There are innumerable uses for cannabis at this point in time. 1/5 of the country has legalized it for recreational use while 29 states have legalized it for medicinal purposes. Meanwhile, hemp has continued to be used in clothes, rope, plastic, paper, oil-based products, body lotions and food just to name a few things. With so many different strains and types of cannabis being used these days, it’s a wonder that it’s taken until now to understand what makes up the basic genetic structure of the plant. Yet its illegal status on a federal level has made the study of cannabis genetics a difficult if not impossible task.
The Map Provided by Sunrise Genetics
Despite its popularity and use across the country, the plant still remains a Schedule I substance, placing it in the same category as heroin. This means that it is illegal to grow and study cannabis genetics in any official capacity across the country. Since researchers and scientists rely on government grants, this has made the process of understanding this plant very difficult. Sunrise Genetics, however, have found a way to take on the task of mapping out the marijuana genome and debuted their findings in January at the Plant and Animal Genome Conference in San Diego. Now a map of marijuana’s 10 pairs of chromosomes will be available to growers and other relevant parties in the industry so that cannabis genetics can be understood and utilized.
The Potential Unlocked by the Marijuana Genome Map
Understanding the genetic makeup of the plant will have profound ramifications. It will allow cultivators to grow healthier and fuller crops at a much faster rate. This will be immensely helpful in the production of cannabis based products. However, it is just the tipping point for how understanding the marijuana genome will be helpful at a deeper level. Understanding the various elements that make up the plant will be extremely useful when it comes to growing crops that are designed for a specific medical or recreational purpose. Crops for various conditions can be grown in a precise way that will allow consumers to get a clear and direct picture of exactly what they are buying and what its effects will be. Understanding cannabis genetics allows growers to cultivate strains for energy or sleep. In fact, various moods or purposes will all be a plausible option for sale and consumption.
How Sunrise Genetics Worked Through Research Restrictions
With the illegal status of the plant, however, Sunrise Genetics have had to work with coordinated resources. One of these resources was plant biologist George Weiblen’s laboratory at the University of Minnesota. This is the only DEA-approved laboratory that has been allowed to research cannabis genetics in the country. Weiblen’s lab is responsible for discovering the rudimentary genetic map for cannabis. After more than 10 years of research, his lab was able to let Sunrise have access to stabilized marijuana and hemp samples that contained cross-bred cannabis plants with different genetic backgrounds.
The Foundation of Sunrise Genetics
Sunrise Genetics President Matt Gibbs told Cannabis Business Times, “If you have two plant populations that are inbred, because they’re highly genetically stable, making a cross allows you to see the differences among the plants more clearly, thus producing more consistent results.”
Sunrise was founded by CJ Schwartz, who was a plant scientist. He then recruited his brother, his brother’s brother-in-law and a friend in 2014 with the idea in mind to map out and study cannabis genetics. The team recognized the potential that lay in understanding cannabis and the many benefits it could have.
Sunrise Genetics is a Colorado based company that began in the same year marijuana sales became legal in the state. The team told Bloomberg about their plans to research the genome, saying; “For those that are cultivating or seeking to breed—or just learn how to improve the plant for whatever the desired trait is—this is now a map that allows for you to do that with a high degree of accuracy,” Gibbs says. “Also, what this does is it pulls together a bunch of disparate data sets that are out there with private companies and academia. With this map, they’re going to be able to really make better sense of that data, because it’s going to be ordered in a fashion that we can all agree can be replicated. … When we understand what genes are controlling what traits, then I think you’re going to see a change in the quality of the starting product, and this increasing depth of knowledge will reveal the potential as to what products a certain strain can produce.”
Cannabis Genetics for Medical Breakthroughs
Many big companies, such as Monsanto use plant genetic mapping to create bigger crops faster to ensure the biggest financial rewards. They do this with corn, wheat and other crops. Mapping the marijuana genome, however, has a much more meaningful and powerful potential. Right now, cannabis is being linked to its ability to treat epilepsy in is many forms. Its effect on cancer and its ability to shrink tumors has also been studied and noted as well as its ability to treat a number of other debilitating and devastating disorders.
The potential medical benefits of understanding cannabis genetics is truly enormous. THC and CBD are the main compounds in cannabis that have been found to have the strongest medicinal uses, yet different compounds are better for different illnesses in various combinations and dosing. Having the ability to accurately measure what medicinal benefits the plant has and what dosage would be most effective would help countless people. Too much or too little of either compound can wreak havoc on a person’s ability to get the best medicinal value from the plant and accurate understanding of this could not only be lifesaving but may also go towards changing people’s quality of life or preventing an illness from developing in the first place.
This is just the beginning in much study and experimentation that will no doubt follow. For now, this is celebrated progress that marks the start of our society having a deeper understanding of this plant