Globalization and other human activities such as domestication can influence population structure of the earth’s flora and fauna, having broad implications for biodiversity. For example, Cannabis sativa (a.k.a. hemp/marijuana) has been used by humans for diverse purposes including medicine, spirituality, entertainment, and as a source of fiber for thousands of years. Because of its broad utility, this plant has been subject to extensive cultivation, artificial selection, and global trade. As a result, the origins and historical patterns of genetic diversity of marijuana remain ambiguous.
Using state of the science genetic tools, Drs. David Haak, Aure Bombarely, and their colleagues from the University of Tehran have revealed patterns of genetic structure of C. sativa from Iran. Their work shows that cultivation of hemp for fiber originally arose from marijuana strains grown for medicinal/spiritual purposes. The findings have broad implications for identifying pools of genetic diversity, and the influence of human activities on this diversity, that may be important to a growing global multi-billion dollar industry.