Cannabis Origins: A Recent Study

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Across the last twenty or so years numerous chemotaxonomic and genetic studies had attempted to understand cannabis origins, when and where cannabis acquired such different properties, and how the cannabis plant should best be classified. Both cultivated and wild cannabis plants found throughout the world can look quite different: being either narrow leaf or broadleaf, more or less bushy, either shorter or taller, being more green, yellow, blue, red, or purple, and having different flowering periods. Furthermore, some varieties—generally known as hemp—have almost no psychoactive properties, while others are strongly psychoactive. How Should Cannabis be Classified? As discussed in a recent blog (Cannabis Sativa vs. Cannabis indica: What’s the Difference Today?), disagreement amongst botanists about how the various kinds of cannabis plant found throughout the world should be classified has been going on since the late 18th century. The botanical classification of cannabis remains one of the most controversial among plant species. As does cannabis origins. Is there, as some scientists suggest, only one ‘original’ cannabis variety, Cannabis sativa (or possibly Cannabis ruderalis)? Based on either chemical or genetic research, other scientists have alternatively argued that there were two ‘original’ varieties, Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica. Others suggest three ‘original’ varieties, Cannabis sativa, indica, and ruderalis. Hillig (2004:881; 2005:176) proposes either two or three original varieties, diverging into seven subspecies of cannabis. Or, as recently argued by McPartland (McPartland et al. 2018; McPartland and Small 2020), should cannabis more accurately be classified as only Cannabis sativa, having four main subspecies: (1) South Asian domesticate; (2) South Asian wild-type; (3) Central Asian domesticate; (4) Central Asian wild-type? It is now agreed by all researchers that the breeding of cannabis by humans, who began farming around 5,000 BCE, contributed to the variety of cannabis plants. However, the main points of contention that…

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