What legal weed in Canada means for science

Oct 17, 2018

By Elie Dolgin

Jonathan Page has been around cannabis all his life. Growing up on Canada’s Vancouver Island in the 1970s, he was surrounded by hippie beachcombers and dope smokers. So after earning a PhD in plant biology and phytochemistry, he felt completely at ease working with the plant Cannabis sativa as a postdoc in Germany in the early 2000s.

During that time, Page helped to characterize a pair of genes that some varieties of the plant uses to make fragrant oils responsible for pine- and lemon-like aromas1. And during an interview for a position with Canada’s National Research Council (NRC), Page proposed similar projects to reveal how cannabis produces pharmaceutically active compounds known as cannabinoids.

He got the job, but was dismayed when he showed up to start his lab group in 2003 at the NRC’s Plant Biotechnology Institute in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Page recalls his boss saying: “You’re not going to work on cannabis here. We’re the government.”

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