Spring 2020 CANN Virtual Symposium Meeting Report

Published on: 
Cannabis Science and Technology, June 2020 , Volume 3, Issue 5
Pages: 36-38

A report on the two-day Cannabis Chemistry Subdivision’s Spring 2020 Virtual Symposium that took place in early May.

A report on the two-day Cannabis Chemistry Subdivision (CANN) of the American Chemical Society (ACS) Spring 2020 Virtual Symposium that took place May 6–7, 2020.

In April 2020, Cannabis Science and Technology announced its partnership with the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) Cannabis Chemistry Subdivision (CANN) (1). The partnership began with an event called the “Spring 2020 CANN Virtual Symposium,” which took place May 6–7, 2020. The symposium featured several sessions over a two-day period that had originally been organized for the ACS Spring 2020 National Meeting & Expo scheduled for March that was cancelled because of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

“We are honored to be able to partner with CANN and the ACS during this uncertain time to help transition their National Meeting & Expo into an innovative virtual symposium,” said Mike Hennessy Jr., president and CEO of MJH Life Sciences™, the parent company of Cannabis Science and Technology™. “As our partnership grows, we look forward to working together with them to further their mission and educating the cannabis community.”

Over the two-day virtual symposium, speakers ranging from researchers, cannabis scientists, and industry experts presented more than a dozen lectures on a large variety of topics. A highlight of the virtual symposium were the presentations from all of the 2020 ElSohly Award winners-Justin Fischedick, PhD, Integrated Analytical Solutions; Sang Hyuck-Park, PhD, Institute of Cannabis Research; Jiries Meehan-Atrash, Department of Chemistry, Portland State University; Markus Roggen, PhD, Complex Biotech Discovery Ventures (CBDV); and Jacqueline von Salm, PhD, AltMed-which kicked off the first session called “The 2nd Annual ElSohly Award Symposium.”

The second session was titled “Advances in Cannabis Policy, Products, and Personal Use” and featured talks from Tami L. Wahl, a policy advisor in Washington D.C.; Len May, Endo Canna Health; Samuel Adam, T. Bear Inc.; and David Vaillencourt, The GMP Collective.

The final session was titled “Breakthroughs: New Pathways for Cannabis Analysis” and covered a range of topics such as new cannabis detection methods and molecular kinetics of cannabinoid decarboxylations. Speakers included Benoit Lessard, Chemical and Biological Engineering, University of Ottawa; Amber R. Wise, Medicine Creek Analytics; Robert Strongin, Chemistry Department, Portland State University; and Meagan Bauer, Northern Michigan University.

The 2nd Annual ElSohly Award Symposium

The ElSohly Award creates a platform for students, researchers, and other industry experts to present their findings and was the first ever cannabis chemistry award. It is awarded once per year to highlight some of the exciting findings taking place in the cannabis industry.

Dr. Justin Fischedick presented first and detailed an overview of the historical research of cannabis terpenes in his talk titled “Terpenoids of Cannabis sativa L., Analysis and Applications.” Fischedick used gas chromatography to analyze and identify the cannabinoids in his samples. Through his presentation, he hoped that attendees would walk away with a better grasp on the literature out there regarding cannabis terpenes.

“I find a lot of information regarding the analysis of terpenes in cannabis that is easily accessible online is coming mainly from the cannabis industry or instrument vendors,” said Fischedick (2). “The information coming from both of these sources while sometimes useful can also be misleading regarding the most appropriate analytical technique or potential medicinal or therapeutic effects of these compounds.”

Dr. Jacqueline von Salm followed next with her presentation titled, “Unique Terpene Metabolites as Descriptors of Unique Cannabis Phenotypes and Products.” The overview of her talk focused on terpene metabolomics of in-house cultivars and what terpenes highlight the similarities or differences between phenotypes.

“Other groups have also done this research, but as with any chemical ecology type studies, environment is so important for chemical production,” said von Salm (2). “Our chemovars show a specific terpene that has largely been ignored in cannabis is a major differentiator among phenotypes. This terpene isn’t even regularly tested by third party labs!”

Through various extraction, cultivation, and production techniques, there are many items that can affect the composition of cannabis products. Von Salm hopes that her research brings new questions and commentary to the cannabis industry.

Jiries Meehan-Atrash’s talk was titled, “Chemistry of Cannabis Terpene Degradation.” Meehan-Atrash explained that his talk dealt with some experiments he performed recently that were one of the first times that isotopic tracing was used to study the degradation chemistry happening in e-cigarettes, and certainly the first time it’s been applied to cannabis vapes. “The Strongin group is one of the few that studies the degradation of e-cigarette components mechanistically, looking at the bigger picture to help guide future efforts,” said Meehan-Atrash (2). Through his work, Meehan-Atrash hopes that the research will show what additives to products can be dangerous to one’s health.

The next talk was called “Collaborative Research for Fundamental Insight into Cannabis Production” and was presented by Dr. Markus Roggen. Roggen briefly discussed the basics of cannabis before delving into his research that focused on data analytics of cannabis extraction and predictive algorithm developments for extraction optimization such as decarboxylation. Through his findings, Roggen hopes that attendees take away from his research that there is still so much to do, and that we need help from every scientist in the field (2).


Closing out the ElSohly award presentations, Dr. Sang-Hyuck Park’s talk was titled, “Defensive Role of Cannabidiol (CBD) Against Pest Insect Tobacco Hornworm Manduca sexta Through Disrupting Exoskeleton Development.” Fascinated by CBD, like many scientists, Park wanted to explore the other benefits of CBD aside from its therapeutic effects. “For my talk at the CANN symposium, I will primarily focus on the defensive role of CBD against the pest insect, tobacco hornworm Manduca sexta, and how CBD deters the insect feeding behavior as well as inhibiting their growth and development,” said Park (2). Through his research findings, Park learned that CBD is used to protect the cannabis plant from pest insect infestations due to its quality to act as a repellent.

Advances in Cannabis Policy, Products, and Personal Use

The second session of the virtual symposium was titled “Advances in Cannabis Policy, Products, and Personal Use.” It covered various cannabis topics such as federal policies, legalization status, and how personal biochemistry can be used to inform medical uses.

Beginning the afternoon session, Tami L. Wahl’s talk titled “A Modern Industry Redefining Federal Policy” provided a history of the cannabis market on the state and federal level. States that have legalized cannabis, have found success in their state-regulated markets. The industry helps create jobs, tax revue, efficiency in treatments of medical conditions, and Wahl also found that there is no data currently that indicates increases in social harms.

Len May followed up next with his talk called, “The Scientific Matchmaker, DNA and Cannabis: Your Genetics May Influence Your Experience with Cannabis and CBD.” He began by briefly going over the endocannabinoid system and how no individual will have the same experience. May also discussed the endocannabinoid DNA test his company built that will help users treat their medical conditions and know what works best.

Next “Edibles: Chemistry Behind Orally Consuming THC” was presented by Samuel Adam. His research focused on the effects of edibles on the human body. He walked attendees through the cycle of ingesting tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) orally and then how the body works on breaking down and absorbing the cannabinoids. Adam also highlighted the differences between cannabis consumption methods such as smoking and edibles and why they produce different effects depending on how THC is absorbed through the body.

Closing the first day, David Vaillencourt presented his talk called “Employing a Risk-Based Approach During Development of Cannabis Products.” Vaillencourt discussed developing the first laboratory standard for cannabis test method validation and how to develop a risk-based approach during the development of cannabis products. A main focus was making sure instructions are followed throughout the process, reiterating that by doing so you could save a life.

Breakthroughs: New Pathways for Cannabis Analysis

The final session in the Spring 2020 CANN Virtual symposium was called “Breakthroughs: New Pathways for Cannabis Analysis.” The session focused on analytical chemistry, for example, new detection methods for cannabinoids and molecular kinetics of cannabinoid decarboxylations. Benoit Lessard began with his talk titled “On-the-Spot Detection and Speciation of Cannabinoids Using Organic Thin-Film Transistors.” Lessard’s presentation started with an overview of traditional and organic electronics. He researched organic thin film transistors (OTFT) and found that they are an effective platform for detecting chemical analytes. By using these OTFT sensors, cannabinoids can be easily detected and differentiated. Lessard hopes that with the continuation of his research he will be able to explore other areas of the cannabis plant and variables, such as dried, field, oils, hemp, and edibles.

Next up was Amber Wise who presented, “Development and Optimization of Test Methods for Macro and Micro-Nutrients in Both Fresh Sap and Dry Cannabis Sativa Leaves Using ICP-MS and Microwave Digestion.” Wise used one detection method (microwave digestion) for two separate projects that were specialized between fresh sap analysis and dry leaf analysis. Through her research, Wise believes that growers should be using the data she learned to help optimize nutrient and fertilizer applications which will aid in diagnosing issues.

“Vaping-Induced Lung Injury and Vaping Chemistry” was presented by Robert M. Strongin. He wanted to investigate emerging cannabis products and their effects. Strongin discussed what happens to cannabinoids when concentrates are vaped or dabbed. He found that the vaping industry had either assumed or oversold the safety of their products. Strongin hopes that through his research, usage of these methods will decrease, preventing harm to the lungs.

Closing out the virtual symposium, Meagan Bauer, an undergraduate student at Northern Michigan University, discussed her research in Dr. Brandon Canfield’s laboratory through her talk titled, “Holding the Center: Kinetics of Cannabinoid Decarboxylation and Decomposition.” They researched the Cannabis Sativa L. strain’s two most popular cannabinoids: tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA). In their experiments, they used pure THCA and CBDA and then placed them into different solvents where they were heated. Using different solvents, the experiment was repeated and then analyzed using liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry (LC–MS/MS). Bauer and the group found that CBD appeared to be capable of conversion to THC under relatively moderate conditions (acidic).


Over the two days of the Spring 2020 CANN Virtual Symposium, all three sessions were very well attended and had great audience participation. The next CANN conference is tentatively planned for the ACS Fall 2020 National Meeting & Expo from August 16–20 in San Francisco, California. Cannabis Science and Technology (CST) is excited to continue working with CANN on future events and partnerships.

“CANN greatly looks forward to its partnership with CST to continue to drive these initiatives of information sharing,” said Julia Bramante, chair of CANN and lead scientist for the Marijuana Reference Laboratory of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (1).

To watch the Spring 2020 CANN Virtual Symposiun, please register for the free on-demand viewing on our website (3).



About the Author

Madeline Colli is the Associate Editor for Cannabis Science and Technology magazine. Direct correspondence to:

How to Cite this Article

M. Colli, Cannabis Science and Technology 3(5), 36-38 (2020).