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Culture » Smoke Signals

Gene Sequencing for Cannabis



Helping you consume the right strain of OG Kush, or whatever other strain you desire.

Prior to cannabis legalization, you rolled the dice with every purchase from an "Agricultural Products Broker," AKA, your weed dealer. Many a transaction had me asking if there was "any more of that lime green stuff from last week" or "that pot that tasted like oranges." Every once in a while, I would be told what I was buying was a unique strain the grower had developed or grown from seeds brought back from the Netherlands. And perhaps they were—but I had no way of knowing.

Then came the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program, and dispensaries that had a wide range of strains, all labeled. How certain were they that what they offered was indeed that particular strain?

It was an "it's-what-the-grower-called-it" level of certainty, at best. Then we upped our game with testing for pesticides, molds and other undesirables. Fantastic, but again, is that Durban Poison really Durban Poison? And does it really matter if it is or not?

It does matter, as patients and consumers may be seeking particular cannabinoids and benefits/effects, or conversely may be seeking to avoid strains that induce unwanted effects, such as paranoia, sleepiness and so on.

The brilliant team of sativa scientists and ganja geeks at Phylos Bioscience last week introduced a new program called Phylos Certified. Simply put, it's a database of cannabis genetics that confirms a plant's identity.

I spoke with Carolyn White of Phylos about PC.

"Few people realize that popular consumer sites like Leafly are highly inaccurate, because their platform assumes name consistency. For example, if you search for "OG Kush" and see that it's at three local dispensaries, they could easily be three different varieties. There's just no way to know. It's such a mess that DNA testing is the only way to sort it out."

"Phylos maintains the largest genetic library of cannabis on earth. Our scientists sequence and analyze the DNA of every "strain" (AKA variety) that's submitted to us. Then, the DNA is compared to every other variety in our library and given a genetic location. Because the analysis is so complex, we created an interactive 3D visualization called the Phylos Galaxy. It's free to access, and it's putting an end to the name game.

"Names aren't reliable, but DNA data is." White continued "It's bringing transparency to the supply chain."

White says numerous Oregon growers have already signed on. "Growers across the country have been submitting their varieties for DNA testing over the last two years, which are added to the Open Cannabis Project, White added. "It's powerful to see the community come together around science."

I asked Zoe Sigman, education co-director at Farma, about the value of PC for their patients and consumers.

"One of the most common frustrations we hear from consumers is the lack of consistency in flower that shares the same name. Phylos' certification is the first step towards resolving that issue," Sigman said.

Checking out the Phylos Galaxy is highly recommended while stoned.

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