Researchers have developed a way to determine the viability of pollen germination in marijuana plants, as well as a simple method of storing cannabis pollen for long periods of time, according to a new study.
For marijuana cultivators, the results could prove useful, helping them avoid potentially costly mistakes in the process and ensuring consistency and quality in their crops across growing cycles.
Ensuring long-term storage of pollen is important for cultivators because of the central role it plays in generating seeds. Taking pollen from a male plant and rubbing it on the hairs of a female plant—typically about halfway through the flowering cycle—will enable the female plant to produce buds that contains seeds, which along with cloning is one way to propagate and maintain strains.
The study, which was partly funded by the Canadian government, has “several implications,” co-author Igor Kovalchuk told Marijuana Moment.
First, the team created an “assay to test viability of such pollen before the use for pollination.”
They accomplished that by modifying an existing method of assessing germination viability, using a liquid media instead of a solid medium, which “resulted in better image acquisition and quantification of germination,” according to the study.
Perhaps even more consequential for growers, however, is the development of a long-term storage system for cannabis pollen.
“We have provided an easy protocol for cryopreservation using desiccation combined with baked wheat flour and subsequent long-term storage of cannabis pollen in liquid nitrogen.”
“This one is big,” Kovalchuk said. “Our protocol allows nearly indefinite storage,” which is “valuable for maintaining large collection of genetics.”
To preserve the pollen, the researchers removed any moisture, added the result to baked whole wheat flour and preserving agents and then froze it in liquid nitrogen. When they removed the mixture from the liquid nitrogen and applied it to flowering female plants, it resulted in successful seed formation in all of the subjects.
The team also discovered that pollen can be more or less viable at different stages of the flowering period. The optimal time to extract pollen seems to be during the mid-flowering stage. At that point, it retained “viability the longest with 22 percent of pollen grains successfully germinating after 21 days” of storage in a low-temperature environment.
“In conclusion, we have standardized a simple assay for quickly assessing pollen germination in Cannabis sativa,” the study states. “By using our [modified assay], we have demonstrated the loss of pollen viability over time when stored at 4 degrees Celsius, and suggested an optimal time during flower development for pollen collection to maximize longevity during storage.”
“Finally, we have provided an easy protocol for cryopreservation using desiccation combined with baked wheat flour and subsequent long-term storage of cannabis pollen in liquid nitrogen,” it concludes.
A new study could put a strain, so to speak, on the love affair between cannabis consumers and their favorite flower.
Researchers in Nevada collected 2,662 samples of cannabis flower and employed a third-party testing laboratory to measure the chemical profile. They found only three chemical varieties of cannabis were sold in the Nevada dispensaries between January 2016 and June 2017, despite roughly 397 strain names appearing on product packaging.
The study, co-authored by Las Vegas-based GB Sciences and Digipath Labs, along with Chaminade University and Makai Biotechnology, both in Honolulu, was published in the Mary Ann Leibert Inc. journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research in February 2019.
The study’s authors claim that the findings reveal an “extremely low chemical diversity” within the cannabis varieties sold in Nevada during the state’s medical-only phase.
More than 93% of the samples tested were from a single chemical variety, high in THC, but without significant amounts of other cannabinoids, according to the study.
“The three chemovars and twelve genotypes reflect low medical diversity on the market in Nevada during its ‘medical use only’ phase,” the study found. “Furthermore, the 396 breeder-reported sample names within this set imply a false sense of diversity of products in Nevada dispensaries.”
What’s That Strain?
Some strains are proprietary and their genetics have been protected by those involved in the plant’s creation. OG Kush, for example, is one of Southern California’s most popular strains, but the effects from one dispensary’s stock to the next can be much different. This is primarily due to the fact that thegrowing conditions and methods can vary from grower to grower, which in turn alters the resulting composition of cannabinoids and terpenes.
“The big-picture takeaway is that states should not be relying on breeder-reported strain names to regulate and label cannabis products, because there is no standard convention that ties the name to the active ingredients in the products,” said Andrea Small-Howard, co-author of the study and chief science officer of GB Sciences, a publicly traded biotechnology company based in Las Vegas.
She explained that patients receive benefits from cannabis because of the cannabinoids and terpenoids. Described as the entourage effect, these compounds work together to produce a greater effect than they would working separate from one another.
“These chemicals have specific effects on our bodies that patients rely on for relief or specific treatments,” Small-Howard said. “The strain names do not provide any information on the active ingredients, and can be very, very misleading for patients.”
The study looked at roughly 397 breeder-reported strain names out of 2,662 samples, but at the chemical level (cannabinoids and terpenes), there were only three kinds. At the genetic (DNA) level there were only 12 genetic lines.
Abundant THC, but Little Else
Small-Howard said that the research team expected to find a lot more diversity in the patterns of active ingredients, such as cannabinoids and terpenes, because of the different breeder-reported names on the numerous samples tested.
“The fact that blew our minds was that 93 percent of the samples were in the same chemical cluster and had the same profile of active ingredients,” she said. “This single chemical variety that represented 93 percent of the samples was very high in THC and had very little else in it, like minor cannabinoids and terpenes that play a big role in the medical benefits of cannabis.”
The study showed the strain name Blue Dream was attributed to at least one sample from all 12 genetic lines. There are some critical implications to this false advertising of strains, especially for the medical market. For instance, if a patient in Nevada finds a particular Blue Dream strain that worked for them, then that patient has a 1-in-12 chance of getting the same plant variety the next time they go back to buy that same strain.
While the term “strain fraud” is used to refer to the practices of breeders naming many cannabis varieties with the same name irrespective of the plant’s chemical makeup, that’s hard to prove because there is no tests or data required to ascribe a name to a plant variety.
In other words, breeders can call a cannabis variety whatever they want to call it.
Small-Howard explained that plants do not have strains based on the scientific definition of what a strain is — it only applies to simple organisms like viruses, bacteria, or molds. Therefore, there is no way to define cannabis strains using legitimate scientific tools.
“States should not regulate based on strain names,” she said. “Cannabis should be labeled based on the active ingredients that it contains in a consumer-friendly way.”
What Should Patients Take Away?
One expert, who was not involved in this particular study, wasn’t too surprised by the findings, since it’s a goal of many breeders and growers to produce plants that are high in THC.
“It makes sense that the study found strains with high THC and low everything else — that is how plants work. The plant has limited energy to synthesize molecules, so when breeders and or growers push the plants to be THC factories, it comes at the expense of other cannabinoids, terpenes and other small molecules,” said Itzhak Kurek, Ph.D., CEO and co-founder of Cannformatics, a Northern California biotech company researching improvements to medical cannabis.
What should medical cannabis patients take away from these findings?
“For patients using a whole-plant approach for medicinal use, chemical diversity is more important than high levels of THC,” Kurek said. “Strains with a diversity of cannabinoids and terpenes will naturally have lower levels of THC.”
He believes more research is needed to understand which combinations of cannabinoids and terpenes are beneficial for each medical condition, helping breeders and growers generate medically useful strains.
“Once we know what chemical components are helpful, the creation of stable strains has to include a focus on both DNA and growth conditions — such as light intensity, day/night regimen in hours, growth temperature, carbon dioxide concentration and humidity — all of which impact the cannabinoids’ and terpenes’ profile in the plant,” Kurek said.
Ezra Pryor, founding member and past chair of the Cannabis Chemistry Subdivision (CANN), got his start in the cannabis industry as a consultant, or “rent-a-scientist” as he called himself, for a variety of companies that had no one to advise them on matters of chemistry. It was then that he decided to bring other colleagues into the fold of this new frontier.
“I realized that chemists in the cannabis industry were completely isolated from each other and that most cannabis companies starting up didn’t have any scientists or chemists,” Pryor said. “I wanted to connect all of us and make chemistry more visible. The ACS [American Chemical Society] was the perfect place to do that.”
Some colleagues were initially pessimistic when Pryor, along with four other founding members, started the petition necessary to gain membership into the American Chemical Society (ACS), which is the largest scientific organization in the world, but he didn’t let that cynicism deter him.
“When I told people they said ‘great idea but it’ll never happen’ or ‘terrible idea, but it’ll never happen,’” said Pryor, currently CANN membership and development committee chair. “Some thought the ACS was too conservative, that they’d never accept us.”
They quickly gathered the signatures necessary and now have more than 250 members.
How Things Have Changed for CANN
The rapid growth of CANN was on full display at the biannual ACS National Meeting & Expo conference in Orlando, Florida, from March 31 to April 4, 2019. The cannabis chemistry group participated alongside 15,600 chemists who traveled from around the world to attend the conference in the state that had as of March 2019 allowed medical marijuana patients to smoke marijuana.
This year’s conference, with 12,830 oral and poster presentations going on simultaneously throughout the vast halls of the Orange County Convention Center, was all chemistry, all the time, just the kind of environment where cannabis scientists seem most comfortable.
Over the course of the conference, cannabis scientists, academics and industry experts presented their research findings on topics ranging from vaporization to analytical chemistry, appealing to like-minded attendees as well as the intellectually curious.
Julia Bramante, current CANN chair, said CANN’s symposia at the ACS national meetings have grown with each conference. Orlando was the ninth national ACS meeting in which CANN hosted symposia as a group.
“The symposia at the ACS National Meetings are essential because they provide an opportunity for leading cannabis scientists to share their research and expertise with the greater chemistry community and industry at large,” said Bramante, who is also the Marijuana Reference Laboratory’s lead scientist with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
When the ACS, founded in 1876,approved the formationof CANN within its organization in late 2015, it was viewed as an achievement as well as a sign of the times. Nowadays, CANN is wasting no time in honoring those who excel in the cannabis chemistry field.
Thanks to a generous donation fromHeidolph North America, a manufacturer of laboratory equipment, CANN was able to establish the ElSohly Award for Excellence in Cannabis Chemistry in 2018, explainedKyle Boyar, CANN vice chair and Scholarship Committee chair.
The four recipients of the award at the Orlando meeting were:
Stephen Goldman, lab director of Phytatech, a medical and recreational cannabis testing supplier in Colorado
Bryant Jones, a student at the University of Minnesota
Monica Vialpando, Ph.D., who heads Vialpando LLC, a nicotine vaping and cannabis product development consultancy; and
Michael Coffin, chief scientist at Bloom Farms, a San Francisco-based cannabis company that manufactures health-conscious products such as vaporizers and tinctures
Adams’ early interest in cannabis research, along with his work with the U.S. government during the 1930s, put him in contact with Harry Anslinger, the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. Anslinger wanted scientific proof that cannabis was a threat to health and security. Although he was working under the bureau, Adams did not go along with Anslinger’s plan, ultimately straining their relationship.
Anslingerpublicly chastised Adams for the remark. Soon thereafter, J. Edgar Hoover, the former FBI director, joined the fray and, along with labeling Adams a communist, also had him investigated for his research into how cannabis affected the brain.
He also eventually earned recognition from the ACS. In 1959, the ACS set up theRoger Adams Award, to recognize outstanding contributions in the field of organic chemistry.
Want to Join? You CANN, Too!
Pryor explained that once CANN grows enough to apply for division status, it will be in a position to elevate its work within the ACS and the broader scientific community, start its own scholarly journal, and help policymakers better understand cannabis and make sensible laws and regulations.
A chemistry or other scientific background is not required to join.
“The more members that join us, the closer we’ll move to division status at the ACS, which ultimately means a permanent home and a bright future for cannabis science by bringing to the forefront those who would further cannabis chemistry for the benefit of all,” Pryor said.
Maybe we should start calling them the “runchies.”
That part of the brain that doles out the psychoactive effects of cannabis might also be responsible for the innate urge to exercise in mice, according to a March 2019 study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigations.
In fact, the study found, these brain receptors might have a unique role in the desire to run, more so than with other urges like eating. The conclusion suggests that with further study, cannabinoids could be put to use curbing obesity and eating disorders.
“This study is the first to our knowledge to identify a neurobiological mechanism that might contribute to sedentary behavior,” the authors note. In other words, in the never-ending balance between consuming calories and burning them, cannabinoid receptors might be part of the trigger that tells the body to exert energy.
The research was conducted by a team at NeuroCentre Magendie in Bordeaux, France, that has previously explored how cannabinoids, specifically THC, fuel appetite.
In this study, the team used mice and a running wheel to measure desire for activity. A group of mice was trained to poke their noses into a hole in order to access the wheel. The poke was just enough effort to show desire and allow the research team to measure that desire under various conditions.
The researchers recorded how mice with varying endocannabinoid systems (ECS) behaved. The ECS is the network of receptors throughout the body that respond to plant cannabinoids such as THC and cannabidiol (CBD), as well as the endocannabinoids the body produces on its own. The study looked specifically at CB1, the ECS receptors found widely throughout the brain and nervous system that are responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis.
A group of mice that received a compound limiting CB1 receptors from working put forth much less effort to run than those who didn’t. These mice gave up on nose-poking sooner. Additionally, another group of mice genetically bred with fewer CB1 receptors also showed less desire to run.
“Taken together, these pharmacologic and genetic findings indicated that CB1 receptors exert major control on wheel-running motivation,” the researchers wrote.
Cannabinoids’ role in exercise has been explored in a number of previous studies. A 2015 study for the U.S. National Academy of Sciences found that in mice the feeling of euphoria during exercise — the so-called runner’s high— depends on the CB1 receptors in the part of the brain where dopamine flows.
But the Bordeaux study is the first to also consider motivation in exercise, thanks to the mice’s nose-poking requirement. The previous studies involved free or forced running, which does not factor in “wanting” to run, the article notes.
The researchers also compared running motivation to other urges mediated by the brain. They looked at how the same conditions affect mice and their desire to eat. In a separate session, mice poked their noses and were rewarded with food. In this case, those whose CB1 receptors had been inhibited or eliminated did not show the same drop in desire to eat as with running.
It suggests CB1 receptors play a “major, if not unique role” in running motivation. And although the paradigm of choices was limited — the mice were studied in hourlong sessions, whereas humans face a permanent choice between eating and exercise —the study opens the door for more research into the balance between eating and exercise.
Exercise can be as much a mental challenge as a physical one. Many of the familiar motivators we rely on are extrinsic; we run because we know it’s good for our health, longevity, self-satisfaction, or sex appeal. The study identifies the ECS as an intrinsic motivator.
In addition to being responsible for the feel-good effects of cannabis, the endocannabinoid system is involved in broad bodily functions, such as regulating mood and appetite. Low cannabinoid levels in the body have already been tied to illnesses and symptoms such as anxiety, depression and degenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease. The latest research suggests cannabinoids may help balance food intake and energy expenditure by driving us to exercise.
Brian Hudson is a Chicago-based freelance journalist specializing in government and business reporting. When not writing or working, he is involved in Chicago’s running community and can be found training out along Lake Michigan all months of the year.
The Arkansas Marijuana Commission held public comments Friday March 30th. Medical Marijuana became legal after Issue 6 was passed in the 2016 election.
The main issue talked about was the placement of marijuana dispensaries in regards to wet/dry counties Arkansas Commission buiding at 1515 West 7th Street, Little Rock, Arkansas
Many fear that medical marijuana will lead to and an increase in drug use and the many problems that occur with it. There are also legal and security issues regarding dispensers, growers, employers, and land lords.
For more details regarding this issue, visit
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