Toxicology by definition is the study of adverse effects of chemical, biological, or physical agents on living organisms.
Cannabis and toxicology doesn’t sound like a subject that is pertinent to insurance professionals in the specialty, but knowing the business means more than just reading up on the latest cannabis news or being an avid consumer.
What happens to a person when they consume, in fact all aspects of the science behind cannabis, can be quite informative for insurance professionals who deal with any aspect of the cannabis business – brokers, claims professionals, risk managers.
So, the producers of the Insuring Cannabis podcast decided to cover more on the science of the plant itself, the molecules that make up the plant, how it’s grown, the endocannabinoid system and toxicology, the process by which extracts are manufactured.
What follows is the first in a series of episodes within the podcast focused on science. Going forward, from time to time we’ll produce a science-based episode in hopes of adding to our listener’s knowledge, and perhaps we’ll even add a little element of fascination to their day.
Our latest episode features Nadia Moore, principal toxicologist, environmental, health & safety at J.S. Held, a global consulting firm that provides technical, scientific, financial and advisory services. Moore has a PhD in toxicology from the University of Washington. She has more than 25 years of experience in toxicology, exposure science, regulatory compliance, molecular biology and analytical chemistry.
Our conversation with her focused on cannabis and toxicology. We got into some of the fun acronyms – THCA, THC, CBD – the endocannabinoid system, absorption, metabolism, and more in what turned out to be an extensive and highly informative conversation.
Following are takeaways from that conversation.
Moore started off with a sort of Toxicology 101 course.
“What I live by is the dose response curve, which really describes this relationship between dose and response, such that when a dose of a substance increases, so does its response,” she said. “And a great example of that is like a cup of coffee, right? So if I have one cup of coffee, I become alert, and I feel great, at least I do. And so, if I drank three cups of coffee, my hand starts to shake and my heart starts to race. But if I’m just having a bad day and I might drink five or six cups of coffee, well, then I’m just sick, right?”
She also explained the difference between cannabis and hemp plants (defined in the Farm Bill as basically a cannabis plant that has no more than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol), strains of plants, the chemicals in the plants and cannabinoids.
“And one of the groups of chemicals that are in these plants are called cannabinoids. And the groups of compounds that are in this cannabinoid, or the compounds that are in the cannabinoid group, are compounds that can interact with a specific type of receptors in our bodies,” she said. “And those are the cannabinoid receptors. And it’s these receptors, then, that are activated. And the one of these compounds that can activate these receptors is THC. And so THC, which we’ve all heard of, is the main psychoactive component of marijuana, or the THC containing plants.”
Moore also got into a general overview of the endocannabinoid system, which also helps balance key body functions and processes including cognition, pain, sensation, appetite, memory, sleep and immune function.
The explained these effects are mediated by two members of intracellular membrane receptors on the outsides of cells that can be activated – aptly named cannabinoid receptors, cannabinoid receptor 1 and cannabinoid receptor 2.
“And they’re found in a lot of immune cells, lymph tissues as well as peripheral nerve systems,” she said. “And these really play a role in, or are thought to play a role in, modulating inflammatory processes.”
THC, for example, activates both of the CB 2 and the CB 2 receptors, she added.
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