Closeup showing multi-cellular, glandular, capitate trichomes. Image by © David Scharf/Science Faction/Corbis

Closeup showing multi-cellular, glandular, capitate trichomes. Image by © David Scharf/Science Faction/Corbis

By Daniela Vergara (@CannaGenomics) and Reilly Capps (@ReillyCapps)

The principles of science apply everywhere — on an airplane and in a submarine, on Mars and on Venus, to bugs and plants. What makes an oak grow? Why does a lilac smell sweet?

At the Cannabis Genomic Research Initiative (CGRI), we too study a plant, just like other scientists have studied wheat, sunflowers, tobacco, and thousands more. It’s just that our subject has been taboo for decades, and therefore un-studied. We know very, very little about Cannabis Science. Now, legalization is opening up research opportunities for those of us who are scientists living in Colorado.

We deal with plants called AK-47 and Durban Poison, but we use scientific language and scientific methodologies. The DNA extracted from Cannabis is sequenced using specialized equipment, then we use that information to establish differences between strains; we determine whether its current classification corresponds to its DNA; we make hypotheses about it; and we test these hypothesis using high technology and scientific methodology which includes rigorous control and experimental groups.

Cannabis, for all the controversy surrounding it, is really just another naturally-occurring flowering plant, like roses or marigolds. Flowering plants are found in the group Angiosperms, the “newest” clade of plants, appearing in the world approximately 150 million years ago (1, 2). Cannabis is not a human-made drug like Prozac or Crestor, it is a living organism evolving through natural processes and forces such as natural selection, changing its DNA (its genotype), which changes the way its physical properties and the way it looks (its phenotype), as a response to stimuli and environmental conditions.

CGRI, in collaboration with the non-profit organization the Agricultural Genomics Foundation (AGF), are asking ourselves the most basic scientific questions about this plant: how many species in the Cannabis genus are there? How much genetic variation is there in the Cannabis populations? How and why does it produce the compounds (THC, CBD, terpenoids) that it produces?

Please stay in touch for more cool scientific Cannabis facts, and to watch our research expand.

And if you’d like to contribute to the scientific knowledge base surrounding this plant, please donate to our research at the Agricultural Genomics Foundation (AGF).


Click here to read this blog post en español.



  1. C. D. Bell, D. E. Soltis, P. S. Soltis, (2010). American Journal of Botany
  2. D. E. Soltis, P. S. Soltis, P. K. Endress, M. W. Chase, (2005). Phylogeny and evolution of angiosperms.
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