New genetic research reveals that the cannabis plant has its roots in what is now Northwest China. These local strains are most like the original strain of cannabis cultivated more than 12,000 years ago. The study is the largest ever of the whole genomes of the cannabis plant. Further, 82 genomes were added to the 28 that had already been sequenced. It shows that cannabis was probably 1st domesticated in modern China near its borders with Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan in early Neolithic times. From there, it spread as different varieties around the world.
A geneticist at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland told the researchers identified a basal type of the cannabis plant from northwest China that was previously unknown, Luca Fumagalli. Fumagalli said, because cannabis plants are so widespread now, there has been lots of debate about their origin, and suggestions have included Northern China, Central Asia, West Asia.
He said, “people thought the region was more towards Central Asia, mostly because there were many feral [wild] cannabis plants along the roads there.” But this observational data basically contradicted what we got from the genomic analysis.”He further said the study showed that from Central Asia, cannabis plants belong to the hemp type. They are unbranching, tall plants with cellulose-rich stems suitable for producing fibers for ropes and textiles. The basal type is suitable for both fiber production and producing psychoactive effects.
Most biologists now consider two different types of cannabis, Cannabis ruderalis, and Cannabis indica. They are subspecies of the single species within the genus, Cannabis sativa, which was domesticated earlier than 12,000 years ago. By archaeological evidence, age is affirmed, including traces of ancient cannabis seeds found in pottery in Japan, Taiwan, Southern China.
Fumagalli said the researchers in the genetic study concluded that all cannabis plants alive today are descended from domesticated plants in the original region. The wild originators of Cannabis Sativa are probably now extinct. After the basal type was domesticated, the different types of cannabis would have started to diverge. About 4,000 years ago, the hemp type became prominent, the study showed.