What the Marijuana Genome Map Means for the Future of Pot

A breakthrough in genetic research opens the door to more-targeted products and maybe even pharmaceuticals.

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By Jennifer Kaplan January 17, 2018, 2:00 AM PST

The fledgling cannabis industry is full of wide-eyed claims about what pot can do. Outperform your favorite energy drink? Maybe. Cure cancer? Worth a try. The biggest believers and entrepreneurs make the plant sound almost magical. Now one startup has the key to keep the science from the hype: the first-ever full map of the cannabis genome. 

“DNA, of course I’m biased because it’s what I do, but it doesn’t lie. It really is a way to just sort of clear a lot of the b.s.,” said CJ Schwartz, chief executive officer of Sunrise Genetics, the Fort Collins, Colorado-based company behind the map. “The excessive claims are really doing a disservice to the plant or the potential of the plant and the science surrounding that.”

A deeper understanding of genetics means companies will be able to figure out which parts of cannabis’s makeup drive different functions, making it easier to test for strain continuity and breed plants more quickly and effectively. Schwartz said the genome research can allow for more targeted recreational products by specifying exactly how a product might affect the body or mind, for instance by making a consumer feel tired or energized.

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