How genetics influence how much you enjoy cannabis

Published Feb 13, 2019 01:22 p.m. ET

Marijuana has the amazing ability to influence each and every individual differently. This is why one person may find a particular strain potent or harsh whereas the next person who tried the same bud may have a somewhat different experience. A specific marijuana strain could make you want to run for miles while making your friend feel lazy and couch-bound. Every aspect of a user’s experience is unique to their bodies reaction to ingesting it. Anyone who has had some experience smoking in a group can attest to these sorts of varied responses, but most people don’t know why it happens.

Cannabis genetics research

There have been some studies on the relationship between cannabis and genetics. Cannabis, when ingested, will interact with different receptors and mechanisms is the user’s brain. The most notable of them are the CB1 receptor and CB2 receptor which work to help the body absorb and process the cannabinoids like THC, terpenes, or CBD. The receptors are only one kind of protein that the human body creates inside of our cells. Much like many other proteins that are also produced by the human body the instructions for how to create them is stored long term within our DNA. Human genomes tend to be relatively similar across all other human’s genes, mutations and malformations are incredibly common. Abnormalities in the CB1 receptor were first discovered almost two decades ago leading scientists on a path to the discovery of nine different recipes for this gene in humans. What that means is that every human on earth contains at least nine different variations of the CB1 receptor protein.

Genetic effects of marijuana

Not all genes are created as a part of the endocannabinoid system. Most mutations are not caused by the use of cannabis, but all of them can affect how an individual feels after ingesting marijuana. When a person uses cannabis, it is the THC which is the cannabinoid that best binds and reacts to CB1 receptors and is also the chemical compound that is responsible for the plant’s psychoactive and mind-altering effects for a user. These are just two of the most influential gene factors and how they can affect a person's entire experience with the drug.

CB1 Protein

In very rare instances an abnormality in the CB1 protein can make a person more susceptible to diseases such as Crohn's Disease, addiction, or anorexia. In other situations, a mutation could change a person’s sensitivity to any molecules that try to bind to it like THC or CBD. This is why one person’s sensitivity or experience with using a particular strain could be either heightened or hindered in comparison to anyone else who ingested the same product.  

Akt Gene

Abnormalities or mutations that are found in the Akt gene can also have negative consequences. The gene Aktis responsible for the bodies ability to keep cells alive and slow down tissue growth. People who harbor this mutation are at greaterrisk of errors in judgment and difficulty with basic motor functioning skills after consuming cannabis.  

Genetic effects of marijuana through liver absorption

One of the most influential genetic factors in how a person is affected by marijuana is based on how the plant is consumed. When it is ingested through oral methods including edibles, tinctures, or drops the cannabinoids are first processed through the liver before they are distributed throughout the body and then the brain. A human's liver contains a large number of enzymes which are another form of protein that is both encoded and created by our individual DNA. One of those enzymes is responsible for converting delta 9 THC into 11 hydroxy THC. This essentially makes the THC more potent as the 11 hydroxy THC is twice as efficient at interesting with CB1 receptors than delta 9 THC.

While our genes certainly do make up a large part of what we are and how we experience things like cannabis, our gene blueprints are shapeable and often changed through our entire lives. Many abnormalities may be found right from birth, but they are frequently switched on or off from other influences and interactions we have every single day. One of the most significant benefits we hope to see from this sort of genetic understanding of our bodies interaction with marijuana and cannabinoids would be a way to test for gene mutations to narrow down which strains could work best for you.

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