Q&A with Len May
Len May brings more than 25 years of cannabis and genomics experience to Endocanna Health. A pioneer in the medical cannabis industry, May has been instrumental in shaping the current legislation and culture. He has held past positions as President of the Cannabis Action Network and Board Member and Lifetime Member of the California Cannabis Association. May is the current chair of the CBDIA science board and is a stakeholder in some of the industry’s most iconic brands. His areas of expertise include the workings of the Endocannabinoid system and how genetic expression plays a role in human experiences. As a Certified Medical Cannabis Specialist in Medicinal Genomics, May has an in-depth knowledge of genomics, cannabinoids and terpenes, and their interaction with the endocannabinoid system. As well, he holds a Master of Medical Cannabis and a certificate in Endocannabinoid Formulation from the Institute for the Advancement of Integrative Medicine. Mr. May is an accomplished public speaker having presented on these topics on some of the world’s most prestigious stages in his mission to help educate the population about the healing powers of cannabis. A published author Making Cannabis Personal and the host of the popular Everything is Personal podcast.
Exclusive interview with The 420 Area Code
420AC: Is it true not all cannabis products are right for everyone and do not treat everyone the same way?
Mr. May: Yes. Think about it this way, there are close to 500 different components in the cannabis plant, and we have over 20,000 genes. This means that the phytocannabinoids also need to work with your unique body chemistry and your DNA can be that guide. We all have an Endocannabinoid system which is our primary regulatory system, and we produce our own endogenous endocannabinoids. When we have certain deficiencies in our endogenous endocannabinoids, we are lucky that we have this incredible plant that produces phytocannabinoids that mimic the way our endogenous endocannabinoids work.
420AC: Why is it important to learn the most ideal cannabinoid ratios and discovering the ideal dose for your body?
Mr. May: It is important to learn the most ideal cannabinoids ratios and discover the ideal dose for your body because cannabis is personal. There are specific genetic predispositions that may be triggered or expressed through the use of cannabinoids and CBD or an interaction with other substances. Our report identifies your unique genotype, maps potential risks and positive outcomes, and aligns your DNA with the latest research to predict how you will respond to specific cannabinoids and terpenes. EndoDNA’s myDNA.live portal provides a ratio of cannabinoid and terpene suggestions that are more genetically aligned with you as well as guide you to the products that are available in your area with the best percentage of match.
420AC: How was the EndoDna test conceived?
Mr. May: My passion has always been the therapeutic properties of cannabis and CBD. I noticed that there are times two people with the same symptomatic condition consume the same cannabis and they each have a different response. This began with plant genetics and learning through genetic sequencing that the names we assign to chemical varieties of cannabis lack consistency. The next step was meeting my partner Eric and bringing our scientific team together. We researched every Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) that has a direct or indirect association with your endocannabinoid system. Finally, it was time to build our technology, so we partnered with Illumina to make a chip with nearly 700k SNPs or genetic markers. Then we built our platform in a fully HIPAA compliant secure portal. The test is a three-step process – Swab, Register and Ship. The report focuses on preventing cannabinoid side effects which will enhance your cannabis experience and optimize your health outcomes. This information can help you select the cannabinoid products that are right for you. When you know your genetic predispositions, you can make smarter choices about your cannabis and CBD formulations, dosing, and delivery. Through this process, we have three international patents pending on our technology and indication-specific formulations.
420AC: What is the cost of the test and how can people purchase it?
Mr. May: The EndoDNA kit retails at $199 for the kit (including a HIPAA compliant report and the product suggestion engine) or $49.95 if you already have your DNA results from 23andMe, Ancestry or any of the DNA tests. You can simply go to EndoDNA.com to order from retailers in the US and Canada.
420AC: Most people do not know what terpenes are. How do you educate your customers about your product?
Mr. May: Education is key to the success of not only EndoDNA, but the entire industry. The endocannabinoid system was just discovered in 1992 by Lumir Hanus and William Devane in Israel. Additionally, cannabis has been under prohibition virtually globally therefore research has been suppressed. Imagine that a healthcare professional who studied prior to 1992 was never even taught the endocannabinoid system.
Mr. May: We have videos, presentations, blogs, and other materials on EndoDNA.com as an ongoing effort to educate the public. We conduct physician webinars, participate in industry and events of complementary industries.
420AC: Which terpenes provide the greatest benefit, and which should be avoided?
Mr. May: This is an interesting question. Let’s establish what terpenes are first. Terpenes are the glandular secretions that are produced by plants in the form of oil, cannabis plants also produce a variety of cannabinoids. Over 100 organic compounds have been identified, but there are 16 that have been studied and documented with an association related to an experience. The original Indica plants that originated in southeast Asia have a skunky or diesel smell which is associated with a terpene profile dominant in Myrcene (more sedative effects.) The plants that originated in a more tropical climate like the Durban’s of South Africa or the Maui’s of Hawaii have a bit of a fruitier fragrance and those are dominant in a terpene called Limonene (more uplifting by boosting certain neurochemicals.) Now depending on your genetic predispositions, some people are more prone to stressful events where a cannabinoid and Limonene has been shown to trigger that genetic expression while others are more prone to depressive moods and cannabinoids with myrcene seem to help to express. That’s why it’s important to know your DNA profile so you can find what better aligns with you genetically.
420AC: How can your test determine any drug-to-drug interactions that could affect me?
Mr. May: Some prescription and over-the-counter medicines may interact with cannabinoids such as CBD and THC. EndoDNA has a Drug Interaction Report that can tell you if any of the prescription medications you are taking are on our list for potential interactions with CBD or THC. Some can be inducers and other inhibitors, but your genotype can guide to which interaction you could potentially have.
420AC: What are some of your discoveries based on DNA and overall ECS wellness?
Mr. May: We learned many things through genetic testing like If a person shares a homozygous genotype they may experience increased heart rate, stress, and anxiety as an adverse effect from THC. Also, certain terpenes and cannabinoid combinations may control a genetic expression. A large body of data has shown that patients diagnosed with depression have higher levels of CNRs (CNR1 and CNR2) in their neuroanatomical structures and circuits including the prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, amygdala, hypothalamus, and forebrain. This genotype appears to have a higher risk of depressive feelings and they report being triggered by THC formulations with Myrcene as a primary terpene profile.
Clinical trials on THC and CBD have also shown a synergistic antitumor effect when combined with standard of care treatment along with positive outcomes using cannabinoids to treat pain, spasmodic disorders and over 1,000 other clinical studies.
420AC: What role did the company’s scientific board play in test development? What studies were conducted prior to product rollout?
Mr. May: We are grateful for our science board. Along with myself, we have Dr. Ethan Russo who’s best known for his work around the Entourage Effect. Dr. Chris Spooner who’s one of North America’s top Functional Medicine practitioners and Dr. Mike Tagen, a top neuroscientist and PhD of pharmacology who might be better known as the Prof of Pot. Endo decided early in its inception that every study associated with a finding must have a peer-reviewed reference. The board is responsible for deciding which studies are included and our deep learning AI identifies global studies, and the board makes the final decisions. Additionally, our board member contributed to all the initial SNP research that was used to build our custom chip for genotyping. The science board is heavily involved in research and Endo is involved in several clinical studies presently and the board decides which studies we would like to either initiate or contribute too.
420AC: Do you envision making test upgrades in the future?
Mr. May: Absolutely. We recently introduced tests on Vitamin deficiencies as well as Nutrient reports. We will be including Nutrient interactions too. There are a few other updates coming soon along with more products. There are definitely other companies coming on the market that are trying to do what we are doing but as an innovator, Endo’s competition is Endo. Our goal is to always be better today than we were yesterday and that’s how we stay cutting edge. Having said our passion must align with our mission; help people, support the medical community, and contribute to the ending of prohibition through science.