"As a rational human with a basic understanding of statistics, probability, and evolutionary biology, I have always had a hard time believing that this one plant could be so broadly and effectively useful"
It’s no secret that I’m a pretty staunch advocate of cannabis. To start a cannabis business, or any business for that matter, you have to believe in your product, and I do. Every day it becomes more and more evident that marijuana, while not perfect, or even without fault, is capable of bringing much more positive change to this world than negative.
Every year, dozens of studies emerge that demonstrate new and practical applications of the plant and its derivatives, bringing the total number of potential medical applications to around 15.
Under normal circumstances, the discovery of a plant that could effectively treat even one of these 15 conditions would be hailed as a major medical breakthrough. The fact that cannabis could possibly treat over a dozen different ailments just seems too good to be true, and this has been the root of my biggest, and only, qualm with cannabis.
As a rational human with a basic understanding of statistics, probability, and evolutionary biology, I have always had a hard time believing that this one plant could be so broadly and effectively useful, and my inability to reconcile this statistical and biological anomaly has prevented me from banishing the final slivers of doubt and skepticism in my mind regarding the minor-miracle that is cannabis.
Until last week, that is…
While perusing the depths of the internet at 2am, I stumbled upon an op-ed by Ocean Malandra, published on the MassRoots.com blog. In this post, Ocean addresses the long history of the relationship between humans and cannabis, citing the earliest records of cannabis cultivation that date back to the very origins of agriculture nearly 5000 years ago.
It was during the reading of this historical brief that I had a rare “Aha!” moment.
While Ocean was informing me of our long and intertwined history of cultivating and consuming cannabis, a long-lost chapter from my high-school biology textbook came bubbling to the surface of my consciousness.
After nearly 8 years of lying dormant and useless in the depths of my brain, I recalled a lesson on the history of selective breeding and agriculture. More specifically, about how humans managed, through the process of selective breeding, to alter the genetics of a certain grass in order to produce what we now know as Maize (Corn).
I like to keep these blog posts relatively short so, in the interest of brevity, we won’t dive into the details of how specific genes alter different aspects of various organisms. What I will do is attempt to explain selective breeding in the extremely simplified manner that my own brain understands it:
When humans planted some of the first generations of what would eventually become modern day corn, it looked more like a variant of wheat. It was a grass, yielding only a few small grain kernels with hard shells that grew on the ends of that grass.
Humans quickly figured out that these kernels tasted pretty good and and provided them nourishment, so they would also save some to plant in the next crop rotation. However, not all tiny primitive corn plants would produce the same exact kernels.
Some would be slightly larger than others, some more numerous, some that would die in extreme heat, some that require less space to grow, etc. When selecting the seeds to be kept for the next crop, these farmers would naturally save seeds from plants that had the qualities most suitable to their needs. In the case of corn/maize, those qualities were bigger kernels on longer cobs.
Generation after generation farmers would save the seeds from the biggest and juiciest corn/maize plants and ditch the seeds from the puny, ugly plants. Repeat that process a few thousand times and eventually you’ll be left with some pretty big kernels and some very long cobs.
Behold! The magic of selective breeding.
If you’re thirsting for an explanation of this process that exceeds my 9th-grade understanding, check out this great summary from the University of Utah.
"is it not possible that, just as we created corn specifically tailored to nourish us, we could have selectively bred a cannabis species designed to cure what ails us?"
Ok, back to Cannabis.
My “aha!” moment came when I began thinking about the possibility of humans applying this same selective breeding process to the cannabis plant.
We already know from historical records that humans have been cultivating cannabis at least as long as we have corn. So, is it not possible that, just as we created corn specifically tailored to nourish us, we could have selectively bred a cannabis species designed to cure what ails us?
Strains that had neutral or negative effects would have been simply left behind and forgotten, while those that demonstrated beneficial qualities would have been saved and re-planted. After a few thousand generations of this selective breeding, it seems plausible that you could eventually be left with a species of plant which had developed every positive trait biologically possible while simultaneously shedding almost every possible negative.
Result: a modern cannabis plant that can treat over a dozen human maladies with minimal negative side effects.
Now, I understand that this theory is 100% just that. A theory. However, it is the first and only logical explanation of the “too good to be true” nature of cannabis that also jives with my basic understanding of biology and probability. It’s the first sign that maybe I have a chance at banishing that final sliver of doubt still lingering in my mind, and that is pretty exciting for me.
Comments? Concerns? Contradictions? I’d love to hear them all in the comments, or feel free to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org