roots to risk

Exploring the World of Minor Cannabinoids Beyond THC and CBD With Dr. Shane Johnson from Bay Medica

Dive into the fascinating world of minor cannabinoids with the Roots to Risk Podcast. Hosts Eric Schneider and Isaac Bock are joined by Dr. Shane Johnson from Bay Medica, a leading figure in the cannabis and cannabinoid space. Dr. Johnson shares insights into the biotech side of the industry, focusing on the development of rare cannabinoids and their potential applications in healthcare and consumer products.

Learn about the groundbreaking work being done at Bay Medica, where a team of experts is using a biotechnology approach to produce pure, plant-identical cannabinoids. Discover the unique effects of cannabinoids like THCV, CBC, and CBT, and how small structural differences can lead to significant variations in their effects.

Explore the future of cannabinoid-based medicine, from FDA-approved drugs to potential treatments for neurodegenerative disorders and cancer. Dr. Johnson discusses the importance of consumer education, quality control, and regulatory reform in advancing the industry and ensuring safe, effective products for all.

Tune in to the Roots to Risk Podcast for an enlightening conversation on the science, business, and potential of minor cannabinoids in the cannabis industry.


00:00 Eric Schneider:
This is the Roots to Risk Podcast hosted by Eric Schneider, alongside Isaac Bach. Roots To Risk brings you insights, the latest stories, and long form discussions about the cannabis industry. You’ll hear interviews with industry leaders and their perspective on current and future trends, how they’ve built success and what challenges they have faced. Our goal is to facilitate candid conversations and provide informative content for the cannabis community at large. Let’s go. What’s going on, Isaac? How we doing today?

00:32 Isaac Bock:
I’m Gabby, how are you doing?

00:35 Eric Schneider:
I’m good man. We got another one on deck, Dr. Shane Johnson from Bay Medica gonna be diving into more on the minor cannabinoid side and you know, more on the biotech side really than, you know, your traditional CPG products and definitely interested in learning more from Dr. Shane. But just a little bit background on him. He’s primarily focused on strategic business advisory service companies in the biotech and healthcare sectors.

01:07 Eric Schneider:
He’s worked for a number of different biotech firms, including Biogen, Amgen, Gentech, and for the past four years, Shane’s work has been focused on the cannabis and cannabinoid space and he’s developed a strong working knowledge of clinical opportunities in the sector. He’s currently the of the board of directors of several cannabis related organizations and is the co-founder of one of Nevada’s leading cultivators and producers of premium cannabis products, including a patented lozenge.

01:39 Eric Schneider:
Shane holds a BA in studio art and BS in neuroscience from Brown University and MD from Stanford University. So really excited to learn a little bit more about Shane, his background and what Bay Medica is doing in the space.

01:56 Isaac Bock:
Yeah, absolutely. I think he will be able to provide a unique, more scientific view on cannabinoids in general based off of his background and very impressive background and what Bay Medica does.

02:10 Eric Schneider:
Absolutely. Well, let’s bring ’em in. Hey Shane, how we doing today? Thanks for joining us on the Rooster Risk Podcast.

02:17 Shane Johnson:
I’m doing great. How are you Eric?

02:20 Eric Schneider:
I’m doing great. Doing great. Can’t complain. Got in the thick of conference season now. So we got some, we got MJ mpac this week. We got Ben Zinga next week, but excited for, for this Roots to Risk podcast. And you know, I think just to kick things off, we’d love to just get a little bit more background about you, your organization, bay Medica, and what you guys are doing in this space.

02:42 Shane Johnson:
Sure, of course. Yeah, so my background educationally is in neuroscience and medicine, but never ended up practicing medicine. I worked in the biotech sector with a variety of startups as well as strategy consulting with much larger companies for many years and kind of got pulled into, or at least became interested in the world of cannabinoids about coming up on, well, actually over 10 years ago now, credit cannabis with saving the life of a a then neighbor’s eldest son.

03:15 Shane Johnson:
And so that got me wondering, well, how the heck with my educational background don’t I understand this? And you know, ultimately had a stint working in the regulated market in Nevada with the plant, and this is back in the early days of Nevada’s legal marijuana market. And then ultimately became very interested in the role of rare cannabinoids. And also we became a little bit disenfranchised, I would say, with some of the variability that you’d get batch to batch crop to crop, you know, with, with plant-based material.

03:53 Shane Johnson:
And it was tough to necessarily offer, I mean I think, you know, plant as plant is amazing, but if you want to make a product that is the exact same every single time, you need to basically have pure input materials and then be able to develop products based on specific ratios of those input materials, whether those are cannabinoids or other other materials. And so that ultimately led me to start Bay Medica along with a couple of PhD chemists, one of whom is a very gifted synthetic chemist, another of whom is a true pioneer in the area of commercial yeast engineering.

04:31 Shane Johnson:
So basically reprogramming yeast to make, in this case cannabinoids rather than beer. And so we started Bay Medica with basically bringing kind of a biotech approach to how do, how do you make some of these, these cannabinoids? And we’ve got a team of, of PhDs doing all the hard work. And, and at this point we, you know, fast forward we’re now a, a subsidiary of Inmed Pharmaceuticals, a publicly held NASDAQ traded pharmaceutical, you biopharmaceutical company focused on the development of FDA approved drugs, leveraging cannabinoids.

05:06 Shane Johnson:
And then we also have a commercial business wherein we are making and selling some of these rare cannabinoids that are non intoxicating. And those can be used in a variety of different end applications. So, oh, I know I packed a lot in there, but <laugh>, hopefully that gives you a good lay of the land.

05:25 Isaac Bock:
Yeah. One of the, one question I have is, you know, everyone’s kind of very familiar with T-H-C-C-B-D-C-B-M. What are some of the other rare cannabinoids that you guys are focused on or have found success in both on the, you know, more consumer side as well as your just general research?

05:40 Shane Johnson:
Sure. I mean, so I would say, you know, our two leading cannabinoids and I think another two kind of leading rare cannabinoids outside, I mean, you’ve got CBN, which, you know, most people would consider to be a rare cannabinoid, obviously pretty readily made or synthesized from hemp CBD as the starting material we have focused on historically, our first cannabinoid that we ever launched was CBC or Cannavo Chromin. And then another one that’s, you know, I think of great interest to a lot of people because there’s are some, you know, pretty good data sets around.

06:12 Shane Johnson:
It is THCV. We also make and sell C-B-T-C-B-D-V. We’re, you know, looking at launching another, you know, we have a co another couple of, of rare cannabinoids in the pipeline. But, you know, the further a field you go, I think one of the things that I find fascinating about these rare cannabinoids is small differences in the structure of the molecule can lead to huge differences in terms of the effect.

06:43 Shane Johnson:
And, and that’s obviously kind of the, the driver to, to, to, to explore the world of these rare cannabinoids is differential effects, you know, and, and yet we don’t, you know, there we’ve had a paucity of research being able to be done for so long in this industry as a whole. So, you know, we’re, we’re really still at the, you know, the early days of figuring out what all of these other cannabinoids do. I mean there are, I think depending who you believe there are, ballpark 150 cannabinoids found in the plant. So the one, you know, when you, you mentioned THC and CBD, those would be only two of them, you know, so there’s a, there’s a long ways to go, a lot of potential out there.

07:21 Shane Johnson:
And yeah, so we, anyhow, there’s, there’s a whole world of, of other cannabinoids and a lot of these cannabinoids that are out there, don’t, you know, that, that exist in the plant, don’t even have names, you know, they’re like, literally they’re, they’re, no, nobody’s worked with them enough to to, to give them a name, so.

07:38 Eric Schneider:
Got it. And would you say that you guys are more supplying like other operators or just direct to consumer? What’s been your guys I guess strategic.

07:48 Shane Johnson:
We, we don’t do any, any direct to consumer. Okay. So we, we are focused on what we do well, which is again, kind of taking a biotechnology approach to, you know, we’re in our, we’re really trying to make kind of the, the purest, highest quality rare cannabinoids that we can, so we’re trying to hit the best spec and we’re trying to making them plant identical. So what the plant makes is what we’re making and we just put a lot of energy into to ensuring that that’s what we do. And, and then we let other people do what they do well, you know, which is, you know, making, making finished goods, you know, selling them to the, to the end consumers, you know, educating consumers more directly, et cetera, et cetera.

08:34 Isaac Bock:
Yeah, no, and that makes a ton of sense. As it relates to kind of the, since version you guys are making versus the plant version, what’s the difference in kind of shelf life and stability of the molecules itself? ’cause I do know degradation has been a huge issue with some kind of consumer, you know, plant-based products. Is that still an issue you guys are working on figuring out? Or is it a little bit more stable through your process?

08:59 Shane Johnson:
Well, I think, you know, again, when you talk about an end consumer product, it’s not just the cannabinoid stability that you have to worry about, right? It’s the entire formulation, you know, what’s the packaging like? Is it, is it exposed to air IE is oxidation an issue or is is it exposed to UV light? Is is, is light an issue from a degradation standpoint? Is it exposed to heat? So these are the type, you know, I think that there’s a lot of commonality in terms of the things we think about and stability in terms of what can cause something to be unstable in terms of the innate cannabinoids themselves.

09:34 Shane Johnson:
Some are more, are definitely more stable than others. THCV delta nine, THCV specifically is less stable than CBC or CBT, you know, that’s just a, a simple fact. It’s less stable than CBD. And, and when I say less stable, it can degrade from delta nine to delta eight.

09:55 Shane Johnson:
You can get that conversion with, in particular, you know, to kind of time and heat. But, but THCV itself is also very, you know, it, it, it, it’s subject to oxidation. So you can’t just sit there and crush it up in a mortar and pestle and let it sit in the open air and expect that you’re not gonna end up with something different inside a fairly short period of time. So how you work with the different cannabinoids can be very important. And, and how one would work with CBC, which is a non crystallizing oil versus THC, which is more of say, a Jolly Rancher type of consistency.

10:33 Shane Johnson:
They’re very, very different compounds and they need to be treated differently and managed differently. All of them, I think, stored properly can as bulk as a, so, you know, single bulk ingredient can be very stable, you know, so we’ve had CBC, you know, retested after a couple of years, kept in a cool dark environment. So specifically a refrigerator inside of a, you know, kind of a, an aluminum type of vessel that doesn’t let light in and it’s been stable a couple years later. I mean, we’re not seeing any differences, any degradation.

11:05 Shane Johnson:
So again, it depends how you’re, how you’re handling this and, and ultimately the devil’s gonna be in the details when it comes to finished goods.

11:14 Eric Schneider:
And then o one question I had, Shane, is, you know, obviously there’s still a lot to be discovered, kind of, you know, what you alluded to, but like, what, what would you say are key factors driving the growth of the minor cannabinoid market and, and how is Baym Medica positioned to capitalize on these trends?

11:33 Shane Johnson:
Sure. Look, I, I think the biggest thing is, is really what I’ve mentioned earlier, which a drive by both manufacturers and ultimately consumers for differentiated effects. And, and obviously you can package novel branding and things around some of those differentiated effects and novel marketing campaigns or what have you. But I mean, just take a very simple example. I think most people you know, would say, Hey, THC, what’s it do? You know, it can give you, depending on the strain, maybe give you couch lock, give you the munchies, you know, it kind of, kind of, you know, put you there on a own.

12:11 Shane Johnson:
Well, THCV, same core structure, the only difference between delta nine, THCV and delta nine, THCI is two carbons on the side chain. THCV has two fewer carbons, three instead of five. That difference of two carbons instead of THCV basically giving you the munchies and putting you to sleep, THCV is generally thought to increase, you know, focus and energy and decrease appetite. So, you know, pretty remarkable change with just two, two, you know, kind of really a two carbon difference.

12:44 Shane Johnson:
And, and that I think is what people find exciting, you know, is that these small differences can lead to huge different, you know, can, it can, small differences in the molecules can lead to huge differences in terms of effect.

12:59 Isaac Bock:
And, you know, with your guys’ focus and your parent company’s focus, kind of on the biotech side of things, what are some of the most exciting developments you guys are looking into or things that are most interesting moving forward as you guys continue to do the work on these minor cannabinoids?

13:15 Shane Johnson:
Sure. Look, I, I think, you know, to me we, I I have to divide that into that, that question into kind of two halves. You know, I’ve got the, the, the commercial ingredient side of things where again, we’re focused on nature identical compounds. So, you know, the Delta nine THCV we make is gonna be the same as the delta nine THCV that the plant makes. We just have an easier time making, you know, kilos and kilos of it versus trying to extract it an isolated at a really high purity and quality from the plant and not have there be other compounds in it.

13:50 Shane Johnson:
So, you know, so in terms of what excites me on that front, it is literally, you know, broad as we, as we learn more about some of these other cannabinoids, whether it’s, you know, more, most likely through third party research and academic coming from academic laboratories or you know, potentially just from, you know, anecdotal i, information that we hear from the market that we’re able to start to get, you know, pull together a story and, and get a better understanding as to what some of these cannabinoids may actually do.

14:19 Shane Johnson:
Then it allow, you know, kind of gives us the impetus to pot, you know, consider actually trying to make that in bulk and, and offer that up for sale to the market so that we can, you know, consumers at the end of the day can, can benefit from the potential differentiated effects. So that’s kinda one piece of the puzzle, which is really about the, you know, health and wellness and CPG space, broadly speaking. And, you know, to be clear, I would consider THC to be part of health and wellness. Lord knows it’s a safer way of relaxing at the end of the day than the cocktail that I typically prefer.

14:55 Shane Johnson:
So <laugh>, you know, you know, from a health perspective, it’s, it’s not a bad one. And, and then there’s the pharmaceutical side of it, which is incredibly exciting. Again, we have, you know, decades where no real research was done around cannabis.

15:10 Shane Johnson:
I mean, THC itself has been an FDA approved drug for quite some time. CBD, you know, basically mixed with sesame oil effectively is Epidiolex another FDA approved drug. Now that’s, I, I’d have to go check the most recent numbers, but it’s, you know, probably approaching somewhere on the order of half a billion dollars a year in sales for the treatment of seizures. You know, those are big market opportunities and I think where that gets really exciting to me is the implication, you know, based on data that’s out there that cannabinoids may have roles in, you know, really some of the, I’ll call it the biggest untapped, you know, or under tapped, you know, frontiers of, of medicine, you know, neurodegenerative disorders, you know, even even treatment of cancer, obviously we had chemotherapy and a lot of cancer treatments available for a long time on the neurodegenerative side of things, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, it’s a pretty limited subset of treatments that we’ve had access to historically.

16:09 Shane Johnson:
And most of those have been targeting the symptoms, you know, kind of an improvement, a temporary improvement of symptoms not actually altering the disease trajectory. So where that whole arena gets very exciting to me is making, you know, is, is doing the research around cannabinoids and potentially cannabinoid analogs. So small variations, you know, you could imagine if I made 50 slight tweaks to CBD, you know, just changing the side chain a little bit or or what have you, 50 very slight structural changes. The, the, the possibility or even probability that one or one or more of those 50 variants would be more effective than CBD itself with a side effect profile that’s no worse for the treatment of seizures is actually relatively high.

16:53 Shane Johnson:
And that, again, pretty exciting when you think about the potential impacts for medicine and targeting a bunch of diseases that, you know, really have some significant unmet needs.

17:04 Isaac Bock:
Yeah. And you just kind of proved why cannabis and the cannabinoids being listed as Schedule one drugs makes zero sense considering there’s RA FDA approved drugs using them. It

17:13 Shane Johnson:
It’s asinine. Yes. <laugh>. So yeah, I, I would agree with you. We, we could have a whole separate podcast on regulatory insanity and shenanigans.

17:26 Eric Schneider:
What’s really interesting, Shane, is the, you know, a lot of times when we have folks on here, it’s more focused on like, you know, truthfully the recreational market and not as much, you know, like looking at cannabis industry as more of like CPG than, you know, biotech and healthcare. And so I find it very interesting, you know, your guys’ angle, but also how they’re not mutually exclusive. Right.

17:51 Shane Johnson:
You know, not at all. And, and yeah. You know, if you don’t mind me jumping in on that. No, absolutely. I think what what we see is people, even in the regulated markets wanting like cannabinoids, we’ve all heard about the entourage effect. I, I kind of tend to prefer the term ensemble because entourage implies that there’s some sort of a standard bearer IE one person leading a procession and one molecule leading a procession. And I’m not sure that that’s necessarily true when it comes to cannabinoids, but what I’m, what I’m getting at here is that, you know, in the, even the regulated markets, I think there’s a growing recognition and interest that you can create differentiated experiences that may involve THC.

18:33 Shane Johnson:
You know, some people take THC to get high. Well, can you modulate that by virtue of including other cannabinoids, you know, reduce the anxiety levels that may come with A-A-T-H-C containing product or, you know, kind of ha have it work even better for a, a, a restful night where you, you’re not waking up in the middle of the night with pain from your sciatica or whatever the case may be. So again, there can be a modulation of some of the effects. So to me, all of this is one big continuum.

19:05 Shane Johnson:
We’re kind of in this, I’ll call it odd space of, of creating dividing lines in part because of the legacy of how, again, THC has been treated and now then marijuana versus legal hemp, you know, et cetera, which is, it’s really all cannabis sativa l right? <laugh>, I mean, it’s the same darn plant. It’s just a matter of different expressions of that.

19:30 Isaac Bock:
Yeah. And with the kind of, you know, since you brought up the, sorry, go ahead. B

19:35 Eric Schneider:
No, you’re good. ib.

19:38 Isaac Bock:
No, I guess just because you brought up the entourage or ensemble effect as, as you called it, you know, have you guys looked into doing any work on the terpene front? How, you know, working on synthetically creating those, I know it’s more of a, a flavanoid than anything else, but kind of on the entourage effect discussion that can impact how your body reacts to it in certain ways.

20:01 Shane Johnson:
We, we have not directed our efforts at that. I mean, we certainly, we’ve, we’ve talked about it at times. We certainly could, but we’re a small company with, you know, just kind of limit limited, you know, resources, human capital dollars to, to, to put into things. So we’ve stayed focused thus far really on cannabinoids. It’s not because of lack of interest in some of these other avenues, you know, and I, and I suppose at the end of the day, if, you know, it was determined that X, y, z very rare terpene, you know, was really of huge interest, I would welcome anybody to come <laugh>, you know, let me know about that.

20:39 Shane Johnson:
And, and if, if you can’t get it elsewhere in nature and you’re looking for, you know, hey, can we, can this be synthesized in a way that makes it, you know, gives the identical product happy to take a look and, and we can discuss. But you know, again, it’s, it just hasn’t been a focus largely because, you know, again, we, we have, we have a, you know, I can count the number of PhDs who are doing all of the hard work in the lab on, on, on, you know, my, my fingers. So, you know, if if we, if we were a much bigger company, then yes, absolutely.

21:10 Shane Johnson:
I’m sure we’d be tackling, you know, kind of the broader cohort of, of potential, you know, compounds and interactions.

21:21 Eric Schneider:
And, and Shane, you know, obviously there’s been a heightened level of, you know, consumer education, but there’s still a long way to go, you know, how can the industry, you know, in your opinion, improve consumer awareness and understanding the benefits of minor cannabinoids? And because I definitely think that that’s, you know, a, a big barrier is just consumer education understanding of the different effects, right? I think a lot of times, and we’re starting to get away from it, but people are just purely looking at THC percentages and saying, well, that one’s gotta higher.

21:56 Eric Schneider:
So like, I should buy that. And, you know,

21:59 Shane Johnson:
Well that’s a, that’s a big one, right? Bigger must be better, right? The higher number must be better. And, and, and, and not necessarily true. And, you know, I also think there’s been a problem with, you know, I mean the industry is, look, we need more data. That’s the number one thing we can do, is to create more quality data and share that data. That’s the number one thing we can do. But the industry itself has not done a great job of, you know, I mean, it, it’s, the industry is a mess. It’s a mess in terms of, you know, people talk about these cannabinoids and for those of us in the industry, yeah, we may know the differences between all of these three letter acronyms, but for a lot of other people it becomes alphabet soup, you know, and then, and then all of the issues and information and misinformation around what is, you know, safety profiles, what is from the plant or the residual solvents.

22:53 Shane Johnson:
A lot of people know that what the labs, you know, what people say is in the products, isn’t really in the products ’cause of independent lab testing that’s been done. So the industry has kind of brought on a lot of these issues as well by, you know, I mean there are a lot of bad, you know, let’s, let’s be clear, there are a bunch of bad actors out there, or historically have been a bunch of bad actors who have made it harder for people who are trying to do this right? And, you know, get the right information out there to, you know, separate themselves from the noise. And so there, there, I mean, there’s a lot of different angles to take on answering that question.

23:26 Shane Johnson:
I, I suppose at the end of the day, but I think the best thing we can do is everybody, you know, make, make things according to, you know, kind of CPG type best practices IE in A-C-G-M-P facility, you know, food grade facility and where you’re following, you know, following all the letters, get things tested by reputable labs, lab shopping for the highest numbers, you know, ideally even get multiple tests so that you can have COAs that corroborate each other.

23:58 Shane Johnson:
You know, again, I, and I, the list can go on, but I think there’s so much we can do as an industry or the, the, you know, the people who, who are trying to drive this forward to just do, do a, a more consistent job so that over time, this, this matures the same as, you know, any other things that we see out there in the CBG world, right? Nobody thinks twice about vitamins. Nobody thinks twice about vitamin D and you’re in the milk that your kids may drink, you know, but these, these are, these are things that are made added into products, you know, and we don’t worry about contamination and vitamins when you go buy vitamins at the vitamin shop.

24:41 Shane Johnson:
People worry about that with cannabinoids and for good reason. It, it, you know, the industry’s done a poor job of, of showing that it can be trusted.

24:53 Eric Schneider:
No, and I think, you know, that’s a great place to wrap things up, Shane. And, and this has been awesome and really a, a lens that we haven’t really taken on the show, looking at more on the science side and looking at minor cannabinoids as the focus. And I learned a lot today and I really appreciate the time and, you know, gonna be looking out for what Bay Medica, you know, produces this year and in the future.

25:20 Shane Johnson:
Well, thank you, thank you both for your time. Really appreciate it. And I just, you know, just in kind of a closing note, I’d say yeah, keep, keep lookout. I think there is a, you know, the future is bright when it comes to rare cannabinoids, and I think overall when it comes to, you know, the broader CPG markets and the role of cannabinoids in those markets, I think there are a lot of products that’ll, that’ll come forth over the coming years. And it’ll be an exciting time for both, you know, manufacturers, brands, consumers who are looking for some of these differentiated effects.

25:58 Eric Schneider:
Absolutely. Shane, thanks again for your time. Appreciate you. Another solid one in the books. A little bit of a different angle than I think what we’ve, you know, traditionally had on the show. And it was great to just learn more about the different minor cannabinoids. I know you have a, a lot better background in that than, than I do, but just seeing what the future potential of products is, if you want a specific type of feeling and a specific type of effect from products, you know, being able to customize that a lot more.

26:34 Eric Schneider:
So, and really drilling down into, you know, bringing together different types of cannabinoids to create various different effects, which I thought was very, very

26:45 Isaac Bock:
Interesting. Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s really unique and cool what they’re, they’re doing, and I think companies like Bay Medica are gonna kind of help push the canvas industry overall forward just because it does prove the hypocrisy of how the legislation is currently in place, which we can’t get too much into. But yeah, it’s, it’s very interesting to see the work they’re doing on, you know, minor tweaks to, you know, what the plant molecules look like versus what they’re creating. They create those unique effects that you mentioned.

27:15 Eric Schneider:
Yeah. And I think, you know, at end of the day there’s more research being done, but need more continued research. Right. And folks like Shane are, are leading that charge and it’s great to see.

27:28 Isaac Bock:
Absolutely. Yeah. Very, very interesting one. And looking forward to the next one.

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