Synopsis of 2017 GETA Fall Symposium

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I recently had the pleasure of attending the GETA Fall Symposium which centered around cannabis, pesticide use, and the endocannabinoid system. The summit started and with a show of hands, I could see that I was one of only two people in the room that had both smoked and been to a dispensary. Throughout the course of the day, I was to be the direct link into the mind of a cannabis grower.

The symposium included three talks and a breakout poster session. The first presentation was given by Dr. Jill Townzen who has been instrumental in putting together the pesticide regulations here in California for the DPR (Department of Pesticide Regulation) which oversees pesticide use for all agricultural crops, of which cannabis is now included. Her discussion went through the new regulations and the roll out that the DPR had planned. The list included 66 pesticides that were identified as having been used in conjunction with cannabis crops. One main role that she had hoped the agency would play was that of educator helping farmers understand the risk both to themselves and their workers as well as the environmental risks when using these potentially harmful chemicals.

The second presentation was given by Dr. Su Guo from UCSF school of pharmacy and medicine and was a presentation on her work studying the endocannabinoid signaling in brain development and function. Her model was constructed around using zebrafish to measure the way in which both the CB1 and CB2 receptors function. She was able to look at the way our euro receptors work in conjunction with our CB1 receptors.

The final presentation was about the need for standardization in the cannabis industry and was given by Dr. Cindy Orser from Digipath Inc. This discussion examined using a new taxonomy to provide better clarity for cultivars in a way that grew them by terpenes not just cannabinoids. She found that cultivars typically fell into certain terpene combinations that could be used as a means of classification. It was interesting to hear her explain that for years, cannabis breeders have been using the wrong term to describe their cultivars. Strains are commonly only found in the world of bacteria. The same holds true for the proverbial crystal which is better known as a glandular trichome.

The break out poster session was also interesting as there were several fact sheet posters hung up throughout the room. One of them demonstrated evidence of carcinogens in cannabis smoke. The article collated many studies that looked at the components of the smoke given off by combusted flowers. This does not include vaping the flowers as the temperature at which the plant material combusts is relevant to its degree of carcinogenic properties. The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment drafted the paper that was presented and they found in their research that 33 individual constituents that are present in the smoke are listed by proposition 65 as carcinogens, including a well-known terpene Beta Myrcene.

After the symposium, we all got to hang out in a bar around the corner from the state building in Oakland. It was a real pleasure for me to get all scientific with members of the academic community that shared a mutual interest in our lovely friend the cannabis plant.

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