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ScienceShot: First Look at Marijuana's Genetic Code

Attendees at Burning Man, the famously free-wheeling yearly Nevada art gathering, don't usually take note of new genomic sequences, but they may want to check out a paper published today in Genome Biology. In it, scientists report that they've sequenced most of the genetic code of the fibrous plant species Cannabis sativa. The team's specimen of choice: a marijuana cultivar called Purple Kush. The genome may give researchers new insight into what makes the pot plant so, ahem, popular at folk festivals. Comparing Purple Kush with another popular form of the same plant—the hemp-fiber producing Finola varietal—the group found that one gene critical for churning out the precursors to the chemical that gives pot its kick, tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, had been turned off. Purple Kush plants, in turn, produced little to no cannabidiolic acid, a similar compound found in hemp plants, possibly because these molecules suck up the building blocks needed for THC. Far-out news, even for those who don't inhale.

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