Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Engineering Drug-Free Cannabis Plants

by blogger sjk

This is it folks! The first step has been taken towards engineering drug-free cannabis plants. That's what I said, drug-free. Researchers at the University of Minnesota have identified the location of the gene that produces tetrahydrocannabinol or THC in marijuana and hemp plants. The hallucinogenic compound can be found in the cystolithic hairs covering the plant's flowers and leaves. This discovery has lead to new research and the possibility of silencing the THC gene. If the gene can be silenced, not only would drug-free plants be visually identifiable because of their lack of tiny hairs, but farmers could once again use hemp as a cash crop to produce durable fiber that has been replaced by less environmentally friendly products, like plastics.

Recent popular demand for hemp products has led some states to consider the economic and environmental benefits of hemp. North Dakota legislation aims to reintroduce it as a crop, and Minnesota is considering similar legislation. At the same time, California and other states permit the medicinal use of marijuana.

"Cannabis genetics can contribute to better agriculture, medicine, and drug enforcement," said George Weiblen, an associate professor of plant biology and a co-author of the study.


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