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The Genetics of Pot

As marijuana has become legalized for medical or recreational purposes in some US states, academic researchers and the burgeoning industry are turning to genomics and genetics to characterize and develop better and more consistent strains, Fusion's Daniela Hernandez reports.

Work so far, she says, has focused on unraveling past effects of breeding on various pot strains to find strains with desirable characteristics like fast growth or a certain chemical profile to inform new breeding projects.

For instance, Washington State-based Verda Bio is developing a DNA database to enable growers to create varieties with consistent levels of cannabinoids. In Canada, Anandia Labs is developing a similar database with the goal of developing strains that are optimized for different medical conditions like anxiety, cancer, or pain, Hernandez says. Doctors, one pot geneticist tells her, want to be sure that their patients are receiving more or less the same material year to year.

Other companies, meanwhile, are developing genetic tests to confirm that what's touted as a certain strain really is that strain, giving the industry and its consumers a level of certainty.

"It's still the moment before the race starts. Everybody gets to jockey for position," Leslie Bocskor, a managing partner at consulting firm Electrum Partners, tells Hernandez. Bocskor estimates that the industry will soon be worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

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