In the fight over medical marijuana, other uses for plants in the Cannabis family sometimes are forgotten. By other uses, I mean other than getting high, of course. Hemp fiber and oil are two of the uses.
In a step toward exploiting those Cannabis features while sidestepping the controversy and the politics, University of Minnesota researchers have identified genes that produce tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive substance in marijuana. The genes are active in tiny hairs covering the flowers of Cannabis plants, said the study published in the September issue of the Journal of Experimental Botany. The lead author is David Marks, a professor of plant biology.
Hemp contains miniscule amounts of THC compared to marijuana. It once was a popular crop in the Upper Midwest, but the whole family has been banned from cultivation nationwide. Minnesota and North Dakota are among several states that have moved toward reinstating the crop.
The U of M researchers say that with the genes identified, there may be a way to “silence” them in hemp, producing a drug-free plant. They also say that studies of the genes could open new paths toward better drugs for pain, nausea and other conditions treated with medicinal marijuana.