Medical and non-medical research could expand horizons for cannabis, but more support is needed from market participants and governments.
The world of cannabis consumption is set to change radically, thanks in large part to the advancement of state-of-the-art research on the plant itself.
Medical cannabis products have already allowed many new users to discover the plant’s potential, but decisive research will help build a foundation for more sophisticated medical offerings.
And with a wealth of data to back up its possible delivery methods, cannabis will only continue to grow as an item in the consumer packaged goods sector.
The Investing News Network (INN) spoke with several experts overseeing cannabis research to discuss what lies ahead in the market, as well as the urgent need to generate additional data.
More data needed to unearth potential of cannabis
Ashley Chiu of EY Canada told INN the business of using novel research tactics to explore the full impact of cannabis provides a precious opportunity to validate the plant in the eyes of skeptics.
“I think there’s been a lot of harm associated with cannabis, but not necessarily all of the data to back it up,” said the cannabis strategy advisor.
This past summer, the cannabis team at EY Canada published a new report examining the need for more profound research on the cannabis plant — not just for medical uses, but as a way to expand cannabis consumption options in a broad sense.
Joel Alden, a partner at EY Canada, previously told INN there is an untapped world of opportunity attached to the cannabis plant and its molecules.
In its optimistic report, the firm indicates that savvy businesses within the space will race to explore and develop the next stages of consumption beyond smoking and eating.
When asked about what other uses or possibilities lie ahead, Chiu told INN the idea of creating personalized nutraceuticals from the cannabis plant could be key to broadening consumer numbers.
She highlighted the need to explore more cannabinoids within the cannabis plant, as early indications have shown promise in helping people with sleep issues.
Plainly speaking, further broad cannabis research is needed, according to the EY expert. Chiu explained that research outside the clinical context is critical as well in order to gain a better understanding of cannabis compounds and the effects these have on the human body.
“(It) sets the foundation of where the industry will go, and I think once we get all of this validated research it will really open up the opportunity of the commercial prospects for cannabis or its various constituents,” Chiu said.
Medical cannabis uses stuck outside the mainstream
Stephen Murphy, co-founder and CEO of leading cannabis research company Prohibition Partners, told INN he’s mostly intrigued by any examination of cannabis as a pain management agent.
Similarly to Chiu, Murphy sees the advancement of cannabis research as one of the pillars needed to transform the drug’s reputation across the world.
When it comes to pain management, if a medical candidate can gain relevancy, Murphy said he could see mainstream healthcare adopt the medical benefits of the plant in a more significant way.
“If it does, that gets cannabis over the edge in mainstream healthcare where suddenly there is (validation) for one of the most common issues,” said Murphy. “It’s no longer just a specialty product.”
His firm recently issued the second edition of its market report on pharmaceutical cannabis. Titled “The Pharmaceutical Cannabis Report,” it was authored by Prohibition Partners analyst Conor O’Brien.
In an executive summary of the report, Prohibition Partners points to the following four drugs as the most exciting prospects in the cannabis pharmaceutical pipeline: Epidiolex and Sativex, which were both developed recently by GW Pharmaceuticals, and Marinol and Cesamet, which have a long history and are researched regularly.
Legislation affecting support for cannabis research
One aspect to monitor when it comes to any ramp up in cannabis research practices is the progress of the US regulatory landscape surrounding the drug.
“I don’t necessarily think that just because the US legalizes, all these other countries will automatically (do the same), but I think it opens the door to that conversation,” Chiu told INN.
The US is involved in a convoluted political process to move ahead with some kind of cannabis reform. The drug remains a Schedule I substance in the eyes of the federal government, but state liberties have created domestic markets where companies may set up dispensaries, growing facilities and other cannabis business opportunities.
As of October of this year, 19 states had introduced an adult-use cannabis program into their everyday operations, allowing for legal sales and business operations.
At the federal level, the struggle to get cannabis into a new standing continues. This aspect has a direct correlation to further investigation of the drug, Murphy told INN.
“Legislation doesn’t really support … it’s still very restrictive in terms of conducting trials around cannabis,” Murphy explained to INN, taking a more global perspective since Prohibition Partners evaluates the entire cannabis space worldwide.
At the end of the day, the ability the US has to change perspectives around the world is undeniable.
“When you look at the impact that the US has on global affairs, other industries, culture, societal shifts, I think they lead a lot of that,” Chiu said.
In its report, Prohibition Partners indicates that current regulations have helped patients access regulated medical cannabis products fairly easily. That likely won’t be the same for future advanced cannabis drugs, which may need to be prescribed by a doctor.
“It is likely that the medical use of cannabinoids will become more closely aligned to traditional medical practices in coming years, in terms of patient-doctor relations and the precision of dosing,” the market report from the firm reads.
The researchers at Prohibition Partners expect global legalization of adult-use cannabis to help bring along this new age of medical use of cannabinoids.
The need to research the cannabis plant and its molecules goes farther than just expanding the industry. Uncovering new data could help point the entire industry towards unprecedented levels of confidence among people both inside and outside the market.
A new world of cannabis business is just around the corner, according to experts, and expanded research on the plant’s medical benefits may help get it there.
Don’t forget to follow us @INN_Cannabis for real-time updates!
Securities Disclosure: I, Bryan Mc Govern, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.
Editorial Disclosure: The Investing News Network does not guarantee the accuracy or thoroughness of the information reported in the interviews it conducts. The opinions expressed in these interviews do not reflect the opinions of the Investing News Network and do not constitute investment advice. All readers are encouraged to perform their own due diligence.