Gregor Zorn. A commitment to high standards

He has become a familiar face at medicinal cannabis events. Still, not everyone knows that Gregor Zorn has been an independent medical cannabis educator and consultant for years, before he accepted his job as Chief Scientific Officer at Cannaray Ltd. in November of 2019. One with a mission, because he wants to gather and spread scientifically based knowledge. Besides many cannabis events, his outlets were the European Cannabinoid Therapy Association, the Padua University Medical School, social media, and his own website gregorzorn.com. On his page, he says: “Cannabis crops are the most versatile, useful and easiest to grow, and it is underutilized, mainly, due to intentional false propaganda.”

Change the trend

It all started for Zorn in early 2014 when he attended a medical cannabis symposium in Ljubljana. He was blown away by the research and case studies of how cannabinoids could help in a variety of medical conditions and the crucial role of the endocannabinoid system in the maintenance of our health. He wanted to learn more, so he started researching this fascinating area himself, and never stopped. “My first goal was to have a basic understanding of this topic,” Zorn says. “As I didn’t know much on the medicinal use of cannabis, I started from learning the basics of cannabinoids, cannabis, and the endocannabinoid system (ECS). As a biology student, I never heard of the ECS at my university or anything about cannabis. I was perplexed that such an important system is not taught to biology or medical students. I was also surprised by the number of scientific papers that were available on this subject and started reading all the ones I could get my hands on. As my knowledge progressed, I  noticed a lot of incorrect information on the internet, by so-called ‘cannabis experts’, activists, and organisations. Many of which were driven by their personal financial motives. I wanted to change this trend.”

Scientifically backed knowledge

His career as an educator and consultant developed slowly but progressively. Zorn attended all the relevant medical cannabis events, talked to the top cannabis experts, and continued his theoretical and practical education. After gaining confidence in his knowledge, Zorn started doing medical cannabis presentations, mainly to medical professionals. “The vast majority did not know anything about medical cannabis use, and patients needed help. It was a great experience.”

As an educator and consultant, Gregor Zorn always wanted to deliver easy to comprehend, relevant, and scientifically backed knowledge. “It is essential for me to deliver complicated information in the way that the recipients fully comprehend and feel more comfortable using this knowledge, personally or professionally. As a consultant, the goal is similar but it applies to specific areas of interest such as medical cannabis growing, product development, clinical research, clinical trial implementation, and other scientific services.”

What didn’t change much from last year’s report are the companies that grow medical cannabis being sold in Europe. There are dozens of projects in Europe and overseas with the goal to supply Germany and other countries with cannabis, but only a few manage to actually do so. Something else that didn’t change from the first edition is that Germany remains the largest European market, even larger than all others combined.”.

High standards

It is also important for Gregor Zorn to make a distinction between recreational use and medicinal use. “For recreational users, the goal is usually to get a positive experience, to change consciousness, and connect with other people on a different energetic level. With medicinal use, the goals are more focused on the treatment of specific symptoms or medical conditions. This is achieved with precise dosing of selected medical cannabis products, following a regular schedule, ideally prescribed and followed-up by a medical professional.”

According to Zorn, this also sets requirements for the product. “Medical cannabis is cannabis that has been grown, processed, stored, and distributed for medicinal use. It should adhere to the highest standards of safety. It should be tested to show compliance with the absence of pesticides/fungicides, bacterial/fungal contamination, heavy metals, and residual solvents. It should also be tested for the levels of the major constituents, cannabinoids, and terpenes, as this provides essential information for dosing, chemovar selection, and correct storage of the product. I think it should be standardized as much as possible, which can be problematic, especially for cannabis inflorescence. This can only be done with stable genetics and a fully monitored grow environment. This can be challenging for most licensed producers, which is reflected in the differences between batches of the same chemovar.”

With the interest of its medical applications growing by the day, we see more research is being done in this area. However, there are still sever, mainly bureaucratic, roadblocks due to its narcotic status. This hinders our understanding, applicability, and full potential of this medicinal plant. There are also many misconceptions about this plant that need to be addressed and not perpetuated further. Companies working in this sector should adhere to the scientific approach, and some of them are doing a great job. However, many are still relying on cheap marketing tricks, just to boost sales of their products. This can have negative repercussions on the credibility of this industry as a whole.

On the other hand, it is also important to listen carefully to medical cannabis users, who have had personal experience for their specific conditions. Such feedback is incredibly valuable, as it provides patients real-life experiences, what works doesn’t work, dosing, cannabinoid ratios, and other useful data. When enough data is gathered, it can be a valuable resource for developing therapeutic protocols, medical guidelines and clinical trials, as well as developing new cannabinoid formulations and cultivars with specific active compounds.”

A healthy industry

Just before Zorn accepted his new job as Chief Scientific Officer at Cannaray Ltd. and the Covid-19 measures shook the (cannabis) world, he pondered six years of being in the middle of the medicinal cannabis world. He visited a lot of cannabis-related events and met hundreds of experts, producers, regulators, patients, and other people involved in medicinal cannabis. He was also able to see the downside of a fast-growing industry. “Organising cannabis events has become an industry itself, and you can compare it with the cannabis industry as a whole. With so many cannabis events popping out all over the globe, the speakers’ quality is going down, and with the increasing interest in this developing field, every other speaker is presented as a medicinal cannabis expert. Patients, health care professionals and regulators are not always able to see who’s trustworthy anymore. It’s the same with the cannabis industry as a whole. I believe that those who are strictly focussed will survive. Anyway, I do hope the lockdown results in a healthier medicinal cannabis world, where the good are separated from the bad. A world where strict pharmaceutical requirements are normal, and where patients will benefit in the end.”

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