The Technion Institute of Technology released a study showing the cannabis plant’s extreme variability. detecting 94 recognised cannabinoids, and 27 currently unknown cannabinoids whilst digging into their numerous combinations.
The standard analytical lab inside the cannabis industry can detect around 8 – 12 cannabinoids. From this info, only two cannabinoids are typically reported, THC and CBD. Out of over 500 compounds present in cannabis, of which 144 are cannabinoids, only two are generally reported to make an informed cannabis decision. The reality is that this isn’t the whole picture, this isn’t even half of it. Whether an analysis is used to navigate a patient towards the most efficacious medicine or a recreational user to an ideal strain, CBD and THC values don’t define a strain, so why are we still using them on every label like they do?
At the end of 2018, The Technion Institute of Technology, in Haifa, Israel, released a study published in Nature giving us a look at the cannabis plant’s extreme variability and the shortcomings of the current industry standard for detection. Of the 144 cannabinoids currently known, The Technion was able to detect 94 of them using a more sophisticated method. Most remarkable, they were able to detect 27 cannabinoids yet to be named or structurally defined!
Using this 94 cannabinoid detection method they analyzed 36 commonly used strains in the Israeli medical marijuana program and found that not a single two strains had the same cannabinoid profile. In fact, most of the samples differed by more than 71%. This was just in the cannabinoids alone.
Not every strain is created equal and this was shown with 5 high CBD strains by testing them on their ability to manage epilepsy symptoms. Each CBD extract had the exact same amount of CBD but none of them were able to score identically. The best performing CBD strain had higher levels of CBDV than the others, and they all differed slightly in other cannabinoid counts, but one worked very well, one not as significant, and the other three fell somewhere in between. So why are we treating every product like it’s identical?
The study found that clones from the same plant aren’t safe from this variability either.
Four clones taken from the same mother plant were followed for their cannabinoid content after being submitted to four different greenhouse environments. While the THC and CBD values were somewhat consistent, there was huge variability between the minor and unnamed cannabinoids. Recently it was shown that different lighting setups affect your plant’s outcome and we know that the environment plays a huge role, so how much do your plant’s starting genetics actually come into play and why doesn’t the industry standard look for these tiny differences?
Currently, the industry standard is based off a detection system using an HPLC. While fast and efficient, this method is currently only used to detect around 12-14 cannabinoids. The Technion improved upon this system through the use of an LC-MS which allows for a higher visibility.
The bottom line, THC and CBD read outs are not cutting it. The medicinal or recreational effects of a strain cannot be assumed by just these two values and the consistency of a strain cannot be guaranteed simply because of the mother’s genetics.