Cannabis contains over 500 distinct compounds, which include cannabinoids, terpenoids, flavonoids, and omega fatty acids. Terpenoids are responsible for the aroma of cannabis and other flowering plants. Studies have shown terpenoids to have diverse physiologic effects, and terpenoids may be contributing to the observed effects of cannabis. 6
Cannabinoids are compounds unique to cannabis, and there have been over 100 different cannabinoids identified. The most well known cannabinoid is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is responsible for the “high” of cannabis and can affect perception, mood, emotion, cognition, and motor function. But there are also cannabinoids like cannabidiol (CBD) which are non-psychoactive yet have been demonstrated to possess medically useful properties. 7 CBD rose to mainstream attention in 2013 after it was featured in Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s CNN special report “Weed”, which reported on children with severe seizure disorders who anecdotally benefitted from CBD. 8
It is not uncommon for wild “feral” cannabis to contain roughly similar amounts of THC and CBD. However, chemical analysis of “street” cannabis seized by the US Drug Enforcement Agency over the last 2 decades reveals levels of THC commonly 10 to 100 times greater than that of CBD. Decades of black-market breeding for recreational use have dramatically increased THC content while inadvertently reducing CBD content of today’s cannabis. There are concerns that the significantly elevated THC content of modern cannabis may be exacerbating the potential health detriments, particularly in relation to cognitive and psychiatric disorders. 7
6. Russo EB. Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects. Br J Pharmacol. 2011;163(7):1344-1364.doi:10.1111/j.1476-5381.2011.01238.x.
7. ElSohly MA, Mehmedic Z, Foster S, Gon C, Chandra S, Church JC. Changes in Cannabis Potency over the Last Two Decades (1995-2014) - Analysis of Current Data in the United States. Biol Psychiatry. 2016;79(7):613-619.doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2016.01.004.
8. Gupta S. Why I Changed My Mind on Weed. CNN. http://www.cnn.com/2013/08/08/health/gupta-changed- mind-marijuana/index.html. Published 2013.