New study points out confusion behind cannabis strains

By Oscar Pascual |

That delicious OG Kush you’re smoking on might not even be from a kush plant at all.

Researchers from the University of British Columbia and Dalhousie University in Canada published a study on Wednesday after conducting the first large-scale study on the genetic diversity of cannabis plants, reports the International Business Times.

“We chop all those genomes up into about 14,000 small pieces, and use a method to compare those pieces across different samples,” said Sean Myles, the study’s co-author and agricultural geneticist at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, in an interview with Wired. “After you’ve looked at the same portions of DNA across all samples you can get an idea of how related they are.”

Researchers examined the genotypes of 81 marijuana strains and 43 hemp samples for relationships between the plants. They say that the three different types of cannabis plants — C. sativa, C. indica and C. ruderalis — are often mislabeled by growers.

“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, study co-author and botanist from the University of British Columbia, to the IBT. “The genetic difference between marijuana and hemp has legal implications in many countries. 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.”

Researchers took into consideration the characteristics of each plant, such as Indica’s sedative effects on the body compared to Sativa’s more cerebral effects. They found only a moderate correlation between the ancestry of a strain noted by breeders and the ancestry information gathered by the plant’s DNA. A sample of Jamaican Lamb’s Bread, for example, was touted by its growers as a Sativa strain, although its genetics are almost identical to an Indica strain from Afghanistan.

The study shows that regulation is sorely needed in states with medical marijuana laws, where the difference between the health benefits of Indica and Sativa is crucial when treating different types of symptoms or disorders.

“The thing that is important is the medical community claims that Indica is good for certain things, and Sativa is good for others, but that must all be hog wash because the Indica/Sativa labels don’t correlate well with the genetics,” Myles told Wired.

Photo credit: Flickr.com/gazeronly

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