Origins of Cannabis: Plant Was First Domesticated 12,000 Years Ago

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Researchers investigating the first domestication of cannabis have determined that the plant was originally cultivated in what is now northwestern China, according to a recently released study published in the journal Science Advances. The team of researchers investigating the origins of cannabis analyzed the genomes of more than 100 cannabis plants from around the world to conduct the study. “It confirms it is one of the oldest cultivated plants,” said Luca Fumagalli, a biologist working at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, who led the study. “We think it was a multipurpose plant. It was exploited for fiber, food and oil, and possibly medical and recreational purposes,” he said. The research contradicts the commonly held belief that cannabis originated in Central Asia, perhaps in valleys of the Hindu Kush mountain range. The study determined that there are four genetically distinct categories of cannabis including a primordial group, a hemp group, and two groups bred for drugs. The researchers concluded that the first domestication of cannabis occurred in northwest China about 12,000 years ago, and that the plants cultivated likely had multiple uses. “We show that cannabis sativa was first domesticated in early Neolithic times in East Asia and that all current hemp and drug cultivars diverged from an ancestral gene pool currently represented by feral plants and landraces in China,” the study reads. A Global Sample of Cannabis Strains To conduct the research, Fumagalli and investigators from Britain, China, India, Pakistan, Qatar and Switzerland analyzed the genomes of 82 plants collected for the study and genomic data for 28 more plants that had been previously collected. The 110 plants included landrace strains, feral plants, historical cultivars and modern hybrids. The researchers determined that the wild ancestor of modern cannabis is likely extinct, but strains growing in northwest China are its…

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