Researchers Publish First Genetic Study of Marijuana and Hemp

Canadian researchers have published the first large-scale genetic study of marijuana and hemp.

The study examines the genotypes of 81 cannabis and 43 hemp samples. The researchers were concerned with examining the differences in the genomes among the plants.

“Knowledge about cannabis is lacking because of its status as a controlled drug,” said Jonathan Page, a University of British Columbia botanist. Page co-led the study with Sean Myles, a population geneticist at Dalhousie University.

The study finds the typical classifications of the marijuana plant (C. sativa, C. indica and C. ruderalis) to be lacking. Differences between sativa and indica plants, broadly used by producers to classify strains, may be quite subtle at the genetic level. For instance, the study found that a sample of the sativa Jamaican Lambs Bread was almost genetically identical to the indica strain Afghanistan.

“Cannabis breeders and growers often indicate the percentage of Sativa or Indica in a cannabis strain, but they are not very accurate,” said Jonathan Page, a University of British Columbia botanist who co-led the study.

Similarly, while hemp plants are classified as C. sativa, they display significant genetic differences from marijuana.

“The genetic difference between marijuana and hemp has legal implications in many countries,” noted Page. “Right now, the genetic identity of a marijuana strain cannot be accurately determined by its name or reported ancestry. Ultimately we require a practical, accurate and more reliable classification system of this plant.”


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