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Weekly Cannabis News

January 2nd– 7th, 2022

December 2021: A New Record in Illinois Cannabis Sales

Illinois’ cannabis sales end the year on a high note

The State of Illinois set up a new record in adult cannabis sales in the month of December 2021 at nearly $138 million, including in state and out-of-state resident sales and total items sold. [1] In 2020, the recreational cannabis sales reached $669 million and nearly doubled in in the year 2021, with $1.4 billion in sales. [2] Illinois Governor J.B Pritzker signed the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act (Illinois House Bill 1438) in June 2019, legalizing the use of recreational cannabis by adults beginning January 1st, 2020. [3]

Illinois residents age 21 and over can purchase up to 30 grams of cannabis flower, up to 500 mg of THC in a cannabis-infused product or up to 5 grams of cannabis concentrate.

Researchers at the University of Mississippi Awarded a Grant to Study the Effects of Cannabis in Relieving HIV-Related Pain  

Cannabis for the relief of HIV-related pain: a new target for these patients?

A group of three researchers at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy received a $1.3 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) on further understanding the potential role of cannabis in helping relief pain in human immunodeficiency (HIV) patients.  

The team of experts is composed of Dr. Nicole Ashpole and Dr. Jason Paris, Assistant Professors of Pharmacology and Dr. Mahmoud ElSohly, Director of Marijuana Project. They hope to find anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving compounds in the cannabis plant as an alternative to the current opioid medications. The obtained findings could shine new light onto the potential mechanisms by which these novel therapies can help HIV-positive and uninfected patients. Dr. Ashpole added: “Cannabis has hundreds of compounds in it other than THC and CBD, and we don’t know much about how these compounds might affect the human body. By exploring the effects of these compounds against HIV pain, we can gain insight into their potential benefits or risks in numerous other inflammatory disease states.” [4]

Despite being decriminalized, medical cannabis remains illegal for both medical and recreational purposes in Mississippi. However, medical CBD oil can be used in the State, with specific restrictions. [5]

 ∆8-Tetrahydrocannabinol (8-THC), a Milder Version of 9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (9-THC)?

Caution should be taken when consuming 8-THC despite providing a more pleasant experience compared to 9-THC, a new study suggests.

The cannabis plant contains more than 500 known compounds including phytocannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids, with as many as 140 different phytocannabinoids present including cannabidiol (CBD) and ∆9-THC which are the most used and studied.  However, a new compound called ∆8-THC is gaining popularity among cannabis consumers following the signature of the Agriculture Improvement Act or Farm Bill in 2018, which removed hemp and cannabis derivates with less than 0.3% of ∆9-THC from the definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substance Act (CSA). [6] As such, it created a loophole in the regulation of cannabis products leading to ∆8-THC obtaining legal status. This allowed for a fast commercialization of ∆8-THC based products in the form of flowers, edibles, creams, or tinctures in gas stations and smoke shops in the US. ∆8-THC is an isomer of ∆9-THC, meaning it has the same molecular formula but differs in their arrangement of atoms (carbon-carbon double bond is located on the 8th carbon in ∆8-THC vs 9th carbon in ∆9-THC).[7] Despite the increase in sales and usage among cannabis consumers, limited research on ∆8-THC is available.  

A study published in the Journal of Cannabis Research aimed to better understand the experiences of cannabis consumers following the use of ∆8-THC to inform policy discussions and provide directions for future research. [8] 385 participants completed surveys addressing their feelings after using ∆8-THC and how these reported effects compare to ∆9-THC. Most participants reported relaxation, euphoria, and pain relief while experiencing modest levels of cognitive distortions such as difficulty concentrating or short-term memory. On average, they expressed that the effects of ∆8-THC were milder, and shorter than the effects of ∆9-THC.

The authors concluded: “∆8-THC products may provide much of the experiential and therapeutic benefits of ∆9-THC with lower risks and lesser adverse effects. Further systematic research will be critical in verifying the favorable reports of ∆8-THC consumers.”

On September 14th, 2021, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Center for Disease Control (CDC) issued a warning statement about ∆8-THC-based products due to the recent increase in adverse event reports (e.g., vomiting, hallucinations, loss of consciousness…) and the use of potentially harmful chemicals to create the final product. [9] Along those lines, 19 US states have regulated, restricted and banned the use of ∆8-THC and it would not be surprising more states follow these regulations. [10]

Olivetolic Acid, The Cannabinoid Precursor in Cannabis Sativa, May Have Anticonvulsant Properties in a Mouse Model of Epilepsy

Can alternative cannabis molecules open new therapeutic avenues to treat epilepsy?

Cannabigerolic acid (CBGA) is the precursor compound acting as a building block for the formation of phytocannabinoids in Cannabis sativa via enzymatic processes converting CBGA to cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) and ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (∆9-THCA), which are then decarboxylated to the most known and consumed phytocannabinoids, cannabidiol (CBD) and ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol (∆9 THC). As such, CBGA is referred to the “mother of all cannabinoids”.  

A previous report from the Brain and Mind Center at the University of Sydney has shown that CBGA may have anticonvulsant properties in a mouse model of Dravet syndrome, a rare form of early-onset genetic epilepsy manifested by intractable epilepsy and neurodevelopmental delays. [11] However, poor brain penetration and chemical instability limit its potential as an anticonvulsant therapy. The same group aimed to investigate whether CBGA methyl ester, a more stable analogue of CBGA and olivetolic acid, the biosynthetic precursor of CBGA may be used as alternative therapies. [12] The mouse model they used in is called Scna1a+/-, corresponding to a loss-of function mutation in the gene SCN1A, which replicates the phenotype observed in Dravet syndrome patients such as increased susceptibility to hyperthermia-induced seizures. [13]

They found that olivetolic acid but not CBGA methyl ester had anticonvulsant effects against hyperthermia-induced seizures, but both compounds exhibited poor brain penetration.

The authors concluded: “future studies could explore the anticonvulsant mechanism(s) of action of olivetolic acid and examine whether its anticonvulsant effect extends to other seizure types.”

References

[1] https://illinoisnewsjoint.com/illinois-2021-cannabis-sales-doubles-2020/

[2] https://www.illinoispolicy.org/illinois-marijuana-sales-double-likely-to-hit-1-5-billion-for-2021/

[3] https://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs5.asp?ActID=3992&ChapterID=35

[4] https://www.wjtv.com/news/state/university-of-mississippi-receives-1-37m-grant-to-study-cannabis-pain-relief/

[5] http://billstatus.ls.state.ms.us/documents/2014/html/HB/1200-1299/HB1231SG.htm

[6] https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/5485

[7] Razdan RK. Chemistry and structure-activity relationships of cannabinoids: an overview. In: Agurell S, Dewey WL, Willette RE, editors. The Cannabinoids: Chemical, Pharmacologic, and Therapeutic Aspects: Academic Press; 1984. p. 63–78.

[8] Kruger JS, Kruger DJ. Delta-8-THC: Delta-9-THC’s nicer younger sibling? J Cannabis Res 2022;4(1):4. DOI: 10.1186/s42238-021-00115-8

[9] https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/5-things-know-about-delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol-delta-8-thc

[10] https://cbdoracle.com/news/policy/delta-8-thc-legal/

[11] Anderson LL, Heblinski M, Absalom NL, et al. Cannabigerolic acid, a major biosynthetic precursor molecule in cannabis, exhibits divergent effects on seizures in mouse models of epilepsy. Br J Pharmacol 2021;178(24):4826-4841. DOI: 10.1111/bph.15661.

[12] Anderson LL, Udoh M, Everett-Morgan D, et al. Olivetolic acid, a cannabinoid precursor in Cannabis sativa, but not CBGA methyl ester exhibits a modest anticonvulsant effect in a mouse model of Dravet syndrome. J Cannabis Res 2022;4(1):2. DOI: 10.1186/s42238-021-00113-w

[13] Miller AR, Hawkins NA, McCollom CE, Kearney JA. Mapping genetic modifiers of survival in a mouse model of Dravet syndrome. Genes Brain Behav 2014;13(2):163-72. DOI: 10.1111/gbb.12099

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Author Yoel H. Sitbon

Yoel is a Medical Writer in the Medical Content division at Csequence. His scientific expertise is in Neuroscience (neural mechanisms behind drug addiction) and Molecular & Cellular Pharmacology (molecular mechanisms behind mutations induced cardiovascular diseases). Yoel has over five years of scientific writing experience as evidenced by 8 peer-reviewed publications in scientific journals. He is an effective oral communicator having presented his PhD thesis work at many biomedical conferences nationally. He also has strong mentorship and leadership experience. Yoel has a B.S in Neuroscience at the University of California, Los Angeles and a Ph.D. in Molecular & Cellular Pharmacology at the University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine.

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