Cannabis research has been hampered by federal law for decades. Only one institution, the University of Mississippi, has been allowed by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to cultivate cannabis for research purposes, and researchers have long said that the plant material provided by the university is subpar and does not measure up to the cannabis sold in dispensaries across the country.
With some studies finding that this cannabis is often contaminated by mold in many cases, industry stakeholders have argued that the DEA needs to approve more cultivators. Now a new study has revealed what most cannabis researchers already suspected: the cannabis grown at the country’s only federally authorized source is genetically akin to hemp.
While hemp and marijuana both belong to the cannabis family, differing THC levels set them apart. THC is the chemical that makes people feel “high,” and it is usually present in large quantities in marijuana. Hemp, on the other hand, contains little to no THC and cannot intoxicate you. Published in the scientific journal “Frontiers,” the new study found that the cannabis grown on the University of Mississippi farm, and the cannabis sold in licensed dispensaries are genetically distinct. The researchers analyzed 49 samples of cultivated hemp and wild hemp as well as a couple of varieties of commercial marijuana and the “research-grade” cannabis cultivated at the University of Mississippi.
The results of the analysis showed that marijuana from the federally licensed facility and most of the drug-type strains sold in legal cannabis markets had a significant genetic difference, the researchers say. The “research-grade” cannabis was so genetically different from state-legal marijuana that it shared genetic similarities with the hemp samples. As such, the researchers say that based on their analyses, it seems that the marijuana that is supplied by National Institute on Drug Abuse for scientific research is genetically different from retail drug-type cannabis strains. It does not align with what consumers are purchasing and consuming, the researchers say, and they hope that the study’s results will push NIDA and the National Institutes of Health (“NIH”) to support the cultivation of the strains most commonly used by the public.
This study aligns with what previous studies into the matter have found; cannabis research needs plenty of reform. Federally licensed grow facilities will not just have to cultivate drug-type cannabis strains, but most of the different cannabis strains that are represented in the market as well. With millions of Americans already using cannabis medically and recreationally, such barriers to proper cannabis research present a significant public health issue.
Once additional manufacturers/growers are licensed, the future research done will stand a chance of giving findings that closely represent the effects of marijuana products made by industry actors such as Red White & Bloom Brands Inc. (CSE: RWB) (OTCQX: RWBYF) rather than those that aren’t reflective of the reality lived by consumers.
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