Humans have been growing and using cannabis for thousands upon thousands of years. And while the plant has largely stayed the same, it's also changed in noticeable ways. And it may change even more in the near future.
Rolling Stone recently ran a large feature on efforts to map the marijuana genome. The idea is scientists are trying to separate the DNA from cannabis plants to understand which strains are most beneficial to growers and customers, as well as receive a deeper understanding of the medical benefits of the drug.
Genome mapping essentially shows researchers the molecular building blocks of cannabis. It provides researchers with tons of biological data on a plant, which gives them a better understanding of it. Once researchers know more about the DNA of cannabis, they can offer new strategies to growers to cultivate certain strains more efficiently, or help inform consumers on what the effects of different strains will be.
While there are definitely benefits to understanding marijuana at the DNA level, there are concerns people are raising. The worry right now is that if large companies can figure out the DNA roadmap of certain strains of cannabis, they'd be able to patent those strains and prevent other companies from growing it. This would obviously be a huge problem for smaller growers who don't have access to genome research.
Cannabis researchers are attempting to avoid this issue by publicly archiving all the strains they've mapped. That way if a company were to try to patent a strain of marijuana that already existed in the public archive, it would likely be denied.
(h/t Rolling Stone)