The Science of Studying Cannabis
As part of our series on sustainability, Solstice invited our resident science expert, Dr. David Baldwin, to discuss a viable scientific approach to studying cannabis, and why so little research has been done to date.
The word “science” means different things to different people, and to be sure, there are many different facets to studying the science of cannabis. While the people who want to buy and consume cannabis can just go to an online dispensary canada, there has been a lot of research and science put towards the products they’re consuming. There is strain diversity, which is based on the genetics of combining different traits from different species, including what cannot be seen with the naked eye or under a microscope. There is biochemical diversity, which is based on metabolic pathways (also defined by gene combinations). There are different methods for growing marijuana (indoor vs. outdoor, organic vs. non-organic, etc.). There are different methods for controlling pests. And the final product is effected by all of these variables, as all living things are with environmental change.
So what does it mean to be scientific about studying any subject with numerous variables, such as cannabis?
The scientific process for studying any question or hypothesis requires that one eliminate as many variables as possible for any given experiment. Ideally, one would only be testing a single variable in any comparison. For example, if you were interested in how different wavelengths of light influence THC production, you would use the exact same conditions for growing, fertilizing, pest control, water, etc., with the one exception of the light source, where you would isolate identical plants from each other (with plenty of replicates for each wavelength), and treat them with specific wavelengths during the flowering time. The plants must be harvested in an identical way, flowers must be cured and trimmed in an identical way and, in the process of making extracts to study, the outcome of the initial experiment, the protocol for producing such extracts must also be identical. The analytical method for studying the extracts must be repeated identically, being careful to start with the exact same quantity (mass) of material. In science, this our way of comparing apples to apples, and not some other fruit, for the purpose of drawing meaningful conclusions regarding one aspect of the apple.
Studying the genetic basis and resulting phenotypes of diverse cannabis strains will take significant time, despite the fact that the strains exist and emerging technology exists to study such things.
For now, the most challenging scientific problem is to accurately quantify known molecules from different strains of marijuana.
While chemical testing is well under way in the medical marijuana business, the proper controls for such testing are rarely seen. The results of such tests are posted as a percentage of the total starting material, or in milligrams per milliliter (mgs/ml). These numbers are legitimate in terms of describing what is found in any given harvest, but due to variation in the growing conditions, it is hard to trust strain comparisons using this method. So where as you could be using The CBD Insider coupon codes to find cheaper CBD, with the packaging showing the same level percentages with every purchase, although this could potentially not be the case due to how many variables go into harvesting, producing medical marijuana for either THC or CBD. And after these THC and CBD products have been produced and manufactured, they can then begin the selling process. With the continued evolution of these products comes increased popularity with smoking equipment similar to a thc vape pen that can be used as an alternative way to smoking these products. It also allows users to feel the same high as they would than if they were smoking it in the more commonly perceived way. But there is still a long way to go.
For a long time, it has been against federal law to use federal funds for propagating, producing, or studying the effects of marijuana.
Even in recent years, scientists such as Lyle Craker (University of Massachusetts) have been shut down repeatedly for more controlled scientific studies concerning marijuana, with an emphasis on understanding the medical benefits. In fact, in other countries as close as Canada people are already embracing those benefits through sites like https://canadawideweed.com/ that provide the products in a variety of forms. As time goes on, public opinion is changing towards the products. Isn’t it about time the funding laws changed, as public sentiment about cannabis is changing?
David N. Baldwin, Ph.D.
Dr. David Baldwin holds a PhD in microbiology from the University of Washington and degrees in genetics and French from the University of California-Berkeley. He has developed coursework in drug discovery for the UW bioengineering department and currently teaches a scientific course on cannabis at Shoreline Community College. Look for his “Science of Cannabis” column, only on the Solstice blog.
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