Anyone who’s set foot in a dispensary likely already knows about sativa and indica, the two base strains of cannabis. Pot enthusiasts are also probably acquainted with THC and CBD, cannabinoids with their own unique properties and medicinal benefits. For PotBotics CEO David Goldstein, these distinctions merely scratch the surface — and his company is eager to dig deep.
If you haven’t heard of CBN, THCv, or any of the other nearly 140 minor cannabinoids that have been identified in the cannabis plant, you may soon. According to Goldstein, they are in fact one of our best tools in truly determining which strains will most consistently treat specific ailments. As an example, he points to the fact that the “in the couch” sensation often attributed to indicas is, in fact, more likely the result of a strain having a high percentage of CBN.
“CBN is a drowsy cannabinoid,” he explains. “It’s one of the psychoactive cannabinoids and CBN, on its own, is oftentimes what people end up categorizing as an indica. These days, we’re so far down the lineage of what is an authentic indica that oftentimes it’s really just a dispensary labeling CBN as an indica versus the actual science.”
The science in question consists of a strain that might be high in CBN while also low in THCv, a stimulating cannabinoid often found in sativas that can produce an energetic sensation.
To learn more about the ways minor cannabinoids can benefit us, Goldstein’s company created an app: PotBot. The program gathers data by crawling scientific journals to match minor cannabinoids with specific conditions to draw quantitative conclusions. In order to ensure the validity of the information it processes, PotBot is given weighted priorities, like a preference for more recent studies versus ones from 30 years ago, as well as whether the research came from a reputable scientific journal or was conducted on animals (as opposed to humans).
PotBot helps consumers better understand the ingredients within a given strain that are actually helping them. As Goldstein sees it, strains as they are currently marketed offer very little information.
“I don’t think these strains necessarily have a fingerprint,” he says. “It’s hard to say the strain is the main jargon anymore. For me, when I look at strains, I look at cannabinoid levels because when you lift the veil, the name doesn’t really matter. Even indica and sativa don’t really matter. It’s the cannabinoid and terpene values that really reveal the medical benefits.”
Another area of focus for Goldstein is providing more research for physicians, a group he considers to be gatekeepers for the industry.
“I think that physicians would be more galvanized and feel less stigmatized and more prepared to have meaningful follow-up conversations if they were able to begin personalizing this medicine on a minor cannabinoid level,” he says.
Goldstein envisions doctors in the near future being able to cite HIPPA-compliant data from PotBot about which minor cannabinoids and terpenes benefit patients suffering from conditions like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Crohn’s Disease and then make appropriate recommendations.
“Physicians want to have a meaningful discussion where they’re not just telling patients to go buy White Widow or Sour Diesel,” Goldstein notes. “No doctor wants to leave a patient to rely on a budtender. I’d love to think all budtenders are ethical, but sometimes they’re trying to push what they have the most inventory of or what has the highest margin.”
If one imagines a dispensary like a grocery store, Goldstein suggests that limiting a patient’s choices to binaries like “CBD or THC” and “indica or sativa” is the equivalent of believing there are only two types of apples to choose from. Instead, he wants to make consumers and professionals aware of the vast array of options that exist within cannabis — including the specific combinations that will potentially be an individual’s best fit.
While Goldstein does give priority to the medical side of the equation, he emphasizes that recreational users too will enjoy the benefits of a more nuanced and better understood approach to cannabinoids.
“When you look at recreational consumption,” he says, “there’s a huge benefit to knowing what CBN is about. Is it going to make me sleepy when I’m going to a music festival? Right now, we clump everything into sativa and indica, but we are so far away from the original Kush of the Kush Mountain region of Afghanistan. We are in the 20th generation of genetics in cannabis. Understanding how these different, smaller molecular structures affect patients will only better the industry as a whole.”