Just last week, I spent two days at the 2019 Cannabis Science Conference East here in my hometown of Baltimore, Md.
The operative word there is “science,” and let me tell you, there is a lot of science driving the cannabis market forward that will lead to a ton of profit opportunities.
We’re mapping genomes, studying plant fertilization, and learning how to prescribe cannabis to treat ailments as quickly and effectively as possible.
Over the course of two days, there were over 60 presentations covering topics ranging from equipment and methods to analyze cannabis plants, extracts, and cannabinoids; techniques to optimize cultivation; and the latest developments in medical cannabis research.
The companies most adept at deploying the latest science has to offer will enjoy much higher profit margins than those slow to adapt.
But the science goes far beyond the field or greenhouse.
And where it starts and just how far it goes says a lot about how to best play the booming cannabis industry and get closer to life-changing wealth…
Cannabis Scientists Are Mapping the “Small Stuff”
Most cannabis plants are cloned, which means the genes of any generation of a cannabis strain exactly match those of the generations that preceded them.
However, it turns out that most growers aren’t actually growing the strains they think they are growing. That means a grower might market a THC-dominant strain when it has a CBD-dominant strain filling up its greenhouse.
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That doesn’t do much good for offering a consistent product. And it means a cannabis firm might not be living up to what it’s promising consumers.
To ensure that the right strains are being grown, many companies are now performing genetic tests on the clones before planting.
Researchers have also developed a preliminary map of the 12,000 unique proteins of the cannabis plant. Called the plant’s proteome, these proteins serve a lot of functions, including playing a big role in synthesizing cannabinoids and terpenes in the plant.
Gaining a better understanding of these proteins will drive the discovery of new ways to synthesize natural cannabis compounds outside of the plant.
That’s a promising path for cannabis, and it’s not too difficult to envision a day when more cannabinoids will be brewed up in labs than grown in fields.
In fact, there are plenty of companies already doing this, many of which have been covered extensively in our NICILytics database – InMed Pharmaceuticals Inc. (TSX: IN, OTC: IMLFF) being one of them.
And like the human gut, the cannabis plant is teeming with microbes.
It has a microbiome. Some are beneficial; others are toxic – either to humans or the plant. By mapping the genetics of the cannabis microbiome, researchers can develop methods to quickly test for the presence of bad bugs.
Testing Services Are an Intriguing “Side Play”
And it was clear from the conference that cultivators and producers are testing more. They simply have to.
As a young cannabis plant matures, it is tested far more frequently, at every stage of growth.
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The concern is not just safety, but dialing in precision on the cannabinoids, terpenes, and other compounds. This helps consumers get the same experience from the same product, every time.
As I’ve stated many times, brands are built on consistency, and this is a perfect example of why science is at the heart of building a great brand.
All of this means that scientists are working on precision – precision applied to factors like specific lighting and soil conditions. Growers used to rely on institutional knowledge and their own experience. It was more art than science, and the knowledge base wasn’t scalable.
But increasingly, growers can depend on established science to grow better, more useful, and more marketable crops.
Researchers Are Achieving Precision at Every Level
As cannabis is normalized and taboos disappear, medical research is flat-out booming.
Scientists are working not just on the issues we’ve talked about before like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), opioid replacement, and the like, but also on health promotion among the elderly without specific symptoms or diseases.
Big Data is also starting to get involved.
Many companies are starting to build databases which will have millions of patients and billions of use instances to dial in the precise dosage and formulation for a variety of ailments.
Cannabis is rapidly shedding the taboo that burdened it during the 20th century, and academia is becoming more active in marijuana research. Cannabis research at universities in the United States is still banned, but a growing number of universities are allowing doctors and scientists to do research on their own time in the cannabis field.
All this is being applied to a big open question in the cannabis industry.
Marijuana Has Its Big “Format War”
It was clear spending time in the halls of the conference that there’s a debate underway over whether cannabis flower and simple extracts are superior to cannabinoid isolates. This debate has been building for some time and has burgeoned into a real schism in the industry. Diehards on either side have dug in their heels.
On the extract side, the argument is that the best results from cannabis treatments come from what’s called the entourage effect.
This refers to the effect of consuming all of the terpenes and other cannabinoids found in a cannabis plant, whether by smoking the flower or consuming extracts that maintain this natural profile of compounds. The extract crowd claim that these various compounds work together to create far better effects than a user can achieve from consuming isolates.
Isolates are purified formulations of CBD, THC, or any cannabinoid, for that matter. All terpenes and other cannabinoids are stripped out.
The isolate side argues that isolates allow for higher doses of a specific cannabinoid and more predictable results.
The truth is that there is absolutely room for both.
The power of natural extracts is indeed disruptive, particularly to the Big Pharma profit model. But there are simply too many cases where isolates make far more sense. Not to mention, tailoring cannabinoids to work even better with the chemical pathways in the human body can create more effective therapeutic drugs, and valuable, patentable intellectual property – solid gold for investors.
In the coming days, we’ll be posting interviews from the conference on NICI TV. We talked to leaders from all across the cannabis industry, and believe me when I say you won’t want to miss these – click here to learn how to get them.
Get Access to Our Cannabis “Vault”
Lifetime Members of the Cannabis Investor’s Report can access analyst reports on many companies applying Big Data to their business. We call it “the vault,” which now contains customized data and in-depth reports on over 150 publicly traded cannabis stocks – and growing. To get the most complete picture of the cannabis market, make sure to check out the NICILytics database. Click here to learn how…
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