Canadian Researchers Identify Genes That Give Cannabis Its Flavor

CANADA: University of British Columbia scientists have scanned the genome of cannabis plants to find the genes responsible for giving various strains their lemony, skunky or earthy flavors, an important step for the budding legal cannabis industry.

“The goal is to develop well-defined and highly-reproducible cannabis varieties. This is similar to the wine industry, which depends on defined varieties such as chardonnay or merlot for high value products,” said Jörg Bohlmann, a professor in the Michael Smith Laboratories and faculty of forestry at UBC. “Our genomics work can inform breeders of commercial varieties which genes to pay attention to for specific flavor qualities.”

The research is part of an ongoing collaboration between Bohlmann, graduate student Judith Booth, and Jonathan Page, an adjunct professor in the botany department who founded the cannabis testing and biotechnology company Anandia Labs.

They found about 30 terpene synthase genes that contribute to diverse flavours in cannabis. This number is comparable to similar genes that play a role in grapevine flavour for the wine industry. The genes the researchers discovered play a role in producing natural products like limonene, myrcene, and pinene in the cannabis plants.  These fragrant molecules are generally known in the industry as terpenes.

“The limonene compound produces a lemon-like flavour and myrcene produces the dank, earthy flavour characteristic of purple kush,” said Booth.

They also found a gene that produces the signature terpene of cannabis, beta-caryophyllene, which interacts with cannabinoid receptors in human cells along with other active ingredients in cannabis.

Bohlmann says the economic potential of a regulated cannabis industry is huge, but a current challenge is that growers are working with a crop that is not well standardized and highly variable for its key natural product profiles.

“There is a need for high-quality and consistent products made from well defined varieties.” he said.

The researchers say it will also be important to examine to what extent terpene compounds might interact with the cannabinoid compounds such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that confer the medicinal properties of cannabis.

The study was published today in PLOS ONE.

Study Finds Patients Choosing Cannabis Over Opioids

Research shows people with chronic pain or mental health issues prefer taking cannabis over prescription opioid medications to treat symptoms

By Amy Wallace

CANADA: Researchers from the University of British Columbia and the University of Victoria have found patients prefer cannabis over opioid medication to treat chronic pain and mental health issues.

“This study is one of the first to track medical cannabis use under the new system of licensed producers, meaning that all participants had physician authorization to access cannabis in addition to their prescription medicines,” Associate Professor Zach Walsh of UBC and co-author of the study, said in a press release.

Researchers studied more than 250 patients registered to purchase cannabis from Tilray, a federally licensed producer, with prescribed medical cannabis for the treatment of chronic pain, mental health and gastrointestinal issues. Participants responded to an online survey on cannabis use.

Results showed nearly 63 percent of patients reported using cannabis instead of their prescription medication, which included opioids, sedatives and anti-depressants.

Results showed the main reason for the preferred use of cannabis over opioid medications was due to the reduced side effects, better symptom management and a feeling that cannabis is safer.

“Further research into how well cannabis works compared to the accepted front-line treatments is warranted,” Walsh said. “Additionally, long-term research into the potential impact of the cannabis substitution on the quality of patient’s lives is ongoing.”

The study was lead by Phillippe Lucas, a graduate fellow at the University of Victoria Center for Addictions Research of British Columbia and vice president of Patient Research and Access at Tilray, a federally authorized medical cannabis production company.

The study was published in the International Journal of Drug Policy.

Medical Marijuana Patients Struggle To Access Pot Under Federal Rules: Study

CANADA:  Many medical marijuana patients in Canada are struggling to buy pot under current laws and are turning to the black market, a University of British Columbia study has found.

About one-third of 450 patients reported in a national survey that they could not access marijuana legally under federal rules, said PhD student Rielle Capler.

“They really want to be able to use this medicine legally,” she said.

“They’ve expressed patience and understanding that there are some growing pains, but in the meantime they’re also sharing that it’s really impacting … their health and well-being.”

Nanaimo-Based Cannabis Producer Partners With UBC On Marijuana Study

CANADA:  Nanaimo based medical cannabis producer Tilray has partnered with the University of British Columbia Okanagan in Canada’s first clinical trial to test marijuana’s effectiveness in treating post-traumatic stress disorder.

The study, still waiting for approval from Health Canada, will be one of the world’s first large-scale clinical trials to evaluate cannabis for treating a mental health disorder.

Existing studies of marijuana’s affect on PTSD have produced anecdotal and observational data, but no information is available from science-based clinical trials. Scientifically generated results could provide physicians with data to make decisions about prescribing cannabis for PTSD patients.

Philippe Lucas, vice-president for patient research and services at Tilray, said a similar study in the U.S. is waiting final approval and funding, but results from both research programs should compliment one anther.