Over the last couple of decades, marijuana advocates around the country have made consistent steps to overturn prohibition. The medical benefits of marijuana have been at the core of the movement to legalize and now approximately half the country has legal medical marijuana available to residents. With Colorado, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and D.C. legalizing recreational use of marijuana and many states voting on the issue in this November ballot, it seems just a matter of time before cannabis becomes one of the most profitable industries to invest in. And the industry is turning to genetics to make it even more profitable by creating customized cannabis strains.
A Detailed Map
Scientists and marijuana growers are working together now to understand the various cannabis strains. By breaking down an understanding of the marijuana genome, scientists hope to be able to use the knowledge to create customized strains for various illnesses and specifically desired experiences. They hope to get a detailed map of the thousands of types of cannabis strains so that patients and users can carefully choose which strains are best for them.
Research Restrictions Hindering Study
This is no easy task. Geneticists have been trying to map the marijuana genome for many years without success. In 2011, geneticist Kevin McKernan was able to create a rough sketch of the genome in the Chemdawg strain. He made his research available on the Amazon cloud, hoping someone would elaborate on his work but, up until now, no one has. Canadian geneticist Johnathan Page was able to isolate the genome in Purple Kush but, like McKernan, his work needed to be expanded upon by a funded lab, which did not happen. Marijuana research is still illegal on a federal level in the U.S. Marijuana itself is still classified as a Schedule 1 drug, considered to be the highest risk drug having no medicinal value. Clearly, this is an extremely out of date classification and the DEA intends to review the marijuana class in June this year. Until then, research is considered illegal, which has greatly restricted what we know of marijuana.
Analyzing Cannabis Strains at Steep Hill Labs
“There’s so much good that can be done with cannabis, and so little of it is being done.” says Reggie Gaudino, vice president of scientific operations at Steep Hill Labs, in Berkeley, California, who have taken it upon themselves to genetically map marijuana and its thousands of strains. They plan to thoroughly understand the compounds, such as THC, cannabidiol, cannabinoids, and terpenoids that give cannabis its functional properties. This means they aim to be able to provide a detailed analysis of each strain’s medical functions as well as smell and general physiological effects. It also means they can genetically modify strains for specified purposes.
The Ethical Line
While apps are coming out more and more, helping users find the best local strains to suit their specific needs, a complete genetic profile of marijuana will take that personalized assistance to a whole new level. The ability to genetically create strains for specialized purposes may produce a miracle solution to many suffering with debilitating illnesses. Yet, companies like Monsanto have shown that genetic modification can create problems when the processes for growth are not respected. An overuse of chemicals, pesticides, preservatives, synthetic flavoring and hormones have harmed the nutritional value of both the soil and food being consumed in its products. Those same chemicals have also been proven to have cancer causing results in humans.
We hope the genetic research stays in the hands of companies that respect growth processes and keep the exceptional, natural benefits of cannabis strains alive. With correct use, there is no doubt this genetic information has the potential to help many people.