In one of the few scientific developments likely to interest both the Governor of North Dakota and Method Man, scientists at the University of Minnesota have identified the genes in cannabis that allow the plant to produce THC. Finding the genes opens the path to either create drug-free hemp plants for industrial purposes, or to develop plants with much higher concentrations of the psychotropic chemical.
Publishing in the Journal of Experimental Botany, the researchers note that they specifically targeted the genes responsible for generating the drug-filled hairs highlighted in many a High Times photo spread. By impairing or encouraging the growth of those hairs, scientists could gain precise control over the level of THC in the crop.
This development has important consequences for both the medicinal and industrial use of hemp.
On the industrial side, states like North Dakota have been looking to change state law to allow them to raise hemp as a cash crop, for oil and rope production. The ability to create hemp that doesn’t contain any banned substances would allow Dakotans to sow the crop without any changes in the law.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, precise control of the doses of THC found in pot could greatly enhance the medicinal marijuana industry. Currently, dosage is controlled through haphazard breeding and selection, not precise measurements as with most other medications.
It should also be noted that THC is not the only psychoactive compound found in marijuana, so more research is needed before the University of Minnesota scientists can completely control the potency of their crops.
Finally, how this new discovery will affect the pizza delivery business remains to be seen.