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ISO collaborates with East Carolina University to examine how cannabinoids and terpenes may affect cannabis risk

By Andrew Blancher  |  November 27, 2019

If you have a passing familiarity with the biology of cannabis, you’re likely acquainted with one of its popular cannabinoids (or chemical compounds), tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. It’s the chemical responsible for the psychoactive effect sought by recreational users of marijuana. Yet, THC is but one of over 100 known cannabinoids present in cannabis—chemical compounds which are the subject of increasing scrutiny by researchers and regulators for their medicinal properties.

To better understand the potential and risks of cannabis’s molecular potpourri, the ISO Emerging Issues team collaborated with professors at the Risk Management and Insurance Program in the College of Business at East Carolina University and some of their students. This unique pairing gave the students a chance to research and publicly present a webinar on an emerging risk while offering the ISO Emerging Issues team a chance to engage with the next generation of insurance industry talent.

Cannabis’s chemical bounty

The students have focused their research on the benefits and risks associated with cannabis.

Cannabis is replete with cannabinoids, such as THCA, for instance, which has been found to have anti-inflammatory properties, while the compound CBN has demonstrated potential as a sedative. The other promising commercial trove in cannabis is terpenes, the organic compounds that give the flower its fragrance. There are over 150 such compounds in the cannabis plant. Terpenes have been used for pesticides as well as fragrances, among other products, and researchers are probing the numerous terpenes in cannabis for a similar commercial bounty.

For all its promise, there are several notable risks surrounding cannabis and its chemical components as they move into the mainstream. As the East Carolina University students highlight, product liability claims from mispresenting information on cannabis-based products and questions about licensing requirements for “budtenders” at cannabis shops are just some of those risks.


Andrew Blancher is Director of Commercial Auto and Emerging Issues at ISO. You can contact him at Andrew.Blancher@verisk.com.