The business case for synthetic CBD

by Duncan Fisher

September 20, 2022 - 3 min read

It will only be true for a while longer that manufacturing synthetic CBD and other cannabinoids is more expensive than extracting them from the cannabis plant. Cost is the usual argument from manufacturers of CBD products for sourcing the latter way. (The other is that consumers prefer ‘natural’ products, a preference that is actually not warranted from a pharmacological standpoint.) But the pressure is on for manufacturers to devise processes that are more efficient than cannabis-sourcing, and reproducible, assuring consistent purity, and above all, scalable. Once this happens, agricultural cannabis will take a secondary role as a base product for pharmaceutical and practitioner-grade cannabinoids. Producers will pay less for their non-cannabis materials up front, and they will also pay less downstream, in environmental costs and legal expenses, often overlooked trouble spots for growers and manufacturers. 

That synthetic CBD is better than cannabis-derived is beyond dispute. Users need not worry about residual THC, for there is none, or pesticides, or common soil contaminants, like heavy metals. Nor is what they purchase subject to genetic mutation in cultivars, or the vicissitudes of good or bad harvest seasons. 

Its cost is about to drop. One development team in California recently demonstrated a way to make 8,9-Dihydrocannabidiol (H2CBD), a chemical cousin to CBD, readily, from a yeast precursor, far less expensively than has yet been done. As companies master the technology to manage processes like this in bulk, it is reasonable to expect considerable savings of scale.Because synthetic molecules can be made in the same factory space in which a company’s existing products are made, too, up-scaling ought to require very little by way of new infrastructure – certainly no building or running any plant-growing facilities.

Epidiolex, a medication that is plant-derived, will probably be unusual in this respect in the coming landscape, and possibly the last of its kind. Regulatory agencies and producers concerned with end cost and replicable purity will almost certainly make synthetic production standard for every cannabinoid drug. 

Synthetic production, done greener, will help in cost-efficiency too. If manufacturers exploit biosynthetic pathways, such as in yeast or bacteria, they spare themselves expensive chemical processes that are associated with strict chemical synthesis, and the expense of cleaning up toxic environmental by-products. 

Those who think of grown cannabis as greener already need only consider that pot farms are regularly under fire for fertilizer and pesticide pollution, for draining irrigation watersheds, and sometimes for illegal clear-cutting and resultant soil erosion. Trying to correct for these problems, and stay green, is a costly proposition. Even indoor cultivation has its costs, in grow-lights and ventilation. 3% of the electricity usage in the state of California is estimated to come from the cannabis industry. Some towns have complained about outright power-grid failures because of indoor growing facilities. ‘Green’ bears defining, in other words. 

Finally, for users of agricultural cannabis, there is the matter of class-action lawsuits. There are many, and they continue to proliferate. Plaintiffs argue that CBD products are at variance with FDA guidelines, they make impermissible health claims, or that they are misleadingly labeled. The FDA, meanwhile, is nowhere near deciding how CBD will be regulated for labeling, content, or marketing. Defendant CBD producers have drawn attention to this impasse, and courts, unsure of what to do, are uniformly granting stays pending clarification of the rules, and so the cases, stalemated, accumulate. Federal legalization of hemp, distinguishable since 2018 from ‘marijuana’, combined with an ambiguous and incomplete regulatory framework has opened the doors to courtrooms in a big way, to say it differently. In time, concept-testing cases will be decided, and the framework will clarify. It will be an expensive wait. For some producers, it will be an expensive solution, too, whatever it is. Synthetics, for legal reasons as well as operational ones, are bound to be less expensive in the end than the cannabis-extracted alternative. 

DiolPure products contain PureForm CBD™ transformed from aromatic terpenes for pharmaceutical-grade purity. PureForm CBD™ is bioidentical to CBD extracted from hemp and cannabis, but free of any residual cannabinoids like THC or impurities or chemicals that can associate with traditional plant-derived production processes. 

The foregoing is a report on trends and developments in cannabinoid industry research. No product description herein is intended as a recommendation for diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease or syndrome. 


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