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Breeding, not GMOs, boosts pot's potency

Didn't Oregon vote for no GMOs in our state? And all pot plants for medical and recreation use are GMOs because they are all hybrid from hemp. So would that make hemp the only thing that could be raised in Oregon?

— Georgia B., Central Point

Georgia, the GMO connection with marijuana has been raised many times but also shot down an equal number of times. Marijuana plants have definitely been manipulated over the years, but not genetically modified. The website politifact.com, which investigates various claims, explains why that manipulation doesn't rise to the level of genetic modification:

"Genetic modification or genetic engineering involves altering a substance’s DNA at the molecular level. ... However, genetic selection involves breeding marijuana plants with the highest concentration of THC. Genetic selection, unlike genetic modification, has been practiced for centuries. Think about how we got different breeds of dogs or varieties of tomatoes."

The Politifact report goes on to note that genetic selection has been "quite prevalent" in marijuana, resulting in a drug that is many times more powerful than the marijuana of the baby boomers' youth.

"The University of Mississippi Potency Monitoring project analyzed tens of thousands of marijuana samples confiscated by state and federal law enforcement agencies since 1972," Politifact stated. "The average potency of all seized cannabis has increased from a concentration of 3.4 percent in 1993 to about 8.8 percent in 2008. Potency in sinsemilla (high-potency marijuana) in particular has jumped from 5.8 percent to 13.4 percent during that same time period."

But that, again, is the result of breeding, not gene manipulation, at least so far. It's also worth noting that the separation between hemp and marijuana occurred centuries ago, long before the idea of genetic manipulation even existed.

One other note, Georgia: Oregon didn't vote to ban GMOs in the state; the state's voters in 2014 narrowly voted against requiring GMO products to be identified as such on their labels. Jackson County voters, however, did in 2014 vote to ban GMO crops in the county.

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