By exploring cannabis’ evolutionary history, scientists may significantly enhance the plant’s medicinal and recreational future. University of Toronto scientists published first data from their highly anticipated cannabis genome map in the Nov. 8 issue of peer-reviewed journal Genome Research. The article, “A physical and genetic map of Cannabis sativa identifies extensive rearrangement at the THC/CBD acid synthase locus,” reveals that cannabinoids like THC and CBD were created when cannabis’ genome was colonized by ancient viruses, leading hemp to evolve psychoactive chemicals and become marijuana. In addition to this viral chromosomal gene arrangement, the genome map also offers insights into strain potency determination and identified the gene responsible for the lesser-known cannabinoid cannabichromene (CBC).
In conversation with Phys.org, study co-leader Tim Hughes of the Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research said, “The chromosome map is an important foundational resource for further research which, despite cannabis’ widespread use, has lagged behind other crops due to restrictive legislation.” Researchers’ successful genome mapping is expected to hasten efforts to breed new strains with desirable effects that are also more resistant to agricultural pests.
The continuous expansion of medical cannabis legislation and recreational legalization in the United States has bred growing American familiarity with cannabis, including consumption methods that require nary a flick of your BIC. Once synonymous with rolling a joint or loading a bowl, modern medical and recreational cannabis use often involves eating or drinking cannabis-infused products. While traditionalists may find the notion of cannabis candy or cookies overly childish or cutesy, the goal of eliminating cancer-causing tar smoke from consumption is vital for sustainability of individual use and industry expansion.
In “Weed Chefs: Coming to a screen near you,” Amanda Chicago Lewis reports on a new crop of cannabis cooking shows for Rolling Stone. For example, Viceland’s “Bong Appétit” recently won a James Beard award for segments on sourcing ingredients locally and infusing fats and oils—including butter, the American gold standard—with cannabis for cooking; every episode concludes with a mouthwatering, overtly giggly dinner party. Netflix’s genre entrée “Cooking on High,” features professional chefs competing to create the finest psychoactive dishes alongside comedian Ngaio Bealum’s presentation of educational cannabis content. While cooking with cannabis is well on its way to capturing the cultural zeitgeist, as Lewis notes, “If President Trump has taught us anything, it’s that not everything that looks appealing on reality TV works well in real life.”