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Guide Marijuana and the Cannabinoids (Forensic Science and Medicine)

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It is tall and typically a lighter shade of green than other species, with longer and narrower leaves. It is most commonly cultivated due to its higher cannabinoid content. Cannabis indica originated in Asia hence the name indica, derived from India. It has more side branches than cannabis sativa. Its cannabinoid content is high, and is often cross-bred with cannabis sativa to produce hybrids. It is a shorter plant with fewer branches, wide and flat leaves, and lower levels of THC. The cannabis plant has distinctive digitate, serrated leaves.


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Cannabis has a long history of both medicinal and recreational drug use. As a drug it is most commonly smoked, though it can also be baked into food products and consumed.

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Typical effects include relaxation, euphoria to a lesser extent , increased heart rate and increased appetite, with paranoid and anxiety being amongst some of the undesired effects. Cannabinoids Cannabis plants produce a particular group of chemicals known as cannabinoids, which is a general term for a group of compounds that interact with the cannabinoid receptors largely located in the brain. Cannabinoids are primarily found in the flowering heads of the female plant, however lower concentrations are still found in the leaves and stalks.

Therefore it is possible to identify cannabinoids from the rest of the plant, but more material will be required. The flowering female tops contain the highest amount of THC. Fruiting herbal cannabis may also be encountered. This often appears and smells less fresh and has seeds visible in the material. This type of cannabis is often imported and of poor quality. This high-THC product consists of finer plant material, more difficult to identify microscopically than herbal material.

Primarily produced in Morocco, Afghanistan and Pakistan, it is obtained by rubbing the female head until the resin forms, after which it is put through mesh and collected. Alternatively it can be extracted in solvent IPA, butane, etc , the solvent evaporated and then collected.

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Following production it resembles a sticky powder that is most typically pressed into blocks. It is typically obtained by solvent extraction, which involves passing butane or a similar solvent through the plant material and evaporating the solvent. Alternatively the cannabis can simply be boiled to produce the oil. Synthetic cannabinoids are synthetic drugs designs to mimic the effects of natural cannabinoids, typically produced by spraying some kind of plant-based material with the manufactured chemical.

After this, the drug is generally consumed as with natural cannabis ie smoked. Similarly to terpenes, they may exert certain pharmacological activity [ 13 ]. The psychoactive effects of cannabis are mainly due to the presence of THC. CB 1 receptors are located in the central nervous system cerebral cortex, hippocampus, basal ganglia and cerebellum , lungs, liver and kidneys. CB 2 receptors are primarily found in immune and hematopoietic cells.

Both CB1 and CB2 are G protein-coupled receptors that inhibit the synthesis of intracellular adenosine cyclic monophosphate cAMP and thus involved in the signaling of different metabolic pathways. The characteristic effects of cannabis on behavior, nociception and thermal sensitivity, mood regulation, appetite and sexual activity, as well as antitumor and antiemetic properties, among others, derive from this activation.

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THC is also the component responsible for the reinforcing and addictive properties of cannabis [ 17 - 19 ]. CBD is mostly devoid of adverse psychoactive effects and abuse liability. CBD possesses anticonvulsant, analgesic, anti-anxiety, antiemetic, immune-modulating, anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and anti-tumorigenic properties [ 21 ].

CBD has been evaluated for the treatment of some mental disorders anxiety, schizophrenia, addictions or some types of epilepsy [ 22 - 24 ]. Early clinical results are promising in some treatment-resistant childhood epilepsies, which will have to be confirmed [ 22 ]. Cannabis in the illegal market is sold as cannabis inflorescences marijuana, seedless, and ditch weed.

S ativa variety presents the highest percentage of THC, i ndica and ruderalis varieties have the higher percentage of CBD. Similar increases in potency have also been documented in Australia and the Netherlands [ 26 , 27 ]. This global trend has been mainly attributed to the selection and introduction of variants with a high content of THC and the use of intensive production techniques [ 28 ]. In this regard, several studies have associated cannabis use with a high percentage of THC herb or THC extracts with a considerable increase in acute toxicity, and especially with an increased risk of psychosis [ 15 , 29 - 34 ].

It is important to note, as discussed later in the section of medical cannabis, that, for some years, cannabis products of different percentage composition of THC and CBD have been commercialized, so that one can get the desired THC and CBD percentage and adjust it to one's preferences or needs, especially for medicinal use. This includes seeds that guarantee adjusted content. There is also a wide variety of vaporizers, either portable, desktop or electrical.

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The latter are more complex devices base, filling chamber, valves, bag, nozzle which vaporize through hot air at an adjustable temperature. Medical cannabis or medicinal marijuana is a broad term that encompasses the use of cannabis for therapeutic purposes. Therapeutic use of synthetic cannabinoids. In Italy, from January , the Government has put on sale standardized cannabis preparations inflorescences for smoking or preparing tea or oil produced by the Military Pharmaceutical Institute in Florence.

In the USA, the medicinal use of marijuana is permitted for patients with serious medical conditions, including dozens of pathologies and symptoms, ranging from anxiety to insomnia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ADHD , depression, arthritis and anorexia, among others. It should be noted that in the US, medical cannabis preparations are marketed in multiple forms, sometimes resembling high consumption food products lollypops.

It should be noted that, according to data published in the general press, in some USA states, the cannabis legal industry medical and recreational brings in more taxes than alcohol. It was indicated for the treatment of moderate or severe spasticity in multiple sclerosis and was later extended to treatment of opioid-non-responsive pain in these patients.

SCs also called cannabimetics, are a large and heterogeneous group of substances that are characterized by its acting on the same brain receptors as THC, and they constitute the largest group of new psychoactive substances NPS [ 1 , 2 ]. From to the EU Early Warning System has identified new SCs 1 in , 9 in ; 11 in , 23 in , 30 in ; 29 in ; 30 in ; 25 in and 11 in At the same time, there has been an increase in seizures [ 2 ].

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The first SCs were synthesized 25 years ago by academic laboratories or the pharmaceutical industry. Indeed, some of the names of these SCs come from the name of the person responsible for its synthesis, for example, John W.


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Currently SCs are classified according to their chemical structure in seven groups: naphthoylindoles, naphthylmethylindoles, naphthoylpyrroles, naphthylmethylindenes, phenylacetylindoles, cyclohexylphenols, and dibenzopyrans or classical cannabinoids. However, the progressive identification of SCs of new synthesis has led to the use of new terms and classifications. In recent years, in many publications, SCs are referred to as synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists SCRA , in reference to their action as agonists or partial agonists on cannabinoid receptors, although there may be other mechanisms of action e.

As epidemiological studies and survey data from recreational consumers show, SCs can be purchased in the form of powder, oily paste, herbal mixture or incense [ 48 ]. The powder is normally white but it can be of other colors. However, the most common form of presentation for SCs are preparations in the form of herbs, which are normally sold in packages of striking appearance that typically contain 0.

This composition can vary even between different packages of the same product. In Europe, the popular SC phenomenon has been partly due to the high demand for cannabis, as well as the continuous emergence onto the market of new SCs when the existing ones were subject to control measures. Generally, the available information on the pharmacology of SCs is limited. However, there is data in which they were studied as potential drugs. In the market, there is a lot of SCs of different compositions and varieties and there is even presence of several different SCs within the same product [ 50 , 51 ].

Overall, SCs are mainly pure agonists for CB 1 and CB 2 receptors, and less frequently, partial agonists or antagonist. In animal models, the acute administration of THC and SCs typically produces hypothermia, analgesia, cataplexy and reduced locomotive activity, as well as hypotension due to their activity on CB 1. Anti-inflammatory, antiproliferative and antioxidant properties are attributed to CB 2 [ 55 , 56 ].


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  8. Regarding chronic effects and, especially, tolerance, they vary depending on the SC administered, age, dose, route of administration, and duration of exposure. Based on all these factors, the repeated administration of some SCs has been linked to deficits in short-term and working memory, as well as alterations in the process of discrimination and implication of anxious states and the response to stress [ 57 ].

    As for the vast majority of NPS, there are no clinical trials specifically designed to evaluate their human pharmacology. At least there has been published a dozen studies that included "semi-experimental" administration self-administration of one or more SCs for their detection and quantification in order to validate analytical methods.

    Peak plasma concentrations were reached approximately 10 minutes after intrapulmonary administration smoked , the main effects for all of them being increased heart rate, dry mouth, eye redness and alterations in mood and perception, similar to what was observed after the experimental administration of THC. The first pharmacokinetic, neurocognitive and subjective data on JWH in humans have been recently published [ 65 , 66 ]. The study analyses 2g and 3g of JWH smoked in a pipe and for both doses mean peak plasma concentrations were reached approximately 5 minutes after administration [ 65 ].