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The cannabis boom could be good for science — and scientists

I’ve been a chemistry professor for 15 years and a chemist for longer than that. Through most of that time, I paid little heed to cannabis, thinking that this plant held one main chemical of interest: tetrahydrocannabinol, its psychoactive ingredient.

I now know that cannabis contains a galaxy of unexplored compounds — cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, polyphenols, and more — that may well transform our understanding of plant medicine and human biology. I find this new territory inspiring.

This discovery came about after a colleague put me in touch with a cannabis genomics company that was engaged in the commercial development of rare and novel cannabinoids. Such compounds, which the Cannabis sativa plant makes in low quantities, are emerging into consumer awareness as science advances the understanding and commercial viability of these compounds. Talking with people in the company shifted my view of cannabis — and chemistry. This was relevant, applicable science in all fields: biology, chemistry, plant genetics, pharmacology, engineering, and beyond.

As a chemistry professor at Doane University in Nebraska, I led multimillion-dollar research projects involving molecular sensors, field deployable warfare detection systems, and microfluidic technology to prevent bacterial infections. I published articles in scientific journals. Yet I wanted bigger challenges. As a teacher and a researcher, I knew I couldn’t inspire others if I wasn’t inspired. [Read More @ Stat]

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