– An Introduction to the Psychoactive and Medicinal Properties of Cannabis –
What are Cannabinoids in Cannabis?
Cannabinoids are a group of chemical compounds that are found within the cannabis plant. The most well-known cannabinoid is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis. However, there are many other cannabinoids that have been identified, including cannabidiol (CBD), which has gained popularity for its potential therapeutic benefits. It is estimated that over 500 chemical compounds have been discovered in cannabis to this day. More than 100 of these known compounds consist of various forms of cannabinoids.
Research has shown that the body has its own endocannabinoid system (ECS), which plays a role in regulating various physiological processes such as pain, mood, appetite, and sleep. THC interacts with different parts of the brain, which can lead to feelings of euphoria, stress relief, or increased appetite. CBD does not produce psychoactive effects and may have anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving, or anti-anxiety properties.
While there is still much to learn about the potential benefits and risks of cannabinoids, some studies suggest they may be useful in treating conditions such as chronic pain, epilepsy, anxiety, or insomnia. However, more research is needed to fully understand their effects and potential uses.
How are Cannabinoids different than terpenes?
Cannabinoids and terpenes are distinct chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant that contain different properties and potential therapeutic benefits. They both interact with the endocannabinoid system; however, the mechanisms of their interactions are still being studied. Some studies suggest that terpenes can alter the activity of cannabinoids, either through direct influence on cannabinoid receptors or via other mechanisms.
Terpenes primarily contribute to the odors and fragrances of the plant and have been found to have potential therapeutic benefits, such as anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. Cannabinoids, on the other hand, contribute directly to the overall intensity of a consumer’s experience by interacting with cannabinoid receptors. Cannabinoids help influence the uptake and output of hormones and other chemicals in the brain as well as how our body responds to stress and pain.
Why is it important to test for Cannabis Cannabinoids in New Mexico?
As of May 2023, the state of New Mexico requires potency testing for only four of the known cannabinoids: THC, THCA, CBD, and CBDA. These four cannabinoids are generally prevalent in the highest percentages in the Cannabis plant. Tetrahydrocannabinol Acid (THCA) and Cannabidiol Acid (CBDA) are the precursor forms of THC and CBD. When these acidic cannabinoids go through a process of applied heat, called decarboxylation, THCA and CBDA are converted to their more active forms: THC and CBD.
THC is the cannabinoid responsible for cannabis’ psychoactive effects. The THC molecule binds to the cannabinoid receptors in the brain and causes the euphoric high associated with its use. Unlike THC, CBD is not intoxicating or psychoactive. Proponents of CBD oil and other CBD products speak of its medicinal value treating conditions such as chronic pain, inflammation, epilepsy, autoimmune diseases, depression, and anxiety.
The potency of a product often refers to the overall content of cannabinoids that may contribute to psychoactive and medicinal effects. Testing for a wider range of cannabinoids allows for consumers and manufacturers to obtain an a more complete understanding of the components a cannabis plant provides. According to 16.8.7 New Mexico Administrative Code (NMAC) – Quality Control, Inspection, and Testing of Cannabis Products:
“Potency testing: Potency testing requires determining the quantity of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), cannabidiol (CBD), cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) per gram of sample and the calculation of THC potency and CBD potency, according to Table 4, Potency Testing Requirements, below.” (16.8.7 NMAC)
More cannabinoid testing is available than simply THCA, THC, CBDA, and CBD. Because of the variety and abundance of cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, it is beneficial for producers, manufacturers and consumers to know the contents of their cannabis products. By testing for different components, such as cannabigerol (CBG), cannabichromene (CBC), and cannabinol (CBN), producers, manufacturers, and ultimately consumers have detailed information to achieve a satisfying experience.
Written by Dana Neverdousky, MT(ASCP) & Veronica Martinez: May 2023