Biggest Breakthroughs in Cannabis Science of 2017

Biggest Breakthroughs in Cannabis Science of 2017

With medical cannabis now legal in Canada and in 28 of the 50 United States, and with cannabis legalization at the federal level in Canada just around the corner, the doors have finally opened wide for researchers in Canada and the USA to start unraveling the medical potential of the cannabis plant.

Along with the widely known THC and CBD compounds, cannabis contains up to 80 other cannabinoids, many of which have never been fully assessed for their medicinal properties in a laboratory setting. That means that as investment in cannabis research grows (and it’s already growing), we’re going to learn even more about how people can benefit from the medicinal properties of these compounds.

To show you what we’re talking about, we’ve isolated some of the most significant and impactful breakthroughs in cannabis science that happened in 2017. These innovations are just the tip of the iceberg and we’re exciting to see what’s coming next in the world of cannabis science.

Cannabis Transdermal Patches Used to Treat Fibromyalgia

This writer loves lighting up a joint as much as the next guy, but the reality for many people who need medicinal cannabis is that smoking may not be their preferred way of ingesting the drug. The aptly named Cannabis Science Inc. developed a transdermal patch in 2017 that’s being used to deliver cannabis through the skin and into the bloodstream, in hopes of streamlining care for patients suffering from fibromyalgia.

The firm developed a patch with equal parts THC and CBD, as well as a high-CBD option aimed at treating patients with diabetic neuropathy.

Evidence Emerges of Reductions in Opioid Abuse where Cannabis is Available

One of the hidden benefits of cannabis legalization is that when cannabis is prescribed as a treatment for chronic pain, the prescription rates of oxycontin, Vicodin and Percocet drop substantially. This means fewer opioids in the streets, lower rates of addiction, and fewer overdoses. A study conducted by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that opioid overdoses dropped by 25% in states with a medical marijuana program.

In Canada, where fentanyl contamination in street drugs has already claimed too many lives, the prospect of reducing opioid abuse is a welcome one indeed.

Genomics Begins to Influence Large Scale Cannabis Production

Cannabis producers have been focused on using artificial selection methods for the last several decades to improve the yield and potency of crops. Growers choose the plants with the most potent flowers and the biggest yields and cross them together to increase the potency of strains over time, that’s why the average THC content of cannabis has gone from 1% in the 1970s to as much as 25% or more today.

With big money being invested into cannabis growth, growers are starting to use advanced methods in genomics to manipulate cannabis crops in brand new ways. This means that growers can better control for THC content, CBD content, and other desirable traits, even producing specific combinations of cannabinoid concentrations to achieve desirable medical benefits.

Although the desire to make cannabis for stoners has been the main driver of cross breeding cannabis strains over the last several decades, the new incentive is to make strains that are effective in medicinal applications. This fundamentally different objective will lead to plenty of innovation in cannabis agriculture and cultivation over the next decade.

Researchers Increase Understanding of Cannabis Impact on Alzheimer’s Disease

We’ve written before about how cannabis is effective at treating Alzheimer’s disease, and the evidence for its effectiveness is overwhelming at this point. In fact, cannabis has proven effective at protecting against a variety of neuromuscular degenerative diseases, including multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, diabetic neuropathy, Parkinson’s disease, and more.

Researchers are working hard and delving deep to better understand the mechanism through which cannabis inhibits the development of Alzheimer’s. The disease has two important aspects – first, the presence of the toxic substance Amyloid which builds up in the patient’s brain like fatty plaques build in the blood stream of a patient with heart disease, and second, the inflammation caused by the build-up of Amyloid.

Researchers from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California have discovered that the THC molecule facilitates a two-pronged attack against the disease, it not only relieves the inflammation, but actively works to remove amyloid from the brain, potentially reversing the negative effects of Alzheimer’s for some patients. Our fingers are crossed that the right treatments can be developed to cure Alzheimer’s disease permanently in all cases.

Cannabis Boosts the Effectiveness of Chemotherapy Drugs

Chemotherapy drugs are used to kill cancerous tumours in the body and are often deployed as a last resort treatment because of their devastating effects. Although the drugs can be targeted towards specific areas, they’re toxic to all living cells and produce plenty of collateral damage while hopefully eradicating the tumour at the same time.

A new study from the University of London found that both THC and CBD boosted the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs, producing better patient outcomes than chemotherapy did on its own. That could mean better rates of successful cancer treatment or a diminished need for the harmful drugs, which means less of the lousy side effects for which they’re known.

Further, patients don’t have to smoke cannabis to get the positive benefits for chemotherapy, highly concentrated and purified extracts were used in the experiment, and although they add to the overall cost of treatment, early results indicate that the benefits more than pay for themselves in terms of increased potential for successful treatment.


Cannabis legalization is just around the corner and new investments in science and technology are leading to innovations that promise to improve our society in so many ways. From reducing rates of opiate addictions and overdose to uncovering new treatment options for everything from Alzheimer’s disease to cancer, we have many reasons to be optimistic about the prospect of using medicinal cannabis smartly to create a better world.

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