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  1. sassyspy
    There's DNA in that weed you're smoking, and people are tracking it

    Warning: The dope you are smoking can now be identified by its DNA.

    Heather Coyle’s new marijuana DNA database at the University of New Haven can tell if a particular fragment of pot is the “White Widow” strain, “Skunk Number One,” “Super Silver Haze” or another of the more than 25 types of marijuana that she’s genetically mapped.

    The DNA analysis can let cops and federal agents trace the marijuana from a single bud or seed found in Connecticut back to its source, as long as they can get ahold of samples to match.

    They can find out whether it was grown in Mexico and formed part of a drug cartel’s shipment. Or maybe the dope was part of a crop from northern California’s “Emerald Triangle” and sold at a freewheeling Los Angeles medical marijuana dispensary.

    Coyle says this system of genetic fingerprinting could also be used to offer states a foolproof way to control and regulate medical pot programs.

    And it just so happens that Connecticut officials are right now wondering about exactly that sort of issue as they consider passing a medical marijuana law here.

    Coyle is a 46-year-old “forensic botanist” and an associate professor at UNH since 2005. Before arriving at the university, she spent seven years working at the Connecticut state forensics lab in Meriden.

    A forensic botanist helps cops solve cases by identifying and analyzing samples of plants taken from crime scenes. If this sounds like the cool shit that happens in TV crime dramas, you’re exactly right. It’s not much of a surprise to learn that Coyle is a fan of those shows.

    “’NCIS’ is one of my favorites,” she says, smiling.

    There are only about four or five forensic botanists working in the United States at the moment, according to Coyle, who is part of the Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences at UNH.

    She began her research into pot DNA in 2008 with a grant from the Office of National Drug Control Policy. The money to keep the program rolling has also come in from the feds’ National Marijuana Initiative and the National High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program, adding up to about $100,000 a year.

    The marijuana database and DNA sequencing is essentially basically the same science used for human DNA testing.

    Coyle and her students have gotten marijuana seed samples from federal agents who’ve bought them over the Internet. Nearly all have come from outfits in Amsterdam and Canada with names like “Sensi Seeds” and “Mr. Nice Seeds.”

    Ashley Hertzman, a UNH senior from Long Island who is working on the pot research program, says it’s illegal for those seed suppliers to sell to the U.S., but many do it anyway. Lots of them use “stealth packaging,” Hertzman says, hiding the seeds in the lining of otherwise innocent packages or concealing them within other products. The seeds can cost anywhere from 10 to 100 Euros for 10 to 15 seeds, or around $7.40 to $74.

    The DNA sequences from those seeds are then put into the data bank, and that information can be matched to samples sent in from the field

    To simplify the process for cops and field agents, Coyle and her team have developed a special “collection card.” A cop can take a sample leaf or bud from a pot bust, rub it onto a card, and then mail it to UNH’s lab. A small portion of the card is punched out, put through the DNA sequencer, matched against the database and voila — your “Shark Shock” is identified.

    Since the project is still in the research phase, Coyle says they aren’t currently handling evidence to be used in actual criminal cases. “We’re getting in position to use it in court,” she adds.

    Tommy LaNier, director of the San Diego-based National Marijuana & Public Lands Initiative, calls the DNA pot system extremely effective against bigtime marijuana growers and dealers. “It’s very effective in getting numbers of people to plead [guilty],” he says. LaNier says a DNA match between marijuana sold by two different pot dealers can link them in a conspiracy case, for example. “You’ve got hard evidence and they can’t dispute it.”

    One of Lanier’s targets in this whole pot thing is the huge amount of dope being grown on public property. Some experts believe as much as 65 percent of all the grass being grown outdoors in the U.S. is planted on state and national forests and parks and other public land.

    Coyle believes pot DNA can be used by states to put strict controls over medical marijuana programs. She says a state could order licensed growers to use a specific type of marijuana plant, and that only that particular pot could be sold in state-licensed dispensaries.

    A simple DNA test would let state officials easily check if someone with a prescription for medical marijuana was selling or giving the dope to others. One of the complaints often heard concerning California’s messy medical pot industry is that it’s nothing more than a front for people peddling grass.

    “As long as you can enforce the policy or legislation put in place,” Coyle says, “there’s nothing wrong with allowing therapeutic marijuana for terminally ill patients.”

    She has a different opinion about decriminalization of pot, arguing that it could allow drug cartels to move in and offer them “an opportunity to get more people to use it.”

    Coyle’s determination to use DNA science to go after the big cartels and growers hasn’t gotten in the way of her professional admiration for the expertise of many marijuana cultivators.

    “They’re very good at what they do,” she says, pointing particularly to some in California’s Emerald Triangle, an area that is now producing an estimated $40 billion worth of pot a year.

    “The very, very high-end growers are very good at genetics.”

    Seattle's Q13 FOX News

    By Gregory B. Hladky

Comments

  1. C.D.rose
    Wow, that article came from a local FOX News outlet? Impressive.

    Except for Ms. Coyle's statement on decriminalization, I agree with much of what is said. Offering patients the certainty to receive a particular strain would be a huge step towards a regulated, effective medical marijuana distribution. While it doesn't eliminate the (not completely unwarranted) concerns over patients and doctors not knowing exactly what they prescribe or get prescribed, it sure is a huge improvement compared to the situation today. It will be decades, if not centuries, until all cannabinoids present in cannabis, and their effects, will have been studied both on their own and in conjunction with each other. However, until then, providing patients with virtually identical batches of marijuana would be awesome, because it allows doctors and patients to find the perfect dosing schedule for each individual patient. I wouldn't be surprised if the medical marijuana produced by Bedrocan in the Netherlands is actually grown from cuttings and does thus conform to that standard. That's something I'll have to look into.
  2. alienesseINspace
    So my tax dollars are being spent on ways to trace where pot comes from. I am trying not to throw a hissy fit. Who in the hell cares if pot comes from Mexico, California, or my neighbors backyard?

    I have a list of things that the government should be spending tax money on instead of tracing a pot seed to its origin.

    Dammit I'm so pissed off.
  3. C.D.rose
    I guess there's two answers to that: one, government always spends money on things someone doesn't like or consider important. Some Republicans now want to abolish the Department of Education, etc... Two, you can always write your representatives in the House and Senate what you think about marijuana prohibition. And there are other ways to exert pressure on them as well. Of course you also can rant here on DF instead ;)...
  4. pontyrogof
    My gut reaction to regulated medical marijuana is just more control by big pharma and the gov to tell me how I can take care of myself. This article only confirms my suspicions. The more I think about the next step being legalizing MMJ, the more I think that is the wrong direction. Shouldn't we reserve the right to grow and use our OWN medicinal herbs, free of the bureaucracy and money hoops of big business and government agencies?
  5. C.D.rose
    Those two sentences sort of contradict each other. If marijuana was legalized, so would be growing it. In the Netherlands, a recent court case clarified the somewhat vague law in that regard, saying that it is legal for people to own up to five cannabis plants.

    That said, I don't think that that is the solution for medical marijuana patients. We don't give patients the instructions how to synthesize their own oxycodone or simvastatin at home in their own lab. We provide them with pharmaceutical grade drugs that are basically 100% reliable. I think the same principle should be applied for medical marijuana. The solution for the (partially legitimate) criticisms of "big pharma" should lie in better legislation and regulation, not in dismantling pharmaceutical companies altogether.

    Just my view of course...
  6. pontyrogof
    Yes, thanks, it would be nice if we could see the same kind of MMJ liberties that the Netherland sees. However, I suspect we would not be able to. I just don't trust our own political system enough. I didn't intend that pharma should be dismantled entirely. Let me know how my wording implies this if it does. I'd just like to see the liberty to grow and use medicinal herbs independently of government control preserved. :)

    Cheers, I appreciate your civility in your response to my reaction.
  7. C.D.rose
    Of course I would totally support patients who choose to grow their own medical marijuana. It should indeed be their right. My point was just that, even without considering the patients who would not actually be able to grow their own plants, a regulated distribution of standardized marijuana would be a very good thing. As I said in my original post, it would eliminate a considerable part of one of the main criticisms of medical marijuana, namely that its effects are unpredictable because the composition of active ingredients varies strongly.

    My last post was just a reaction to what I see many American members say or think here on DF and elsewhere, which is that since government is dysfunctional or can't be trusted, it shouldn't play an active role in things such as medical marijuana distribution. That type of thinking always makes me cringe, because the alternative to government regulation is exploitation of non-regulated markets by the private sector. And, unlike government, the private sector has no constituencies to account to and no democratic method of decision-making. I find it somewhat frustrating to see even people with a relatively liberal (in the American sense) attitude employ an individualistic, anti-government type of rhetoric. I don't see a contradiction between a liberal and free society, such as the Netherlands, and a powerful role of government in protecting the people from the effects of a private sector gone wild. If the American democracy sucks at this point in time - and there is a case to be made for that position - then it's not because government is simply bad, but because influential people have been able to co-opt large parts of the political elite. Think private campaign financing for example.

    Governments can and do work for the people if a democracy works well. America's neighbor to the north is a pretty good example of that, I find. It's too bad that Americans as a people are generally too proud of their country and its roots - and they have reason to do so, the American Constitution was a great "invention" - to adopt policies from other countries whose democracy works a little better.

    I hope this doesn't come across as arrogant... it sure isn't intended that way. :)
  8. Terrapinzflyer
    I really am having trouble understanding the point (or validity) of this. While they *may* be able to identify a strain, I fail to see how DNA will provide them any other information.
    There are very few proprietary strains- and even these leak in to the "Wild"- just look at the history of G-13 - in at least one case a single clone was smuggled out and spread worldwide. And while it is arguably one of the few "clone only" strains, it has been crossed with multiple strains, and in some cases selected for crosses that remain true to the mother.

    And any strain that originates from seed will have infinite variations, because each seed will produce a plant with some variation. The turtles aardvark tells him that any given strain grown in his region he can find at least a half dozen stable lines of it- all with some variation. And while that line certainly originated with someone, somewhere, it is more likely then not being grown in multiple states, if not countries.


    Really- I only see two real world uses for this.
    1)Growers being able to trace back lineage on unknown crosses.
    2)If/When cannabis is legalized- for enforcement of PVP (plant variety protection)- patents on strains.
  9. Euthanatos93420
    Sarcasm? I see this as an attempt to prey on paranoia over a bullshit misconstruing of genetics.

    I'd also like to point out that %99 of the grass grown in the US done on private property, mostly lawns and grazing fields for cattle. And also that %99 of cited statistics are covered in shit, having been pulled out of someone's ass.
    This. I can see this as only being positive.


    While genetic testing might give us some assurances of strain and thus, effectiveness for specific treatment purposes on the sativa/indica scale and verifiably repeatable experience reports and establishment of statistics to prove efficacy and finally:

    Nullifying any argument that cannabis' non-refined nature being unable to reliably reproduce effects which is the FDA's last flimsy thread for denying testing permits.

    As for tracking the origin of cannabis confiscated this is a crock. It can give them a lead if they already have a compiled database to compare it against but that lead will only be as valid as the database and in and of itself cannot be used as definitive proof of origin.

    All it takes is a few clones and the arguable validity of the accumulated database goes to shit for any attempt to serveas proof of anything. Sure, it might give them good odds about where it came from, assuming they're already confiscated the source within the last season.

    We have (disclaimer: reference is to humanity in general) been cultivating for specified potency over the last few decades versus the more generalized potency that has been the breeding of aeons.


    Continuing to criminalize cannabis under these margins and with these motivations is going to open pandora's box of genetic obfuscation by upping the value of highly crossed but stabilized genetics.

    Stabilized genetics are insanely difficult to produce but highly desirable not only for cultivation consistency but also for the commodity's fungibility. Although the latter is more likely to be bred for amongst connoisseur and medical outlets.

    So in the short term, aggressive indexing and persecution will cause some serious abuse to the medical cannabis industries with technology that should be used to index medical, industrial and nutritional value.

    It will also mean the DEA will no longer be able to hold it argument that hemp is indiscernible from psychoactive cannabis strains.

    Although, science has already proven as much. How much more do we need to let farmers get off of the corn needle.

    Which begs the question, what does Monsantos have to say about this?

    Furthermore there will emerge a massive bounty on stabilized, obfuscated genetics. It'll probably take about a decade for breeders to perfect and once this golden egg is had, that bounty won't significantly diminish because it'll be an uphill battle battle for both sides.

    I can't say I know enough about breeding or genetics to know what kind of cannabis this 'golden egg' will be though. But I'm pretty sure it will suck for anyone desiring %80+ strains of either.
  10. C.D.rose
    Yeah, I don't think that it is correct that scientists in some lab can say whether a certain sample of marijuana is White Widow or Super Silver Haze, or any other strain for that matter. Not only are there different genotypes to many strains, but there is also no genetic sample of a "true" White Widow or a "true" Super Silver Haze, with which other marijuana samples could subsequently be compared. G-13 may be one of the very few exceptions.

    I imagine one of the possible purposes of looking at DNA in a criminological context is to trace the physical route that a batch of cannabis has followed from cultivation to sale/consumption. That could help identify places where authorities could try to intervene to intercept shipments. That kind of thing would require an enormous amount of resources though, so I'm not even sure whether it's realistic. That would also depend a lot on how commercial cannabis growing actually works, which is a subject I know next to nothing about. Do large-scale operations actually use cuttings/clones? If not, that would make the whole thing even more difficult.

    In the end, I don't know enough either about commercial cultivation of cannabis or about genetics, so I really can't say much about that. I just find the idea of providing medical marijuana patients with practically identical batches of product very interesting.
  11. Euthanatos93420
    TL;DR version...

    Clones and capitalism (Vendor ignorance of purchaser) say "Yes I can."
  12. Terrapinzflyer
    If anyone has the time I remember the "references" section of the DEA microgram earlier this year discussing research into tracing the origin of where marijuana was grown.

    I don't think it was via DNA, but I may be mistaken. Guessing it was sometime this late spring or summer. (if memory serves there were references in two or more months issues)

    And to be clear- the full Microgram is no longer publicly available (LEO's only) but the references they do list can be quite telling.
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