Lesser-known cannabinoids attract customers, controversy

By Jackie Bryant
May 18, 2021

Lesser-known cannabinoids are continuing to grow in popularity, whether they are engineered in a lab or grown with targeted hemp genetics. Also known as minor cannabinoids, the growing number of products that include these compounds claim to offer a range of therapeutic benefits beyond what THC and CBD can provide, often without significant intoxicating effects.

Because minor cannabinoids can often be derived from hemp, some argue they are federally legal, though state governments have shown a willingness to close or tighten this loophole. It is still early days for the minor cannabinoid market–experts, including those who manufacture products which incorporate the compounds, all agree that the science isn’t yet well understood and they are still trying to push mainstream acceptance of THC and CBD, let alone other cannabinoids.

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The New Kids On The Block

The arrival of more minor cannabinoid-based products can be attributed to two factors, says Cameron Clarke, Co-founder of Sunderstorm, which manufactures Kanha, one of the top-selling edibles brands in California. 

“The market interest in minor cannabinoids is driven both by anecdotal evidence that they can help treat a variety of conditions and producers working to stay ahead of the market,” Clarke said. He cautions that, rather than relying on market trends, companies should use science to educate consumers about the benefits of minor cannabinoids. He sees this as necessary to accelerate consumer acceptance and understanding.

Some insiders think the market’s full potential may be far off. “THC and CBD are only just starting to enter the mainstream, so it’s to be expected that the minor cannabinoids will follow behind,” says Dr. Jonathan Vaught, CEO and co-founder of Front Range Biosciences, an agricultural biotechnology company that specializes in hemp genetics.

Vaught says that minor cannabinoids “weren’t really available until recently,” so it will take time for data regarding user experiences to be collected. It will also take time before new products incorporating them can be developed. Whatever surge in availability of minor cannabinoid products could just be a preview of what’s to come.

One product category where minor cannabinoids have already proven to be both effective and popular is edibles. “Minor cannabinoids are gaining traction in the consumer market because of their potential to improve management of wellness issues such as pain, anxiety, diet and sleep,” Clarke says.

“We were one of the first companies to launch both gummies and oral sprays with a significant amount of Cannabinol, or CBN, to promote a good night of sleep,” Clarke says. Called “Tranquility,” he says that it’s one of the company’s top-selling products. He adds that, as the science continues to develop, Sunderstorm will continue to research THCV, CBG, and other cannabinoids, and may manufacture condition-targeted products in the future.

All Eyes on Delta-8

One of the minor cannabinoids attracting the most attention is Delta-8-THC, or Delta-8, a close molecular cousin of the familiar Delta-9-THC. “It’s an unregulated THC cannabinoid derived from hemp that offers an experience very similar to the federally illegal cannabinoid Delta 9 THC,” says Flip Croft-Caderao, co-founder of Goodekind, which makes hemp-derived products from different cannabinoids, like gummies, topicals, and vapes. The company manufactures a particularly popular Delta-8 gummy that sells online.

“Our best selling ‘other’ cannabinoid is Delta-8-THC and it’s no wonder why,” Croft-Caderao said.

“Delta-8 is the biggest trend in the hemp industry since CBD, and most if not all hemp brands are quickly trying to bring Delta 8 products to market,”  Croft-Caderao said. “At Goodekind, we’re seeing it in our sales–our Delta 8 products outsell our CBD products 20:1,” he says. 

“Personally, I like Delta-8-THC because Delta-9 can be too intense for me,” Alaina Dorsey, CEO of FADEDlain, a visual strategy and infographics studio focusing on cannabis marketing. 

“A half-gram pre-roll around or above Delta-9 THC 20% knocks me out or sends my head spinning. My tolerance is very low: as a medical patient in Maryland, I’m medicating for mild scoliosis and mental illness. Delta-8 addresses my physical and emotional pain without throwing my mind into disorder,” she says.

Trying Different Cannabinoids on For Size

Dorsey says brands are tripping over themselves to get in on the minor cannabinoid upswing. This has resulted in a glut of information that may overwhelm cannabis consumers who are still just settling into the legality of THC, for example. 

“Brands are cycling through the cannabinoid of the moment. I don’t see that as a problem: how else is the market supposed to test what consumers want?” Dorsey says. She mentions that in her own cannabinoid routine, she switches on and off between Deltas-8 and -9, as well as CBD, to help her tolerance stay fresh for each. 

For Dorsey, the fact she and others even know about other cannabinoids, like Delta-8, is purely the result of market trends. She thinks that’s a good thing. “How would we have understood this about ourselves without this fad?” she asks. “This industry runs on trends and fads. The consumer determines if a cannabinoid has staying power. Cycling cannabinoids only becomes a problem when brands skip over transparency about potential effects, both good and bad, as well as legality and research,” she explains.

Croft-Caderao thinks that brands have been cycling through cannabinoids thanks to an oversaturation of what he calls “carbon-copy CBD products” in the marketplace.

“The industry is still made up of small businesses like ours, so there’s a great amount of innovation taking place,” Croft-Caderao says. “In our industry innovation looks like different types of products mixed with different types of cannabinoids,” 

Croft-Caderao agrees with Dorsey that there is validity in cycling through different cannabinoids. 

“Cannabis and hemp can affect people differently, so it’s important to remain curious and experiment,” Croft-Caderao said, adding with caution, “I’m not sure which horse is pulling the cart. I’ve seen some new THCV and Delta-10-THC formulations coming out that brands like ours are jumping on.”

THC-V, which has been dubbed “weederall,” after the stimulant ADHD medication Adderall, is said to be an appetite suppressant with focusing effects. Delta-10, which, like Delta-8 is a close molecular cousin to Delta-9, is said to produce energizing euphoric effects but with less punch.

Vaught also sees cycling as inevitable, and a natural market reaction to something so new and exciting. He and the team at Front Range Biosciences view their work as much more than just peddling other cannabinoids–Vaught says that they “are focused on breeding for increased production of unique molecules produced by cannabis,” which includes minor cannabinoids, but also includes terpenes and flavonoids, in combination with major cannabinoids like THC and CBD,” he says. 

“We are focused on unlocking the potential of the cannabis plant to produce more diverse chemistry profiles that create unique experiences and potential wellness benefits for users,” Vaught says. In his view, this just happens to include showcasing minor cannabinoids found in specific hemp flower. 

Only time and research will tell which products are properly formulated for a variety of desired outcomes. He says that with more research and product development, “it seems likely that we’ll see some current minor cannabinoids join the major cannabinoids THC and CBD in the near future.”

This column is made possible by Moonwlkr Delta-8 THC. Column sponsors don’t influence their subject matter or content. 

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