Cannabis researchers identify 30 flavours in marijuana genome; ‘Father of marijuana research’ never smoked a joint in his life

By @ritwikroy1985 on
Cannabis (5)
A variety of medicinal marijuana buds in jars are pictured at Los Angeles Patients & Caregivers Group dispensary in West Hollywood, California US, October 18, 2016. Reuters/Mario Anzuoni

New cannabis research has identified 30 flavour genes within the marijuana genome that may allow growers emulate the wine industry. Soon there can be individual vintages that will have their unique strength, aroma and flavour, reports RT.

“Our genomics work can inform breeders of commercial varieties which genes to pay attention to for specific flavour qualities ... There is a need for high-quality and consistent products made from well-defined varieties,” said Prof. Jorg Bohlmann, lead researcher, who led the team at British Columbia.

Meanwhile, Raphael Mechoulam, who many refer to as the “father of marijuana research” or “father of THC,” has never smoked a joint in his life, despite his fascination with the chemistry of the cannabis plant. A professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Mechoulam started studying the psychoactive drug in the 1960s.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), the two psychoactive substances found in the cannabis plant, were discovered by Mechoulam himself. Today, researchers are investigating these substances to treat various diseases inflammatory diseases, cancer, pain, epilepsy, to name a few. In an interview with Culture Magazine, he revealed that he unknowingly broke the law when he used hashish in his experiments, provided the police. Later he received samples from the Israel’s Ministry of Health.

Mechoulam, who is now 86, identified the receptors in human body that interact with marijuana and the cannabinoids that bond with the receptors. His work also identified the brain’s endocannabinoid system that has a role in memory, mood and pain sensation. Mechoulam approached cannabis not as a true believer but simply to experiment with it. His approach was driven by his curiosity that an organic chemist shows when studying a new subject.

“I have never used it. First of all, I am still interested but as I did research and we had official supply of cannabis, obviously if we had used it for non-scientific reasons if people had come to know about it that would have stopped our work. Basically, neither I nor my students were interested,” said Mechoulam.

Researchers are constantly trying to improve and understand the kind of marijuana that should be administered for a specific health condition. It’s not possible to have the same marijuana both for epilepsy as well as cancer. For several years, Mechoulam worked on the isolation of several different types of compounds by evaluating the effects on monkeys and later, on metabolism. It was a step-by-step approach. Meanwhile, the Oxford University recently announced a new £10 million (AU$16 million approx) research programme for medical marijuana.

Even though Mechoulam is retired now, he has been provided with all the facilities to continue his research if he wishes to, writes Independent.