CVM News

Cannabis innovation scholarship awarded to WSU biochemistry student

Oct 6, 2020
Every time cannabis is consumed more than a hundred cannabinoids interact with the human body.

Leonardo Orozco wants to better understand how those cannabinoids interact with each other and the effects that result, also known as the "entourage effect".

To that end, Orozco, a senior biochemistry student at Washington State University’s School of Molecular Biosciences, was recently awarded a Veriheal 2020 Innovation in Cannabis Scholarship.

Veriheal is a health care technology company that aims to provide cannabis research and education. Orozco was one of 10 undergraduate and graduate students throughout the nation to receive the scholarship. He was also the only recipient at an academic institution west of Minnesota.

Orozco, a Pasco, Wash., native, was introduced to cannabis research by Associate Professor, Dr. Mark Lange of the Institute of Biological Chemistry. One of Lange’s lab’s focuses is Cannabis biochemistry.

Orozco wants to look at cannabis’ benefits from both recreational and medicinal perspectives.

He plans to investigate different strains and understand the interactive relationships of all of its compounds, or cannabinoids.

Establishing a stronger understanding of how cannabinoids interact could be a major step in innovating recreational/medical cannabis in the future. Orozco said the research could lead to advancements in pain management in which cannabis could completely do away with the need for addictive opiates.

There are a lot of biotechnological advances with agricultural breeding, Orozco said. Cannabis is a valuable crop, but it is not getting the attention it deserves at a national level.

“Better understanding your strains as a grower would help provide a better understanding to a consumer,” Orozco said. “A consistent chemical profile of cannabis strains (chemovars) would make its use safer in the long term.”

Orozco, who is planning for graduate school after this year, said the monetary value behind the scholarship isn’t much compared to the fact he just won a competitive national scholarship.

“It was really about the competition. Cannabis is a new and emerging field of research and there aren’t many scholarships,” Orozco said. “More than anything, this is a good opportunity for me to connect with researchers interested in cannabis biochemistry.”

Washington State University