Ben Holmes, owner of Centennial Seeds, extracts a solution to prepare a chromatography plate to analyze marijuana plants in Lafayette on Wednesday. (Mark Leffingwell, Daily Camera)

Cracking the cannabis genome at CU-Boulder

BOULDER —Among a vast collection of seeds housed in a nondescript industrial building on the outskirts of Lafayette resides what could be the key to the deepest and most detailed understanding yet of cannabis — information that may unleash nearly limitless potential for a plant that spans the worlds of medicine, textiles, food, fuel and fun.

Cannabis Genomic project
Assistant professor Nolan Kane, working in his lab on the University of Colorado Boulder campus, is leading a research project to map the cannabis genome. (Paul Aiken, The Daily Camera)

Select DNA samples from that collection, representing a range of cannabis types from all over the world, will make their way to a lab at the University of Colorado to be analyzed, sequenced and mapped at a level never before attempted.

It’s called the Cannabis Genomic Research Initiative, and it’s being led by 37-year-old Nolan Kane, an assistant professor with CU’s department of ecology and evolutionary biology. The 18-month initiative, based largely if not entirely in Boulder County, should provide hemp farmers and marijuana growers worldwide with a genomic blueprint allowing them to breed high-value specimens far more efficiently than they can now.

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“It’s an interesting and unique genus that is really understudied,” said Kane, sitting in his office in the Ramaley biology building at CU last week. “Colorado is one of the best places to do this because we have the industry here and we have a lot of expertise. And it’s easier to do the research because we have dealt with many of the legal issues.”

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