Cannabis Science Conference Fall was held in Providence, Rhode Island from September 20-22, 2023. Here we provide highlights from this exciting event.
As Rhode Island’s first cannabis conference, the Cannabis Science Conference Fall 2023 brought three days of in-depth education and discussions on the various aspects of cannabis and psychedelics, from scientific and therapeutic aspects to growing methods and new technology. Throughout each of the four tracks—analytical science, medical, cultivation, and psychedelics—the emphasis constantly shone on how continued collaboration and forming new connections are key to success in the industry. The conference provided many opportunities for this kind of networking. Below are highlights from the entire event, including links to plenty of our speaker interviews for you to dive even deeper into the material!
A group of learners gathered at Canna Boot Camp to kick off the three day event, and it was truly an immersive educational experience. The full-day, hands-on workshop kicked off with demonstrations and presentations from Agilent Technologies, Spex (an Antylia company), Medical Marijuana 411, and Zac Hildenbrand, PhD. Next, attendees were given an incredible behind-the-scenes look at the cultivation, extraction, processing, and retail aspects of a vertically integrated cannabis company, Mother Earth Wellness in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Watch onsite interviews with Pete Mitchell, the Director of Manufacturing, for insights into their laboratory; an interview with Director of Cultivation, Vinnie Clause for more on the growing process; and an interview with Co-Owner Gina Pakuris to hear more about operating Rhode Island’s largest dispensary.
Thank you to Mother Earth Wellness, Agilent Technologies, Spex, Medical Marijuana 411, and Dr. Hildenbrand for providing this one-of-a-kind learning experience!
As the keynote speaker for the first day, Dustin Sulak, DO, presented “Knowledge and Art of Combining Cannabinoids for Treatment Success,” which explored the potential beneficial and harmful effects of combining certain cannabinoids when treating patient conditions (see Photo 1). Drawing on several published studies and his own clinical experience, Dr. Sulak explained the effects of cannabinoids such as cannabigerol (CBG), tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), cannabichromene (CBC), and cannabidivarin (CBDV), plus new understandings of interactions between tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). He also provided recommendations and cautions for moving forward.
Following Dr. Sulak’s presentation, the cultivation track held a general session fireside chat discussion between Adam Jacques and cultivation program chair Zacariah Hildenbrand, PhD, about cannabis genetics throughout the decades. For an in-depth look at this presentation, watch the Cannabis Science and Technology interview with Adam Jacques. Other day one highlights from the cultivation track included author Jeff Lowenfels, who explained the latest developments in his the soil food web, and microbiologist Frankie Claunch, who presented “Microbial Consultation Guidelines for Common Reservoirs of Contamination in Cultivation Facilities.”
The first day of the medical track featured many trailblazers in the field. First up, a screening of the documentary Unprescribed by veteran and filmmaker Steve Ellmore, followed by a panel discussion of four veterans—Steve Ellmore, Ellen Brown, Stephen Mandile, and Wayne Smith— who delved deep into the importance of veteran access to medical cannabis, moderated by program chair Cherissa Jackson, RN. For more on this topic, listen to our Noid Knowledge podcast episode with Ellmore. Later in the day, investigators Blake Pearson and Mikelle Bryson-Campbell co-presented “Exploring cannabinoid therapy as a safer alternative for dementia symptom management,” followed by Amanda Reiman, Chief Knowledge Officer of New Frontier Data, discussing characteristics of a large sample of medical cannabis patients—watch our interview to learn more. Nurse Laura Barrett-Nutting moderated the panel discussion “Clinical Directors – Navigating Legalization and Beyond” featuring Dawn-Marie Steenstra, National Clinical Director Consortium, Clinical Director of Dispensaries; Dr. Travis Poonai, Clinical Director with Curaleaf; and Kevin Harbison, Manager of Clinical Services and Regulatory Operations at PharmaCan. Next, Operations Research Specialist and Clinical Cannabis Pharmacist, Monica Werkheiser presented “Layered Microdosing of Cannabis for Health and Wellness,” and ending the first day of the track on a forward-thinking note, Jordan Tishler, MD, presented “Building a More Effective Medical Cannabis System.”
In the analytical track, industry leaders provided valuable insights addressing pressing concerns related to the science and testing in the industry. First, Harry Behzadi, President and CEO of AccuScience Labs, presented “Is it time to pay more attention to flavonoids in cannabis products,” followed by Sergei Leikin, Managing Director at Texas Scientific Products, and Autumn Phillips, Research and Development Chemist at Inorganic Ventures, co-presenting “Analysis of Cannabis Products for As, Cd, Hg, Pb by ICP-OES: Meeting the DL Challenge.” Next, Melinda Urich, Advanced Scientist at Restek, investigated six extraction methods in “Cannabinoid Extraction Efficiency for Potency Analysis: An in Depth Look of Multiple Techniques.” Laboratory Director at Method Testing Labs, Anthony Repay presented “Quality control in Cannabis microbiology; How to comply and go further than industry standard,” which was paired with a complementary presentation “The Curious Case of Cannabis: Understanding the Microbiology of Cannabis,” by Maria McIntyre, Head of Cannabis at bioMérieux who was filling in for the original speaker, Patrick Bird. After their presentations, both Repay and McIntyre held a group Q&A directly with the audience to answer their questions and comments.
In a content crossover, Dr. Hildenbrand presented “Getting the Most Out of Analytical Testing,” which was covered by our sister publication, LCGC. Three complementary presentations ended the first day of the track: Dominika Gruszecka, Market Manager at Shimadzu Scientific Instruments presented “Cannabis Testing: Current Needs and Approaches,” followed by Scott Churchill, Vice President of Scientific Development at MCR Labs with “Pathogen Testing: Why, Where and How,” and Maria McIntyre, Head of Cannabis at bioMérieux, with “Impacts of Plant Pathogens on Yield.” All four presenters came together along with Pete Mitchell from Mother Earth Wellness to hold a group Q&A to engage with responses from the audience.
Finally, in the psychedelics track, students from the University of Miami—Owen Berke, Amrit Baral, and Brea-Necole Diggs—presented their recent discoveries in “Next Generation of Scientists Examining How to Mitigate Chronic Disease with Psychedelics,” which was moderated by psychedelics program chair, Denise Vidot, PhD. Next, Dan DeLurio, Business Development Manager, at Restek, presented findings from “Preparation and Analysis of Psychoactive Alkaloids and Their Metabolites in Multiple Matrices.” Then, scientist Miyabe Shields, PhD, moderated the engaging panel discussion “Barriers to and Learnings from Psychedelics Research,” featuring input and insights from Riley Kirk, PhD, and Marné Garretson, MPH.
New to the conference, the Technology Theater gave attendees a chance for more in-depth demonstrations during the breaks between track presentations. Additionally, an opening night reception provided the opportunity to foster collaboration between all attendees, presenters, exhibitors, and poster presenters from all facets of the cannabis industry.
The second day of the conference began with a discussion from keynote speaker, Peter Grinspoon, MD, who spoke from personal and professional experience in “Cannabis Reconsidered: A Science-Based Look at the True Harms and Benefits” (see Photo 2). Beginning from his childhood memories of cannabis helping his brother through chemotherapy, then journeying through his own career as a primary care physician and his recovery from opioid addiction, Dr. Grinspoon explained his approach to understanding the use of cannabis throughout the past and into the future. “Criminalizing cannabis was far more dangerous than cannabis use,” Dr. Grinspoon observed. He explained the importance of medical professionals meeting patients where they are in their medical needs, the “big picture” of cannabis in the US currently, and what the industry needs now to move forward with balanced perspectives. Attendees asked questions on many topics such as harm reduction and collaborative efforts in the healthcare community, opioids, and cancer. Watch our Cannabis Science and Technology interview with Dr. Grinspoon to see more of his perspectives on cannabis policies and insights from his latest book, Seeing through the Smoke: A Cannabis Specialist Untangles the Truth about Marijuana.
Following Dr. Grinpoon’s inspiring keynote presentation, the analytical track held a general session fireside chat discussion featuring two presenters: first, Jini Glaros, Chief Scientific Officer at Modern Canna Labs presented “Sample Preparation, Compound Error, and Potency Inflation,” then a complementary presentation from Christopher Hudalla, President/CSO of ProVerde Laboratories, Inc., titled “The Art of Potency Plumping.” Glaros and Hudalla held an informative Q&A session following their presentations. Later in the day, Hudalla also presented “LCMS Analysis of Phospholipids for the Degumming Optimization for Hemp/Cannabis Extracts.” Next, William McKinney, CEO of McKinney Regulatory Science Advisor LLC, presented “Risk Assessment & Toxicological Evaluation for Cannabis Terpene Concentrates Intended for Inhalation,” followed by “Diamonds, Decarboxylation, and Data: Post-Processing Demystified via Sensor Automation,” which was presented by Corey Crosser, Manufacturer’s Representative/Extraction and Operations Consultant Sample Automation. Dan DeLurio of Restek filled in for a sick speaker with an exciting talk titled “Certified Reference Materials and Cannabinoid Materials.” Roy Sorensen, Senior Laboratory Director of Method Testing Labs, highlighted useful tools in “Improved Techniques and Methodology for Residual Solvent Analysis in Cannabis and Hemp Products,” followed by Darwin Millard, Chief Science Officer at 14th Round/Final Bell, with “Compliance Testing and Truth in Labeling–a look at ASTM D8449.” To close the track on solid ground, Evan Friedmann, Scientific Cell Company and Patricia Atkins, Spex, an Antylia company, co-moderated a panel discussion of six individuals from standards-setting organizations and accreditation bodies. This panel featured: Susan Audino, S.A. Audino & Associates, LLC; Allison Baker, Coordinator of Standards and Official Methods, AOAC International; James Farrell, Manager, Technical Committee Operations Division, ASTM International; Warren Merkel, Vice President, Policy, ANSI National Accreditation Board (ANAB); Nandakumara Sarma, Director, Dietary Supplements and Herbal Medicines, US Pharmacopeia; and Tracy Szerszen, President, Perry Johnson Laboratory Accreditation, Inc. Read more of our coverage of this powerhouse panel.
To begin the final day of the medical track, Brian Essenter, MM Consult CT moderated the panel discussion regarding the critical question “How do we educate our fellow healthcare providers?” with commentary from the following three panelists: Janice Newell Bissex, MS, RND, FAND, Program Director of Cannabinoid Medical Sciences at John Patrick University School of Integrative and Functional Medicine; Uzma Zakir, Founder of bloomHigher Consulting; and keynote speaker, Dr. Peter Grinspoon, primary care doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital and Instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Next, Ryan Buck, MD, co-presented “Cannabinoids for the Treatment of Agitation in Dementia,” with Rebecca Abraham, RN, BSN, the CEO and Founder of Acute on Chronic, the first cannabis nurse clinic in the Midwest—hear more from their presentation in our onsite interview! Then, David Aronson, LCSW, Cannabis Educator, presented “What if My Client Already Loves Cannabis? Managing Dual Rec & Med Users in Clinical Practice,” followed by “Unveiling Cannabinoids’ Potential: Cannabis for Managing Sleep Disorders,” by Jeremy Riggle, Chief Manufacturing Officer at Day Three Labs. To round out the great content from the final day of the medical track, Bhumi Bhojak, Clinical Research Lead at Harvest Medicine, MediPharmlabs.com, presented “Impact on clinical outcomes of multidisciplinary medicinal cannabis clinics on anxiety patients.”
As the first of two thought-provoking presentations in the psychedelics track, Dr. Aimon Kopera presented “Psychedelic Asia: Integrating Ancient Asian Wisdom and Modern Science in The Mind Medicine,” outlining ways to unlock the positive healing potential of psychedelics. Hear more from Dr. Kopera on her current and future projects, being a woman in the psychedelics field, and more in our onsite interview. Additionally, J. Preston Campbell, Vice President of Innovation at Venebio/Consilium Sciences provided many in-depth explanations in “Breakdown of the FDA’s Guidance on Psychedelic
The second day of the cultivation track began with Travis Higginbotham, VP of Cultivation at Statehouse Holdings, discussing experiment results in “The Impact of Light Distribution on Cannabis Sativa: Intercanopy vs Overhead Light with Equal DLIs.” Next, William Graham, Founder and President of Microclone Tissue Culture/Tangent Bioscience, presented materials and techniques in “Eliminate Viroids and Systemic Pathogens Using Fast Return Tissue Culture,” followed by “Improving Cultivation through Irrigation Automation,” with Head of Research and Development at Sustainable Village, Isadore Becker-Uncapher. Then, Ulrich Reimann-Philipp, PhD, Director of Tissue Culture at Fluresh LLC, explained how to manage and prevent outbreaks in “Control of Hop Latent Viroid in a Large Cannabis Cultivation Operation: Strategies and Observations.” Finally, as the last presentation of the conference, Jesse Porter, Director of Cultivation at Grow Glide, explained tools for success in “Airflow Crop Steering for Cannabis Cultivation.”
As the conference adjourned on a high note, participants gained new perspectives and information to blaze their own trails moving forward.
Join us for Cannabis Science Conference Spring in Kansas City, Missouri on May 7-9, 2024 as the industry continues to grow! For more information, please visit www.cannabisscienceconference.com.
L’Heureux, M., Colli, M., McEvoy, E., Cannabis Science Conference Fall 2023: Where Collaboration and Connections Grow, Cannabis Science and Technology, 2023, 6(8), 26-33.