On the Frontiers of Hemp Science
The original name of the ICRS was “International Cannabis Research Society.” In 1995—after the body’s own cannabinoid receptor system had been discovered and elucidated by ICRS members—the group changed the C-word in its name to “Cannabinoid.” As pharmacologist Dale Deutsch explained in 1998, “The field is moving away from the plant.”
The 2014 ICRS meeting marked the return of the plant to the forefront of the field. Neurologist Ethan Russo was serving as president (the job is held for a year), and he invited the Italian natural product chemist Giovanni Appendino to give the featured talk.
Appendino, a professor at the Università del Piemonte Orientale, noted proudly that he is from Carmagnola, a northern Italian town renowned for its fiber hemp variety of the same name.
Appendino first published research in the cannabinoid field in 2002, when he was co-author of a paper on “Noladin ether—a putative endocannabinoid.” The lead authors were Raphael Mechoulam and Vincenzo DiMarzo. But his “relationship with cannabis as fiber hemp” goes much further back, he said. “My grandfather was growing it and the odor of hemp retting tanks filled the air around Carmagnola during the Fall.”
“Nature has varied on the cannabinoid structure,” Appendino observed. Cannabis researchers have focused almost exclusively on THC, CBD, CBC (cannabichromene), and CBG (cannabigerol, precursor to the other three) while not investigating the therapeutic potential of related molecules present in Cannabis—and other plants as well.