How Medicinal Plant Chemistry students will be taught

Phase one of the Northern Michigan University Medical Plant Chemistry program will be getting students familiar with how the compounds behave on the chemistry lab instruments.

With the growth of medicinal and legalized marijuana products, the program will focus on setting baselines for the numerous strains available through marijuana dispensaries and elsewhere.

For example, the government says industrial hemp—found in health foods, body care products, clothing and construction materials—can contain up to 3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. Anything over that is considered marijuana.

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“It’s the same plant, but there are some strains that are producing more cannabinoids than others,” says associate professor Brandon Canfield.

“What we are interested in is being able to accurately measure the cannabinoids or, at the very least, to be able to properly label something, whether it is raw plant material or whether it is used in another product, such as an edible or topical solution.”

THC and cannabidiol, or CBD, are the only cannabinoids currently required to be labeled, says Canfield. “But we hear from the growers that people are interested in many of the other compounds that are present. There are dozens of other cannabinoids that may or may not be psychoactive, or have different properties.”

Terpenes, for example, are not psychoactive but can affect the flavor and other characteristics of a strain.

“We are not so much concerned with which compounds cause psychoactive effects, or which ones cause therapeutic effect,” says Canfield. “The demand is in being able to accurately measure and describe a particular compound or  set of compounds.”


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