Researchers in Italy have recently announced the discovery of two new cannabinoids, cannabidiphorol (CBDP) and tetrahydrocannabiphorol (THCP). These findings are particularly important with regard to THCP, as analysts believe that it has the potential to significantly increase the potency of certain mind-altering properties in cannabis.
Scientists have so far discovered over 150 different cannabinoids, which are the primary compounds in cannabis; however, it is believed that the true number of cannabinoids is actually much higher. Unfortunately, proper research into these compounds has for the most part been hindered, due to unnecessary cannabis prohibitions that have persisted since the last century. While scientists are still trying to play catch up, the bulk of research has been focused on the two most prevalent cannabinoids, THC and CBD.
THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the cannabinoid in marijuana that is believed to induce psychotropic symptoms. When ingested, THC binds with internal cannabinoid (CB) receptors that function as part of the endocannabinoid system, or ECS — which is a system that functions by regulating homeostatic imbalances within the body. Currently, researchers have isolated two types of cannabinoid receptors: CB1 and CB2, which are found in locations all throughout the body.
Although THC activates both receptors, it is the binding with CB1 that specifically causes THC to generate its infamous psychotropic effects. However, studies have shown that a higher THC content doesn’t necessarily determine whether a particular strain of cannabis is more “potent”. In addition, different strains of cannabis that contain equal amounts of THC can cause widely inconsistent reactions between individuals, and researchers believe that THCP could help to explain these discrepancies.
At the molecular level, THC is almost identical to THCP, with a few key differences. While THC is structured with a side chain that contains 5 links, THCP has an elongated side chain with 7 links, and this gives it a much better ability to bind and activate CB receptors — up to 33 times more with CB1 receptors and 5-10 times more with CB2 than regular THC. This discovery has led researchers to speculate that THC is not the primary cause of psychotropic effects from cannabis.
Similar to THCP, CBDP has 7 links on its elongated side chain as opposed to the 5 links on CBD, or cannabidiol. Presently, researchers have decided not to focus on CBDP at the moment, because CBD itself does not bind with CB receptors; rather, it inhibits the enzymes that dissolve endocannabinoids from the bloodstream. Endocannabinoids are the neurotransmitters that are released as a result of CB receptor activation, and they perform a large variety of tasks. However, it is thought that CBD actually does bind with CB receptors, but ones that simply have not been discovered yet.
As researchers continue to study the various compounds of cannabis, it is likely they will be discovering many more cannabinoids in the years to come. It is hard to calculate the long-term damage that cannabis prohibition has caused; aside from the countless convictions and jail time served for non-violent cannabis users, it is an egregious violation against humanity that scientists have been actively restricted from studying the components of such a versatile and useful plant.
Even now, the industry is wrangled in unnecessary red tape and legal grey areas. Looking back at the supposed reasons for cannabis prohibition raises many questions about why it was really banned and who the ban was really intended to benefit. It is hopeful that each new discovery made about the properties of cannabis will help to eliminate the unfair stigma it has been subjected to.