I recently had the extreme pleasure of attending the International Cannabinoid Research Society’s 26th Annual Symposium in gorgeous Bukovina, Poland. This was my third time attending and once again we were spoiled with stunning views (check out the photo album on Facebook), incredible entertainment and decadent food. Oh, and of course a wealth of mind-expanding new research conducted and presented by some of the greatest minds in cannabis.
This was the biggest year for the conference by far – a clear indication of the expanding opportunities in cannabis research and the subsequent rapid growth this industry is experiencing – with nearly 300 attendees. Despite there being probably close to a third more people participating in this year’s conference, there were still several familiar faces and it truly felt like an international community. A community of scientists, researchers, doctors and medicinal cannabis pioneers, like myself, all brought together by our passion for knowledge and a deeper understanding of cannabis as a whole, as well as the numerous cannabinoids, flavonoids and terpenes that make up this miracle plant. It is the work that is being done by this brilliant community that propels the medicinal cannabis industry forward and this year, more than any before, felt like a turning point for cannabis – a lift off for the industry.
There were more than 80 presentations covering topics ranging from endocannabinoid transport to behavioral neuroscience to metabolism, but the most intriguing topic of discussion at the event – at least for me – was surrounding the recently released research “Identification of Psychoactive Degradants of Cannabidiol in Simulated Gastric and Physiological Fluid” by John Merrick and Brian Lane at Pace Analytical.
Thus far, 16 states have passed CBD-only laws based upon an aversion to the psychoactive effects often associated with THC and the false assumption that CBD has medicinal purposes while THC does not. These states emphasize the compassion of access to CBD for epileptic children because of the undeniable, and repeatedly demonstrated, efficacy of CBD for those suffering from severe, and often life threatening, epileptic conditions. While these states have accepted CBD as a treatment option, they still vehemently deny any medicinal potential for THC and believe THC should remain illegal.
Interestingly, Merrick and Lane have discovered that a significant portion of orally administered CBD converts into THC during normal gastrointestinal transit. This, of course, begs a few questions:
- Is THC needed to adequately control seizure activity?
- Are children getting at least some of the THC they need through this natural conversion of CBD to THC when exposed to the acidic environment of digestion?
- Could CBD purchased legally be utilized to derive THC when THC is needed, but currently not available due legal restraints? And if so, would this be considered an illegal act?
Obviously there are many more questions to be considered and more research is needed, but this goes to show that there is still so much to be learned about this plant.
International cannabis conferences, and this one in particular, help to build global alliances between top players in the field. It is a forum in which we all come together, to help each other, to share research and ideas, all for the greater good of this industry. Current legal issues and the subsequent access to cannabis (or lack thereof) formed somewhat of an undercurrent throughout the event and it became abundantly clear that the U.S. is once again (or still?) woefully behind numerous other developed nations.
Legalization is underway around the globe and at a fast clip. Several countries are entering into the medicinal cannabis arena and are turning to the more experienced players for both advice and participation, rather than reinventing the industry within each country as we are doing state by state here in the U.S. Even Constance Therapeutics has been approached by government entities in other countries to get involved by exporting our products to them. Sadly, our hands are still tied at this time. All we are able to do is continue the cannabis dialogue and hope that one day we will no longer be limited by the artificiality of borders and preposterous Schedule One designation.
Until then, I am greatly looking forward to next year’s ICRS to see how Dr. Arno Hazekamp, Dr. Daniele Piomelli, Dr. Mark Ware and many others are able to leverage the discoveries made this year, build upon them and continue to break more ground for everyone in the international cannabis community.