Smoke Reports has always been very appreciative of all of the different organizations publishing positive cannabis information and research. Phylos Bioscience, based out of Portland, Oregon, is certainly one such company that deserves recognition for their dynamic research of cannabis genetics.


Along with their many additional testing services, Phylos Bioscience is building an evolutionary database through genome sequencing and statistical analysis of over 1,100 cannabis strains, both modern and ancient. This incredibly complex undertaking is called The Cannabis Evolution Project, and the results will provide the community with a much deeper understanding of cannabis evolution and genealogy.

mowgli holmes_phylos bioscience.widea

We had the opportunity to discuss the exciting future of mapping cannabis genetics with co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Phylos Bioscience, Mowgli Holmes, Ph.D. He gave us insight into the future of strain identification and how it will help our understanding of cannabis evolution.

What is The Cannabis Evolution Project?

The talented team members at Phylos Bioscience, along with a well-qualified scientific advisory board including Robert Connell Clarke (Cannabis: Evolution and Ethnobotany) and Rob DeSalle (curator and phylogeneticist at the American Museum of Natural History), are comparing the genetic sequences of cannabis strains to create an evolutionary map of cannabis. With over 1,100 cannabis strains analyzed so far, The Cannabis Evolution Project is already revealing some much-needed information regarding the history of cannabis.


This genetic database will allow for varietal identification by comparing the genetic relationships of all of the cannabis strains. Through widespread breeding and cultivation, cannabis has undergone accelerated hybridization. There are still thousands of unique strains to sequence, but the ongoing research by Phylos Bioscience has already produced foundational information about the evolution of cannabis.

The Importance of Mapping Cannabis Genetics

Organizations like Phylos Bioscience are elevating cannabis information to a more reputable level. At Smoke Reports, we want to explore the findings of  The Cannabis Evolution Project. The results of this ongoing project will help our team continue to provide consumers with tools to track their personal experiences with cannabis.

Mr. Holmes and the rest of the Phylos Bioscience team are building this genetics database to provide the cannabis community with scientific data that will help demystify the cannabis plant.

“By mapping the structure of the existing [cannabis] population, we can begin certifying strains, which is really valuable because people can get a clear signal about an individual strain.”

-Mowgli Holmes, Ph.D. (Co-founder/CSO Phylos Bioscience)

Mr. Holmes discussed the variables that make it so hard to differentiate cannabis. If the goal is to determine the exact genetics of a strain, you need a lot of reference points to successfully place a unique genetic sequence within the cannabis evolutionary tree.

These references points are hard to come by since cannabis breeding has rapidly increased in the past few decades. There are a limited number of strains that can act as anchor points, since their origin is relatively indisputable (ex. Blueberry by the cannabis breeder DJ Short). The Cannabis Evolution Project aims to tie all of the different anchor points with the many hybrid strains available, and remove the ambiguity from cannabis identification.

Visualizing Cannabis Genetics

Having already analyzed over 1,100 cannabis samples, the data from The Cannabis Evolution Project is beginning to take shape. The goal is to reveal the evolution of cannabis, but so far the results do not appear like a tree when visualized. “The data visualization looks more like a hairball. Our 3D population viewer shows a galaxy of dots. It is zoomable and rotatable… and it is beginning to expose clusters of similar data points,” says Mr. Holmes.

galaxy of nodes

The Cannabis Evolution Project is about to upload even more information into their database, including landrace data that can be important for a better understanding parent-child strain relationships, as well as sibling relationships. The data visualization will eventually appear as a giant constellation of interconnected nodes representing the complexities set forth by accelerated cannabis hybridization.

The Future of Phylos Bioscience and The Cannabis Evolution Project

The exciting future of Phylos Bioscience and The Cannabis Evolution Project are intertwined with the creation of their incredible genetics database. The goal is to publish the results with the American Museum of Natural History, and display the data visualization galaxy online for public consumption.

As more individual strains undergo the genome sequencing process, the complex statistical analysis used to determine a strain’s origin with become even more reliable due to increasing points of genetic reference. Ultimately, the database will be able to provide consumers with tools to identify their own strains. In the words of Mr. Holmes, Phylos Bioscience will be able to offer “commercial genotyping as a service.”


In addition to the cannabis information, Phylos Bioscience is already receiving recognition for re-imagining the visualization of genetic relationships. The family tree concept is two dimensional and can incidentally leave out important information about an organism’s lineage.

“We expect that the 3D visualization tool for this project will be valuable to other groups tracking genetics, like the dog community for instance,” says Mr. Holmes. Hopefully, every popular consumables will someday be mapped as accurately as The Cannabis Evolution Project aims to do with cannabis genetics.

Will Cannabis Genetics Affect the Common Narrative?

Over 1,100 cannabis strains have been sequenced and input into the database. The undertaking of positioning phenotypes into a complete evolutionary constellation is almost unbelievable. But the folks at Phylos Bioscience are working at this every singe day. Mr. Holmes let us in on some of the preliminary findings from The Cannabis Evolution Project, and it seems that the modern cannabis narrative may be in for a few changes.

Indica and Sativa: A Common Misunderstanding?

Indica and Sativa: A Common Misunderstanding?

The popular story involves indica and sativa, which is a narrative that loosely involves landrace genetics tied to geographic regions. As more data gets compiled and computed, it is very clear how this popular narrative can be affected by important variables like genetics and environment.

The old landrace strains were never subjected to chemotypical analysis and genetic sequencing, so the roots of cannabis origin are largely based off modern cultivars that are inadequately referred to as “landrace strains.” These modern landraces are labeled based on guesses from seed companies and breeders who have experience with strains, but no definitive reference point.


“The Cannabis Evolution Project is not yet complete, and we still have a lot more data to dump into the database, but the information is taking shape and it looks very substantial… Of course, it is too early to say anything for sure. We do not want to make assumptions, but there is definitely good information coming forward with this project,” says Mr. Holmes.

Find Out More About Phylos Bioscience

The team at Smoke Reports will be closely observing the results of The Cannabis Evolution Project. The amazing work being performed by Phylos Bioscience in Oregon is giving cannabis a better scientific foundation. Check out all of the testing services available from Phylos Bioscience including strain identification, microbiology testing, and sex determination of cannabis plants.


Phylos Bioscience has many partner labs in Oregon, Washington, Colorado, California, Arizona, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Maine that can be contacted as well for affiliate testing services. Check out the Phylos Bioscience website to learn more about The Cannabis Evolution Project and their other testing services.


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