CannMed 2018 Presentations Will Tackle Strain Name Challenge

A recent article in WIRED highlights a major problem in the cannabis industry: consumers can’t trust what they buy in the dispensary.

This is a big deal for patients who rely on cannabis for medicine. As the article points out, “If you want to treat seizures, you might want ACDC—a strain that expresses almost zero THC and very high CBD, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid—and stay away from the potentially panic-inducing Ghost OG, which verges on 25 percent THC…but no one is stopping you from calling your crop ACDC when it is in fact Ghost OG.”

The problem comes from relying on strain names to identify and classify cannabis strains. Whether malicious or not, it’s pretty easy to mislabel a jar of cannabis flower without the consumer knowing the difference. Perhaps this will change as cannabis consumers become savvier, but for now,  many patients are buying on faith.

This topic of naming and classifying cannabis strains will be covered by several presenters at CannMed 2018. In fact, three of the experts who were quoted in the article, Kevin McKernan, Jonathan Page, and Jeffrey Raber, are CannMed 2018 presenters.

McKernan will share findings from the Crypto-Funded Cannabis Genome Project, which aims to produce a more accurate cannabis reference genome. With a better reference genome, researchers can better understand how genetics play a role in cannabinoid expression, terpene expression, pest resistance, and more. They can also identify more informative markers which can be used to create a unique DNA fingerprint for each strain. McKernan will also speak about his vision for combining cannabis genetics and blockchain technology to create a transparent tracking system that will follow cannabis plants from seed-to-sale. Such a system would use the plant’s unique DNA fingerprint to verify it is properly named.

Dr. Raber and Dr. Page will present on “Cannabis Compositions Viewed Through Molecular Glasses” and “Using Genomics to Unlock the Full Potential of Cannabis”, respectively. It’s safe to assume the topic of strain classification will be featured heavily in both talks.

Dr. Raber said, “Accurate compositional classification of cannabis cultivars and their derivative products is of the utmost importance to clarify and properly carry forward if we are ever going to fully realize the true physiological potential of cannabis.”

Other CannMed presenters will also cover the topic of using cannabis genetics to classify strains. Philippe Henry will share his research into using 21 highly informative Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) found in the cannabis genome to categorize cannabis strains based on their expression of three major terpenes: myrcene, limonene and terpinolene. Henry and his colleagues have also developed a simple tool to test cannabis plants for these SNPs so they can be classified appropriately.

Finally Marco Troiani and Savino Sguera will present their the DiscOmic System, which incorporates genetic, cultivation, and patient data into creating a taxonomy and labeling system for cannabis products. Troiani and Segura explain: 

“Many studies that have sought to correlate ‘strain name’ or ‘indica vs sativa’ with cannabinoid and terpene profiles have found the same thing: there is no way to predict chemical profile (and therefore medicinal or psychotropic effect) using cultivar designations alone. The reasons are twofold. First, the initial designations were made anecdotally by cultivators who could not verify which genes were being inherited or activated. Second, the chemical profile of the final product is determined not only by genetics, but as well the specific practices of cultivation, drying, curing, and even storage. Once enough data has been aggregated from cultivation, chemical analysis, and genetic analysis of a diverse set of plants, we can start to make more accurate predictions. Thisprinciplel extends to the medicinal effects as well, where the final chemical profile interacts with a person’s metabolic environment to produce a physiological response that may vary depending on human genetic factors.”

Join us at CannMed 2018 this October to hear how these industry leaders are aiming to solve the problem of properly classifying and tracking cannabis products. Use the button below to purchase your CannMed 2018 tickets today!

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