Ultimately, the researchers find strong genetic differences between hemp and drug cannabis in their study. However, they also conclude cannabis was likely used as a “multipurpose” crop — not just a drug — in East Asia for thousands of years before humans used selective breeding to turn it into the potent, THC-laden green we know today.
Although the scientists found genetic divergence in the expression of THC and CBD genes in all cannabis strains studied, they also found five hemp samples that contain more genetic complexity than we previously thought.
The researchers state: “As such, the results call into question, from both a biological and functional point of view, the current binary categorization of Cannabis plants as ‘hemp’ or ‘marijuana.’”
But the controversial politics surrounding the drug has made it difficult for scientists to figure out its genetic origins. Where did cannabis come from and how did it evolve into the potent green that brings us pleasure?
What they found — Through these genetic groupings, specifically, the basal cannabis grouping, scientists learned:
Cannabis “is one of the first cultivated crop species,” Luca Fumagalli, a co-author on the study from the University of Lausanne’s Laboratory for Conservation Biology, tells Inverse.
The origin story of cannabis is wilder than you think.
This is one of them. The village, perched on a mountain at 9,000 feet (2,700 meters), is only reachable on foot. The hike takes three hours. Villagers say it’s been a good season so far—police have only shown up to cut plants twice. But those plants are a drop in the ocean. Ganja grows wild in the Indian Himalayas, and it’s nearly impossible to curb its illegal cultivation.
Charas gets more valuable every year, but the farmers still live a humble life. Most fields are small, and 50 buds of ganja produce only 10 grams of charas.
After harvesting the cannabis indica, farmers spend hours slowly rubbing the resin from the plant’s flowers to create charas, a type of hashish that’s considered to be some of the best in the world. It can cost up to 20 dollars per gram in the West. Cannabis is illegal in India, but many villagers have turned to charas manufacturing out of financial necessity.
The plant is native but illegal in India, and mountain farmers rely on its cultivation.
In the Himalayas of India, small villages thrive by growing cannabis.
Sadhus—Hindu holy men who went to the Himalayas in meditation—were among the first to make charas. When hippies began following sadhus through the mountains in the 1970s, locals, who had been smoking a rough mix of resin and other parts of the plant, began making charas, too. They follow the same technique today to produce what’s estimated to be tons of charas a year. There are no official figures for India’s charas production or cannabis cultivation. Because it’s illegal, the Indian government has never conducted a large-scale survey to assess cannabis production within its boundaries.