As the consumption of cannabis, also known as marijuana, finally returns to its historical state of being legalin Uruguay and across the world, a previously unseen problem shows its head: namely that of genetically modified cannabis. 

The main reason cannabis legalization has been so difficult within the last 100 years (since it became illegal), is because the bare necessities for its creation don’t amount to much, and a reasonably high yield can even be achieved with low skill, and little material investment; there is reason it is also called “weed.” This “inability to monopolize” was ironically probably one of the major reasons companies and politicians sought (and to some extent still seek) to keep it forbidden: guaranteeing increased profits and demand for the cotton, lumber, petroleum, pharmaceutical, and many other industries.

Thus the legalization sounds good, and most of us agree that criminalization is essentially unacceptable, but does its legalization open the door for Monsanto Cannabis? The answer is: maybe. It depends on how cannabis is defined in the law; what standards open sale (as opposed to between free individuals) have to meet. Regulation may want to take a form similar to how the Germans have historically regulated their beer: by defining an exclusive set of ingredients. The way to stop the creation and growth of “Monsanto weed” is to strictly define what “weed” is.

Is there proof Monsanto and co are working on such plants? No, although suspicions have been arising in Uruguay about it, and these have been amplified over the internet.

Is it possible or even likely? Yes, especially since Uruguay allows the growth of GM corn (unlike Mexico). It is unclear whether it will be from Monsanto though, as more than half of all existing cannabis patents are owned by Chinese companies.

Although genetic modification is not inherently bad, the genetic variability provided by nature largely guarantees no unexpected shift in the gene pool (since GM relies on the multiplication of genetically identical mutants), and allows the plants to better adapt to their environment in their evolution. Regardless of this, if laws are not put in place defining exactly what cannabis is, what can be put on or in it, then legal cannabis might not end up much safer than its illegal counterpart.

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