Ask Our Experts: Cannabinoids: Nature or Nurture?


Q: Given myriad potential applications for cannabinoids, what are the arguments for natural hemp cultivation versus synthesizing them through laboratory production?


By William Sumner, Hemp Content Manager, New Frontier Data

A: Legitimate debate exists among hemp producers and the larger cannabis industry regarding the respective pros and cons of cannabinoid synthesis.

While many industry stakeholders and consumers appreciate the natural hemp production process both for economic and ecological reasons, there are arguments to be made for  cutting out the middleman and mitigating the costs and time of production simply by creating cannabinoids in a laboratory operation.

That said, are there any safety concerns about synthetic cannabinoids? And to what extent would profit margins differ between cultivation and synthesizing?

According to Dr. Jonathan Vaught, founder and CEO of Front Range Biosciences, while there is theoretically no scientific basis to avoid synthetic cannabinoids, no currently feasible model exists for them.

“It’s a tough thing to do,” Vaught explained during a New Frontier Data webinar, “The Future of Minor Cannabinoids”.

“People have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in developing synthetic biology systems to produce different compounds,” he said. “Cannabinoids and terpenes are inherently toxic to most of the microbes that you use for that.”

Vaught elaborated about how compared to natural cannabinoids, it simply remains more economical to grow specialized strains and extract the cannabinoids. While technology may yet evolve to more cheaply and efficiently enable cannabinoid synthesis, the science for now remains elusive.