The international move toward cannabis legalization has brought about a wave of research in recent years, but most of that research has been focused on the plant’s efficacy in the treatment of various medical conditions, and the social and medical repercussions of its use.
Last week a team of researchers at the University of Guelph are believed to have become the first in North America to publish a study focusing instead on the science of growing the plant.
"There is hardly any scientific information on how to produce these plants,” professor Youbin Zheng told CBC News, “and now there is so much interest in this area."
Zheng, along with fellow professor Mike Dixon and PhD student Deron Caplan, examined cannabis grown with various fertilization rates during the plant’s vegetative phase, with a focus on optimizing production of the two primary medicinal compounds found in the plant (THC and CBD).
The study, which was funded in part by a Health Canada licensed cannabis producer, and in part by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, is the first in a series that the Guelph-based team is developing with the aim of improving the yield, potency, and health of indoor-grown medical cannabis. Further studies will press deeper into fertilization and soilless growing mediums, and will investigate irrigation and lighting techniques.
"Controlling the light spectrum, for example,” offers prof. Mike Dixon, “provides the opportunity to standardize the concentration of cannabidiol.”
Though the recent news from U of G marks the first cultivation study to be published with the specific focus of improving yield and potency, cannabis production research—legal, academically credible research—has been happening abroad since as early as 2013, when scientist Nirit Bernstein received Israel’s first license to research cannabis cultivation.
Earlier this year Lift reported on a study by nonprofit group Global Footprint Network that analyzed and compared the carbon footprints of farming cannabis outdoors in greenhouses, indoors under lights, and in hybrid greenhouses with supplemental lighting.
Meanwhile in the United States, even outspoken prohibitionist hard-liner Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently spoke in favour of increased research into cannabis cultivation.
While testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, Sessions indicated he supports allowing more legal cannabis producers to supply research efforts, adding that there are currently 26 applications under review for approval of suppliers who would provide cannabis for medicinal research.
Featured image by Théo.