Committee Blog: An Introduction to Minor/Novel Cannabinoids 
By Bethany Moore
February 22, 2022
/ Education

Committee Blog: An Introduction to Minor/Novel Cannabinoids 

by NCIA’s Cannabis Manufacturing Committee

In our rapid advance in cannabis science through recent years with the easing of restrictions of handling and experimenting on cannabis and cannabinoids via legalization and regulation efforts across the country, we have discovered and re-discovered cannabinoids that hold potential for great advancement in cannabis chemistry and potential for many beneficial health and wellness benefits along with identifying via production methodology, the safe and cost-effective means of producing these cannabinoids themselves. 

We define these new cannabinoids, different from the standard ones identified and required to be noted on regulated cannabis products (i.e. THC-A, THC, and CBD) in a number of ways, all being used in this article to define Minor/Novel cannabinoids. Minor cannabinoids are simply defined as every other cannabinoid that is found in cannabis besides THC and CBD. Science has identified over 100 outside the two standards, and more are discovered each year. Defining “Novel” cannabinoids; we look at five major classifications; Classical, Non-Classical, Hybrids, Aminoalkindoles, and Eicosanoids. Finally, we use the term “Synthetic” cannabinoids to define compounds related to cannabinoids, but not naturally found in any concentration in the cannabis plant or related plants themselves. Realistically, the term Synthetic could be replaced by Novel, Classical Synthetics, and Non-Classic Synthetic compounds. For the sake of this article, we will be defining and discussing the basics of the generalized “Minor” cannabinoid family along with touching briefly on possible “Synthetic” compounds of interest in the future. 

It would be easy to dismiss all these compounds outside THC and CBD as so rarely found in the natural cannabis plant, that they would not impact the industry or growth/focus on regulatory affairs in the space for discussion. However, one thing that these compounds have been found to cause is not only true intoxication in individuals, but also potential workarounds between State and Federal law regarding restrictions around classic cannabinoids THC and CBD, which have been the main focus of lawmakers and regulators in the past. One of the most prevalent and important that has made its way into many small gas stations and head shops across the country would be a compound such as Delta-8-THC. Often described as “THC light” Delta-8 has been produced through semi-synthetic means to achieve intoxicating effects while still skirting around the laws regarding Delta-9 THC. Delta-8 is not a new compound, having been known for years in the organic chemistry field and now being produced via widely available and federally legal CBD isolate. Compounds such as “Delta-10” and others are now becoming available to market in a large way and generalized knowledge of the substance and its effects are becoming widely discussed. 

Overall, the compounds themselves have years of real research behind them, showing that when produced correctly and tested for efficacy, there are real potential benefits to use in the human body for a variety of reasons or conditions. Many more years of research are to be done to learn proper testing methodology based on production methods, but overall, we are seeing many potential benefits of these compounds for human use. 

The human body internally operates and relies on what is called the endocannabinoid system. The system affects the human body’s ability to heal/regenerate, regulate body temperature, and many other positive background systems in the body. Humans are built to process and use cannabinoids and the deficiencies of those can lead to imbalance in the body’s systems. One effect of cannabinoids in the human body is also that of intoxication. Scientists rely on various interacting chemistries in the body and brain to determine the concept of intoxication. There is no doubt in the argument against any intoxication, however, we tend to view intoxication through a negative light while simultaneously ingesting a cup of coffee in the morning for the intoxicating effects of caffeine. Looking at intoxication through this light, down to the way in which a cup of tea can calm, soothe, rejuvenate, or stimulate; we seek to define and examine the potential benefits of these minor cannabinoids in the human experience while studying and researching their potential uses in the future.

Taking a brief look at overall results from studies around minor cannabinoids, we find a variety of effects and use in minor cannabinoids that far outstrips the standard belief of what THC or CBD can do for the body. THC-V, for instance, that is found in higher concentrations of strains from specific parts of the world, including the south part of the continent of Africa, has been shown to work towards appetite suppression and could potentially be a lesser harmful compound in the quest for weight loss in individuals. Looking at the compound CBG, it has been shown in studies to improve focus and cognition, a very different outcome than its relative THC. THC-O has even been shown to have a greater intoxicating effect than Delta-8 or 9 due to the ability of the human body to uptake the compound more efficiently. Finally, one compound that is making waves in the field of sleep science is CBN, an oxidized molecule of CBD that could help people find non-habit-forming relief in the quest for better rest. While all of these compounds are and can be created from various forms of THC and CBD, much more research is needed (and thankfully finally becoming allowed in this country) to judge their effectiveness and side effects. 

All these modifications via organic chemistry with existing cannabinoids, while yielding beneficial results in the lab and clinical research; should be examined and tested like any other regulated product being consumed by humans. One very real potential danger is not only the continued prohibition and extreme regulation of research into cannabinoids leading to clandestine production methods in markets that do not require testing (i.e., “Bathtub” Delta-8 production using strong and dirty acid compounds) but the continued chasing of new compounds outside the current regulatory structure that exists with the DEA here in America. Cannabis has been through this struggle before; with THC highly regulated and tested for in individuals in the military, probation, transportation, or heavy equipment operation; there was a desire to still feel the effects while “complying” with the strict THC ban. These compounds were developed at a rapid rate, leading to “Synthetic THC” or “Spice”-type compounds. While the legislation was aware of the issue, the methodology of banning a single compound led underground chemists here and around the world to tweak the molecular structure to have a similar effect while essentially testing their new blends on the unsuspecting masses, resulting in many injuries and developing long-lasting negative effects in individuals.

One of our biggest tools to combat another “Spice” development cycle that outpaces the research done on these compounds is to deregulate and lessen the difficulties in studying these compounds in highly regulated scientific settings (i.e., universities and scientific institutions). Following that initial change, there needs to be significant development through those institutions regarding establishing long-term studies and testing methods to examine the effects on the human body. Regarding final product testing; in the regulated market, all cannabis products sold through licensed dispensaries from licensed producers need to undergo stringent testing for potency/solvents/heavy metals contamination/microbial contamination, and other potential hazards before the product are deemed safe to sell to customers. Allowing other minor compounds, such as Delta-8-THC, to be sold to consumers via untested pathways and through unregulated channels opens the possibility of harm either through incorrect dosing or contamination via shoddy production methods or less-than-clean packaging standards. Labs need to continue to modify and develop their means to accurately test these compounds and regulators need to hold manufacturers accountable in following the health and safety testing requirements as are currently being done in the regulated cannabis markets across the country. 

Not only do these compounds have a significant potential for health and human wellness but could even assist in the development of significantly cleaner production methodology for the main cannabinoids like THC, allowing for lower costs of production and for much more market competitiveness and development by lowering hurdles like highly regulated cannabis agriculture. If you do not need to spend valuable resources to grow the plant itself and the compounds can be safely produced with higher consistency, it will be a boon to manufactured products that require them for their formulations. 

In no way should we shut the door on the potential future of these compounds but embrace the study and research to re-invigorate the development and growth of the use of a plant that has been part of the human consciousness for over 3,000 years. While the names sound scary and different, we are just cracking the code on the depth of this plant and what it can do after so many years in the shadows.

The Cannabis Manufacturing Committee focuses on reviewing existing business practices and state regulations of concentrates, topicals, vaporizers, and edibles, ensuring the manufacturing sector is helping shape its destiny.

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