids.”

This is because CBGA, the acidic precursor to CBG, more frequently acts as a precursor for other cannabinoids, like CBDA, THCA and CBCA. Those eventually transform into CBD, THC and CBC, respectively. Further down the line, with time and/or decarboxylation or other extraction methods, they can also transform even more cannabinoids, like CBN or Delta-8.

Health Benefits

Like those other cannabinoids, CBG shows a lot of medical promise.

“CBG has been demonstrated to be an antioxidant, protecting against oxidative stress,” said Kate Stem, CEO of Peak Extracts.

Peak makes a THC-free tincture high in CBG as well as two full-spectrum, strain-specific tinctures with the full complement of minor cannabinoids, including CBD.

“It has been shown in lab trials to have neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-nausea and pro-appetite effects,” Stern said, adding that there’s also promise in using CBG to treat complications associated with diabetes.

There is still a lot to learn about how CBG interacts with our bodies. Currently, CBG is being studied as a treatment option for Crohn’s Disease, glaucoma, ALS, and other neurological disorders; chemotherapy-induced nausea and anorexia; and overall inflammation.

Like other cannabinoids, CBG can be ingested in a variety of ways. Smoking is becoming a popular way to light up for those who want to skip the high that comes with THC but don’t want to become drowsy, as sometimes happens when smoking flower high in CBD. Additionally, many find smoking particularly effective for pain management, as noted in the testimonial below.

Jade Daniels, CEO of Lady Jays, a pre-roll line from Ladies of Paradise, shared a recent email from one of her regular customers who described how much the product has helped with her own fibromyalgia, as well as her mother’s pain from cancer.

“Some people actually experience a euphoric high from it. I like it because it makes me feel energetic and doesn’t give me a heavy head high when smoking it during the day,” the customer wrote. “It also helps tremendously when I have menstrual cramps. I seriously smoke a CBG jay and they’re gone,” she continued.

However, for many, especially those who may use it for medical purposes, CBG is frequently consumed orally or topically, which Stem says is the safest way.

Peak Extracts’ tincture is made from only MCT coconut oil and hemp flower extract. Stem thinks tinctures are the best way to get an accurate and consistent dose every time because they are homogenous solutions that are simple to dose in minuscule or large quantities.

The Drawbacks of CBG

Even with all the potential greatness surrounding CBG, there are some drawbacks – specifically, price and availability.

Despite being one of the first cannabinoids synthesized in a lab (in 1964) and being one of the most widely studied, CBG is still harder to find and more expensive than CBD, which it’s frequently compared to. The higher price point is a result of a more expensive production process, as CBG is refined from hemp, which is not naturally high in CBG.

Despite the current market squeeze, the future is bright for CBG.

Stem says there have been enormous efforts by growers to produce more CBG-rich hemp in recent growing seasons, which has resulted in much higher market availability.

This bears out in product availability, as well – Daniels added CBG to her company’s roster just last year when she partnered with Oregon’s Marshall Farming. They used Crawford brothers’ genetics, which for her was too good to pass up.

Lady Jays is not alone–many other companies have added CBG to their rosters for the first time in the last few years. Those looking to shake up their cannabinoid routine should keep their eyes peeled.

TELL US, do you have a preferred cannabinoid?

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What’s the Deal with Synthetic Cannabinoids?

We’re told all the time to fear synthetic cannabinoids, and to stay away from products that might use them. But are they really that dangerous? And aren’t most approved medical cannabis treatments still made from them?

According to drugabuse.org, “Synthetic cannabinoids are human-made mind-altering chemicals that are either sprayed on dried, shredded plant material so they can be smoked or sold as liquids to be vaporized and inhaled in e-cigarettes and other devices. These products are also known as herbal or liquid incense. These chemicals are called cannabinoids because they are similar to chemicals found in the marijuana plant.”

This, of course, is a terrible explanation, but about the best one that’s out there. Notice how it makes no mention of synthetic cannabinoids that are widely sold for medicinal purposes. In fact, if you just read this, you might not know that synthetic cannabinoids are actually highly promoted.

To learn more about cannabinoids, subscribe to the Medical Cannabis Weekly Newsletter

Legal vs illegal

When looking at synthetic cannabinoids, there are two different types to look at. The first group is considered illegal because its made up of compounds that haven’t been regulated and are part of the cannabis black market. The other is considered legal because it is comprised of compounds made in labs by pharmaceutical companies and approved by a government regulator. Both are synthetics of the very same thing, yet the attitude between them is worlds apart. And possibly the risks, but this is highly unclear.

When a plant is put through processing that structurally changes it, it becomes a different substance, and is then legally able to be patented as it is no longer the plant in its original form. It’s a cheap way to move something from plant medicine where it cannot be patented, to pharmaceutical medicine where it can be, generally under the explanation of providing people with the best medicine possible, but often highlighting a previously untapped revenue source, or redirecting one that exists into another place.

This is an important aspect to the pharmaceutical industry that most people are unaware of – even doctors in the field, and it factors in very strongly when dealing with plants like cannabis. So, I’ll make it very clear. A plant in its natural form cannot be patented. Only a different, created version, or a synthetic can be patented. Does that maybe shed some light on why people are constantly told it’s dangerous to smoke marijuana while pharmaceutical companies are handing out prescriptions for Marinol?

What is Marinol?

I could use one of several legal synthetic cannabinoid drugs to make this point, but Marinol is a well known one. And it’s a synthetic. As in, a fake cannabinoid, made in a lab, that works differently, and maybe more potently, than the actual plant. In fact, it’s quite possible that the biggest different between Marinol and the varied synthetic cannabinoids under the name of K2, is who makes money from it.

Real Cannabis vs Synthetic Marinol – Which One is Better?

For example, if you look up ‘K2’ on the internet, you’ll see a lot of government sites telling you not to use it, but you won’t find anything that draws a difference between FDA-approved synthetic cannabinoids and non-FDA approved synthetic cannabinoids. In fact, most of the time, if you look up ‘synthetic cannabinoids’, all you’ll see is the dangers of the illicit ones, with no mention to the fact that they are being sold legally every day.

In 2018, a law came out in Illinois to ensure that the only synthetic cannabinoids sold were government approved. Which actually makes the statement that synthetic cannabinoids are totally fine, as long as the government says so. Much like a lot of regulation, it was a law that seemed to be designed to close a loophole where there was lost revenue for the government.

When dealing with any kind of synthetic, there is reason for worry, especially if the supply chain is shrouded in secrecy. Dangerous chemicals could be added, or it could produce effects that are unexpected and different from the original plant. Indeed testing is needed, and with so many ways to create synthetics, a way to gauge their effects and regulate them effectively. And this information should be made readily available.

If synthetics are bad, why is Marinol used?

Truth is, there isn’t much saying Marinol is any better than reports of K2 injuries. This article from June of 2020 talks about how since 2015 there have been about 20 deaths due to synthetic cannabinoids. The number is, of course, downright silly when considering that over 30,000 died from opiates in 2018 in the US alone, and those are readily prescribed every day. It starts to make complaints about non-approved synthetic cannabinoids vs approved synthetic cannabinoids kind of moot, as at its worst, synthetic cannabinoids don’t seem to have the power of other drugs, and that can be easily seen in death tolls.

If you look up deaths from synthetic cannabinoids, you’ll see stories, no doubt, but not in the same vein as opiates, or benzodiazepines, or any number of other classes of pharmaceuticals that are prescribed like water. And when looking at the safety of the actual plant, cannabis, the idea of even using a synthetic becomes confusing and silly.

Cannabinoid Receptors: What They Are and How They Work

This was put together by ProCon.org to try to establish the level of danger for using marijuana vs federally approved drugs. You can see reports of drug deaths with the primary drug given for the overdose as well as any secondary drugs that might factor in. Cannabis has 0 deaths associated with it as the primary cause, it is the only drug on the list that has 0. On the other hand, Marinol, which is synthetic cannabis, is in the category of ‘Anti-emetics’ which credits almost 200 deaths, as well as showing up under the ‘FDA approved’ category with four deaths of its own. That’s a lot compared to nothing.

The report authors explain how the information was compiled for comparison, but make the statement “ProCon.org attempted to find the total number of users of each of these drugs by contacting the FDA, pharmaceutical trade organizations, and the actual drug manufacturers. We either did not receive a response or were told the information was proprietary or otherwise unavailable.” The information comes from the US Food and Drug Administration made under a Freedom of Information Act request. Funny that official government offices and professional organizations didn’t think people having this information verified was important.

The even deeper truth to this is that the low death rate (and it is) doesn’t make synthetics a good option, but that’s only because very few synthetics will ever be better than an actual plant, which is made of parts that work together synergistically. However, as we went over before, a regular plant – like cannabis – cannot be patented, which means a pharmaceutical company cannot sell it as medicine, and the government cannot tax it for revenue.

What it does mean, is that there is a massive discrepancy over how safety is spoken about with regards to synthetic cannabinoids, with very little consistency therein. If they’re all bad, then so are the legal ones, and if they aren’t all bad, then the ones being used illicitly might be perfectly safe. Does this mean that picking up a cheap product likely made of a synthetic is a good idea? No! Of course not! It never is! But it doesn’t say much for getting it prescribed from your doctor either.

What’s the point?

If a synthetic cannabinoid and a real cannabinoid do the same thing, why use synthetics at all if the plant is significantly safer? Isn’t that what the entire pharmaceutical industry is based on? Making medications that are synthetics of plants since the original can’t be patented? And having them often be inferior or more dangerous than the original?

It’s Not Your Parents’ THC – Welcome Cannabidiolic Acid Methyl Ester

Kind of ironic that we rely entirely on an industry that is fundamentally based in synthetics, yet the second they’re no longer useful to push, or its not convenient, or there’s a conflict in where the money flows, we’re told not to use them by the very same people who produce them. In this case, we don’t even get the respect of a logical argument. We get told to use the synthetics on one end, and to stay away from them on the other.

Sure, when getting into any mass market where there’s an ability to bastardize it (which is pretty much anything), there needs to be a way to establish high quality vs low quality, dangerous ingredients vs non-dangerous ingredients, safe vs not safe production practices. One of the most important aspects to this is making sure that the approved version – the better version – really is, and not just some marketing ploy. After all, this whole article is about whether synthetic cannabinoids of any kind are safe, and its not even a necessary argument to worry about since there’s an actual plant that can safely be used.


The best part about the argument over synthetics is that it doesn’t need to take place at all. We have access to the original plant, in tons of different forms, which grows pretty easily in most places, and can provide the medical benefits in a more healthy way than any synthetic alternative. It’s literally one of the most useless arguments there is. In fact, rather than fighting over whether synthetic cannabinoids are safe or not, we should be pushing to have the whole plant legalized so that there is good access to all its natural medicinal benefits to anyone who needs them.

Thanks for stopping by CBD TESTERS, your hub for all things cannabis-related. Stop by regularly and make sure to subscribe to the Medical Cannabis Weekly Newsletter to keep up-to-date on all the most interesting industry topics.

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