Function of Cannabinoids in Marijuana

It is commonly believed that the function of the resin secreted by marijuana is to prevent desiccation (drying) and to protect the seeds. However, marijuana grown in northern latitudes often lacks any obvious resin, yet its seeds mature and it does not desiccate. In areas where the plants produce abundant resin, it doesn't seem to be stimulated by drought; the resin usually becomes abundant late in the plant's development and it is the young plants which are the most susceptible to drought. There also does not seem to be any correlation between high resin production and high THC or CBD content. Plants often have a high cannabinoid content without being especially resinous or sticky. For these reasons it seems that the real explanations for resin production and cannabinoid content lie elsewhere.

As with virtually all other psychoactive compounds occurring in plants, the function of cannabinoids is unknown. In order to have evolved the many genes necessary for the synthesis of such complex molecules, they or their precursors probably serve an important purpose. This makes the failure to have a ready explanation for their presence all the more frustrating, especially in view of the tremendous advances in plant biochemistry. It seems likely that the cannabinoids are an important constituent of resin, which serves to protect the plant from patho gens or herbivores such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, insects and cows. It has been shown that cannabidolic and cannabigcrolic acids are antibiotic to gram-positive bacteria in vitro.3 Pathogenic attack is probably more of a problem in the wet, warm tropics {which may account for the greater resin production there). But it remains a mystery as to why THC predominates in southern latitudes and CBD in northern ones.

Humans have selected marijuana for perhaps 10,000 years for use as fiber, food and medicine. The varieties producing much resin have been carefully bred and widely distributed, and this characteristic is probably much more prominent than in ancestral hemp populations. Thus, the abundance of cannabinoids in marijuana may be due to selection by our ancestors.

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