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Digital Subscriptions > Newsweek International > 25th March 2016 > MARIJUANA’S MAD SCIENTIST


Once Mowgli Holmes finishes mapping the cannabis genome, everything will change for weed


BECAUSE HE’S a scientist, not a back-slapping venture capitalist, Mowgli Holmes loathes using the term networking to describe even the portion of his job that entails shaking hands in the cannabis industry. But it was networking that brought the chief scientific officer of Phylos Bioscience in Portland, Oregon, to Las Vegas in November 2014 to attend the Marijuana Business Conference and Expo—and to smoke a massive joint with one of the cannabis movement’s legends, Ohio lawyer Don Wirtshafter.

Holmes had it on good information that Wirtshafter was sitting on a collection of hundreds of very old apothecary bottles filled with antique cannabis tinctures—relics from before marijuana prohibition came along in 1937, courtesy of the weed-criminalizing Marihuana Tax Act. Holmes, a 43-year-old geneticist with a doctorate in microbiology and immunology from Columbia University, desperately wanted those bottles—at least what viable strands of DNA might lie inside of them—for a project that has become his life’s work: an ambitious effort to sequence the DNA of every different kind of cannabis in the world.

STRAINED RELATIONSHIP: Because its genetic map is so fuzzy, cannabis is often sorted into two types, either an Indica strain or, like this bud of Blueberry Cheesecake, a sativa.
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