A Netherlands-based company called Medicinal Genomics has just announced the successful genetic sequencing of Cannabis sativa, the highly regulated annual plant that has been widely consumed for centuries as an intoxicant and a medicine. The plant, known in the vernacular as grass, tea, or mooster, has been legalized in 16 U.S. states for use as a medical treatment for various disorders over the last decade, and according to Medicinal Genomics’ Kevin McKernan, the legal market for the substance is currently growing by 50 percent every year.
The genetic sequence has been published only in its raw state, not yet assembled into a more usable form. When the process is completed, though, it should be possible to isolate the genes responsible for the creation of the pharmaceutically active compounds by the plant, including THC, CBD, and some 60 other cannabinoids. Understanding these genes and their expression will make possible a fine degree of control over the production of these compounds, with significant implications for both the medical and recreational users of the drug. Particular drug-producing genes could be isolated and concentrated in particular strains of the plant, or even inserted in other species.
The genome of C. sativa is roughly 400 million base pairs long; the human genome has 3 billion.