Beyond THC and CBD: Meet the New Cannabinoids on the Block

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From Merry Jane by Randy Robinson; illustration by Mira Gonzalez

Age-reversing eye creams packed with scientifically-selected cannabinoid ratios. A diet pill made from weed. Dabs that will never get you too baked.

This is what the future of cannabis looks like.

As the rest of the world catches up to CBD – one of the many compounds in cannabis that doesn’t get us high – extraction specialists are delving deeper into the plant’s chemistry by siphoning troves of lesser-known cannabinoids and infusing them into novel products.

Most of us know about the most famous cannabinoid, THC, and what it does: it can reduce or increase anxiety, it can make us giggle uncontrollably, or put us to sleep. And it may do some other cool stuff, too, like regenerate brain cells or cause cancer cells to self-destruct.

As awesome as THC and CBD are, cannabis contains over 100 cannabinoids, and each offers its own unique contribution to our homeostasis, a state of healthy balance, by interacting with the body’s natural endocannabinoid system. THC and CBD may work wonders on a wide array of ailments, but they’re not always effective. Because the other cannabinoids exhibit their own pharmacologies, they may treat illnesses that don’t respond well to THC or CBD alone. However, most cannabis strains don’t produce the other cannabinoids in sufficient amounts, so a little chemistry is needed to either tease out these less-prominent compounds or convert them from other cannabinoid precursors in bulk.

Before we dive in, know that the research on the cannabinoids mentioned below is severely limited, with most of the studies performed on mice or rats. Plus, the scant few conducted with humans were usually not controlled trials. Due to the Controlled Substances Act, all cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant (even the ones we haven’t yet discovered) fall under Schedule I restrictions, meaning researchers must receive stringent federal approval to study them. Further, assuming the academics clear the DEA’s hurdles, researchers must still rely on the government’s crummy weed, which lacks some of the less-prominent cannabinoids.

Where’s it all going? Which new cannabinoids could prove to be game-changers? Which are destined to become over-hyped curiosities, fads within the ever-expanding legal market? And will any of them even get us lit? As more and more legit research occurs, and more and more canna-businesses try to differentiate themselves within the green rush with “novel” products, the possibilities and benefits of isolating new cannabinoids are just now starting to reveal themselves — to consumers and companies alike.

Photo courtesy of Oregrown

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