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Research & Development Medical research, Classification, Legislation & policy

Top Cannabis Science Headlines: April Roundup

Every week, we carefully curate the top stories from across the fields of medical research, testing, processing, and plant science. We also bring you the latest in the world of cannabis business and legislation. Want it all in your inbox? Sign up here.

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Good morning, New Jersey!
 

That’s right – as of April 21, New Jersey residents now have access to legal recreational cannabis. Though it’s somewhat comical (or harsh?) that sales kicked off a day after the (un)official 4/20 celebrations, this didn’t seem to dampen people’s spirits. Neither did the vast queues that formed outside the dozen or so approved stores.  

According to reports, excitement was in the air – unsurprising given that many people have waited for this day most of their adult lives. Yep, “Cannabis Christmas” had finally arrived in New Jersey, with one customer teasing that he’d “left out milk and cookies for Willie Nelson last night.” 

Joking aside, the state is leading the way for many on the east coast – particularly its New York neighbors who are still yet to launch a licensed market despite legalizing recreational sales last year. And it’s clear the benefits of this move will be far-reaching: the taxes from marijuana sales will go towards Black and Latino neighborhoods that have historically been affected by cannabis-related arrests. Gov. Philip Murphy is even quoted as saying recreational sales would help New Jersey “stand as a model for other states in the nation, not just in ensuring racial, social, and economic equity and justice, but in ensuring a viable long-term framework for the industry at large.” Here’s hoping. 

If you’re based in New Jersey, let us know how you felt waking up to a legal recreational cannabis market this week! Send your thoughts (or general musings) to: [email protected].

Born this way
 

With cannabis being legalized in an ever-increasing number of countries, and generally becoming more widely accepted, cannabis use in pregnant women is also on the rise. In a recent study, a group of US researchers assessed the impact of fetal exposure to cannabis on adiposity and glucose-insulin traits in early life. Using a subsample of mother-child pairs from Healthy Start, an ethnically diverse pre-birth cohort based in Colorado, fetal exposure to cannabis was determined by the detection of 12 cannabinoids and cannabinoid metabolites in maternal urine samples. In a follow-up visit, exposed children showed higher fat mass, fat-free mass, adiposity, and fasting glucose compared with non-exposed children. Researchers highlighted that their results need to be validated in other cohorts but strongly discouraged pregnant and breastfeeding women from cannabis use regardless. 

Passive (aggressive) smoking
 

Although secondhand tobacco smoke has been studied extensively, very little research has explored the effects of secondhand cannabis smoke (SHCS). Far from being safe, SHCS contains toxic chemicals, carcinogens, fine particulate matter (PM2.5) – many at higher concentrations than tobacco smoke. In a recent first-of-its-kind study, researchers investigated PM2.5 levels from social bong smoking. Levels of PM2.5 were measured before, during, and after eight cannabis social-smoking sessions in a 20-m2 household living room, using an aerosol monitor where a nonsmoker might sit. After only 15 minutes of smoking, mean PM2.5 (570 μg/m3) was more than twice the US Environmental Protection Agency hazardous air quality threshold (>250 μg/m3), and went as high as 2500 μg/m3 in one session. Even 12 hours after smoking stopped, PM2.5 remained elevated at 50 μg/m3 – more than 10 times the background concentration. These findings suggest that SHCS in the home is not safe, and the researchers highlighted that public perception of SHCS safety must be addressed.

Treating of the 5,000 
 

According to The Times, medical regulators in the UK have approved the first clinical trial to study pure cannabis for the treatment of chronic pain. Around 5,000 British adults (aged 18-85) will take vaporized whole flower cannabis via an inhaler to see whether it has an impact on non-cancer chronic pain symptoms. This group will then be compared with a control group of another 5,000 patients receiving standard treatment, such as opioids. The data will be analyzed by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) to determine whether cannabis is a viable treatment option for chronic pain on the UK’s NHS. 

To Bee Or Not To Bee
 

Pesticides, increased susceptibility to infection by parasites and pathogens, and a general weakening of the immune system are all factors leading to high declines in honey bee populations. This worrying phenomenon led researchers from the University of Life Sciences in Lublin, Poland, to explore the effect of hemp extract on the activity of the antioxidant system in honey bees. They split the bees into three groups; bees  in the control group were fed only sugar syrup, while the two experimental groups received hemp extract via different administration methods. One was fed pure sugar syrup via cotton strips soaked in hemp extract placed inside the cage, and the second group was fed a mixture of sugar syrup and hemp extract via a syringe. The syringe method demonstrated a stronger and faster effect compared to the strip method. The authors hypothesized that this was because it took longer for the extract from the strip to enter the bees’ system, rather than directly through the syrup in the syringe. Overall, hemp extract increased the activity of antioxidant enzymes, and extended the life of bees from 35 days for the control group to 49 days (for the strip method) and 56 days (for the syringe method). The authors highlighted that hemp extract may contribute to the improvement of natural immunity in honey bees and help them fight against environmental pollution and increased oxidative stress.

What else is going on?


Research + Medicine
 

Salival lipid metabolites in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may serve as cannabis-responsive biomarkers and quantify impact of medical cannabis treatment for ASD. Link

According to case report, topical application of 20 percent CBD oil successfully treated ​​cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma and lichen simplex chronicus. Link

But topical CBD does not appear to decrease pain or opioid use in total knee arthroplasty patients. Link 

CBD demonstrates anti-aging benefits in both in vitro and in vivo neuron models. Link

Testing + Processing
 

Multidimensional gas chromatography method can help determine enantiomeric and isotopic ratios of terpenes in cannabis essential oils. Link

Study evaluates feasibility of targeted and non-targeted metabolomics to characterize cannabis varieties by their minor cannabinoid fingerprints. Link

Plant Science + Genetics
 

Chemical profiling of medical cannabis plants in Brazil reveals most are CBD-rich with varying terpene levels and growth cycles from 10 to 24 weeks. Link 

Plant density and row spacing impacts industrial hemp growth, and internodal length pattern may indicate plant maturity, according to study. Link 

Business + Regulation 
 

FDA issues warnings to US companies claiming their CBD products can treat COVID-19. Link   

Further disruptions in cannabis supply chain expected because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Link

National US poll reveals majority of Americans, including most Republicans, support drug decriminalization and overdose prevention centers. Link 

US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer promises to introduce bill to federally legalize cannabis before congressional August recess. Link

And Finally...


Mary J’s Melodies
 

Take a moment with me. Whatever you are doing right now, whatever it is you are thinking about, press pause. You can come back to that later. Sink a little deeper into your chair. Relax your shoulders. Take a full, deep breath. And get ready to listen to the musical stylings of Joe Patitucci – an artist working with the electrical signals produced by plants. 

Patitucci’s latest album, 420hz: Plant Music from Cannabis Plants, translates real-time data from the electrical variations in a cannabis plant into 420hz music. “There is nothing pre-recorded. This was created live, on the fly, with slight manipulation of the textural qualities of the lead instrument done by me in response to what I was hearing from the plant.” says Patitucci in the album description. You can learn more about the kit used to create these sounds, PlantWave, here. Or you can simply take five and listen to some sweet cannabeats with no further analysis needed.

Happy listening!

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About the Author
Lauren Robertson

By the time I finished my degree in Microbiology I had come to one conclusion – I did not want to work in a lab. Instead, I decided to move to the south of Spain to teach English. After two brilliant years, I realized that I missed science, and what I really enjoyed was communicating scientific ideas – whether that be to four-year-olds or mature professionals. On returning to England I landed a role in science writing and found it combined my passions perfectly. Now at Texere, I get to hone these skills every day by writing about the latest research in an exciting, creative way.

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