Forensic scientists are taking the war on drugs to the molecular level, the Associated Press reports. Researchers are compiling a database of DNA from marijuana seized by authorities in an attempt to track the nation’s pot distribution network from grower to smoker.
Over the past three years, scientists at the Connecticut Forensic Science Laboratory have mapped the genetic profile of about 600 marijuana samples taken from around New England. Experts believe efforts like this represent the future of forensic science, which for years has been focused on the analysis of human evidence like blood, semen, and hair.
Using a single marijuana bud seized anywhere in the world, police would be able to quickly deduce whether a suspect is a homegrown dope dealer or part of an international cartel. The use of the technique is built on the principles that genetic material does not lie and drug dealers always try to grow the most potent marijuana possible.
Waiting for marijuana seeds to grow into plants takes too long for high-level dealers who move thousands of pounds at a time, police say. Instead, dealers usually plant cuttings from their most potent plants. That results in a shorter growing period and ensures top-quality drugs in every harvest. It also means an entire marijuana crop is comprised of just a few plants, cloned over and over. Genetically those plants are identical.
An officer who makes a drug bust in Connecticut might have no idea that the pot came from the same harvest as a load seized on a California highway. DNA pot profiles can help make those connections.