STORIES

I Took a Cannabis DNA Test

By Justin Caffier on January 30, 2019

Ever since the Human Genome Project ripped the double-helix in half and sent us barreling down the road to GATTACA, companies have been popping up to offer a wide variety of DNA deep dive analysis services. As the cost of analysis gradually diminished, and success stories like 23andMe conditioned the masses to proffer their bodily fluids to a sprawling network of law enforcement-monitored corporations without blinking an eye, these businesses have become more and more niche. It was only a matter of time before this industry entered the cannabis space.

Founded in August 2018, EndoCanna Health is the world’s first cannabis and DNA test kit hybrid, offering customers insight into the best variety of cannabis for their genetic makeup. As someone who smokes cannabis, I decided to give the service a go in the hopes of optimizing my future blazes.

The company sent me the test kit and, as per the instructions, I swabbed my mouth for some cells and shipped the sample off to their labs. After what felt like an interminable amount of time, I was finally given my results, and it was not at all what I’d expected.

“The Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt and China’s emperors didn’t have the advantage of our EndoCanna Cannabinoid DNA Variant Report to guide them in their optimal selection of cannabis,” my report’s overview told me, “but now, you do!”

As cool as it felt to reflect on ancient royalty, the “Endocannabinoid Variant Report” I got back from the labs was not the breezy list of “optimal strains” I would have imagined. Instead, I was staring down at a dense medical file full of text, subsections and a bunch of red/yellow/green speedometer thingies (see image below) that indicated my risk levels for various physical and mental ailments. On top of all those daunting words and charts, I still wasn’t seeing anything that resembled a recommendation list. Realizing I was already in a bit over my head, I decided to ask EndoCanna to help me parse the report. I never expected that it would come straight from the top.

The company put me in touch with its CEO, Len May, to go over my report via some screen sharing software. Establishing the connection was easier said than done, but once May and I finally established contact, he began to unpack the mountain of data that had been hiding in my DNA.

As May guided me through the report, he explained EndoCanna’s process, wherein they “look for every gene that has a direct or indirect correlation with the endocannabinoid system.” The presence of those specific genes indicate that one might have an issue with the corresponding malady. As I’d never had any real issues with a few of my “high risk” flags like anxiety, psychosis or pain sensitivity, May and I decided to focus on one factor from the list that I had the most experience with: depression.

May explained how my cannabinoid receptor 1 (CNR1) gene might make me less likely to respond well to traditional pharmaceutical treatments for depression, but also noted that my fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) gene left me more prone to decreased white matter integrity if I did use cannabis, which would also contribute to depression.

The treatment plan that would take both these factors into account was EndoCanna’s CBD-leaning “cognitive” formulation, which is just one of their eight treatment categories. The cognitive finding suggested I should get an oil with somewhere between a 20:1 to 2:1 CBD:THC ratio that included limonene and linalool terpenes if possible. May explained that, eventually, EndoCanna would be able to take me right to an ecommerce page where I could buy my recommended formula and call it a day, but with Uncle Sam still making that a bit tricky, I’d have to find a remedy on my own.

The report recommended a sublingual (eyedropper beneath the tongue) administration of my recommended treatment, but after a number of fruitless calls to various shops around Los Angeles, I decided to forego a tincture or spray and just buy an oil cartridge with a 2:1 CBD:THC ratio. I still wanted to get a little high, after all.

I picked up a cartridge from Rove Remedies, screwed it into one of the thousand universal batteries everyone in LA has lying around, and began my bespoke treatment plan that Watson and Crick could never have imagined. Throughout the next week, I dragged on the pen periodically or whenever I felt a bit of melancholia and tried to gauge the results.

Sadly, the results were inconclusive. As I was not currently in the throes of a serious depressive spell, my efforts to calculate the effects of the formula on minor gloomies felt fairly unscientific. Furthermore, I was feeling no elevation in mood whatsoever from this cartridge and began to wonder if, by choosing the higher THC ratio, I’d deprived myself of both types of effects from the formula.

Still, in this uncertainty lies the medicinal legitimacy of cannabis. The DNA test results were always mere indicators and never guaranteed how I’d react. Furthermore, as with traditional pharmaceuticals, fine-tuning and recalibrating dosages until the desired effect is achieved is just part of the process. When my next bout of real depression hits, I’d have to give my EndoCanna formula another go, and if that didn’t work, I can tweak and try again.

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