Legalization in Canada will mean a spike in research and science projects around cannabis
For decades in Canada, cannabis has been a controlled substance in the eyes of the government. The plant is as difficult to obtain for scientists as illegal drugs. This will change the 17 October when cannabis becomes legal. The Ferrari of the plant world will be more accessible for research, and its impact on society.
Cannabis landscape changes in Canada
Both recreational and medical forms of cannabis have not been taken seriously so far. Scientists and researchers must obtain a special waiver from Health Canada to use cannabis. Especially for analytical and genetic tests in controlled environments.
Although cannabis has been banned in Canada since 23 April 1923, its entry into the legal market is expected to generate close to 6,5 billion per year in retail sales by 2020. This figure would exceed the 5,1 billion dollar spirits market and move closer to 7 billion dollars spent on wine.
According to Jonathan Page, CEO and co-founder of Anandia Labs, legalization will boost the immediacy and importance of cannabis research. Research mainly in its biological, sensory, clinical and societal impacts.
"Scientists know a lot about cannabis, but there are still many areas left untested," said Page.
The Ferrari of the plant world
Page says that basic science remains ignorant about the cannabis plant. These active chemical ingredients are abundantly produced in the plant's trichomes - the fine growths or appendages of the plant that produce the hundreds of known cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids that make cannabis strains potent, unique and effective.
"Cannabis is like the Ferrari of the plant world," said Page. "No other plant can produce cannabinoids in such high quantities."
Trichomes often function as a defense mechanism by releasing viscous and smelly residues that prevent insects from eating the plant and its seeds. The female flowers are mostly covered with trichomes to protect their fat and oil-rich seeds.
According to Page, a common theory is that cannabis produces THC as a defense function to deter predators. But the insects do not have cannabinoid receptors ... In addition, the cannabis plant produces THCA, which has no psychoactive properties ... The THCA once heated, gives the THC, the psychoactive form.
"This research will help us improve our chemical understanding of some strains. And produce cannabis varieties that can more effectively meet the needs of consumers for recreation and medical care. "
Groupings and genetic analyzes
Dr. Page indicates that the difference between Indica and Sativa strains also requires more research. Cannabis clinics and retailers classify cannabis as an indica, sativa or hybrid variety. Similar to a menu board in a restaurant, all available products are sorted by these two classifications.
"I'm interested in cannabis classification methods that help people understand how they can use it most effectively." Add Mr. Page. "Our current understanding is based on anecdotes from consumers and patients." - "I think we're going to see an attempt to understand the sensory appeal of why people smoke strains and some smoke others. Some strains prevent you from sleeping all night, others make you fall asleep. Scientists have no idea how it works. "
He believes that the future of this research will be determined by the leisure market. According to Page, consumers have become accustomed to these groupings, but chemical and genetic analyzes are limited to support classification accurately.
Understanding the power of cannabinoids
Philippe Lucas, Vice President of Patient Access and Research in Tilray, a Nanaimo-based medical cannabis research and production firm, says the legalization of marijuana in Canada will have no impact on the nature of marijuana medical research.
Lucas believes the industry has made considerable progress in understanding the relative safety of cannabis. In particular compared to other commonly prescribed pharmaceuticals ... The next step will be to better understand the effectiveness of different cannabinoids in various symptoms.
In one recent clinical trial, the results showed that cannabis oil was an effective treatment for pediatric epileptic patients with Dravet syndrome. The researchers found a reduction in seizures and an overall improvement in the quality of life of their patients. Lucas says most clinical research is at an intermediate stage. More work is needed to get market approval for cannabis drugs.
Lucas adds, "More research needs to be done on specific dosages and methods of administration in the treatment of pain, mental health and other chronic diseases. And legalization can facilitate clinical and observational research. "
Canada is embarking on a global experience as the first G7 country to legalize marijuana. Yet, according to Dr. Samuel Weiss, scientific director of neuroscience in Canada, there are still many uncertainties about the health, social and economic implications of cannabis legalization and regulation.
More recently, the federal government has invested 1,4 million dollars in 14 short-term research projects across Canada as a quick-response approach to build capacity for cannabis research. Other research topics supported by investment include: mental health and addictions; violence, injuries and road safety; pregnancy and child health; therapeutic benefit and intervention research in substance abuse.