KANNAVI: After the passage of the bill for the complete decriminalization of the cultivation and use of medicinal cannabis and the liberalization of cultivation in the country’s universities for research purposes, The Department of Pharmacognosy and Chemistry of Natural Products of the National and Kapodistrian University recently concluded the first agreement with a large foreign company for the elaboration of a joint research program concerning the therapeutic potential of cannabis.
Specifically, the publicly traded company “GB Sciences” and one of the largest in the cannabis industry in America, is launching a new project, “Canna-bolomics” which will analyze the varieties of the company’s plant to determine if they help and how in the treatment of diseases. This development is considered particularly promising since Greece is lagging behind in the field of cannabinoid research while the planet is now running at breakneck speeds.
The responsible professor of the program, Leandros Skaltsounis, Director of the Department of Pharmacognosy and Chemistry of Natural Products of the University of Athens, tells the protothema.gr that “our laboratory is one of the best in the world, they have the largest center of excellence and we are the first cannabis laboratory in Greece since 2016. We have done research, we have patents and the scientific community knows us. We intervene in the analyses of the plant. The cannabis extracts come from the American company and we will do the analyses and essentially map the global hemp. We will investigate what percentage of cannabinoids it contains. It is also important because the university participates in the funding along with the American company. In the coming weeks we are starting, together with the graduate students, PhD candidates.
GB Sciences is a company dedicated to the discovery of new drugs based on cannabis and collaborates with universities or research organizations around the world offering know-how and innovative proposals. The relevant tests done by the company count about ten cannabinoids and twenty-one terpenoids of the plant, while as the scientific director of the company Dr. Andrea Small-Howard has said, “the new analyses with the University of Athens will allow us to identify new compounds that could potentially provide additional medical benefits for new therapeutic mixtures”.
Free cultivation of cannabis in the country’s universities
By a joint ministerial decision from June 2018, the country’s universities and research centers can now freely cultivate industrial hemp for research purposes. As it is characteristically mentioned in the relevant decision published in the Government Gazette (Government Gazette B’ 2392/2018), “public research and university institutions of the country are allowed, for research- experimental purposes, the cultivation of varieties of industrial hemp in an area of five acres the maximum, per variety and growing season”. Already, the Agricultural University of Athens and the TEI of Larissa have begun the cultivation of the plant.
In fact, at the TEI of the Thessalian city, the first harvest of cannabis for this year took place in the presence of the Deputy Minister of Rural Development, Vassilis Kokkalis, the experimental cultivation of the TEI of Larissa took place, within the framework of the research program of the Laboratory of Aromatic and Medicinal Plants in order to draw conclusions useful for the rural and industrial world of the country. The deputy minister made no secret of the government’s intentions to support the new and promising crop, stating “we are looking for targeted ways and specific incentives, always in cooperation with the industry to start cultivation outside experimental fields. The presence of the industry, which will absorb the product, will contribute decisively to the spread of the plant. I would remind you that individual farmers find it very difficult to participate. However, it will be possible to participate in cooperative schemes, in producer groups. Essentially, a single approval will be given for a production process that starts from the seed and ends in a specific medicinal product.”
The head professor of the Laboratory of Aromatic and Medicinal Plants of the TEI of Thessaly, Eleni Vogiatzi-Kamvoukou, speaking to the protothema.gr pointed out that “at the moment our field is one acre. We apply various cultivation techniques to see on the one hand the yield in fiber and essential oil and then we will make analyses in order to determine the type and quantity of cannabinoids it contains. This is the first step. We have the results from an experimental work done last year but we repeat the experiment to get respectable results for publication. It takes two to three years.” After this research the elements will help the grower choose the method he needs to apply, the cultivation technique to have the maximum annuity with minimal cost and the best quality. Also, the identification of cannabinoids can direct the crop towards a specific industrial crisis, either for parapharmaceutical formulations or for pharmaceuticals.