Published in the Enterprising Investor of the CFA Institute on “The Evolving International Cannabis Landscape”

“The evolving landscape of the non-U.S. cannabis industry mirrors the early growth stages seen in the United States, which we outlined in our preceding article in this series. As recreational cannabis markets emerge, the consumer base expands from daily enthusiasts, who might even cultivate their own cannabis, to a wider demographic…

This overview provides policymakers and investors insights into the cannabis industry’s potential expansion. For investors, assessing the nuanced interplay between regulatory developments and market growth across different global regions is crucial.

With the United States accounting for 95% of the world’s cannabis sales, it understandably attracts most investor attention. However, we advise those entering the world of cannabis investment to broaden their perspectives. International markets may be small, but their growth potential creates significant opportunities. While the U.S. moves slowly through a maze of incoherent rules and self-imposed market fragmentation, other countries are adopting more coherent and comprehensive approaches, presenting lucrative international opportunities.”

Check out the whole thing!

The Wonders of CBC

Cannabichromene (CBC) is yet another cannabinoid showing encouraging therapeutic potentials. In this short post, we want to emphasize its multifaceted benefits, supported by groundbreaking research.

CBC is the third most prominent cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant, behind CBD and THC. This cannabinoid emerges as a beacon of hope in the medical community, offering novel treatments for conditions ranging from acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) to Alzheimer’s Disease, combating antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and providing pain relief for various conditions. The research showcases CBC’s role in reversing hypoxia, reducing inflammation, and its neuroprotective capabilities, presenting a promising future for cannabis-based therapies.

In short, CBC is yet another door allowing people to live healthy lives that the cannabis plant provides. In the future, cannabinoids may well be a vital part in advancing medical science and patient care.

Read more about this promising cannabinoid at Leafwell  and the blog of Christina Shifflett.

CFA Institute on cannabis

Published with the CFA Institute on the business of cannabis.

The institutional world of finance is coming around to the potential of cannabis! An excerpt:

“…notwithstanding the twin risks of unfavorable tax treatment and overly optimistic expectations of federal legalization, the cannabis sector is what nostalgic investors who recall the 1980s bond markets pine for: an inefficient market where deep analysis of fair values can pay off.

The industry can produce so much more than giggles and munchies. Research into the plant’s non-psychoactive components remains in its infancy but is progressing rapidly. Indeed, cannabis products could have potential applications in promoting gut health and treating cancer, chronic pain, and mental illness, among other uses, and the pharmaceutical industry has taken note.

Moreover, the investment opportunities extend well beyond the United States. Many overseas governments are either encouraging their cannabis industries or at least not impeding them. While the US market may have the highest upside, its international counterparts, for both medical and recreational use, are growing, and many developing countries have lower production costs and more favorable growing climates.”

Read the whole thing here.

Another way in which Pot Legalization Saves Lives

A new study in the Southern Economic Journal“Marijuana legalization and traffic fatalities revisited  by Weiwei Chen and Michael T. French, examines the impact of marijuana legalization on traffic fatalities in the United States. The study’s relevance is underscored by the dramatic changes in the legal landscape of marijuana over the past three decades, with increasing societal acceptance for both medical and recreational purposes.

The research employs data on state-level traffic fatalities from 1990 to 2019, covering all 50 states plus the District of Columbia. For the skeptics, they do control for various state-specific traffic laws, including speed limits, graduated driver-licensing laws, seat belt laws, handheld wireless device and texting bans, and driving-under-influence laws, as well as traffic volume, state demographic and economic characteristics.

The results indicate that medical marijuana legalization has a statistically significant effect on traffic fatalities, in that total fatality rates decreased by about 7.5% after legalization becomes effective. Controlling for other effects suggest an almost 4% drop in fatalities due to medical cannabis legalization. Recreational cannabis laws seem not to have any such pos effect, however. The reason for this is unclear but may relate either to the different demographic groups using more cannabis as a result of medical versus recreational cannabis laws passing. Previous studies have found similar results, with medical marijuana legalization decreasing traffic fatalities. This study shows a robust relationship based on updated data. 

It thus seems increasingly established that beyond the direct effects of cannabis in helping people with all kinds of physical and mental illnesses, it also is keeping more people safe from traffic accidents. Why is this? As the authors note, “Compared to alcohol, the impairment effect of marijuana on driving is relatively mild. Individuals who are under the influence of marijuana tend to drive slower, avoid overtaking other vehicles, and increase following distances. The opposite is true for drivers who are under the influence of alcohol.” Couple this observation with the fact that previous studies have detected that cannabis and alcohol are substitutes. With better access to cannabis, people drink less alcohol. So as long as high drivers are safer than drunk drivers, we are all better off when more people have the option to get high instead of going for the bottle.

The Entourage Effect in Medicinal Cannabis

The world of medicinal cannabis is vast and intricate, with one term frequently emerging in discussions: the “entourage effect.” But what does it mean, and why is it significant when considering the therapeutic potential of cannabis products?

Understanding the Entourage Effect

Christensen et al. has recently published in Biomedicines a great overview of what we know so far about the entourage effect. Originally coined in a pre-clinical study, the term “entourage effect” referred to the observation where endogenous bio-inactive metabolites enhanced the activity of a bioactive endocannabinoid. In simpler terms, certain inactive compounds, when present, amplified the effects of active ones. This concept was later extrapolated to full-spectrum medicinal cannabis products, suggesting that they might offer a more profound effect than their isolated counterparts.

The entourage effect postulates that the therapeutic impact of the whole plant is greater than the sum of its individual parts. This means that a full-spectrum cannabis product, containing a range of cannabinoids, terpenes, and other compounds, could provide better therapeutic outcomes than a product containing just a single compound, like THC or CBD.

Key Components in Cannabis and Their Interactions

To delve deeper into the entourage effect, it’s essential to understand the primary components of cannabis:

  1. Cannabinoids: These are the most well-known compounds in cannabis, with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) being the most prominent. While THC is known for its psychoactive effects, CBD is recognized for its therapeutic potential without the “high.”
  2. Terpenes: These aromatic compounds give cannabis its distinctive smell. But beyond aroma, terpenes can also influence the effects of cannabinoids, potentially enhancing their therapeutic properties.
  3. Flavonoids: Present in cannabis, certain flavonoids like cannaflavins have demonstrated therapeutic properties, such as anti-inflammatory effects.

The interactions between these compounds can be classified into two types:

  • Intra-entourage: Interactions between similar compounds, like cannabinoid-to-cannabinoid or terpene-to-terpene.
  • Inter-entourage: Interactions between different types of compounds, such as cannabinoid-to-terpene.

Why the Entourage Effect Matters

The entourage effect is more than just a buzzword. It represents the intricate interplay between various cannabis compounds and their collective therapeutic potential. For instance, while THC is known for its psychoactive properties, its effects can be modulated by the presence of CBD. CBD can influence how THC interacts with certain receptors, thereby altering the overall therapeutic and psychoactive experience.

Terpenes also play a pivotal role in the entourage effect. These aromatic compounds, while primarily known for giving cannabis its distinctive smell, can influence the effects of cannabinoids, potentially enhancing their therapeutic properties. Some terpenes can increase the permeability of the blood-brain barrier, allowing cannabinoids to exert their effects more efficiently. This interaction exemplifies the potential synergistic benefits that can arise when multiple compounds in cannabis work in tandem.

However, while the term often denotes synergistic effects, implying that cannabis compounds target the same receptor system to produce an amplified therapeutic effect, it is essential to recognize that antagonistic interactions might also occur. Such interactions can be as significant as synergistic ones, especially when considering the overall therapeutic profile of a cannabis product.

Furthermore, the term “entourage effect” has been subject to debate within the scientific community. Some critics argue that its usage is primarily for marketing purposes in the cannabis industry, while others believe it holds genuine pharmacological relevance. The term was originally coined to describe bio-inactive compounds potentiating a bioactive compound’s activity. It was later applied to full-spectrum medicinal cannabis products, suggesting an enhanced therapeutic effect compared to isolated compounds.

We can be quite certain that the entourage effect accentuates the intricate and synergistic relationships between the various compounds in cannabis. It suggests that to harness the full therapeutic potential of this plant, one must consider it in its entirety rather than in isolation.

Cannabis Reclassification: A Step Forward or Regulatory Maneuvering?

In the ongoing theater of state regulation, the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) recent recommendation to reclassify marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) has raised eyebrows. Is this change a meaningful stride toward personal freedom, or is it a nuanced adjustment that keeps the core power dynamics intact?

The Controlled Substances Act, found in 21 U.S.C. § 812, has long been a tool for the government to regulate substances, including marijuana. The proposed shift to Schedule III would change the legal standing of cannabis but would not remove the government’s role in its regulation. In essence, the state continues to hold the reins, albeit with a lighter grip. Further, cannabis is not excluded from the CSA like alcohol, “The term [controlled substance] does not include distilled spirits, wine, malt beverages, or tobacco, as those terms are defined or used in subtitle E of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.” (§ 812(6))

The reclassification would open new regulatory pathways. For example, the federal government could establish a tax system based on THC content, similar to alcohol taxation. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) might also introduce strict licensing requirements, which could disproportionately benefit larger corporations due to the complexities and costs of compliance. Additionally, the government could enact stringent marketing regulations, akin to those for tobacco.

However, the move to Schedule III would ease restrictions on cannabis research, potentially leading to FDA-approved medications. It could also positively impact the SAFE Banking Act by reducing legal risks and providing clearer regulations, thereby potentially attracting more institutional investment. Yet, it’s important to note that these are separate legislative efforts, and the success of one doesn’t guarantee the success of the other.

The HHS recommendation comes in response to President Biden’s call to reevaluate the federal status of marijuana. While some view this as progress, it’s crucial to recognize that Schedule III still subjects marijuana to federal oversight. Most cannabis-related activities would remain federally regulated, leaving the state with significant control over the sector.

The reclassification also doesn’t directly address longstanding issues of racial and class disparities in marijuana law enforcement. For instance, during her time as San Francisco district attorney, Kamala Harris oversaw more than 1,900 marijuana convictions that disproportionately affected minority communities.

President Biden, whose legislative history includes the controversial Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, announced a comprehensive pardon for prior federal and D.C. marijuana possession offenses in October 2022. However, the slow implementation of this pardon raises questions about the administration’s commitment to meaningful reform.

While government intervention can distort market dynamics, the proposed reclassification doesn’t fundamentally alter this reality. The state would still have the ability to withhold certain benefits from those with prior marijuana convictions, as the pardons do not include expungements, including the 1,900 convictions overseen by Kamala Harris that disproportionately affected minority communities. This continues to stifle the growth of small and minority-driven cannabis enterprises.

Based on past regulatory changes, full implementation could be a lengthy process. The reclassification would require a formal rule-making process, including public comment, which could take several months to a year. Subsequent federal and state regulatory adjustments could extend this timeline by another 1-2 years, making a 2- to 5-year timeframe for full implementation plausible.

In summary, while reclassification may appear as a significant leap forward, it’s more of a cautious step that doesn’t fully address the core issues. True progress would require not just rescheduling but descheduling marijuana, allowing for greater individual choice and market autonomy, free from extensive state control. Only such a comprehensive shift could begin to heal the wounds left by years of uneven marijuana criminalization.

Youngsters are ditching the ethanol for greener pastures

Young adults in the U.S., specifically those aged 18 to 34, are reducing their alcohol intake. New survey results from Gallup show that over the past two decades, the percentage of these young adults who drink has fallen from 72% to 62%. Meanwhile, cannabis consumption is on the rise.

While young adults who do consume alcohol are doing so less frequently, older adults are showing an uptick in their drinking habits. Furthermore, younger drinkers are less inclined to overindulge, with only 22% admitting to occasionally consuming more than they believe they should, down from 28% in previous decades. The average number of alcoholic beverages young adults consumed weekly has also decreased from 5.2 two decades ago to 3.6 now.

The changing drinking habits can be attributed in part to a rise in cannabis consumption. Since 2013, its consumption among young adults has nearly doubled. There has also been a demographic shift over the years, with the younger age group becoming more racially and ethnically diverse. This is pertinent as non-white Americans typically drink less. Moreover, there’s a growing health consciousness among young adults. A notable 52% now consider even moderate drinking harmful, a significant increase from the 34% five years ago.

This creates an obvious opportunity for cannabis companies. As alcohol becomes less popular and marijuana use increases, this young cohort should be the one to target. More importantly, we are possibly entering a world with fewer headaches and liver damages that alcohol causes. We look forward to seeing less ethanol down people’s throats and more natural plants in their system. Here is for a healthier and greener century.

Book Review: Cannabis: Evolution and Ethnobotany

“Cannabis: Evolution and Ethnobotany” by Robert Clarke and Mark Merlin is an expansive and interdisciplinary exploration of the natural origins and early development of this renowned plant. Delving into its historical significance and the profound impact it has had on human societies, the book provides a comprehensive account of cannabis and its diverse uses.

The authors meticulously examine the various aspects of cannabis, from the durable fiber in its stalks to its oil-rich seeds and the psychoactive and medicinal compounds found in its female flowers. Throughout history, these valuable goods derived from cannabis have played a pivotal role in shaping commercial, medical, ritual, and religious practices across cultures, driving the evolution of the plant itself.

Clarke and Merlin offer insights into the historical usage of cannabis for textiles and its migration over millennia. While some sections may be more detailed than others, the book is replete with valuable findings and intriguing discoveries.

The book also sheds light on why humanity continues to depend on cannabis and adapt it to meet our needs. As public interest in cannabis grows and discussions surrounding its myriad uses become more prevalent, this comprehensive resource provides a valuable understanding of its deep-rooted significance in human life.

The authors explore the natural growing conditions of cannabis, highlighting its affinity for exposed riverbanks, lakesides, and agricultural lands that offer ample sunlight and well-drained, nutritious soil. They also delve into the composition of cannabis, revealing that naturally grown plants possess a balanced ratio of CBD and THC. This balanced distribution, which follows a normal distribution curve, contrasts with contemporary varieties that exhibit significantly higher levels of either CBD or THC.

The book delves into the psychoactive properties of cannabis, explaining that the primary psychoactive compound is THC, specifically in its non-psychoactive form known as THCA. To activate its psychoactive effects, cannabis must be heated through decarboxylation, removing the carboxylic acid side chain. For those interested in understanding how the method of ingestion affects the plant’s effects, the authors provide references to additional sources that explore this topic in detail.

Another treat from the book is a captivating journey through the history of the plant. The authors trace its origins millions of years ago in northern Eurasia, speculating that the migration of cannabis southwards during glaciations led to its diversification into indica and sativa strains. They highlight the role of cannabis in the evolution of human cognitive abilities, positing that the ancient mutation resulting in the CB1 receptor, followed by prolonged exposure to THC, may have contributed to the acceleration of human mental powers.

The book intriguingly suggests that cannabis may have played a pivotal role in the development of human cognition at the dawn of agriculture. Carl Sagan’s theorized that cannabis was the only cultivated crop of the Pygmies, suggesting that its use may have influenced the development of our cannabinoid receptors. The authors also present the possibility that early humans first gathered cannabis seeds and later discovered the psychotropic effects by scraping resin from their fingers with their teeth.

In exploring recent history, the authors tell of travelers to India in the 1800s that using cannabis (bhang) had no severe consequences compared to the potential death penalty for drinking liquor. They also touch upon the contemporary (at the time of writing in 2016) state of cannabis cultivation, highlighting the limited number of farmers consciously improving their crops through selection and breeding.

Overall, “Cannabis: Evolution and Ethnobotany” is an insightful and informative book that serves as an excellent resource for those seeking a deeper understanding of the historical significance and evolution of cannabis. Clarke and Merlin’s thorough research makes this book a valuable addition to the field of cannabis studies. A recommended read for those who want to dig deep into this versatile plant, and a source of reference for anyone wanting to write or speak intelligently on the place of cannabis in human history and society.

Announcing our AI “CannaChat”

ViviFi Ventures is pleased to announce “CannaChat”, our AI-enabled research tool. CannaChat finds and summarizes research that is determined to be valuable information for the cannabis community. ViviFi will post CannaChat’s results on the first of every month and occasionally in between if some research seems particularly newsworthy. Currently, we search about 15 academic journals for articles that meet certain criteria, such as the most cited articles. The list of journals is augmented by other sources of research that gain in popularity or probe specific subsets of industry information.

Our first blog post summarizes an article about the variability in chemical composition within and across cannabis strains. The authors find that some strains showing more chemical variability than others and some indica/hybrid/sativa strains are highly intermingled, with no obvious segregation of strains based on lab testing labels.

If you are aware of journals or research source that you think we should consider, please send an email to

The phytochemical diversity of commercial Cannabis in the United States*

by Christiana J. Smith, Daniela Vergara, Brian Keegan, and Nick Jikomes

PLoS One

May 19, 2022

Why this article matters:

Commercial “strain names” are associated with variable levels of chemical consistency. The authors found limited differences between “Indica” and “Sativa,” with some strains showing more chemical variability than others and having unknown entourage effects. Moreover, commercial labels do not accurately represent the chemical makeup of the products.


The study titled “The phytochemical diversity of commercial Cannabis in the United States” by Christiana J. Smith, Daniela Vergara, Brian Keegan, and Nick Jikomes, published in PLoS ONE, delves into the chemical diversity of commercial Cannabis products in the United States. The researchers analyzed the cannabinoid and terpene content of commercial Cannabis samples from six US states. They found distinct chemical phenotypes which are consistently present across the samples.

Cannabis contains dozens of chemical compounds with potential psychoactive or medicinal effects. The legal Cannabis industry often markets products to consumers based on labeling systems that are supposed to predict the effects of different “strains.” However, the study found that these commercial composition labels do not consistently align with the observed chemical diversity. In other words, the labels attached to Cannabis-derived product samples do not always accurately represent the chemical makeup of the products.

Despite this, the researchers found that certain testing lab labels show a biased association with specific chemotypes. This means that some labels are more likely to be associated with certain chemical profiles than others. These findings have significant implications for several areas. They affect the classification of commercial Cannabis, the design of animal and human research studies, and the regulation of consumer marketing. These areas are often disconnected from the actual chemical reality of the Cannabis-derived material they aim to represent.

To quantify the phytochemical similarity of products sharing a common strain name, the authors plotted the distribution of product similarity scores sorted left to right from highest to lowest mean similarity for the 41 strains used in this analysis. The violin plot depicts the degree and range of similarity by strain. White Tahoe Cookies is similar across regions whereas Durban Poison is highly variable. **P < 0.001, ***P < 0.0001, Welch’s test.

The researchers also found that the majority of the variance in the cannabinoid profiles of the samples was explained by variation among the three most abundant cannabinoids: THC, CBD, and CBG. They also found that most samples contained low levels of cannabinoids beyond THC, but a small percentage of samples had total CBD or total CBG of 1% by weight or higher.

In addition to cannabinoids, Cannabis also contains a diverse class of related compounds known as terpenes. The researchers found that on average, the terpenes myrcene, β-caryophyllene, and limonene were present at the highest and most varied levels in the samples. They also found that total terpene content averaged 2% by weight and displayed a modest but robust positive correlation with total cannabinoid content.

The study is the largest chemotaxonomic analysis of commercial Cannabis-derived flower to date, with a sample size of 89,923. The samples were submitted by cultivators for testing in order to comply with state laws, representing Cannabis-derived products destined for sale in retail locations within each state.

The researchers concluded that their results provide new possibilities for systematically categorizing commercial Cannabis based on chemistry. This could inform the design of preclinical and clinical research experiments and the regulation of commercial Cannabis marketing.

* Smith CJ, Vergara D, Keegan B, Jikomes N. “The phytochemical diversity of commercial Cannabis in the United States”. PLoS One. 2022 May 19;17(5):e0267498. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0267498. PMID: 35588111; PMCID: PMC9119530.