Researchers discovered that cannabis was first domesticated in China around 12,000 years ago, after analyzing the genomes of plants all over the globe.
Science Advances published the study on Friday. It found that the genome history of cannabis domestication was not well-studied in comparison to other crops species. This is largely due to legal restrictions.
Researchers compiled 110 genomes that covered the entire spectrum of wild-growing, feral, historical cultivars and modern hybrids used for hemp and drug production.
According to the study, it found “the time and origins of domestication, post-domestication divergence patterns, and current-day genetic diversity”.
It stated that “We show that cannabis was domesticated first in East Asia in the Neolithic period and that all current drug and hemp cultivars are derived from an ancestral gene pool that includes landraces and feral plants in China.”
For millennia, cannabis has been used as a textile material and for its therapeutic and recreational properties.
The evolution of the cannabis gene suggests that the plant was originally cultivated for multiple purposes over many millennia.
It is believed that the current high-skilled hemp and drug varieties were created from select cultures, which were developed around 4,000 years ago. These cultures were optimised for the production fibres or cannabinoids.
This resulted in unbranched, tall hemp plants that had more fibre in their main stems, as well as short, well-branched marijuana plants with more flowering, maximising the production of resin.
The University of Lausanne’s Luca Fumagalli led the study and included scientists from Britain, China and India as well as Qatar, Pakistan, Qatar, and Switzerland.