Casia Lanier   |   October 14, 2022

The Rise of Minor Cannabinoids Sets New Market Trends

Hemp-derived cannabinoids have gained a significant market share thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill and COVID-19. But CBD companies may ruin this progress with incompetent product creation.
Casia is a freelance writer based in NYC and Madrid. She is passionate about promoting emerging scientific and technological advancements in cannabis for a healthier future.

In 2021, the U.S.’s minor cannabinoids market reached $7.3 million. According to a recent report by Brightfield, analysts project the valuation to more than triple by 2028. The market’s clamor to meet high anticipated demand after passing the 2018 Farm Bill led to a gross overproduction of hemp that has largely gone unused. Furthermore, the sector’s growth was stunted during the COVID-19 pandemic due to material, labor, and logistics constraints. But growers’ determination met the growing freedom of producers and low prices, giving companies and dispensaries the creative liberty to incorporate hemp-derived cannabinoids into brands that congruently met the growing consumer demand for health and wellness products.

The green light to legally grow and sell hemp products across the U.S. has grown in step with consumer appetite shifts toward a preference for health-minded recreational applications. And although industries have been slow to incorporate hemp materials into their supply products, the surplus of hemp sitting in the U.S. marketplace during most of the pandemic found a viable foothold in the budding market of minor cannabinoids.  

THE Relatives OF CBD

All known cannabinoids originate from CBG; however, all minor hemp-derived cannabinoids are either extracted or synthesized from CBD molecules in the hemp plant. There is an extensive list of minor known cannabinoids; however, those currently dominating the market include CBC, CBN, THCV, CBGA, and delta-8 THC.

Thanks to the legalization of CBD and its derivatives, companies have experienced a wild west-like race to incorporate minor CBD-derived cannabinoids into products and win over consumers. Traditionally, THC has been thought of and utilized for its fast-hitting euphoric effects, whereas CBD is well known as a medical aid in the treatment of mental and sleep disorders, as well as promoting relaxation. But minor cannabinoids, when isolated, blur the line between what effects consumers can expect when consuming one minor cannabinoid versus another. For example, delta-8 THC, which is often synthesized from CBD, is reported to offer anxiety relief combined with a slightly gentler version of the high often experienced from THC-rich marijuana.

A recent report by the Brightfield Group found that between 2020 and 2021, the hemp-derived THC, Delta-8, had captured over a quarter of the cannabis and CBD markets, respectively. And the trend for minor cannabinoids is expected to rise, with 15%-17% of CBD consumers, using products containing minor, hemp-derived cannabinoids one or more times. 

THE DANGERS OF NOVELTY

The potential for minor cannabinoids to fuel market growth is already being realized by pharmaceutical companies like InMed Pharmaceuticals, Inc., which is incorporating the minor cannabinoid, CBN, into topical cream formulas for skin disorders like Epidermolysis Bullosa and is already in the second stage of clinical trials. But CBN isn’t the only minor cannabinoid being tested and applied. Since 2020, the U.S. Cannabis Council, the USDA, and the CDC have found that most delta-8 THC products were contaminated with harmful chemicals and/or heavy metals and that the labeled dosage didn’t match the actual dosage found within each product.

Smaller amounts of minor cannabinoids have increased the likelihood of synthesizing products to meet growing supply needs, introducing the question of safe manufacturing and dosing practices. When isolated, minor cannabinoids tend to have a milder effect on the mind and body. However, minor cannabinoids are no more protected from the dangers of unregulated processing than other non-minor cannabinoids and are equally likely to cause mass poisonings similar to those seen across the U.S. and Europe.

Thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp-derived cannabinoids are legal for sale and recreational consumption at the federal level. But the CBD market’s ability to reach and gain new consumers with minor cannabinoids has become just as much public safety issue as it is a consumer safety matter.

The potential for hemp-derived minor cannabinoids to meet consumers’ health-focused needs is undeniable, and pharmaceutical companies are lining up to create those products via highly regulated processes that ensure quality and safety. Cannabis companies that place profits over consumer safety exploit hemp surplus and exacerbate health fears by delivering less-than-effective products, threaten cannabis production legitimacy. They also challenge dispensaries in the medical cannabis landscape by pushing the market to a model acknowledging pharmaceutical companies as the only regulated pathway to creating reliable products for health and wellness cannabis consumers.

The Brightfield Group Report cites the FDA’s skepticism about the cannabis industry’s ability to regulate the safe production of hemp-derived cannabinoids and is inclined to support the backtracking of current federal guidelines on CBD regulation. Too many products skirting public and consumer safety create a lack of industry confidence that will be difficult for cannabis producers to overcome.

 

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