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Top Cannabis Science Headlines: March Roundup

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In the wake of International Women’s Day last week, there’s been a spate of articles talking about women in cannabis (or lack thereof). I was sad (but not shocked) to hear about some of the figures from the latest report on women’s experiences working in the cannabis industry. Once lauded as a success story, it seems cannabis has since fallen behind other sectors in terms of the number of women in leadership roles: “In 2019, 36.8 percent of women held senior positions, however, this has declined to 22.1 percent in 2021, while the national average for women in executive positions across all industries is 29.8 percent.” So why are the numbers on the decline? It seems there are many factors at play, but one key reason could be that major players are now moving into a space previously dominated by smaller (and more progressive) business operations. If you want to delve into the numbers yourself (and I’d recommend it) you can read the full 280-page report here.

Hit and run

With the public’s interest in CBD growing, and in the context of the recent Winter Olympic Games, the findings of this paper are especially interesting… According to a pilot study, CBD appears to alter some key physiological and psychological responses to aerobic exercise without impairing performance. Researchers investigated the effects of an acute, oral 300 mg CBD treatment versus a placebo on male endurance-trained runners during a running task. Results suggested that CBD affects several key variables, including submaximal and maximal oxygen consumption, markers of exercise-induced inflammation and feelings of pleasure during submaximal exercise. In the absence of any clear detrimental effects, researchers suggested CBD may be useful in a sporting context, and called for further studies involving more participants and different dosing regimens to better understand what’s going on. 

A promising new treatment?

Though some people may be under the impression that COVID-19 is a thing of the past (at least that’s the feeling I get with the removal of all restrictions here in the UK), researchers are still exploring new treatments – including cannabis-based ones. Researchers from Portugal set out to find out whether CBD in combination with terpenes could reduce SARS-CoV-2 infectivity. They focused on the inhibition of virus entry and viral replication with biobased formulations derived from cannabis, thyme, and oregano. The formulations were analyzed by high-performance liquid chromatography and gas chromatography–mass spectrometry and evaluated for antiviral potential. The results showed significantly reduced infectivity, suggesting that the combination of CBD and terpenes should be considered for further studies as an effective anti-SARS-CoV-2 therapy. The authors called for future research to explore the anti-inflammatory function of CBD, and suggested that the activation of the endocannabinoid system could contribute to preventing the progress and severity of COVID-19.

Sativa sequencing

Researchers from Sam Houston State University recently developed a massively parallel sequencing (MPS) assay to genotype seven chloroplast regions previously shown to be informative for intra-species variation of Cannabis sativa. They highlighted the benefits of using an MPS assay over the usual capillary electrophoresis-based methods, including simultaneous analysis of all seven regions and better discrimination through sequencing more polymorphisms and identifying isoalleles. A total of 49 polymorphisms were observed, 16 of which have not been previously reported. The sequence data was consistent with CE genotypes from previous studies, but also revealed isoalleles at one locus that were able to differentiate two samples assigned the same haplotype using CE-based methods. The authors stressed that future studies should genotype a more comprehensive sample set from around the world, to build a haplotype database, which could then be used by law enforcement agencies investigating cannabis trafficking.

What else is going on?

Research + Medicine

Cannabis use is linked to epigenetic aging, with evidence suggesting that effects may be due to hydrocarbon inhalation among cannabis smokers. Link 

Long-term cannabis use predicted smaller hippocampal volume and cognitive deficits in midlife – including lower IQ, poorer processing speed, and memory and attention problems. Link

Study shows that bias in cannabis convictions for Māori people continues, with researchers calling for New Zealand Government to move forward with cannabis law reform. Link 

New review could guide physicians on potential differential benefits of plant-based versus synthetic cannabinoids for easing behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia. Link 

Veterans with PTSD who use cannabis more than weekly at greater risk of depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation, as well as scoring lower in cognitive functioning. Link 

Cannabis improves social and cognitive impairments in autism spectrum disorder, according to review. Link

Testing + Processing

Activity-based screening demonstrates excellent sensitivity in detection of synthetic cannabinoid receptors agonists, with machine learning showing promise for future analytical methods. Link

New ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography diode-array detector for rapid quantification of up to sixteen cannabinoids validated for analysis of hemp concentrates. Link 

Hand-held Raman spectroscopy enables highly accurate differentiation between young male and female hemp plants based on different concentrations of carotenoids. Link 

Business + Regulation 

New Jersey prepares for $2 billion recreational cannabis market, with projections suggesting it will beat New York and Massachusetts in adult-use sales. Link 

All eyes on Europe as France enters the medical cannabis market. Link

Bipartisan congressional lawmakers implore Biden to push UN to end international cannabis ban. Link

Federal cannabis prosecutions drop, with fewer than 1,000 people charged in cannabis trafficking cases in 2021. Link

U.S. Department of Transportation proposes new cannabis testing policy to reduce false positives. Link

US House of Representatives set to vote on comprehensive cannabis legalization bill, but vote will be largely symbolic unless Senate approval follows. Link

US Senate approves cannabis reform bill, streamlining cannabis research applications and encouraging FDA to develop cannabis-derived medication. Link 

Hodges Review will assess UK regulation and public policy relating to legal cannabis industry, and underline recommendations going forward. Link

And Finally...

Chew your ear off

Mike Tyson’s cannabis company is making edibles in the shape of an ear. That’s it. That’s the tweet. 

(And I mean that quite literally). Greg Baroth's recent viral tweet about Tyson’s latest launch has no doubt helped the gummies reach new heights of fame. And, according to one (I’m sure unbiased source), “These ears actually taste good!”

The gummies, called “Mike Bites” (yes, really), reference the boxer’s infamous 1997 heavyweight championship match against Evander Holyfield – you know, that great sporting moment when Tyson bit off a chunk of his opponent’s ear… Though some have called it the greatest marketing move of all time, others have called for Holyfield to get the proper credit he deserves (it was his ear after all). And I’m sure a good proportion of the population will simply find it distasteful (no pun intended) and move on.

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About the Authors
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.

Margot Lespade

Margot Lespade, Associate Editor, The Cannabis Scientist

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