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The 7 most important cannabis research studies of 2023



2023 saw tons of new research come out related to cannabis. Below is a selection of some of the studies that caught my attention, with brief summaries of each. The first two studies are in the realm of public health. After that, three studies on commercial cannabis followed by two basic research studies on the endocannabinoid system.

This year, we saw a nice review of the public health research done over the past few years, finding little evidence that legalization promotes marijuana consumption among teens, together with evidence that does promote lower teen alcohol consumption. There was also interesting research done on the Cannabis plant itself, including non-terpene volatiles that drive its aroma and its susceptibility to Hop Latent Viroid, a devastating infection that’s spreading across North America. There was also interesting basic research, shedding new light on how the endocannabinoid system works.

Here’s a brief summary of a selection of studies from 2023.

Hippie Hill 2022. Several thousand are expected this year. (David Downs/Leafly)
The galactic epicenter of 420: Hippie Hill, San Francisco Golden Gate Park. (David Downs/Leafly)

As of the publication of this paper, 36 states had legalized medical marijuana and 18 had legalized recreational adult-use cannabis. This review paper summarizes studies that have come out to do with public health consequences of legalization. The major outcomes they reviewed the literature on included: youth marijuana use, alcohol consumption, the abuse of prescription opioids, traffic fatalities, and crime.

“Little credible evidence to suggest that legalization promotes marijuana use among teenagers.”

Topics with a strong level of agreement across studies included:

  • “Little credible evidence to suggest that legalization promotes marijuana use among teenagers.”
  • “Convincing evidence that young adults consume less alcohol when medical marijuana is legalized.”

For other topics, the authors found a lower level of agreement across studies preventing firm conclusions from being drawn. Those included:

  • “For other public health outcomes such as mortality involving prescription opioids, the effect of legalizing medical marijuana has proven more difficult to gauge and, as a consequence, we are less comfortable drawing firm conclusions.”

For more detail on the literature they reviewed, check out the paper itself.


How to order weed delivery online with Leafly

The question this study sought to address was whether state cannabis legalization was associated with increased rates of psychosis-related health care claims. This cohort study looked at claims data from over 63 million beneficiaries between 2003-2017. They found no statistically significant differences in the rates of psychosis-related diagnoses or prescribed antipsychotics in states with legal medical or adult-use cannabis compared to those without legal cannabis.

Terps are not the whole story. (Courtesy Abstrax)
Terps are not the whole story. (Courtesy Abstrax)

Following up on previous work showing that the “skunky” aroma of some strains comes not from terpenes, but from a class of compounds called, “volatile sulfur compounds,” a team from Abstrax dug deeper into the chemistry of cannabis aroma. They found that a variety of nonterpene volatile compounds are the main drivers of many of the “exotic” aromas that give strains various sweet or savory scents. 

To learn more about this particular study, check out this Leafly article and listen to the video lecture by Abstrax chemist Dr. Iain Oswald.


The nose knows: Time to free your mind from THC and terp scores

This bud is showing nitrogen issues, as well as thin crinkle-cut leaf, and the airy, larfy bud development. All signs of a hop latent viroid infection. (David Downs/Leafly)
This bud is showing nitrogen issues, as well as thin crinkle-cut leaf, and the airy, larfy bud development. All signs of a hop latent viroid infection. (David Downs/Leafly)

Hop latent viroid is a virus-like infection that’s been devastating cannabis crops throughout North America. We have previously written about what HLV is and how it affects marijuana growers. This was a key study from 2023 showing what HLV does to Cannabis plants and how prevalent it already is in some locations. Given the enormous impact HLV is already having, expect to hear more about this bug in 2024.

Raw Garden harvest photo essay by David Downs at Leafly
(David Downs/Leafly)

Some cannabis is grown indoors, some outdoors. Many consumers have strong opinions on which is better. In this 2023 study, researchers did a head-to-head comparison of two genetically identical cultivars grown indoors vs. outdoors, looking at their cannabinoid and terpene content. Main findings included:

  • Significantly higher levels of oxidized and degraded cannabinoids in indoor-grown samples.
  • Significantly more “unusual cannabinoids” such as C4- and C6-THCA in outdoor-grown samples.
  • Significant differences in terpene profiles for outdoor- vs. indoor-grown samples, with outdoor-grown samples generally showing higher levels of sesquiterpenes like caryophyllene, humulene, etc.

The endocannabinoid system regulates many different systems in the brain and body. As we covered in this article, endocannabinoids play an important role in regulating pain perception, fear, and anxiety. At any given moment, there is a certain level of “endocannabinoid tone” in your brain. As this rodent study showed, endocannabinoid tone “gates” the stress response generated in the hypothalamus of the brain. In general, endocannabinoids restrict activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which is the key brain system regulating stress levels. Higher endocannabinoid tone had the effect of lessening stress levels in rodents. 

Endocannabinoid receptors are one of the most abundant proteins in the brain, found in many different brain regions and types of neurons. This is one reason why the effects of THC can be so diverse. Depending on the dose of THC consumed, different neurons and brain regions can be affected to different degrees, generating different effects. In this rodent study, neuroscientists studied the effects of a specific subset of dopamine neurons in the brain which express CB1 receptors. They found that this particular subset of neurons has some of the negative side effects that cannabinoids like THC can induce (especially at high doses), including anxiety. This highlights how specific subsets of neurons in the brain can control specific effects that cannabinoids generate.

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Medical Cannabis Market to Reach USD 60.04 Billion by 2030




Summary: The global medical cannabis market is expected to grow significantly, reaching an estimated value of USD 60.04 billion by 2030, driven by increased legalization and growing awareness of its therapeutic benefits.

The Booming Future of Medical Cannabis: Market to Reach USD 60.04 Billion By 2030

According to SkyQuest, the medical cannabis industry is poised for substantial growth in the coming years, with projections indicating that the market could reach a staggering USD 60.04 billion by 2030. This growth is attributed to the increasing legalization of cannabis for medical purposes across various countries and the growing recognition of its therapeutic benefits.

The market’s expansion is fueled by extensive research and clinical trials demonstrating the efficacy of medical cannabis in treating a range of conditions, including chronic pain, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis. This has led to a broader acceptance of cannabis in the medical community and among patients seeking alternative treatments.

The rise in the number of countries legalizing medical cannabis is a significant factor contributing to market growth. As more governments recognize the medical value of cannabis and implement regulatory frameworks, the market is expected to witness increased demand and investment.

The medical cannabis market is also benefiting from advancements in cultivation techniques and product development. Innovations in extraction methods and the development of various cannabis-based products, such as oils, tinctures, and edibles, are making it more accessible and appealing to a wider patient base.

However, the market faces challenges, including regulatory hurdles and the stigma associated with cannabis use. Despite these challenges, the industry’s potential for growth remains high, driven by ongoing research, patient advocacy, and a shift in public perception towards cannabis.

As the medical cannabis market continues to evolve, it presents significant opportunities for investors, healthcare providers, and patients. The industry’s growth is expected to contribute to the development of new treatments and improve the quality of life for patients worldwide.

Why It Matters: The projected growth of the medical cannabis market to USD 60.04 billion by 2030 highlights the increasing acceptance and demand for cannabis-based therapies. This growth signifies a major shift in healthcare, offering new treatment options for patients and opportunities for innovation in the medical field.

Potential Implications: The expansion of the medical cannabis market could lead to more widespread use of cannabis-based treatments, influencing healthcare practices and policies. It may also drive further research into the medicinal properties of cannabis, potentially leading to new discoveries and treatments for various medical conditions.

Source: 420 Intel

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AI Disclaimer: This news update was created using a AI tools. PsychePen is an AI author who is constantly improving. We appreciate your kindness and understanding as PsychePen continues to learn and develop. Please note that the provided information is derived from various sources and should not be considered as legal, financial, or medical advice.

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American Legion

Veterans Show Strong Support for Medical Cannabis Legalization




Summary: A recent survey indicates that a significant majority of U.S. military veterans support the expansion of medical cannabis access. The survey, conducted by the American Legion, highlights the growing acceptance of medical marijuana among veterans, especially for treating conditions like chronic pain and PTSD.

Military Veterans Rally for Expanded Access to Medical Cannabis

The American Legion, a prominent U.S. veterans organization, recently conducted a survey that reveals a substantial majority of military veterans favor the expansion of medical cannabis access. This survey, involving thousands of veteran respondents, underscores the shifting attitudes towards medical marijuana within the veteran community.

The survey’s findings indicate that veterans are increasingly supportive of medical cannabis as a viable treatment option for various conditions, including chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Many respondents expressed their belief that medical marijuana offers a safer and more effective alternative to traditional prescription medications, particularly opioids.

The results showed that over 80% of surveyed veterans support the federal legalization of medical cannabis, and a similar percentage advocate for research into the medical benefits of marijuana. Additionally, a significant number of respondents reported using cannabis to alleviate symptoms associated with their military service, including chronic pain, anxiety, and PTSD.

The survey also highlighted the challenges veterans face in accessing medical cannabis, with many living in states where it remains illegal or heavily restricted. The respondents called for policy changes at both the federal and state levels to improve access to medical marijuana for veterans.

The American Legion’s survey is part of its ongoing efforts to advocate for veteran health and wellbeing. The organization has been vocal in urging the federal government to reclassify cannabis to facilitate more comprehensive research and to recognize its potential therapeutic benefits for veterans.

Why It Matters: This survey is significant as it reflects the growing acceptance and demand for medical cannabis among U.S. military veterans. It underscores the potential of medical marijuana in addressing the unique health challenges faced by veterans, particularly those related to their service.

Potential Implications: The survey’s findings could influence policymakers and healthcare providers to consider revising regulations and expanding access to medical cannabis for veterans. It may also encourage further research into the efficacy and safety of cannabis in treating conditions prevalent among the veteran population.

Source: NORML

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We hope you enjoyed this news update. Check back with us daily to see what’s going on in the world of cannabis and psychedelics. And make sure to subscribe to our weekly newsletter, the Cannadelics Sunday Edition with a the best stories of the week:



AI Disclaimer: This news update was created using a AI tools. PsychePen is an AI author who is constantly improving. We appreciate your kindness and understanding as PsychePen continues to learn and develop. Please note that the provided information is derived from various sources and should not be considered as legal, financial, or medical advice.

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cannabis research

New study supports testing weed for heavy metals




In brief: Legal cannabis gets tested for heavy metals in most states. That’s good because we know weed sucks up metals from the ground. And now, researchers have published a link between cannabis use and metal exposure among a group of smokers from 2005 to 2018. Read the details below.

By Nate Seltenrich

What’s in McGraw’s marijuana metal study of 2023?

Cannabis sativa is what scientists call a hyperaccumulator. Plants in this class, of which there are more than 700 (other members include sunflowers, barley, and tobacco) accumulate metals from soil, water, and fertilizers at levels hundreds or thousands of times greater than average. But a new study suggests some of those metals may also be accumulating in the bodies of cannabis users—arguably driven by contamination in the illicit markets.

Researchers with New York’s Columbia University sifted through a massive database from the US Centers for Disease Control’s long-running National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to determine whether cannabis users had higher levels of any of 17 different metals in their blood or urine. They analyzed data from 2005 to 2018 representing 7,254 participants who reported on their diet, health, demographics, and drug use, and provided single blood and urine samples.

The researchers couldn’t tell what kind of weed was used, where it came from, or even where participants lived. However, they did adjust for other factors that affect exposure to and excretion of metals, including race/ethnicity, age, sex, education, and seafood consumption.


Why is it so important to test cannabis products? 

Among the study group, researchers found that cannabis-only users had on average 27% higher levels of lead in their blood than non-users of both cannabis and tobacco. Furthermore, cannabis-only users had 21% more lead in their urine than those who abstained. Researchers also found elevated levels of cadmium in cannabis users, even controlling for tobacco use. Weed-only partakers in the study set had 22% more cadmium in their blood than the average abstainer.

These findings reinforce why legal states require that cannabis be tested for metals. Failed batches must be destroyed or remediated, and states routinely conduct recalls on any mistakenly released products that fail subsequent safety testing. The streets do not issue recalls. In June and July 2023, Oregon recalled flowers testing hot for cadmium, mercury, and arsenic.

Legal tobacco contamination is worse than illicit cannabis

Minute amounts of either lead or cadmium can affect human health. The US Environmental Protection Agency considers any lead exposure dangerous and has classified cadmium as a probable human carcinogen.

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None of the other 15 elements evaluated in the study—including arsenic, cobalt, manganese, and mercury—showed a clear causal association with cannabis use. And tobacco users proved far worse off. Their urinary cadmium levels were three times higher than those of exclusive cannabis users, for example, while their blood lead levels were 26% higher. 

Exclusive tobacco use was also associated with elevated levels of antimony, barium, tungsten, and uranium. (Legal cannabis generally undergoes far more stringent testing than tobacco.)

Study ‘a tremendous contribution’

The study appeared in late August in Environmental Health Perspectives, an open-access journal published through the United States National Institutes of Health.

It stands out as one of very few to date to look at real-world associations between cannabis use and exposure to environmental contaminants, says Maxwell Leung, an assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Arizona State University who has researched cannabis contaminants but was not affiliated with the new study. 

“It’s a tremendous contribution to our understanding of this public health issue.”

… 2005 to 2018 represents a time when few Americans had access to cannabis screened for safety by a certified testing lab. 

Yet the research’s relevance to ongoing exposures is somewhat unclear. That’s because the study period of 2005 to 2018 represents a time when few Americans had access to cannabis screened for safety by a certified testing lab.

Today nearly half of Americans live in a state where adults can buy legal weed tested for pesticides, solvents, microbes, and metals. In many of these states—including California, the nation’s largest legal marijuana market since sales began in January 2018—cannabis flower must contain less than 0.5 parts per million (ppm) lead and 0.2 ppm cadmium.

But the fact is that most smokers still are not buying from tested sources – and in some legal states the illicit market reigns. In the country’s biggest market, California, an estimated two out of three cannabis dollars are spent in the illegal market where growers don’t test for anything.

Next steps: Test legal vs. illegal weed exposures

More research is required to sort all this out, says Robert Thomas, a Maryland-based analytical chemist, and cannabis testing consultant who was not affiliated with the research. 

“Two of the most toxic elements known to mankind showed up in the blood and urine of regular cannabis users. I think that tells us something,” he said. “But we need to look at more data, we need to look at different subsets, and we need to look at different states, to see if there’s any difference.”

Senior author Tiffany Sanchez, an assistant professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia University, said a follow-up study comparing blood metals among cannabis users by state is already in the works. Her group also intends to look at metal contamination of untested CBD products.

“[Cannabidiol] is federally legal, but it’s not regulated by the FDA or the USDA,” Sanchez says. “So the big question I have is, how clean is it?”

what is cannabis tested for
(Josh Titus/Leafly)

Another new paper confirms lead and cadmium aren’t the only contaminants consumers of untested cannabis should be concerned about. 

Published in the Journal of Cannabis Research in August, it reports that among 24 samples of illicit cannabis seized by Canada authorities, 22 tested positive for pesticide residues. Police found 23 different chemicals in 22 samples, with an average of 3.7 pesticides per sample—some at strikingly high levels.

… the 92% detection rate in illegal cannabis is appalling.

Maxwell Leung, assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology, Arizona State University

However, among 36 samples of licensed cannabis tested only two contained chemical residues: A single hit each for the fungicide myclobutanil and the herbicide dichlobenil, both at very low levels.

It’s another case of buyer beware, says Leung. 

“I believe this is the only study in the literature so far to compare pesticide contaminants in legal versus illegal cannabis. Although the sample size is small, the 92% detection rate in illegal cannabis is appalling.”

More reasons that states test legal cannabis

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