The result is a perfect storm of technological advancement and refinement that can lead to quantum leaps in related science and technology.
As commercial cannabis takes off, there are at least 7 science fields that will grow right along with it:
#1) Cannabinoids and the Endocannabinoid System
The cannabinoids in cannabis interact with our own natural, endogenous cannabinoid receptors (called the endocannabinoid system). A majority of the medicinal benefits of cannabis are created by this interaction.
As more and more people discover the health benefits of cannabis and the cannabinoids it contains, well see heightened interest in studying cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system in both animals and humans.
Cannabis research is poised to enter a golden age. For example: Connecticut, a state that once had a thriving pharmaceutical biotech industry, has been strongly encouraging study of medical cannabis in recent years.
These examples are just the tip of the iceberg there is going to be a lot of research and discovery happening in the cannabinoid space in the coming years and decades.
#2) Isolation, Characterization and Study of Trace Components in Cannabis
Terpene chemistry and biochemistry are already growing subjects of scientific exploration. From studying the chemicals themselves, to developing new methods for isolating them from the whole plant, to studying the way these trace components interact with human and animal biology this is a fascinating and expanding area of study.
Interest in every component of cannabis will continue to expand as researchers race to discover, isolate, and better understand the biologically active and therapeutically relevant compounds in the plant.
#3) CO2 Extraction and Concentrate Preparation
Concentrates are another hot topic in medical and adult-use cannabis. Some are predicting that concentrates will account for more than half of the cannabis market in the coming years. Intense consumer interest in concentrates will create more demand for stronger, better cannabis concentrates and better ways to make them.
Companies are pushing the envelope with CO2 extraction technology to minimize extraction times, generate higher yields and produce the purest concentrates. Eden Labs has developed systems that allow operators to fine-tune extraction solvents for increased speed and even specific plant components.
As the market for concentrates heats up, the methods and technology for producing them will continue to evolve.
#4) Grow Technology and Horticulture
Legalization of cannabis throughout the US and around the world is driving a revolution in cannabis horticulture. The drive to reduce growing costs, increase yields and improve the quality of commercial cannabis is creating a major tech boom as growers fight for every competitive advantage they can find. Increasing competition and potential for big return on investments in better grow technology create a perfect environment for rapid technological advancement.
Swedish company Heliospectra is an innovator in LED grow light technology and has developed systems that allow growers to create customized lighting spectrums that can shorten flowering cycles and even alter the balance of medicinal compounds in the plant. At the same time, the LED technology can reduce energy consumption by up to 50%.
On the IT side of things, companies like MJ Freeway develop software that can monitor, track and control virtually every part of a cannabis business from seed to final sale and everything in between. Advanced informatics like these will really drive cannabis cultivation forward as growers have access to more and more parameters and conditions that can be fine-tuned within a grow operation.
Sophisticated lighting, automated growing processes and detailed data collection are some of the tools growers will continue to use and refine as companies work to grow better product more efficiently.
#5) Plant Contaminant Testing and Trace Contaminant Analysis Methods
Particularly for medical users, clean, contaminant-free cannabis is extremely important. Most states have guidelines and policies that mandate independent testing of medical cannabis products supplied to dispensaries. Because cannabis is regulated at the state level, every state has different rules, regulations and policies.
Recently, scientists at UC Davis identified potentially lethal mold and bacterial contamination on cannabis samples from a total of 20 different growers and dispensaries. Though not always a major concern for healthy users, medical users with compromised immune systems are at risk of developing serious lung infections when smoking or vaping contaminated cannabis.
As medical and adult use continues to expand across the US, laboratory testing of cannabis and cannabis-based medicines will become more important, regulated and standardized. As consumers become more educated, many will demand more detailed information about the strains and products theyre consuming. This is a massive growth opportunity for independent testing labs.
In 2016, the Cannabis Science Conference pulled together cannabis industry experts, instrument manufacturers, testing labs, research scientists, medical practitioners and policy makers. The conference featured five presentations on the topic of cannabis contamination screening alone.
#6) Psychology and How We View and Treat Mental Illnesses like Depression, Anxiety and, Particularly, PTSD
The US has been at war for the majority of the 21st century. This means there is no shortage of active service people or veterans who can potentially develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). And its not just military, emergency responders are another PTSD-weary group.
Incidence of PTSD has risen over recent years and, sadly, scientists predict that it will continue to do so. This, as well as the fact that public and scientific awareness of PTSD and related issues like depression and anxiety has never been higher, means that there will be more treated cases of these illnesses than ever before.
Couple all this with the high-profile topic of cannabis legalization and the fact that cannabis can be used to help treat depression, anxiety and PTSD and you have a perfect storm for both the study of these mental illnesses and their treatment. With this increased study and treatment well see a massive rise in books and research published on these topics.
Bryan Krumm is one of the countrys leading experts on alternative treatments for psychiatric disorders. And after so much first-hand experience at the clinical level, Krumm is also a strong advocate for cannabis treatment of PTSD.
Pioneers like Bryan Krumm will continue to advance the science of psychology and how we treat depression, anxiety and PTSD in the coming years.
#7) The Brain, Neuroscience, the Hippocampus and the Human Stress Response System
With the above-mentioned increases in incidence of PTSD and other mental illnesses, as well as increased interest in studying cannabis as a treatment for them, our understanding of the brain, mental illness, the hippocampus and the human stress response system is set for massive growth.
Because cannabis is increasingly becoming known as an effective treatment for many psychiatric illnesses, academics and clinicians will continue to be drawn to this rapidly expanding field of research.
Ironically, even the researchers who are publishing negative findings about cannabis and the brain will help advance cannabis science. When scientists publish research, other scientists repeat the research in an attempt to replicate the results. If other researchers dont get similar results, they publish the results they did get and then more research is conducted to confirm or refute those findings.
One way or another, a lot of research on cannabis and the brain is going to happen in the coming years.
All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.
– Arthur Schopenhauer
These are the seven scientific fields that we here at Green Flower think will grow and expand in the next few years as a result of legalization. Did we miss one? Let us know in the comments!