Yesterday, I saw a 23andMe® genetic ancestry test for sale at Walgreens.
Yes, at Walgreens!
“Wow,” I thought. “Genetic testing has really hit the mainstream!”
Given that, it’s no surprise that the cannabis industry is riding the DNA wave. Over the last year, three genetic cannabis tests for humans (as opposed to cannabis plants) have hit (or are about to hit) the market.
History of Genetic Testing
Genetic testing has been around for decades. Hospitals started to require that newborns receive genetic tests for some disorders in the mid-1960s. In 2007, 23andMe became the first company to offer direct-to-consumer genetic test for ancestry. This was a big shift—genetic testing had moved from the hospital to the home.
Since 2007, direct-to-consumer genetic tests have become available for everything from the risk of certain diseases to information about nutrition, fitness, and weight loss. Genetic testing is available for over 2,000 conditions.
Genetic Testing in the Cannabis Industry
It was only a matter of time before genetic testing became relevant in the cannabis industry. Since groundbreaking work by scientists like Raphael Mechoulam and Ethan Russo lent credence to the fact that cannabis affects the body in unique and beneficial ways, some of the finest minds in the world have focused their research on cannabis.
This holds true for genetic research. Several prominent geneticists have focused their research on finding the markers in the human body that affect our reaction to cannabis.
You might wonder how a genetic test like this could be worth the expense. After all, you could just smoke some cannabis and save yourself the cost. However, there are several good reasons for getting tested, especially when you are using cannabis for medical purposes. Consider these points:
- Many people are using cannabis incorrectly to treat their medical conditions. Most guidance is subjective and anecdotal, coming from a wide array of unverified sources. Until now, the best approach has been trial and error.
- Research shows that around 20% of people have a “feel good gene.” This gene prevents the breakdown of anandamide, a chemical created by the body that is similar to THC. People with this gene tend to be more relaxed and are happier than their peers, and changes their bodies’ reaction to cannabis medicine.
- Scientists have found a specific gene, associated with conditions like depression, that makes cannabis dependence more likely to occur.
- People who are genetically predisposed to schizophrenia have been scientifically shown to use more cannabis than their peers.
One of the biggest challenge for cannabis doctors is finding the correct dose. Individual differences play a big role in that challenge. Historically, cannabis doctors have followed a simple protocol: start with the smallest dose possible and gradually increase it until the patient starts to feel better. This can be a time-consuming process, and it doesn’t account for the potential of the patient to develop a dependence.
Genetic analysis reveals if you will react negatively to cannabis use. It can also determine whether you are likely to develop psychological dependence on cannabis. More importantly, some tests can give you clues about the best dose, delivery system, and CBD:THC ratio to use for your condition based on your unique genetic profile.
How it Works
It’s easy to take a genetic cannabis test. You collect your saliva using a pre-packaged kit and send it to a designated lab. The lab analyzes the DNA in your saliva and sends back a report.
Genes have specific locations on DNA strands, but their exact makeup varies by individual. These variations are called polymorphisms. With genetic testing, the lab finds polymorphisms and copies them billions of times to make them show up in analysis. Then the lab generates a report by comparing your genetic information with information acquired through years of genetic research.
Three companies will offer genetic cannabis tests in North America by the end of 2018.
Cannabis Genetic Kit by AnantLife
AnantLife is a small, privately-held genetic testing company based in Toronto, Ontario. They’ve been in business since 2015. AnantLife released their kit to the public in September of 2017. According to AnantLife’s website, their kit tests for potential adverse reactions to cannabis, including:
- Cannabis-induced anxiety and depression (negative cognitive effects)
- Cardiovascular disease
- Eating disorders
- Likelihood of dependence
Their lab is certified by CLIA and CAP. The test costs between $699 and $900. This is not a home kit; you can only get access to AnantLife kits through your healthcare provider.
CannaGx by xChemistryDNA
xChemistryDNA is the only American company on this list. Although this small, privately-held Vancouver-Washington-based company has only been open since 2017, the lab that processes their tests has been handling medical genetic tests for more than six years. Their lab is both CLIA/CAP and HIPPAA compliant.
xChemistryDNA’s test kit, CannaGx™, has been on the market since January 2018. It retails for $249.95. The kit sequences and tests 71 genes. After analysis, the lab issues a detailed report that provides information about:
- Beneficial cannabis treatments for your genotype based on how you metabolize THC and CBD
- How to control your pain with cannabis as an alternative to NSAID- and opioid-based medications
- Your risk for certain sleep disorders and how to use cannabis as a safer insomnia treatment
- How to manage anxiety and avoid developing paranoia with cannabis, including stress that stems from past traumatic events
- The best cannabis delivery system for you according to your unique genotype
- How to avoid negative interactions between cannabis and other medications or herbal supplements
ReleafDx by MedReleaf Corp
MedReleaf Corp is a medium-sized, privately-held cannabis provider located Markham, Ontario. They have been in business since 2013 and their lab is certified by ICH-GMP and is ISO 9001:2008 compliant. They plan to offer their genetic test for cannabis, ReleafDx, free to doctors who recommend MedReleaf’s cannabis delivery service to their patients. The test will not be available directly to consumers; it needs to be ordered by a MedReleaf-affiliated doctor.
The MedReleaf website claims that their kit tests for markers related to the metabolization of cannabis. The launch date for this test is unclear; the date seems to keep slipping. The company could not be reached for further comment.
This table summarizes the three available tests.
|Price||$699 to $900||Free to doctors who use MedReleaf’s services||$249.95 (discount available)|
|Availability||Only available through healthcare providers||Only available to doctors in Canada||Available to both doctors and consumers|
|Available||September 2017||Unknown||January 2018|
|What is Tested||Potential adverse reactions to cannabis||Metabolic profile only||Potential adverse reactions, metabolic profile, and beneficial treatments|
|Certification||CLIA and CAP||ICH-GMP and ISO 9001:2008||CLIA/CAP and HIPPAA compliant|
After looking at the genetic test kits that are available, it’s clear the CannaGx is the winner. This test has the lowest price point. It is available to both doctors and consumers, and tests for more things than the other tests.
You can order a CannaGx test kit here. Use the promo code “KG” to get $20 off! For an extra $100, you can order the test through Creative Cannabis Consulting and receive help with administering your test, understanding the results, and finding the right medicine in the Denver/Boulder area.
Take charge of your own health. Try CannaGx today!