Handling the High: Can a Genetic Test Make Cannabis Consumption Safer?

Article by Nicole Bogart, CTV News

Handling the high: Can a genetic test make cannabis consumption safer? Through a simple cheek swab, the company hopes to educate consumers about safe consumption. (Lobo Genetics) A man smokes a marijuana joint at a party celebrating weed in this April 2016 file photo. A Toronto-based healthcare technology company, has developed a test to help consumers understand their genetic sensitivity to THC, in an effort to educate consumers about safe consumption. (Elaine Thompson)

Cannabis users experience their high in many different ways, from a sleepy kind of mellowness, to anxious paranoia.

But it turns out how users handle the high isn’t entirely dependent on the strain or strength of the marijuana—genetics may also be a factor.

Toronto-based healthcare technology company Lobo Genetics has developed a test to help consumers understand their genetic sensitivity to THC, the intoxicating compound in cannabis. Through a simple cheek swab, the company hopes to educate consumers about safe consumption.

“There are indications that genetics play a role in how you respond to THC,” Lobo Genetics CEO John Lem told CTVNews.ca. “We tested about 3,000 people so far in development and the aggregated data closely relates to some of the studies that have been done.”

Using data from several studies that examined genetic variations associated with sensitivity to THC, the test is said to provide users with a comprehensive overview of their short and long-term risk for THC-induced psychosis and schizophrenia.

Within a few days, consumers have access to their results on Lobo Genetics’ website, which breaks down their risk factors for developing psychosis and memory loss.

But, according to Lem, it’s the company’s ability to understand how people metabolize THC that could prevent cannabis users from ingesting too much and experiencing a bad trip, especially when it comes to edibles.

“One of the big problems we’re seeing in Colorado is that, disproportionately, hospitalizations are coming from edibles and Canada is about to legalize that,” said Lem.

According to the company, the way the human body metabolizes THC is influenced by the CYP2C9 gene. Fifteen to twenty per cent of people carry the CYP2C9*3 genetic variant which causes them to metabolize THC two to three times slower than normal.

These “slow metabolizers” are advised to be cautious when consuming marijuana, as they could experience a more intense, increased high, especially when taking THC in an edible form.

Read the full article here.

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