What Is CBDV (Cannabidivarin) & What Does This Cannabinoid Do?

CBDV, or cannabidivarin, is one of many molecules derived from cannabis and hemp plants. These molecules, commonly referred to as cannabinoids, are partially responsible for the many effects and therapeutic benefits cannabis has to offer.

CBDV is structurally similar to CBD (cannabidiol). Like CBD, CBDV is not intoxicating when isolated, so it won’t cause the euphoric high associated with high-THC cannabis.

Research has so far demonstrated that CBDV is found mainly in C. indica landrace strains sourced from Asia and Africa, as well as strains naturally lower in THC. Strains that are high in CBD also typically tend to be higher in CBDV.

Much of the research around CBDV has centered around its effect on seizures. GW Pharmaceuticals, which developed the first FDA-approved CBD drug called Epidiolex, is actively developing a CBDV-based drug known as GPW42006 to reduce or prevent epileptic and other forms of seizures.

Their research has shown that CBDV affects the neurochemical pathway of the capsaicin receptors involved in both the onset as well as the progression of several types of epilepsy. GW reports that CBDV has shown anti-epileptic results “across a range of in vitro and in vivo models of epilepsy.”

CBDV is also showing promise in several other areas of medicine:

  • According to a 2018 rodent study, CBDV has shown promise in helping the neurobehavioral issues associated with Rett syndrome. Rett syndrome is caused by an X chromosome mutation that affects girls with seizures, speech issues, and muscle spasticity. Interestingly, CBDV seems to help with both the genetically determined and chemically-induced forms of this and similar diseases.
  • In an animal study published in 2019 in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, CBDV was found to rescue memory defects in mice that have the same genetic defect as people with Rett syndrome. CBDV also helped with neurological defects, but the effects were transient.
  • In a similar 2019 study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology, CBDV was found to possibly benefit patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). This disease is characterized by chronic inflammation and irreversible skeletal muscle damage and degeneration. CBDV may reduce inflammation and restore and even enhance muscle function. CBDV also improved locomotion, highlighting the compound’s potential as a novel therapy for DMD.
  • Childhood intractable epilepsy and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often go hand in hand. CBDV is being investigated as a potential treatment of some of the more significant ASD issues, such as repetitive behavioral problems, cognitive challenges, and communication and social functioning issues.
  • CBDV may also be a powerful anti-nausea agent. Initial research on rodents shows that CBDV likely acts as an agonist to the CB1 receptors, thereby blocking the nausea response.

Although CBDV was discovered 50 years ago, research is just commencing in an appreciable way. With GW Pharmaceuticals and their CBDV clinical trials underway, this is a hopeful beginning in unlocking the secrets of another potentially powerful cannabinoid.

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Study: Colorado Teens Reduce Cannabis Smoking, Increase Edibles

DENVER (AP) — Some teenagers in Colorado, where cannabis is legal for adults, are shifting away from smoking in favor of edible cannabis products, a medical study released Monday shows.

About 78% of the Colorado high school students who reported consuming marijuana in 2017 said they usually smoked it, down from 87% two years earlier. The number of teens who usually consumed edibles climbed to about 10% from 2% in the same period, while the number of users dabbing increased to about 7.5% from 4%.

“We haven’t seen an increase in use among youth but we are seeing a difference in how young people are consuming.”

Kayla Tormohlen, PhD candidate, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Research about the way young people consume marijuana products is still limited, and the study’s lead author said Colorado’s survey data could provide valuable insight for public health researchers and regulators.

“Since the implementation of retail marijuana sales, we haven’t seen an increase in use among youth but we are seeing a difference in how young people are consuming,” said Kayla Tormohlen, a PhD candidate at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Understanding that can help to inform public health efforts.”

The study published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics is based on high schoolers’ responses to Colorado’s biennial health survey in 2015 and 2017.

At least three other states that permit adult marijuana use — Alaska, Oregon and Washington — also include questions about how teens consume marijuana on state health surveys.

In Colorado and other states, edibles are tightly regulated including limits on the amount of THC, the compound in marijuana that creates users’ high feeling. In each marked dose, dispensary employees warn that customers should wait several hours to feel the effects of one portion before eating more. Information about the health effects of dabbing — heating or vaporizing an oil or wax with a high THC level and inhaling the vapors — is limited.

“These modes are important to monitor because of their unique psychoactive associations, and potential harms, including unintentional overconsumption with edibles and an increased physiological tolerance and withdrawal associated with the high tetrahydrocannabinol levels of cannabis concentrates used for dabbing,” the researchers wrote.

State and federal surveys have found teen use of marijuana remained relatively stable since Colorado began allowing adults to buy and use marijuana in 2014. In 2017, 1 in 5 Colorado students said they had recently consumed marijuana in any form — about the national average, said Jessica Neuwirth, the Colorado Department of Public Health’s retail marijuana education and youth prevention coordinator.

She said state public health researchers are always reevaluating the survey’s questions and teens’ responses, with input from other states’ agencies doing the same work.

“We are in certain ways leading the country in trying to figure out what are the right questions to ask and how do you ask those questions,” Neuwirth said.

Sales data has consistently showed adults consumers’ are trending toward non-smoking products, said David Abernathy, vice president of data and government affairs for The ArcView Group.

The company’s latest analysis of marijuana product sales shows traditional flower for smoking still makes up the majority of legal sales but vape cartridges and edible products continue to gain in popularity. Abernathy said he’s not surprised by the study’s results showing the illegal market for marijuana following that trend.

“We’ve seen that in states with a more competitive legal market, the illicit market has shrunk substantially,” he said. “And that’s the biggest thing we can do to keep cannabis out of the hands of teenagers.”

In Colorado, customers must be 21 to enter dispensaries and make purchases. Only 3% of teens who reported using marijuana in 2017 said they bought products from a dispensary.

Nearly 40% reported buying it from someone else. Others said they received marijuana from friends younger and older than 21 or from parents or adult family members.

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CBD Science Update

The 29th annual International Cannabinoid Research Society (ICRS) symposium, which convened last month in Bethesda, Maryland, featured new developments in CBD science that have far-reaching implications for many areas of medicine.

Over 200 scientists from around the world attended the four-day conference, which included 65 oral presentations and nearly 200 posters covering a wide range of topics – with the caveat that researchers had to present new, unpiblished data.

Harvard University scientist Staci Gruber shared encouraging results from “the first open-label to double-blind clinical trial” assessing the impact of a high-CBD, low-THC sublingual tincture in patients who experience moderate anxiety. None of the participants had been using any cannabinoid-based products prior to this study.

Preliminary data “suggests significant improvement following four weeks of treatment when compared to baseline,” Gruber noted. “Specifically, findings suggest that the use of a custom-formulated, whole plant-derived high CBD sublingual tincture results in less severe anxiety and fewer anxiety-related symptoms.”

After the completion of this open-label trial, Gruber intends to undertake a double-blind, placebo-controlled experiment that will generate “empirically sound data regarding the efficacy of sublingual CBD for anxiety.”

CBD for hypertension

Human subjects were also recruited for a CBD study at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom, where Saoirse E. O’Sullivan and her team examined the acute and chronic effects of cannabidiol on cardiovascular function.

Previously, the Nottingham scientists had shown that “acute oral administration of CBD (600 mg) causes a reduction in blood pressure at rest and in response to stress.” But would tolerance develop with repeated dosing, thereby mitigating CBD’s hypotensive effect?

To find out, twenty-six healthy males were given 600 mg CBD or a placebo orally for seven days in a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, parallel study. The results were mixed. Measurements of resting blood pressure revealed that tolerance developed in response to chronic CBD administration, but CBD’s ability to lower blood pressure persisted during stress.

“The reduction of arterial stiffness, and improvements in internal carotid artery blood flow and endothelial function after chronic CBD treatment, indicate a positive effect in vascular function that warrants further investigation in relevant patient populations,” O’Sullivan reported.

Preclinical promise

ICRS 2019 included several talks devoted to clinical studies, but most of the CBD presentations showcased cutting-edge data based on preclinical research. The astonishing depth and range of this research underscored CBD’s versatile therapeutic potential.

  • CBD for stroke. A meta-analysis by scientists at the University of Nottingham surveyed the effects of CBD in animal models of focal ischemic stroke. The study found that CBD limited the damage caused by induced brain injury: “CBD significantly reduces infarct volume and improved early functional outcome in experimental stroke in rodents.” University of Nottingham researchers also conducted hands-on, preclinical research that examined the anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects of cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), the raw, unheated version of CBD found in the cannabis plant. “Like CBD,” the researchers concluded, “CBDA is effective in reducing blood brain permeability and inflammation in a cellular model of stroke.” A compromised blood-brain barrier is a key factor in the secondary injury cascade that wreaks havoc on the brain during ischemia-reperfusion. CBD and CBDA restore BBB integrity by activating the 5-HT1a serotonin receptor, which also mediates CBD’s and CBDA’s anti-inflammatory effects. In Spain, neonatal animal experiments have paved the way for clinical testing of CBD on brain-damaged babies.
  • CBD for substance abuse. There are no FDA-approved medications to treat cocaine addiction. So, researchers at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) set out to assess the CBD’s as an anti-cocaine remedy. The NIDA team gave CBD to cocaine-addicted rats and observed that systemic CBD treatment “shifted cocaine self-administration dose-response curve downward,” meaning that CBD tempered the rats’ craving for cocaine. “These findings suggest that CBD may have therapeutic utility to blunt rewarding effects of cocaine,” the NIDA researchers surmised. They also identified several molecular pathways whereby CBD conferred an anti-addictive effect on lab animals. These included the 5-HT1a serotonin receptor, the CB2 cannabinoid receptor, and an ion channel receptor known as “TRPV1” (pronounced trip-vee-one). When chemical “antagonists” were administered to block the signaling of these receptors, it negated CBD’s anti-addictive effects.
  • CBD for prostate cancer. Italian scientists conducted follow-up research into the combined effect of two plant cannabinoids – CBD and cannabigerol (CBG) – on aggressive prostate cancer. A previous study had shown that 1:1 combination of CBD:CBG “significantly reduced tumor relapse in animals with hormone refractory status, and, in vitro, inhibited cell proliferation and induced apoptosis.” Their latest findings, as reported at ICRS, disclosed “how purified plant cannabinoids (CBD and CBG) affect the metabolic system of malignant tumors,” leading to “notable shifts of specific oncogenic related signaling pathways” in prostate cancer cells. This proves “the efficacy of phytocanabinoids as metabolic reprogramming agents,” which could form the basis of a breakthrough therapy for “highly malignant hormone refractory prostate cancer,” according to the Italian researchers. Scientists at Auburn University reached a similar conclusion regarding the antitumoral properties of CBD and THC, which inhibited prostate cell proliferation in a dose-dependent manner. This is encouraging news for the one out of nine men who will develop prostate cancer, the second leading cause of cancer death among American males. The preclinical experiment at Auburn suggests “that cannabinoids could be developed as novel therapeutic agents for the treatment of prostate cancer.”
  • CBD for arthritis and gum disease. A team of Israeli, British, and American scientists analyzed the anti-inflammatory and painkilling effects of synthetic CBD in an animal model of arthritis. “CBD was shown to exert a potent analgesic effect” in preclinical research, which shed new light on CBD’s “anti-inflammatory mechanisms of action.” Another preclinical probe, conducted at the University of Leeds School of Dentistry in the UK, documented the potent anti-inflammatory effects of CBD on gum disease. The ability of CBD to modulate immune function “could provide possible therapeutic applications in the field of periodontal research,” the Leeds study concluded.

CBD oil products

There’s good reason to be excited about CBD’s potential health benefits, but a word of caution is necessary. Administering pure CBD to animals in a controlled laboratory setting is not the same as human consumption of a CBD oil product purchased from an unregulated internet storefront.

The Prague-based International Cannabis and Cannabinoids Institute (ICCI) analyzed the quality of 70 hemp-derived CBD oil samples available in the European Union, and the results reported at the ICRS symposium were sobering, to say the least. Twenty percent of the samples contained less CBD than indicated on the label. THC was present in 89 percent of the samples, but in most cases no amount of THC was provided. And traces of highly toxic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons were found in all the oils tested, underscoring the strong need for better extraction and processing practices by CBD product-makers.

Similar problems plague the CBD market in the United States. Inaccurate or incomplete CBD product labels undermine a consumer’s ability to make well-informed decisions. According to researchers at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia and Washington University in St. Louis: “Recent studies have demonstrated that hemp-derived CBD products purchased over the internet are frequently mislabeled, contaminated, or are outright fraudulent (contain no cannabinoids whatsoever). Therefore, patients are more likely to receive medical benefit from products that are routed through state-licensed cannabis markets, where lab testing for CBD content is required.”

Licensed cannabis dispensaries and delivery services also need to up their game and improve their product offerings. “Despite the obvious medical benefits, the availability of CBD-containing products in state-licensed retail stores is highly variable and surprisingly sparse. In one Pennsylvania store only 20 of products (39 or 196) contained CBD,” the U.S. researchers noted. “Results highlight the need for expanded patient access to CBD products.”

Martin A. Lee is the director of Project CBD and the author of several books including Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana – Medical, Recreational and Scientific and Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD – the CIA, the Sixties and Beyond.

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Is Vertical Growing the Future of Cannabis?

Indoor cannabis grows are expensive operations. Given the real estate costs, massive energy bills, and significant staffing requirements, it’s crucial to find a way to increase profits. Maximizing your grow space is one way to do this and that could mean vertical growing–the practice of producing plants in vertically stacked layers or vertically inclined surfaces.

In the food sector, vertical growing companies like Plenty, Aerofarms, Gotham Greens, and many more, are revolutionizing agriculture. But in the cannabis industry, which practically invented sunless growing, there has been notably less activity.

This is partly because high-pressure sodium lights (HPS), one of the most common lights used to grow cannabis for decades, run so hot that plants have to be many feet away to stay unharmed.

But LEDs run at much lower temperatures, so you can install them inches from the plant canopy. Their decreasing price and increasing ability to equal or exceed HPS yields are making LEDs the standard, finally opening the door to vertical growing for cannabis.

“The main catalyst behind cannabis cultivation going vertical is the improved performance of LED lighting,” says Thomas Rogers, LED engineer of Exact Lux. “Cannabis growers are approaching us wanting the most powerful multi-tier or ‘vertical farm’ lighting systems possible.”

Two Types of Vertical Farming

Stacked vertical (left) and true vertical (right) cannabis grows with LEDs. (Sean Walling/Leafly)

Stacked Vertical

The most common method of vertical farming is a stacked vertical setup–levels of plant racks with LED lights above each rack. Plants are topped and defoliated to keep them short and bud-heavy.

Growers even stack in the flower stage, despite plants being large and top-heavy.

True Vertical

With true vertical growing, plants grow out the side of a column, and water and nutrients drip down from the top–see these examples from ZipGrow and Tower Garden.

Within the column, a hybrid method combines nutrient film technique (NFT), where nutrient water is passed directly over the roots, and aeroponics, a soilless grow method where roots hang in the air.

Pros and Cons of Vertical Growing

So why don’t all cannabis operations grow vertically, especially in this competitive new industry? Here we’ll look at some of the benefits and drawbacks.

Environmental Conditions Get Complex

Maintaining optimum temperature, humidity, and air circulation is tough for all cannabis grows. But in vertical growing there is even more variability in macro and micro environmental conditions because there are more plants, making control more difficult.

Because of this atmospheric variability, Hugh Gaasch, engineer at STEM Cultivation, recommends sensors to detect data points like moisture changes. “Shockingly, the majority of commercial growers I’ve seen to date use a single temperature/humidity sensor to monitor a room, even large spaces, over 20,000 feet.”

In contrast, STEM Cultivation uses one temperature sensor per 100 cubic feet. STEM collects data on: temperature, humidity, air pressure, CO2 levels, lighting levels, lighting power (kW) and energy (kWh), system air circulation rates, localized air circulation, VOC (volatile organic compounds), and HVAC power and energy, to name a few.

Mike Zartarian, from Zartarian Engineering, builds circulation systems for vegetable and cannabis growers. To decrease chances of mold and fungi, he says: “I recommend systems that push air right in between the racks above the plants, usually with small ducts that take air from the edges of the room to the center of the racks.”

Expensive to Set Up and Maintain

Although vertical growing of any kind will increase yield by maximizing space, when you add up the increased energy usage from more artificial lighting, an upgraded climate control system, the extra infrastructure required (ladders, racks, sensors, and more), and paying high-skilled agro-technicians, it is very costly for many.

Zartarian says: “It’s by no means impossible, but the jury is very much out on whether it’s cost effective long-term. If veggie growers prove it to be a dominant technique, I would expect to see more experimentation on the cannabis side.”

As it is, licensed operators he works with are struggling to meet demand and prefer to stick to more traditional techniques they know will produce.

Dangerous Conditions

Vertically grown cannabis needs a lot of hands-on attention during the flowering cycle as compared to, say, vertical lettuce crops which are more set-and-forget. The height of a plant must be closely controlled, which requires grow technicians to get up on step stools or scaffolding to reach into the plant canopy. These high-tier tasks may not be OSHA-compliant.

Certain Cultivars Work Better Than Others

The most successful cultivars for vertical growing are short, have big buds, and fewer leaves, so less defoliation is necessary. But if you’re a confident defoliator, the diversity of cultivars you can grow will broaden.

Arthur Brownsey, cannabis cultivation consultant at Four Trees, thinks most strains can grow vertically. “If you have a tight production schedule, group like-cultivars together, and plan accordingly, there are no restrictions to what you can grow.”

Agro-engineer Aja Atwood of Trella sees value in vertical growing, but the limited cultivars it serves made her determined to find another option. “There is a wide variety of strains out there that prefer longer vegetation periods and have a taller growth structure. In order to diversify, you need to train or trellis those taller varieties to stay within the space.”

To allow for vertical growing with a diversity of strains, she and her partner Andres Chamorro invented a grow unit, TrellaGro LST, that trains plants to grow horizontally. Each unit is vertically stackable and equipped with LED lights that follow it as it grows sideways, allowing for taller strains and less energy use.

Stay Tuned

In these early days, vertical growing has yet to revolutionize the industry, and some operations, focused on supplying a high-demand market, are sticking with traditional growing methods.

However, most operations already know the price of cannabis will likely drop as competition grows. In that climate, the future of cannabis could move up, not out.

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