Cannabis 420 Update: Blending Biology, Buds, and Beer

While the cannabis industry continues to be challenged with regulatory roadblocks, lack of testing standardization, and consolidation issues, interesting developments abound with research and product development at the forefront.

Research to support the ‘Entourage Effect’

New research supports the bioactivity of cannabinoids acting in synergy, fueling evidence in favor of the entourage effect. It has long been implied that cannabis compounds can function in harmony creating biological effects greater than the sum of the individual components. This “entourage effect” has been described in many biological scenarios, although research supporting this effect has been limited and scattered throughout the literature until this point.

A recent review of the published literature brings together a wealth of interesting findings primarily related to the medicinal and therapeutic properties of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. While impressive individually, these compound families show overlap in bioactivities, including a concerted effect on CB1 and CB2 receptors of the endocannabinoid system in the body.

Recent studies show that CB1 receptors, primary found in tissues of the central nervous system, demonstrate upregulated expression in immune cells during inflammation. CB2 receptors, on the other hand, show more typical expression levels in immune cells including B cells, NK cells, and multiple T cell lineages. Research has shown that CB2 receptor activation increases anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10 levels while decreasing pro-inflammatory cytokines IL-12 and IL-23.

During inflammation, these CB1 and CB2 receptors are co-expressed in immune cells. Upon modulation by certain cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids, this increased co-expression can lead to a synergistic effect on the activity of key cells and molecules underlying inflammation. Since CB1 receptors are commonly found in the central nervous system, this synergistic effect may be more pronounced in neurological tissue. Indeed, evidence suggests CBD decreases the expression of inflammatory markers in brain slices, while THC, THCA, and CBN induce anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects.

The review goes on to examine additional published research related to the entourage effect, finding interesting associations between synergistic activity and a host of additional medical conditions.

The thirst for cannabis-infused beverages grows

Since the spawning of cannabis-infused beverages, many folks have foretold that cannabis will eventually replace alcohol in consumer preference. Evidence across the board shows as beverage choices and quality increase, so it’s their reception. The preference over alcoholic beverages, however, may depend on location and according to beer strongholds.

Canadian cannabis company Tilray recently acquired several brands from Molson Coors Canada. Along with other recent acquisitions of eight Anheuser-Busch brands, this places Tilray at the forefront of adult-use beverage sector and solidifies the company as the number one cannabis company in Canada in terms of market share. The company has already developed several cannabinoid and terpene infused beer strains and will undoubtedly explore more as the regulatory landscape for these products changes.

It can’t come soon enough, as momentum grows for the preference of cannabis over beer in general. A recent Canadian study shows a correlation between cannabis legalization and declining beer sales. Such a change may be indicative of a substitution effect. The study did find several caveats in the data indicating the flip was less than absolute. Nonetheless, the study may support a trend particularly among younger legal demographics that show a preference for cannabis over beer based on lifestyle considerations. This trend has spilled over to the US in certain markets including Florida and California as well. Interestingly, states where beer still reigns supreme show a lagging trend in the legalization and use of cannabis along with an steady increase in beer sales.

Beer is the third most popular drink in the world, behind water and tea, and it won’t be going anywhere soon. Cannabis-infused beer, on the other, will likely multiply and diversify as consumer thirst for the combination continues to grow.

A crazy story to round things out

There are many hard to believe stories out there and the cannabis industry never falls short of interesting in this respect. Case in point, a dispensary was recently fined $26,000 USD for selling cannabis that had been ditched in a dumpster for two days. After identifying the lost product, the material was repackaged and sold. Although no adverse effects were reported from buyers, it’s safe to say this fails to meet the objectives of ‘recycling’ and the use of ‘green’ practices.

Cheers to a happy 4/20