Booming like anything: market size

Cannabis has become a the fastest growing industry in the world today as increasingly more jurisdictions legalize medical or recreational consumption. I found resemblance of this emergence with the dot-com boom of the mid-1990s.

The global legal cannabis market size is expected to reach USD 66.3 billion at a CAGR of 23.9% by the end of 2025 (Grand View Research, Inc., May 2019). The U.S. market itself is valued USD 11.9 billion in 2018 and medical cannabis held the largest market share. Barclays estimated very ambitious forecast as market to be worth USD$150 billion today.

Edibles cannabis products landscape

Ingestible products such as edibles (oils, tinctures, and oil-filled capsules under medicinal and baked goods, chocolates, gummies, and hard candies under recreational) and beverages such as CBD-water are generally non-reliable due to short shelf-life, variable bioavailability and possessing an undesirable lingering cannabis taste. But these shortcomings can be overcome using latest micro encapsulation technology.

The extracts: visible and non-visible challenges

The extract is generally the starting material for all cannabis products. The complex chemical secretion in solid or oil-like extract is made of cannabinoids and terpenes. Cannabinoids (CBD’s, THC’s, CBG’s) are the primary or major active ingredients in cannabis, while terpenes contribute to the aromatic and taste properties. Together with the whole, they also contribute to the "entourage effect".

Bioavailability and water solubility

The bioavailability of cannabinoids is generally limited due to its poor water solubility. Pharmacokinetic studies have reported the oral bioavailability of THC and CBD to be low, at 6-10% and 4-10%, respectively. To enhance the intestinal permeability, protein micro-encapsulation of cannabinoid-rich oil can provide

great benefits. Plantine therefore investigated the enhancement of cannabinoid bioavailability by micro-encapsulation (patent protected) of their cannabinoid-rich Hemp oil (HempCapTM patent-pending). The study showed 52-fold increased bioavailability over a 2.8% baseline of non-encapsulated CBD oil. Additionally, it is stable for at least 2 years and is completely free from hemp/cannabis taste and aroma.

Not all are same: What to know?

Globally, a new market space is emerging for herbal cannabis and oils containing only CBD or mainly CBD with very low THC levels. To date, hundreds of CBD products can be purchased in form of herbs, resin, oils, e-liquids, food supplements, and cosmetics. As an herbal product, there are huge inherent variabilities and if not standardised properly, the overall quality can not achieve. Ideally, water solubility, bioavailability, neutral taste, non-allergenic and non-GMO to be considered as acceptable criteria. Full-spectrum hemp extract (contrary to CBD isolate), provides a full spectrum of naturally occurring phytocannabinoids, including terpenes and a defined amount of CBD. Full-spectrum phytocannabinoid-products are the right way to go. HempCapTM can satisfy all these criteria.

Way forward

There has been a monumental shift in the legal and social cannabis landscape globally. Stigma and perceived harms associated with its use have progressively decreased along with increasing scientific research and social awareness. It is well accepted that "the increasing diversity with respect to cannabis product types, formulations, and administration methods that have coincided with widespread legalization has complicated matters considerably". Indeed, hundreds of products now fall under the ‘cannabis’ umbrella, but sound science to understand the nuanced differences in product types is scant. Plantine has compliant solutions available for food, beverage, feed and cosmetic uses.

Information consulted:

Blake A and Nahtigal N. 2019. The evolving landscape of cannabis edibles. Current Opinion in Food Science, 28:25-31.

Ghosh D. 2019. Cannabis and cannabinoids: A journey from an ancient believe to the fore. In: "Natural Medicines: Clinical Efficacy, Safety, and Quality", Eds. Ghosh D & Mukherjee P, CRC Press. Chapter 29, 537-549.

Ghosh D. 2018. The Science of Cannabis & Cannabinoids. Nutraceuticals World, September, 54-57.

Spindle TR, Bonn-Miller MO and Vandrey R. 2019. Changing landscape of cannabis: novel products, formulations, and methods of administration. Current Opinion in Psychology, 30:98-102.