By Geoffrey Taylor, MA, Hemp Contributor, Valley Ag Voice

Geoffrey Taylor
Geoffrey Taylor, MA, Valley Ag Voice contributor.

With unprecedented scientific research on both cannabis and hemp-derived cannabinoid occurring at universities across the United States and globally, the cannabis plant is showing itself to be highly impactful in both medical and economic ways. As continued political pressure in legislatures nationwide continues to spur change in the way cannabis is grown, sold, taxed, regulated and ultimately, researched at an academic level, new and exciting developments abound with each passing month.

The most commonly seen cannabinoids derived from either the hemp or cannabis plants are THC, or Tetrahydrocannabinol Delta-9 and CBD, or Cannabidiol, and each are subject to diverse regulations from a variety of agencies in California. Many cannabinoids have shown potential health benefits. However, each cannabinoid provides insight into the impact they have on not only health outcomes but on continued economic growth.

A recent study published by Oregon State University identified the potential use of two specific hemp-derived cannabinoids, CBDA, or Cannabidiolic Acid, and CBGA, or Cannaibigerolic Acid, to be potentially useful in preventing the binding of Covid-19 spike proteins to cell walls. The study, conducted by Richard van Breemen, a researcher with Oregon State’s Global Hemp Innovation Center, College of Pharmacy and Linus Pauling Institute, shows promise in cannabinoid research for medical applications.

“They are not controlled substances like THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, and have a good safety profile in humans,” said van Breemen, “And our research showed the hemp compounds were equally effective against variants of SARS-CoV-2, including variant B.1.1.7, which was first detected in the United Kingdom, and variant B.1.351, first detected in South Africa.” 

While this research shows immense promise for the use of cannabinoids in future medical treatments for common ailments, this very same line of research may explain the proverbial “runner’s high” may be the result of the body’s own internally produced endocannabinoids, compounds that resemble cannabis and hemp-derived cannabinoid compounds, resulting in the feeling of euphoria often experienced by athletes following high intensity exercises such as running. 

According to Hilary Munsak, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences at Wayne State University School of Medicine, “Many people do not realize that humans also create their own versions of these chemicals, called endocannabinoids.” Munsak continues in noting that “these are tiny molecules made of lipids – or fats – that circulate in the brain and body; “endo” refers to those produced in the body rather than from a plant or in a lab.”

As cannabinoids continue to take center stage in the medical and pharmaceutical contexts and are experiencing an unexpected surge of research, the economic impact of both hemp and cannabis-derived cannabinoids has been immense moving forward into 2022. The hemp marketplace in the United States is expected to grow some 16 percent from 2021 to 2027 to a potential market value of $10.1 billion while the cannabis industry across the United States is currently estimated at over $61 billion. With hemp being regulated under the USDA 2018 Farm Bill and approved state regulatory programs nationwide and cannabis being regulated by a hodge podge of regulatory approaches by state with no timeline on Federal legalization or even decriminalization, we can look to continued growth trends in both industries not only stateside but globally.

“The cannabinoid marketplace has seen its challenges since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic with the overall hemp and cannabis marketplaces growing exponentially, and with the prospect of reform in California’s cannabis regulations from Gov. Gavin Newsom, it does give us hope that the state will make much-needed changes to advance the growth and expansion of the industry,” said Kylie Morgan, a licensed California cannabis cultivator, operating in California’s Central Valley. “With the state providing over $20 million in grants to struggling farmers and the idea that the regulations could change drastically, this shows there’s some level of response from the state government to the disarray in the industry and drastic dip in prices for farmers recently.”

As both hemp and cannabis continue to gain influence amongst Americans, some 12 percent of Americans regularly use cannabis and 14 percent of Americans currently using CBD or other hemp-derived cannabinoids, continued research is needed to provide additional pharmacological discoveries that may benefit, impact, or treat diverse conditions and health ailments. With many universities conducting research including schools like University of Colorado, Boulder; University of California, Davis; Oregon State University; and University of California, San Diego, amongst other academic institutions across the nation conducting their own research, one can see the sky is the limit for academic research on both hemp and cannabis.

While several nations such as Canada, Israel, Mexico, and Germany have legalized cannabis, the United States has yet to forge a strategic approach toward legalization of this plant, while providing robust regulatory standards surrounding hemp that limit production of hemp that exceeds 0.3 percent THC content across the nation. It’s time to fast track legalization and regulation at the federal level to encourage researchers nationwide to make the next big cannabinoid discovery that can impact not only the economic bottom line of our nation, but the potential health and well-being of millions of Americans.

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