Marijuana: Same Plant, Different Possibilities

Gene is turned off in hemp

(RxWiki News) Plants have many purposes on this earth– some can be used as medicine, food, material and others can be used to alter the mind. Different strains of marijuana can do both, but how?

After sequencing the genome for marijuana, researchers have found a particular gene that is responsible for producing tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA). This is the active ingredient in marijuana that gets people high. However, it’s missing in the textile type of marijuana.

"Hemp seed oil is rich in essential omega-6 fatty acids."

Co-leader, Tim Hughes, a professor at the Terrence Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research and the Department of Molecular Genetics at the University of Toronto, compared Purple Kush marijuana and ‘Finola’ hemp which both come from Cannabis sativa. Purple Kush is commonly used as a drug while Finola hemp is a source of textiles.

TCHA enzyme appears to be on in marijuana, but off in hemp, Jon Page, a plant biochemist and professor of biology at the University of Saskatchewan, says. Hemp does contain another substance called cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), which would normally compete with the THCA enzyme for starting materials.

It seems that over thousands of years, hemp farmers unknowingly selectively bred Cannabis sativa into two particular strains, Hughes says. One strain is used for fiber and seed, while the other is used for medicine, he adds. Medicine in this case can refer to herbal drugs or pharmaceutical compounds, Page says.

Further analyzing of the genome sequence can help answer questions of this plant and other possible applications. Some possible applications include strains for pharmaceutical production, high-producing industrial hemp plants, and hemp seed varieties that can be used as high-quality edible oil. Hemp seed oil has been found to be rich in omega 6 fatty acids, which is an essential fatty acid.

Review Date: 
October 20, 2011