Susan: I’m not surprised it was a full house. Every day my inbox, social media accounts, and industry journals have stories about CBD, cannabis, or hemp. Seems these terms are becoming more than buzzwords, and many vendors and “experts” are jumping in because it’s a viable business growth opportunity. The cannabis lexicon is crazy and tough to follow, and so many terms like CBD and cannabis seem to be used interchangeably. Keeping track of the laws, policies and shifting demographics all play into the opportunities and risks of the cannabis and hemp markets.
Lawrence: I agree. While our goal as Innovation Advisors is to help our clients achieve more substantial, successful innovation in this fast-moving cannabis industry, the first thing to do is to make sure everyone has a basic knowledge of the industry’s terms.
Susan: More alphabet soup? All these acronyms! LCHE, CBD, THC – it’s no wonder people are confused and a bit wary. It’s tough enough for product developers to produce new products when they understand the ingredients they’re using. It’s like playing whack-a-mole when you think about all the cannabis products.
Lawrence: It certainly is. Understanding the cannabis and hemp lexicon is vital to anyone interested in exploring this space from a business and product development perspective. Here’s a great example from the IFT Short Course on Cannabis Edibles that highlights the subtle but important details of having a good lexicon on ‘Cannabis’.
There was a conversation about whether ‘Cannabis’ and its extracts were legal in the U.S. Someone said that ‘Cannabis’ was legalized in the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 It’s true that industrial hemp – a specific type of cannabis plant – and its extracts are now deregulated. This means that CBD is legal if extracted from hemp plants, but not if extracted from marijuana plants. Here’s where it’s important to understand the differences among Cannabis, Hemp, THC, and CBD.
Susan: The Hemp Farming Act brought the conversation of plant source to the forefront. But it’s still confusing to many people who ultimately really need to understand ingredients.
Lawrence: The distinction between Cannabis and its two primary species — hemp and marijuana — is unclear to many and some even consider the three plants to be one and the same. Because of this, the three terms are often used interchangeably, and this has created difficulties when trying to understand the usage and benefits of hemp, marijuana, and cannabis in general.
Susan: Can you describe the difference between hemp and marijuana?
Lawrence: Hemp and marijuana are, taxonomically speaking, the same plant; they are different names for the same genus (Cannabis) and species. Cannabis plants contain a variety of different compounds called cannabinoids, with the most abundant and widely known being Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD). The difference is that hemp plants contain no more than 0.3 percent (by dry weight) of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive substance found in marijuana. By comparison, marijuana typically contains five to 20 percent THC.
Susan: Well that makes this family of ingredients even more challenging! And if that’s not bad enough, not only do the source and chemistry differ, but the impact on the user varies depending on the finished product. That’s similar to some ingredients like caffeine, but this is much more of a challenge, don’t you think?
Lawrence: You’re right. There are a lot of missing and conflicting pieces in the scientific literature and within R&D right now. Many groups are attempting to capture a slice of the supplement market by touting the health and wellness benefits of CBD because it resonates well with consumers. I’d caution against that because the FDA has warned companies about making CBD claims, and furthermore, we know today’s educated consumer wants validated products. Right now, we don’t have enough scientifically validated data to verify dose-response effects for many of CBD’s intended benefits.
Susan: Even when you get the dose-response figured out, there are challenges that come with different product formats. Ingredient pH, turbidity, solubility, flavor and color will all be factors. Another challenge will be distribution, right? If the product isn’t a single phase, then getting the ingredient dispersed evenly throughout the batter, dough, or whatever will impact dose per serving.
Lawrence: The industry is focused on developing standards for extraction, purification, and testing of cannabis-based ingredients and products. Those efforts should coincide with FDA regulations and policies to provide a framework for development, testing, and marketing of products moving forward. Central to this effort, and a big challenge today is creating a homogenous cannabis-based product due to the high lipid content of cannabis, CBD, and THC. Innovations in dispersion, encapsulation, emulsions, and taste-masking strategies will contribute to overcoming many of the current challenges.
Susan: Once you know what the terms mean, you need to understand risks and safety.
Lawrence: Yes, and we help companies understand the terms, the risks, and the safety implications.
Susan: And we’re also available to speak with attendees at IFT’s Annual Event and Food Expo – IFT2019: Feed Your Future – in New Orleans from June 2-5. Stop by and see us at booth 3758! #IFT19