Cannabis innovators set out to map the marijuana genome: new information could prevent the sale of falsely advertised bud
06/03/2016 // naturalnews // Views

(NaturalNews) "Jackpot!" exclaimed Mowgli Holmes, a 43-year-old geneticist with a doctorate in microbiology and immunology from Columbia University. He had just come across an old treasure from the 1930s, something that he could use to restore scientific knowledge regarding the medicinal qualities of cannabis. This treasure was a huge missing piece in his quest to bring transparency to the genome of cannabis, a collection that he could analyze and map out to forever change how entire societies view marijuana.When marijuana prohibition began sweeping through America in 1937 with the Marijuana Tax Act, attitudes toward cannabis quickly darkened. The plant, and all of its eclectic uses, dropped into the shadows, off the grid, into obscurity. A war was slowly waged against the plant over the next several decades. Cannabis hysteria spread, and all the virtues of the plant became demonized.

Bringing scientific transparency to the cannabis marketplace

In 2013, after spending years in HIV research, chief scientific officer of Phylos Bioscience, Mowgli Holmes, saw an entirely new career path unfolding right in front of him. With Oregon only a year away from legalizing marijuana for recreational use, Holmes saw a new opportunity for research: studying the genome of cannabis.

"In every other academic field, you have to find the tiniest little corner of the world to study. It's almost impossible to find something nobody else has done, and immediately someone is competing with you," he says. "Here, we have an entire organism that there's basically no body of knowledge on.... This doesn't happen in science, where you have a plant like this that's been cordoned off from research." He reiterated, "There's a whole new industry exploding all around it."


By mapping out the genome of cannabis, he could take cannabis out of the shadows and validate all the cannabis product claims currently circulating. By comparing and differentiating between different strains of bud, the entire cannabis underworld would come out of the dark and into the light of transparency, validating current medicinal claims, while also preventing the sale of falsely advertised buds.

Since cannabis is vilified and outlawed, it's produced in the dark, with no transparency or oversight governing the medicinal quality of the strains produced. Recreational consumers and medical patients buy up cannabis products by simply just trusting the supplier. Many products contain catchy labels that are oftentimes misleading.

Thousands of cannabis strains preserved, their DNA mapped out for future growing specialties

The treasure Holmes discovered had belonged to a legend of the cannabis movement, Ohio lawyer Don Wirtshafter. They met at the Marijuana Business Conference and Expo in Las Vegas in 2014. The treasure is a 1930s collection of cannabis tinctures, representing various ancient strains. Wirtshafter obtained the collection from the wife of a former federal employee who defied cannabis prohibition through the years.

With this collection, Holmes could study various strains of U.S. cannabis DNA from before prohibition, to compare it with his ever-increasing database of world cannabis strains. The differentiations he could make would be vital for public knowledge, to bring clarity to the entire marijuana market – from growers, to dispensers, to product manufacturers.

At this point, Holmes has collected nearly 2,000 specimens from around the world. Working at their own Oregon Health and Science University, Holmes and ten other colleagues search for different cannabis strains throughout the world, mostly through word-of-mouth treasure hunts.

By entering the cannabis genome information into his software program and organizing the DNA into clusters, Holmes is able to get a visual representation of how the different strains relate to one another. The most valuable samples have come from museums and collectors from Colombia, Afghanistan, India and Thailand. He is currently trying to gain access to a 2,700-year-old strain from Northern China.

One of Holmes' future goals is to work with growers to create new strains that have specific traits. He also looks forward to mapping the history of human travels by studying the migration of cannabis through history.

As the world's cannabis genome is mapped out, buyers and patients will be able to find the strain that is best suited for them. This will bring extraordinary scientific clarity to the growing cannabis marketplace.

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