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The Cannabis Conversation is a much needed podcast which gets deep into CBD as an industry. We know a lot of you are avid readers so as usual, hit play, read along (or just listen) and see what all the hype is about. We get so many questions about CBD, lots of which we aren’t allowed to answer due to regulation so hopefully all the episodes we highlight from The Cannabis Conversation help answer all of your questions. To be clear, this is an external resource and we, as BeYou, are simply providing this as a resource. We urge you to research any claims by yourself.
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The Cannabis Conversation. A European perspective on the emerging legal cannabis industry.
Welcome back to The Cannabis Conversation. This show is all about exploring the new legal cannabis industry by speaking to the professionals that are shaping it. Thanks again for joining me this week. We're up to episode six now. Got a great show today about the buzzword of the moment, or the buzz acronym to be correct, CBD. What is it? What to look out for? How do I know what to buy? And why is everyone getting very excited about it? And for those of you that manage to listen all the way to the very end, there's a little competition at the end where I'll be giving away some goodies. Okay. Enjoy.
Okay. So today we have on the show Dr Chris Cordier and Mike Parker from Grow Biotech, which is a medical cannabis company based in London. Chris's role is as a research chemist, having previously been a research fellow at several top universities across the world, including Cambridge and the Imperial. And Mike is head of business development for Grow Biotech. Now CBD is everywhere and being hailed as a miracle cure for anything and everything. But what is the real truth? Chris and Mike are here to help us understand that from a scientific as well as commercial perspective. Guys, welcome.
Happy to meet you.
So let's get so stuck in straight away. Chris, this is probably more aimed at you, but what exactly is CBD and how does it work on the body?
Okay. So CBD stands for Cannabidiol. And within cannabis there's three main classes of compounds that have some pharmacological effect. There are flavonoids, and as you might guess, they're somewhat associated with flavor. Terpenes, which we normally attribute some of the aroma of cannabis [inaudible 00:02:01]. And cannabinoids, and those are often what we somewhat loosely call the active components, whereas perhaps they're all really a little bit active. So CBD is a similar structure to THC, but has a slightly different molecular shape. And when considering small molecules and how they interact in the body, shape and structure often dictates function. So for example, THC, we often call ... So THC has a more psychoactive component. Where CBD is still psychoactive, and if you look at the definition of that it really just means that it affects the mind. Whereas CBD is non-psychotropic, meaning it doesn't get you high, it doesn't have the inebriating effects of TMC.
Okay. That's great. And so you pointed out how CBD is different from THC. What are the kind of known different effects it has on the body?
Okay. So if we start from a sort of high level, just sort of talking about a safety profile, I suppose. So the first thing to know about CBD is that it does have quite a broad and good safety profile, meaning that relatively low toxicity. So overall it's quite a good starting point from developing new medicines. That said, there all still some side effects. So one CBD based medicine that has been FDA approved from GW Pharmaceuticals for the treatment of two rare forms of epilepsy, for which we don't have current medicines that can provide some patient relief for that, is called Epidiolex. And Epidiolex has some side effects [inaudible 00:03:28] quality of life, mainly associated with sleep disorders. So that could be like a sleepiness and fatigue, but as well as insomnia or trouble sleeping. And the other is just digestive problems generally. So either diarrhea or some appetite alterations. But even in those cases, we're talking about quite large quantities of CBD, or very continued use over long periods of time. So generally speaking, it's far safer than the majority of pharmaceutical drugs that do affect the mind.
Fantastic. Okay great. I mean that's a very good rundown, and thankfully not overly scientific, because I'm not great in that area. What have you seen some of the claims that are being made about it? And how reliable are they really at this current stage?
So in order to somewhat address that I am going to go into a slightly more science-y [crosstalk 00:04:20].
So when the cannabinoids were first identified in terms of their molecular structures, we immediately tried to look into how their affects are derived from the body. And often really that means that on the surface of most cells we have some kind of receptor. And compounds from the outside of the cell combined to that receptor and impact how the inside of a cell functions. And in using that process, we've found that certain receptors are where THC and other cannabinoids bind. And obviously we label them as cannabinoid receptors, but actually [inaudible 00:04:54] meaning natural compounds within our body that normally interact with that, simply the cannabinoids are hijacking that system and then altering it from an exogenous source.
Now what we do know is for cannabinoids generally, but even CBD specifically, has more than just its effect on these non-cannabinoid receptors. There's a whole alphabetti spaghetti of acronyms according to the different types of receptors, 5HT receptors, and a whole variety of others that cannabinoids do effect. What I would say is that there's so many effects of CBD within the body in terms of wide ranging cellular targets. So we can kind of divide what is know into small, perhaps not completely verified studies, and a bit more concrete work. So for example, we definitely know that CBD can be effective in the treatment of some epilepsy drugs, such as the FDA approved drug. We also know that it can be effective in the treatment of anxiety and pain [inaudible 00:05:52], or have some sort of antiinflammatory effects.
Now, in both cases, we kind of have evidence in human studies, or even clinical trials. And what I mean by a clinical trial is a processed by which pharmaceutical drugs go to market. So they determine that it works in some kind of cellular assay, meaning we just give the compound to a cell, observe what happens. And then the next stage from that would be maybe to try it in some kind of animal or maybe a human. I mean, if you can do that on a large quantity humans to test its effects, then you can derive, one, its safety. And then two, its efficacy, its ability to have the desired effect. So anxiety, inflammation, and pain, and some forms of epilepsy. [inaudible 00:06:35] we have quite concrete evidence to say that CBD can be effective.
But, given that there's a whole variety of receptors that we do know it effects, and even the receptors that we know it's interacting with, but we don't even know what the receptor does, which means that there's a lot of somewhat anecdotal evidence. So just a range of other stuff. There's some cellular based assays or small animal based studies that suggest CBD can be effective in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's, and multiple sclerosis, Huntington's disease, depression, and even cancer. So what I really should temper that way is that if you have a range of cancer cells in a Petri dish or something, you add some CBD to it, if the cancer cells stop growing, and that's kind of how we define them as cancer cells, constantly growing cells. If they stop growing, then it has some anticancer effect. That's a long way from saying that it can cure cancer, or a specific cancer in a human body.
And even if we could say that, there's multiple different cancers that have arisen from multiple different molecular mechanisms, and therefore there's no one job that's going to cure everything. So we've got a long way to go. But I think it's quite a good starting point, even if it's somewhat anecdotal and not immediately proven.
Yeah, I mean, it's good to lay out what are the strong areas and what are the less strong areas where there's more work to do. There's all more what to do in general, I suppose, on the whole medicinal side. One thing that you've briefly touched upon, or at least an area that I've been interested in, was around this idea of the entourage effect. So we're talking about CBD here in isolation presumably. There's some body of material to suggest that actually CBD may work more effectively when combined with other cannabinoids, i.e, other active compounds within cannabis, including THC.
Yeah that's right. So that's if we just talk about it from a conceptual point of view to begin with, and then we can dig into the molecular side. So how this comes about is that if you take the cannabis plant and extract CBD, and but the end of that you have a pure compound. Not a million miles away from if you take paracetamol or something like that that's majority one active ingredient, with some other components in there that don't have a biological effect. Now, if you do the same thing for CBD, then you can get some of that CBD and it could have some effect. Or, if you take the crude extract, and what that means is it contains a variety of other cannabinoids, perhaps also some terpenes, perhaps also some flavonoids. And if you administer that to a patient, that effect can be different from a CBD alone. And in some cases, a patient may suffer no relief when given CBD alone, but do have relief from their symptoms when give them the crude extract.
So one way to think about this is, so the entourage effect is a really nice term for it, but really this kind of comes down to the expression called pharmaco-synergy. Really just means any pharmaceuticals that have synergy with one another. Meaning that the sum is greater than the components. And so it could be a variety of instances of how this works. So one way to think about it is, think about each cannabinoid, each active component in the cannabis plant kind of being a key on a keyboard. And if you strike one particular note, or if you strike multiple notes at the same time then you arrive at a cord. And that's kind of a good way to think about how multiple components can give a different effect than one component alone. It's obviously more complex than that.
And if you think about it more perhaps like a graphic equalizer where you could increase the quantities of each component, as opposed to just being a binary on or off, whether it's there or not.
And of course it's way more complicated than that as well because there's a variety of targets that we don't actually know what they do in the body. So there's a few examples of where there's some validation for this. So you talked about maybe cannabinoids and terpenes having a synergistic effect, and there's some evidence to suggest us. So one of the key bits of evidence that have been pointed to that is to say that maybe terpenes' effect some of the permeability of the blood brain barrier. And what this is is a barrier around the brain, which restricts the access of some compounds into the brain. And if a terpenes' going to affect the entry of compounds into the brain, and that will affect the overall effect that you'll observe.
So it's increasing the delivery, if you like.
Exactly, yeah. So there's a variety of other mechanisms where you can have two different compounds interacting at two different sites in your body, or they could be interacting at the same site, but maybe attenuating the effect of each other. Or it could be, as you rightly pointed out, a delivery aspect. So maybe one compound enhances the delivery of one compound, or one component may be slows down the exit of that compound as your body degrades the compounds and tries to excrete it, as some of the other components in the cannabis extract can attenuate that metabolism of that drug.
Great. I love the use of musical metaphors there to help us understand. Okay so I think you've highlighted where there's some good research and where there's probably more needed. Mike, maybe this is a good chance for you to kind of get involved as well. What are the kind of products that are currently being sold in the marketplace at the moment? Because in boots and Holland & Barrett and everyone seems to be stocking something to do with CBD.
Not there's a variety of what we call delivery methods. And for any person that's just a form of product. You get a full range of things, not just here, but around the wellness industry. You've got vapes which come with oils. Tinctures, which are droplets that normally go under the tongue. You have a soft gel capsules for slow release, perhaps if you're doing it for sustained release over night. And then you have just plain old supplements in pill form, or powder.
And also I've seen creams as well.
Yeah. Topical creams. There's a whole range of beauty and health products that I've seen in high street retailers using CBD as a component.
Yeah. And this is a bit of a deep and open ended question, but are some methods of delivery more reliable than others in terms of ...
Well, it's about, I guess, efficacy. And maybe the rate of absorption into the body. So if you're using the vape delivery method, then that's going to be a lot quicker than the soft gel capsule, which you'd want for a sustained release overnight. For example, if you suffer from chronic pain or any kind of condition that would keep you awake at night, this would be a slow release rather than getting a hit from a vape which would be pretty quick to join the bloodstream. So it's up to however you're administrating it to yourself.
Sure. And topical creams and things like that? Have they been shown to be effective for whatever they're trying to treat?
Some people I've spoken to say that they swear by that. Other people say the jury's out. So I guess it's on a case by case basis. It's as individual as each person would be. But for topical creams, sports injuries, swelling, inflammation, and direct to the joint or whatever it is that you're treating would be, I imagine, the first step. Yeah.
[inaudible 00:14:09] further on the kind of the state of research and where we are, I've certainly read a couple of articles and maybe they're trying to sort of chip away at CBDs reputation. But I think one of them was saying that, from a scientific perspective, the minimum effective dose is seen to be around 150 or 200 milligrams of CBD. Whereas the dose that you would get from a kind of high street supplement that you buy is considerably less. Without doubt a lot of people swear by it. So is there a gap in between where the research is and what people are affecting, i.e, that scientist doesn't exactly know yet? Or is there a placebo effect or?
That's a good question. So I'd say that there's clearly a gap in terms of what has been definitively [inaudible 00:14:57]. Just coming back to the safety aspect of the CBD. Because it is relatively safe, I think that that does open the avenue for simply patient trialing and see how it affects. So in terms of the dosing, it really depends on what you're trying to affect. So minimum effective dose for, I don't know, a sleep disorder might be a quite different minimum effective dose for some treatment of disorder of the mind. So I think that when you hear things like that, I don't want to [inaudible 00:15:29], I think I agree that there's a lot that still is not known, but I think it really depends on what you're trying to treat and how you're judging the minimum effective dose. So if you're talking about, let's say, the treatment of anxiety, well by definition you're talking about a subjective experience. So if you start to introduce a placebo effect, then obviously we can claim a placebo effect, but it's a paradox that you can't necessarily prove I think.
So I think that there is some strong evidence to say that, in the treatment of some disorders there's a placebo effect, with CBD is not really something we have to consider too much, not that it's only a placebo effect, there is a genuine science behind it.
I mean you highlight a really good point there as well, that it isn't always more is better or more effective. It really is dependent on why you're taking it and what are the reasons behind it. So yeah, I mean, I certainly, I know plenty of people who swear by it in the same way that you did, Mike. So there's clearly something there. And again, you probably need to just do some research on why exactly you want to take it and for what reasons. So moving on. Everyone that seems to be having CBD marketed to them in some way or another. What would be your advice to sort of helping people in how they choose products?
Due diligence is always a good start for buying anything. So if you're going to buy toothpaste, you're going to buy from a trusted brand. You're not going to buy an unknown. So always look for verified, trusted products with a declared source, not just made somewhere, but actually a physical location. You'd want to have it backed up with lab reports. Good thing to have, if you can get hold of it, there's a certificate of analysis that will give you a breakdown of the actual contents. Quantities and ratios of the CBD content, the manufacturing days and batch number. And you also got to look at it for stuff that you don't want to imbibe or have in your body. That's things such as corn syrup, trans fats, GMOs, artificial additives, thinning agents, preservatives. And you want to make sure that it's verified that it's free of contaminants such as mold, bacteria, pesticides, and any solvent residues.
One thing that a lot of people don't know is that cannabis itself is a bioaccumulator. So there will be stuff that gets drawn into the plants from whichever ground it's growing in. Not really the case if it's grown hydroponically or aquaponically. But heavy metals and stuff like that, which are generally not good for the body. And you also want to look at what extraction methods they've been using. So CO2 extractions is good, and food grade ethanol is also good. But you kind of want to stay away from butane, propane, hexane, other hydrocarbons, that kind of stuff. And it's all about just doing your homework. And if someone's telling you something's too good to be true, and in your mind you think so, odds are it probably is. However, that being said, CBD is being used by a lot of people for a lot of different things. So I guess, take things with a pinch of soul, and trust, but also verify, is the general theme of thinking. As you would any very product that you would put into your body.
Yeah, very good. [Inaudible 00:18:51] hopefully helps people make that choice. Cool. Okay, so in terms of the CBD market such as it is, what are the kind of exciting market trends that are happening in relation to it? Or are there any kind of interesting commercial areas that are cropping up around?
Well I think, for a start, just like the rapid mainstream adoption of it in the market and how it's been, not de-stigmatized over night, but in a pretty rapid process. And the fact that it is treating or being said to be treating so many different conditions. Especially with things like chronic pain, epilepsy, anxiety, sports injury, and as Chris alluded to earlier, things that affect the mind such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, MS, Huntington's, depression, et cetera. And that in itself is pretty exciting from a natural organism, and that, with a bit of chemistry, et cetera, can be used to tweak, et cetera, and challenge more mainstream pharmaceuticals. I think that's a very exciting part of it. But in terms of what's ... unusual applications that we've come across, we've seen pet foods with CBD to release anxiety in small animals. I mean, that's kind of understandable if it's Guy Fawkes.
Lot of people are, yeah, in that same delivery method starts talking about people are now putting it into food stuffs, such as infused drinks, chocolate bars, baked goods, et cetera. Baked good is probably not a new thing with cannabis. But that is kind of interesting. But I guess, as a biotech company ourselves, whatever was going to come out of the research associated with it is the exciting part for us, I believe.
Great, great. Yeah. Lots of interesting things, particularly around the pet angle, which also you kind of made me laugh a bit, but you're right, it does make a lot of sense in terms of calming pets down. So I guess one of the reasons I'm very interested in putting out podcasts was obviously the subject matter. But also from a personal perspective how we will come to work in cannabis. Because obviously it's been taboo the whole time I've been alive. And it's probably not in the natural thing that you tell your parents. But how did you guys sort of come to be working in this area?
Well, I've been an organic chemist all my life, really. At least all my adult life. And so it's been about 11 years of doing fairly mainstream organic chemistry. And what I mean by that is that you're just developing new techniques and make ways of synthesizing new molecules that could be of interest to the pharmaceutical industry, of material science, and so on. And at the same time, I have my own research group at Imperial, and I have family members in the West coast of the US. And I went to visit some of them. And I saw how the cannabis space was changing there, and I felt like I could really make a difference. I think as an organic chemist, the way we're trained is to think about how to design new ways of making molecules, or how molecules react and understand them. As well as how they interact with the body from a biological perspective. And I think I wanted to try to find a new problem.
And I think it was partly my visit to the US to see some family members, and partly my reading of a book by Michelle Alexander called The New Jim Crow. And it talks about the war on drugs, and in particular mass incarceration in the US. And I found this really fascinating. And in particular, the number of people that are locked up in the non-violent drug offenses. And principally, really, we're talking a lot of those cases about cannabis. And obviously the laws are biased in terms of racial disparities, in terms of arrests and incarceration rates. And I felt that, as a chemist, there's some areas that I could input in terms of the science. And it's something that it's not so straightforward to do within academia, or at least you can't be as dynamic to a new emerging industry.
And when I'm very old, and maybe I'll have some grandkids one day, I'll be able to tell them, "Well yeah, I moved from the status quo and I moved to do something while it was still illegal."
That's great, yeah. A very brave move as well. And good to hear. Mike, how about yourself?
So originally I come from Zimbabwe. And last year the Zimbabwean government became just the second government in Africa to legalize the production of cannabis for export after Lesotho. And I thought this would be a brilliant opportunity for a way to bring the country back into the international arena, and getting new industry going, because it has perfect growing conditions for it. Whilst I was over in London looking for a good network of investor and like minded individuals, I first came across a networking event held every month called First Wednesdays. And I was introduced to that by my now work colleague Dr Henry Fisher, who works with Chris. And through that networking event I met other people. And during that same time as well the Zimbabwean government suspended licensing. They have reopened it again since, but I've thought in the meantime, instead of trying to push a rock up a hill, et cetera, I would instead pursue a career within the industry in London.
And that kind of led me to Grow Biotech through another colleague, Tom Gray. And eventually I met with the COO, Harry, and CEO, Ben. And one thing led to another, and I'm sitting here today with you.
Fantastic. Good to hear, and glad you made it. So I've been asking kind of most people this question, but so what does your parents say when you told them you have a job in cannabis?
At first my parents, I guess, they didn't really understand the implications of an industry like this. Then realized overnight almost. And I think they have the same kind of reservations as any parent would. And also the fact that they are two retired consultant radiologists. I think they saw pretty quickly, with a bit of ... I wouldn't say-
Yeah. About the potential of treating people with this, and the fact that you can actually form a legitimate career out of it. I think it wasn't actually as hard as I built it up in my mind to convince my parents that it was a legitimate choice. But I think they're all for it. And now my dad is even sending me clippings of newspaper from his iPad every day whilst I'm at work about various happenings in the world, which is great.
Good. So the sales pitch worked.
Well he's now one of my researchers.
Good stuff, good stuff. How about you Chris?
Well there wasn't really much convincing to do. I told my mom, and she's not super science literate. And from her perspective, it just seemed I'm just using my chemistry understanding to solve a different problem. So it wasn't really much of a challenge. It was slightly more of an interesting conversations within academia. So obviously I made the decision about a year and a half ago that I think I wanted to pursue this industry. And I spoke to a variety of my colleagues in academia. And it was interesting, but I think I'd say there's kind of an age divide. And pretty much everyone I spoke with about 40 or 45 years or under, they kind of understood, "Oh, well yeah obviously this is the future. And this is clearly where a lot of things are going. I think there's a lot of growth area." Pretty supportive about the idea. Maybe they still had some interest in me staying in academia, because they have a preference.
But on the other side of it there were some academics that I spoke with that are maybe a little bit older, maybe a little bit more, I don't want to say close minded, but perhaps a little bit unaware of the changes in the science as well as the public mood on issues. And they were a lot more confused. Like, "Why would you do such a thing?" But I think the younger people kind of understand, they were more-
Okay, that's good. And that's good to hear the kind of professional side of the debate. Okay, great. Well, thank you guys. It's been really illuminating. And it's a very relevant topic at the moment amongst the 100s of other topics within the cannabis family. So thank you for helping us with that today.
Yeah my pleasure.
My pleasure. Thank you.
Okay, I hope you enjoyed that. Again, it was really great to see how excited scientists are getting about this unexplored area. So it was great to hear from Chris. And also Mike, great to hear his advice on how to pick CBD products amongst the millions that are available.
Okay, now is the time where I shamelessly buy your love through giving you some good stuff. I've got some CBD oil, kindly donated from the great guys at Dragonfly CBD. All of Mike's advice on what to look for in products is exemplified by these guys at Dragonfly. This is the highest quality material around, and a really great product. So in order to be in with the chance of winning this CBD oil, I'd really like you to write a positive review for the show on iTunes. And if you can then comment on one of the show posts on Insta, Twitter, or Facebook, that way we can identify you. And if you do that before the end of the week, then over the weekend I'll pick out a winner, and we'll contact you and send the stuff in the post.
I hope that is cool. And thanks again for all your support. We've got a great show next week about investment with a guy called Patrick Morton from Canada. So he'll be telling us about the investment landscape for the emerging cannabis industry, and a really interesting show. So I hope you tune in then. Until then, have a great week.
In this episode I speak to Dr Chris Cordier and Mike Parker from Grow Biotech - a leading UK medical cannabis company. We discuss what CBD is and why everyone is getting so excited about it, as well as some advice on what to look out when buying CBD.