The world's many unsung underground cannabis breeders have done tremendous work creating an incredibly wide variety of medicinal marijuana strains in a time of heavy prohibition, with some of these “Marijuana Mendel's” at work in the field for so long they've earned a place in HIGH TIMES Seed Company Hall of Fame. Many of us enjoy the fruits of their labor on a daily basis. So needless to say, everyone who loves cannabis owes them a great deal of respect.
But the times they are 'a changing, and the cutting edge of cannabis breeding these days will be in laboratories, like the Cannabis Genomic Research Initiative at the University of Colorado which is hard at work analyzing, sequencing and mapping the DNA of a wide range of cannabis. Nolan Kane, an assistant professor with CU's department of ecology and evolutionary biology, leads the team, and says their DNA analysis will involve analyzing far more strains in far more scientific depth than all previous attempts to map the marijuana genome.
In 2012, HIGH TIMES interviewed Kevin McKernan, founder of Medicinal Genomes, after his company “successfully mapped the genomes for both Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica. Medicinal Genomics then made its work on Cannabis sativa public via Amazon’s EC2, a cloud-computing service that gives free access to the scientific community.”
Kane describes that work as vital, and a "strong foundation" for future research. But according to a recent in-depth feature in the Daily Camera, he likened it to having the pages of an entire novel, but in the wrong order.
"They got it down to 60,000 pieces -- we want to get it down to the 10 pairs of chromosomes," Kane said. "We want to know where the genes are on the chromosomes."
More than 300 genetically distinct seed lines have been supplied to the project by Ben Holmes, owner of Lafayette, Colorado-based Centennial Seeds. Researchers will begin by crossing one of Holmes's high-THC Afghan Kush strains with a Northern Italian hemp variety with almost no THC, in order to create a plant with as many distinct traits as possible, so that breeding work can proceed quickly and efficiently.
So is this the best thing to happen to cannabis since indica met sativa, or the beginning of GMO ganja, Monsanto marijuana and corporate control of the cannabis gene pool?
Stay tuned, and find out.