Marijuana scientists look at genetics to understand weed

Marijuana
(Credit: United States Fish and Wildlife Service, via Wikimedia Commons.)

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The marijuana analytics company Steep Hill doesn’t smell dank, or skunky, or “loud”—unless you happen to arrive when a client is dropping off a sample. No seven-pointed-leaf logos ornament the walls; no Tibetan prayer flags flutter from the doorframe. Inside, a half-dozen young scientists work in a glass-walled lab to the sounds of whirring ventilation and soft jazz. The effect is one of professionalism and scientific objectivity. Still, this place is all about weed. And Reggie Gaudino, Steep Hill’s burly and dreadlocked 53-year-old vice president of scientific operations, does look the part.

In 1993, the average THC content in weed was about 3 percent by weight. Over the next 15 years, breeders tripled the potency. Today, not even a decade later, levels top out at a whopping 37 percent. Thank the war on drugs: As growers moved indoors and out of sight, they drove up THC levels. Then they could charge more to pay for the costs of climate control and artificial lighting. Smokers have gotten savvier, too. Increasing THC gets you higher but lessens the plant’s ability to make other, arguably more interesting, cannabinoids and terpenoids.

When Gaudino joined Steep Hill in 2014, he looked at the company’s vast trove of data and asked CEO David Lampach what kind of research their competitors were doing. Lampach’s response: “What do you mean, what are people doing? There are only three testing labs worth anything in the entire US.” Gaudino was shocked. “I asked, ‘Have you guys ever considered genetic analysis?’”

Read full, original post: A new crop of marijuana geneticists sets out to build better weed

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