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The Four Pillars of Cannabis Science

Updated: Jan 25, 2023

Welcome to the Module 1: Cannabis > Lesson 1: Overview > Homework 2: The Four PIllars of Cannabis Science . This article provides a conceptual framework for the scope of both this course and also Cannabis Foundation: Part 2.

At the end of this homework assignment, students will possess a solid comprehension of the four primary areas of study pertaining to the commerce and chemistry of cannabis/hemp/marijuana. These have been categorized by Higher Learning LV as the four pillars of cannabis science, including:

  1. Pillar 1: Cannabinoids

  2. Pillar 2: Terpenes

  3. Pillar 3: Flavonoids

  4. Pillar 4: Endocannabinoid System


Higher Learning LV has defined the Four Pillars of cannabis science: Cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and the endocannabinoid system. Below, these terms are defined.

This free article is an excerpt from the forthcoming Higher Learning LV course Cannabis Foundation.

Pillar 1: Cannabinoids

Cannabinoids are the special molecules that, as their name implies, are produced only by cannabis (and hemp). The most common and heavily marketed cannabinoids in the United States are cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

"The most common and heavily marketed cannabinoids in the United States are CBD and THC."

Decades of peer-reviewed scientific research studies have revealed that many cannabinoids, in some use cases, may deliver wellness efficacy that includes potential reductions in inflammation, anxiety, and depression and perhaps the ability to combat certain types of serious diseases, including arthritis, cancer, multiple sclerosis, migraine headaches, fibromyalgia, autism, childhood epilepsy, and a variety of other conditions (particularly those based in inflammation).

Analogs, Acidic Precursors, & Varins

A common confusion among those new to the cannabis industry is the various molecular isomers, or analogs, of each cannabinoid. For example, CBD features several different versions of this popular botanically sourced wellness molecule, a few of which are listed below:

  • CBDA: The acidic precursor that produces CBD

  • CBD: What scientists call the neutral version of this molecule

  • CBDV: The varin version

  • CBDVA: The acidic precursor that produces CBDV

Likewise, THC features a set of isomers that includes:

  • THCA: The acidic precursor that produces THC

  • THC: The neutral version (delta-9)

  • THCV: The varin version

  • THCVA: The acidic precursor that produces THCV

Other cannabinoids, including CBG, CBN, and CBC feature similar sets of analog molecules (including CBCV). It should be noted that these isomers sometimes deliver not merely different efficacy, but polar opposite results.

"THCV, the varin version of THC, does the opposite and decreases appetite (as do certain terpenes)."

For example, THC is infamous for increasing appetite (the colloquial "munchies"), a beneficial characteristic for patients undergoing chemotherapy and pregnant women suffering nausea. However, THCV, the varin version of THC, does the opposite and decreases appetite (as do certain terpenes, which are explained below). This makes these cannabinoids of potential value to patients suffering obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

To learn more about Higher Learning LV's Four Pillars of Cannabis Science, stay tuned for our forthcoming Cannabis Foundation courses. These on-demand courses—which together feature optional proficiency-based certification testing—were developed exclusively for busy industry professionals and enterprise organizations.

🎧 Like what you just read? Listen and learn with our highly educational weekly Cannabis Commerce + Chemistry Podcast. At under 30 minutes per episode, it helps industry professionals stay current on trending topics.

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