In 2011, University of British Columbia botanist Jonathan Page was the lead investigator in the first-ever attempt to sequence the genome of the cannabis plant. The team Page led sequenced genomic DNA and RNA from a marijuana strain known as Purple Kush and found a transcriptome of 30,000 genes. The study, published in Genome Biology, compared Purple Kush’s transcriptome to that of the hemp variety Finola and found that the exclusive occurrence of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid synthase (responsible for THC, the cannabinoid responsible for marijuana’s psychoactive effect) in Purple Kush is not present in Finola, where it is replaced by cannabidiolic acid synthase. This may explain why marijuana causes a “high” while hemp does not.
These landmark discoveries, combined with those of his peers, have paved the way for research teams to battle cancer through immunotherapy.