A newly published study by researchers at the University of British Columbia has found that many cannabis strains contain virtually identical levels of cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This despite the unique street names of the strains.
According to Susan Murch, a chemistry professor at UBC Okanagan, it is estimated that there are several hundreds or thousands of different cannabis strains currently cultivated. She said that they wanted to know how truly different these strains are, given their uniquely varied and exotic names.
Murch further explained that cannabis growers have historically selected and bred strains to produce CBD, THC, or both. However, these growers and breeders have had limited access to the different types of cannabis plants. What’s more, there are a few records that show the parentage and origin of the different strains.
She noted that growers have been following informal breeding programs for a long time. And with this current norm of unstructured breeding, particular cannabis plants were selected for certain characteristics and then given a new name.
Because of informal breeding, the chemical breakdown of many cannabis strains has been unknown.
Paula Brown, Canada Research Chair in Phytoanalytics at the British Columbia Institute of Technology, and Elizabeth Mudge, a doctoral student who works with Murch, have examined the cannabinoid-profiles of 33 cannabis strains from five licensed producers.
They found that most strains of cannabis, regardless of their name and origin, had the same amount of CBD and THC.
Moreover, they discovered that breeding highly potent cannabis strains affects the crop’s genetic diversity, but not its CBD or THC levels.
Mudge, however, noted that they discovered differences in a number of cannabinoids that were previously unknown. She said that these newly discovered compounds are present in low quantities and that they can be related to pharmacological effects. These compunds can also serve as a source of new medications.
Mudge further explained that a high-abundance compound in a certain cannabis strain, such as CBD or THC, is not necessarily responsible for its unique medicinal effects. Understanding the presence of low-abundance cannabinoids, she said, is what could provide valuable medical cannabis information.
Currently, licensed producers are required to report only the cannabis products’ CBD and THC values. However, according to Murch, the new research highlights that a plant’s important distinguishing chemicals may not have been fully identified and are not necessarily being analysed.
Murch said that while patients use medical cannabis for various reasons, they actually know very little about how to base their choice of cannabis products. This research, she added, is a first step towards the establishment of an alternative approach to classifying cannabis and providing medical cannabis patients with better information.