Beyond THC: Taking a Deeper Dive into Cannabinoids

The depth and breadth of cannabis are still being plumbed. Believe it or not, there are over 113 cannabinoids in this wonder plant and scientists are still trying to understand how they all work both by themselves and together. These compounds interact with our endocannabinoid system (bet you didn't know you had one of those, huh?) which consists of a constellation of cell receptors and molecules scattered throughout our bodies. This complex system is involved in many aspects of our wellbeing: memory, stress and pain response, sleep, appetite, energy balance and metabolism, and immune function to name a few. This system interacts with both the endocannabinoids that naturally occur in our systems and the cannabinoids that are found in cannabis. So just what are these compounds and why do our bodies love them so much? Let's dive in, shall we?

THC (tetrahydrocannabinol)

THC is what most people think of and reach for when buying cannabis. We've all heard that this is the compound that gets people high and keeps them there, but there's more to this chemical than meets the high. Even though CBD (more on that later) is usually the cannabinoid that's most associated with therapeutic benefits, THC may also have a positive impact on things like insomnia, inflammation and more. THC is a psychoactive compound that binds to cannabinoid receptors in the central nervous system and brain. However, too much THC is not necessarily a great thing. Always go low and start slow when first trying a high THC product. Everyone's body chemistry is unique and can react in negative ways to different strains.

THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid)

This is the form the plant makes, which is then converted to THC during the aging process or when smoked or vaped. Even though these molecules are very similar, THCA is non-psychoactive and plays a very different role than THC in the body. This compound exists in both fresh and dried cannabis flower buds mainly but also leaves. THCA potentially has a whole host of benefits and is still being studied to more fully understand its role in the human body.

THCV (tetrahydrocannabivarin)

THCV is a fairly rare psychoactive cannabinoid that may affect how THC interacts with the body. Some studies have shown that THCV may be good for aiding glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity and might even have a more euphoric effect than THC, but further research is needed before we can draw any solid conclusions about this elusive cannabinoid. It occurs in small amounts in some varieties--growers are definitely working on selecting for strains that have higher levels of this so it can be studied further!

CBD (cannabidiol)

Other than THC, CBD is probably the most well-known cannabinoid on the block. It can be found in "CBD-rich strains" which typically contain varying amounts of THC--these are regulated within the legal state's cannabis markets and medical patients typically seek out specific ratios that work for their conditions. Another common source for pure CBD is industrial hemp, which contains essentially zero THC. Similar to THC, it is the degradation product of CBDA, which is the form the plant makes. However, it's quite different from THC in many ways, one main one being that it's non-psychoactive. It may also have multiple therapeutic benefits and is used in many formulations like oral tinctures. CBD may work best when paired with some THC (even very tiny amounts of THC present have been shown to allow CBD to work better). It's also good to know that this compound counteracts some of the "high" of THC when they're consumed together.

There are many more cannabinoids to explore and this brief summary of four compounds has barely scratched the surface of this amazing plant. More research and study is required to uncover all of the benefits of our pure golden goodness and we're looking forward to learning more about the intricacies of our beautiful plants.

Overcoming Obstacles to Take the Long View on Cannabis with Craig Levin

A born and bred Washingtonian, Avitas C.O.O., Craig Levin didn’t see cannabis coming. In college and grad school, Craig steered toward degrees in business and finance and spent the beginning of his career guiding giants like Verizon in well-established industries. However, a few years ago, he decided he needed a new challenge.

History in the Making

In his search for that new mountain to climb, he discovered himself in cannabis. He still thinks it’s one of his best decisions to date. “Legal cannabis is a history-making opportunity. I realized I wanted to be involved in shaping this industry. Cannabis is about so much more than making money. It’s also about social justice and making sure that patients can legally get a medication that truly helps them.”

Overcoming Obstacles

On top of these broader concerns, the truth is that working in the legal cannabis space provided Craig with some fairly unique challenges. “In general, running a small business in this industry is ten times as hard as running a business in a conventional industry. There are so many additional hurdles that we face in cannabis, including really fundamental things like access to banking and credit.” He continues, “The product changes, the legislation around how we’re able to make the product changes. There’s some new obstacle that heads our way on a regular basis. It’s a lot of risk-taking behavior, and it can be expensive.” But, he thinks, ultimately worth it. “It’s an industry worth fighting for, and I love that Avitas is all about making sure we’re thinking through how to help the cannabis space in the long run.”

It’s All About Our Customers

That overarching view of the industry not only covers legislation and the ability to navigate the intricacies of regulation, it’s also completely focused on customer satisfaction. “We love our customers!” Craig explains, “They’re into connecting with the community and conservation. They want a feel-good experience. Not just what they’re consuming but the companies and brands they’re supporting as well. We always want to live up to and exceed their already high expectations.”

The hours can be long and challenging, but one thing’s for sure, Craig’s no longer bored. He’s helping our entire team be ready and willing to scale new heights in quality and customer satisfaction in both Washington and Oregon, and perhaps, eventually, beyond.

Meet Merlynn Lindgren: Making Magic in Our Oregon Lab

Life, as most of us know, can take some pretty crazy twists and turns. Someone who knows this truth especially well is Merlynn Lindgren. Merlynn has had a long and winding road toward Avitas. She's been a vet tech, worked in mills, taken on phlebotomy, and did research in a grass seed genetics lab all of which has prepared her for her new role as our Lead Extraction Technician/Lab Manager at our Oregon lab. "I found the position in, of all places Craigslist! It was just one of those right place, right time kind of things. I saw the ad, sent in my resume, and a half hour later, Joe gave me a call. It was a huge 'aha' sort of moment; I laughed because everything I'd done up to this point made me perfect for the role."

Getting Her Science On

In the lab, Merlynn does everything from grinding flower and extracting the oil, to delicately extricating the terpenes from the mix and drawing off waxes and lipids in our purification process. After all of that, she hand mixes the terpenes back into the finished oil to preserve and showcase the flavor and aroma of the specific strains, and gets the oil to the team that puts it into the actual cartridges. From harvested flower to final product, she's there nearly every step of the way. "It's been such a great experience. I love learning about the plants. Honestly, I can't believe they let me run around giant buckets of weed all day. It's great!"

Customer Focus

Avitas works hard to make sure that we're doing everything we can for our customers, and that's something Merlynn experiences first hand, even in the lab. "We have salespeople dropping in a lot, giving us customer feedback and letting us know which strains are making people happy. It's great to have that kind of touchstone." Having that level of feedback might be stressful somewhere else, but at Avitas that's not an issue. "We have such a conscientious group at our lab. We're proud of the quality of oil we create, and we're such a tight-knit group that even putting in a lot of long hours isn't a chore. We just want to make sure our product is first class."

Women in Cannabis

The irony is that Merlynn hadn't ever really thought of trying cannabis before Avitas and quite honestly; she still doesn't routinely partake. It's just not something that fits her lifestyle at the moment, but she still feels cannabis is a great industry to work in. She's excited about the direction cannabis is headed and enthusiastic about the role of women in cannabis. "In my position, I'm responsible not only for the chemistry but also repairing and maintaining the equipment and managing the day to day operation of the lab. Our science director based in Washington is also female. There are so many opportunities in this industry that women should jump into it." Merlynn continues, "If you have women involved in cannabis, it makes other women feel like they can take on the space too. It's so important because it humanizes this growing industry." She laughs, saying, "Honestly, I think you need the balance. Women bring so much to the table."