A recent analysis of popular marijuana strains revealed widespread “genetic inconsistencies” that raise questions about what consumers are really getting at their local dispensaries.
The study, released last week, looked at 122 samples of 30 common cannabis strains, obtained from dispensaries in multiple cities around the United States. It turns out that strain names don’t appear to be reliable indicators of a given product’s actual genetic profile.
That might strike consumers as surprising, especially considering the fact that commercially available cannabis products are often reproduced through cloning and “stable seed strains.” Even so, the researchers found “evidence of genetic variation…indicating the potential for inconsistent products for medical patients and recreational users.”
While the study’s findings might disappoint recreational users who studied up on a strain’s reported effects on sites like Wikileaf, it poses a particular issue for medical marijuana patients who seek out specific strains to treat various health conditions, the researchers noted.
The factors behind the unreliability
The fundamental problem in cannabis strain inconsistency is that marijuana is federally illegal, limiting research and regulatory opportunities, and there’s currently no industry-wide system “to verify strains,” the study authors wrote. Therefore, “suppliers are unable to provide confirmation of strains.”
“Exclusion from protection, due to the Federal status of Cannabis as a Schedule I drug, has created avenues for error and inconsistencies.”
“Without verification systems in place, there is the potential for misidentification and mislabeling of plants, creating names for plants of unknown origin, and even re-naming or re-labeling plants with prominent names for better sale. Cannabis taxonomy is complex, but given the success of microsatellites to determine varieties in other crops, we suggest the using genetic-based approaches to provide identification information for strains in the medical and recreational marketplace.”
Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the California Growers Association, told Marijuana Moment that he agreed with that recommendation.
“We have been calling for an industry wide science-based system for several years,” he said, citing a legislative accomplishment in 2016 that mandated the California Department of Food and Agriculture “establish a process by which licensed cultivators may establish appellations of standards, practices, and varietals applicable to cannabis grown” in the state.
“Having universities finally able to engage in this type of research is one of the most exciting outcomes of legal reform,” Allen said. “This is an important step the multi-year effort to document and catalog the extensive culture of cannabis.”
“We envision a well informed market, where consumers ask questions before making a purchase. How is grown? Where is it grown? What type was grown? The answers to all of these questions hold great promise for humanity.”
In the new study, which was not peer-reviewed, the researchers at the University of Northern Colorado also pointed out that increased cross-breeding on cannabis strains (hybrids) has contributed to genetic inconsistencies.
“The results are clear: strain inconsistency is evident and is not limited to a single source, but rather exists among dispensaries across cities in multiple states.”
It’s not just the strains that showed genetic variation. The study also indicated that the cannabis categories “indica,” “sativa” and “hybrid” may be unreliable.
“If genetic differentiation of the commonly perceived Sativa and Indica types previously existed, it is no longer detectable in the neutral genetic markers [the researchers used],” according to the study. “Extensive hybridization and selection has presumably created a homogenizing effect and erased evidence of potentially divergent historical genotypes.”
The team’s findings are consistent with a 2015 study published in the journal PLOS ONE, which also analyzed the cannabis genetics and determined that “marijuana strain names often do not reflect a meaningful genetic identity.”
Marijuana Use Doesn’t Affect Outcome Of Kidney Transplants, Study Finds
Across the U.S., prospective organ donors are frequently turned away if they test positive for or admit to using marijuana. That’s also true for patients who need new organs but consume cannabis.
For example, Garry Godfrey, an event planner in Maine who suffers from a hereditary disease that causes renal failure, made headlines last year after being denied a kidney transplant and taken off the wait list due to his medical marijuana use.
Yet up until this point, there’s never been research that specifically investigated the effects of marijuana on kidney donations to shed light on whether these bans could be justified.
But now, a new study finds that cannabis consumption by kidney donors or recipients doesn’t have any effect on the outcomes of transplants.
A team of researchers took up the task, reviewing living kidney transplants that were performed at a single academic institution from 2000 to 2016. Both kidney donors and recipients were divided based on whether they’d used cannabis, and their outcomes were compared using a “variety of tests.”
The review involved medical records of 294 living donors, including 31 who used cannabis, and 230 living kidney recipient records, including 27 recipients who used cannabis.
Contrary to concerns that the use of marijuana would have a negative impact on transplant outcomes, there weren’t any noticeable differences between the groups that could be attributed to cannabis. Long-term kidney function was virtually the same and there were no discernible differences in pre- or post-operation characteristics, either.
The study, published Thursday in the Clinical Kidney Journal, concluded that it could help “increase the donor pool” if institutions start to consider allowing kidney transplants from cannabis consuming donors.
“A significant shortage in available potential kidney donors exists,” Duane Baldwin, the study’s lead author, said in a press release. “Our goal with this study was to start a conversation on this topic and to encourage other centers to study this important question.”
“It is our hope that considering marijuana using donors could ultimately save lives,” he said.
Why Women Support Legal Marijuana Less Than Men, According To A New Study
There’s a peculiar gender gap when it comes to support for marijuana legalization—where women, a demographic that generally skews more liberal on a wide range of issues compared to men, are somewhat less likely to embrace cannabis reform.
Researchers at North Carolina State University and Hartwick College wanted to know why. And in a recent study published in the journal Social Science Quarterly, they offered some plausible explanations.
Using data from a 2013 Pew Research Center survey, which prompted respondents with an extensive set of questions related to marijuana, the researchers tested several hypotheses about why women are less inclined to support legalization than men (67-61 percent, on a weighted scale).
Was it parenthood, religiosity or consumption habits that explained the trend, as the researchers speculated? Well, the results revealed a mixed bag of potential factors.
One thing that was, perhaps surprisingly, not a contributing factor was the parenthood element. While women’s role as mothers might help explain why they lean a bit more left on issues like gun control, it didn’t explain the marijuana divide.
“Being a parent is not a predictor of attitudes on the marijuana support scale,” the study authors wrote. “When the demographics-only model is run without the parenthood variable (not shown) and then with the parenthood variable added, the coefficient for gender does not change at all, indicating that being a parent does not account for any of the gender gap.”
The fact that women are more likely to identify as born-again Christians and report attending church services more often does seem to be a factor, though. Women’s “greater religiosity substantially explains the gender gap in marijuana policy,” though in order to “fully explain the gap, further analysis is needed.”
Lastly, the research investigated how cannabis consumption habits—and comfortability around marijuana—influenced their support for reform. That factor seemed to be the most influential, as women were less likely to report ever having used cannabis (55-42 percent) or feeling comfortable around the plant (55-42 percent).
“Women are less likely to have ever used marijuana (or report ever using marijuana), and once this is taken into account the gap disappears.”
In the end, the researchers predicted that the gap in support for marijuana reform will continue to narrow.
“Though it is challenging to accurately predict the future contours of the gender gap in marijuana, we do think our findings here are instructive,” the team wrote. “As marijuana use becomes more common and seen as less risky or deviant behavior, and as marijuana use is framed less as a moral issue (which will presumably be the case as it grows more common and legalized), there is reason to expect the gender gap to shrink.”
Photo courtesy of Carlos Gracia.
Feds Seek New Growers To Produce Thousands Of Kilograms Of Marijuana
The federal government is looking to contract a small business to grow, test, store and ship thousands of kilograms of marijuana of varying potencies and concentrations.
No, really. The contract notice was published on the site Federal Business Opportunities last week—not long after a similar listing called for applications from prospective federal joint rollers. The new posting seems quite a bit more comprehensive, though.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is soliciting “capability statements” from businesses with the space and technology to produce, analyze and distribute cannabis and cannabis products “for research purposes.”
That’s probably in the agency’s best interest. After all, the government has been roundly criticized for failing to expand its marijuana production to meet demand. Since 1968, just one farm at the University of Mississippi has been federally authorized to cultivate cannabis for research purposes—a monopoly the government has taken some steps toward breaking, although it has faced resistance from now-former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Experts have also raised questions about the quality of the “research-grade” cannabis produced for federal research, as it seems to be significantly less potent and chemically diverse than the flower consumers are getting in legal states.
The listing makes clear that NIDA wants a decently large cultivation operation, including both indoor and outdoor grows. It also emphasized the need to develop marijuana with varying concentrations of THC, CBD and other cannabinoids. Whatever business receives the contract will also be tasked with developing cannabis extracts like oils, capsules and “vaping fluids.”
Here are the full job responsibilities listed on the notice:
-Grow, harvest, process, analyze, and store marijuana for research purposes or procure marijuana and marijuana products from existing commercial enterprises, including from qualified foreign sources, as required by the Contracting Officer’s Representative (COR) to meet program needs.
-Process marijuana to produce a range of standardized and pure extracts containing varying ratios (high, low and equal ratios) of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) including pure (>99%) delta-9-THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids.
-Store and maintain quality of products, including periodic analyses required to obtain and maintain Food and Drug Administration (FDA) quality requirements for Investigational New Drug (IND) research.
-Develop new methods for growing marijuana plants containing high THC and low CBD; high CBD and low THC; equal ratios of CBD and THC; and placebos as directed by the COR.
-Manufacture standardized marijuana cigarettes.
-Manufacture Current Good Manufacturing Practice (CGMP) human-use marijuana extracts and dosage forms of marijuana extracts (including but not limited to oral solutions, oils, vaping fluids, capsules/tablets) within a range of varying concentrations of delta-9-THC and CBD, and analyze their strength and stability at various intervals.
-Maintain a secure shipping facility, ship marijuana and marijuana products, and establish billing and accounting procedures to allow the collection of fees from product recipients as authorized by NIDA.
There are some basic requirements that applicants have to meet in order to be selected for the job, though. For example, they must prove that they can obtain the necessary licenses to work with controlled substances and also be able to maintain a facility capable of supporting “production of up to 2000 kg of marijuana” and storing “approximately 5000 kg of marijuana stock.”
That’s a lot of federal ganja…
If this sounds like the kind of project your business is willing and able to handle, the deadline to respond to the notice is December 10.
Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images.