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J Forensic Sci. 2012 May;57(3):718-21. doi: 10.1111/j.1556-4029.2011.02021.x. Epub 2011 Dec 28.

Investigations into the hypothesis of transgenic cannabis.

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  • 1Istituto di Medicina Legale, Università Cattolica del S. Cuore, largo F. Vito 1, 00168 Roma, Italy.


The unusual concentration of cannabinoids recently found in marijuana samples submitted to the forensic laboratory for chemical analysis prompted an investigation into whether genetic modifications have been made to the DNA of Cannabis sativa L. to increase its potency. Traditional methods for the detection of genetically modified organisms (GMO) were used to analyze herbal cannabis preparations. Our analyses support the hypothesis that marijuana samples submitted to forensic laboratories and characterized by an abnormal level of Δ(9)-THC are the product of breeding selection rather than of transgenic modifications. Further, this research has shown a risk of false positive results associated with the poor quality of the seized samples and probably due to the contamination by other transgenic vegetable products. On the other hand, based on these data, a conclusive distinction between the hypothesis of GMO plant contamination and the other of genetic modification of cannabis cannot be made requiring further studies on comparative chemical and genetic analyses to find out an explanation for the recently detected increased potency of cannabis.

© 2011 American Academy of Forensic Sciences.

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