Scientists at the University of B.C. have identified about 30 genes related to the characteristic flavours of cannabis, from the nose-wrinkling funk of skunk to the distinctive earthiness of purple kush.
The finding, published Wednesday in the journal Plos One, is a first step toward standardizing different varieties of B.C.’s iconic intoxicant.
As Canada hurtles toward a new legal environment for recreational cannabis, breeders and growers will be anxious to identify different varieties of cannabis for flavour, but also for their psychoactive effects and potency, said Jörg Bohlmann, a professor in the Michael Smith Laboratories.
The federal government pledged this week to legalize marijuana by July 1, 2018.
“When you have a quality product that people are willing to pay a high price for, they expect a well-defined and consistent product,” said Bohlmann. “Think about wine, when you buy a Merlot or a Chardonnay you know aside from certain subtleties what it will taste like.”
Bohlmann likens the complex interaction of dozens of flavour genes to the sound of an orchestra, in which each song is a specific combination of instruments of different tone and volume.
The flavours of wine and cannabis are heavily influenced by the presence of a variety of chemical compounds called terpenes produced by the plant in certain amounts, many of which are found in both wine grapes and cannabis flowers. The researchers scanned the genome of cannabis plants to identify genes known to be associated with flavour in other plants.