Bioengineering Marijuana Oranges
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Thu, 12 Nov 98 13:13:05 -0800
Subject: Bioengineering Marijuana Oranges
Forwarded-by: "email@example.com" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
[Hey, somebody I know must know where to get those orange seeds!]
From: email@example.com (Gregory Aharonian)
... an online article from the San Francisco Bay Chronicle reports
on a Florida professor's success in getting oranges to express THC, the
active ingredient of marijuana. Gives a whole new meaning to the
screwdriver cocktail, and to the smile on Anita Bryant's face. In twenty
years what follows will be a high school experiment and pretty much make a
farce of the mostly ineffective (and irrational in light of alcohol)
anti-marijuana policies. My favorite will be to see someone alter the
genetic makeup of the cocoa bean. There is a THC-like compound in chocolate
(one chocolate candy bar is about 1/400 as active as a marijuana joint) -
just insert some genes to get this compound's gene to multiply express -
voila - and no matter how much chocolcate you eat you still are hungry :-)
A Florida Biochemist designs a citrus tree with THC.
In the summer of 1984, 10th-grader Irwin Nanofsky and a friend were
driving down the Apalachee Parkway on the way home from baseball practice
when they were pulled over by a police officer for a minor traffic
After Nanofsky produced his driver's license the police officer asked
permission to search the vehicle. In less than two minutes, the officer
found a homemade pipe underneath the passenger's seat of the Ford Aerostar
belonging to the teenage driver's parents. The minivan was seized, and the
two youths were taken into custody on suspicion of drug possession.
Illegal possession of drug paraphernalia ranks second only to open
container violations on the crime blotter of this Florida college town. And
yet the routine arrest of 16 year-old Nanofsky and the seizure of his
family's minivan would inspire one of the most controversial drug-related
scientific discoveries of the century.
Meet Hugo Nanofsky, biochemist, Florida State University tenured
professor, and the parental authority who posted bail for Irwin Nanofsky
the night of July 8, 1984. The elder Nanofsky wasn't pleased that his son
had been arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia, and he became livid
when Tallahassee police informed him that the Aerostar minivan would be
permanently remanded to police custody.
Over the course of the next three weeks, Nanofsky penned dozens of irate
letters to the local police chief, the Tallahassee City Council, the State
District Attorney and, finally, even to area newspapers. But it was all to
Under advisement of the family lawyer, Irwin Nanofsky pled guilty to
possession of drug paraphernalia in order to receive a suspended sentence
and have his juvenile court record sealed. But in doing so, the family
minivan became "an accessory to the crime". According to Florida State law,
it also became the property of the Tallahassee Police Department Drug Task
Force. In time, the adult Nanofsky would learn that there was nothing he
could do legally to wrest the vehicle from the hands of the state.
Biochem 101: How to design a Cannabis-equivalent citrus plant
It was in the fall of 1984 that the John Chapman Professor of
Biochemistry at Florida State University, now driving to work behind the
wheel of a used Pontiac Bonneville, first set on a pet project that he hoped
would "dissolve irrational legislation with a solid dose of reason."
Nanofsky knew he would never get his family's car back, but he had plans to
make sure that no one else would be pulled through the gears of what he
considers a Kafka-esque drug enforcement bureaucracy.
"It's quite simple, really," Nanofsky explains, "I wanted to combine
Citrus synthesis with Delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol." In layman's terms, the
respected college professor proposed to grow oranges that would contain THC,
the active ingredient in marijuana. Fourteen years later, that project is
complete, and Nanofsky has succeeded where his letter writing campaign of
yore failed: he has the undivided attention of the nation's top drug
enforcement agencies, political figures, and media outlets.
The turning point in the Nanofsky saga came when the straight-laced
professor posted a message to Internet newsgroups announcing that he was
offering "cannabis-equivalent orange tree seeds" at no cost via the U.S.
mail. Several weeks later, U.S. Justice Department officials showed up at
the mailing address used in the Internet announcement: a tiny office on the
second floor of the Dittmer Laboratory of Chemistry building on the FSU
campus. There they would wait for another 40 minutes before Prof. Nanofsky
finished delivering a lecture to graduate students on his recent research
into the "cis-trans photoisomerization of olefins."
"I knew it was only a matter of time before someone sent me more than
just a self-addressed stamped envelope," Nanofsky quips, "but I was
surprised to see Janet Reno's special assistant at my door". After a series
of closed door discussions, Nanofsky agreed to cease distribution of the
THC-orange seeds until the legal status of the possibly narcotic plant
species is established.
Much to the chagrin of authorities, the effort to regulate Nanofsky's
invention may be too little too late. Several hundred packets containing 40
to 50 seeds each have already been sent to those who've requested them, and
Nanofsky is not obliged to produce his mailing records. Under current law,
no crime has been committed and it is unlikely that charges will be brought
against the fruit's inventor.
Now it is federal authorities who must confront the nation's unwieldy
body of inconsistent drug laws. According to a source at the Drug
Enforcement Agency, it may be months if not years before all the issues
involved are sorted out, leaving a gaping hole in U.S. drug policy in the
meantime. At the heart of the confusion is the fact that THC now naturally
occurs in a new species of citrus fruit.
As policy analysts and hemp advocates alike have been quick to point
out, the apparent legality (for now) of Nanofsky's "pot orange" may render
debates over the legalization of marijuana moot. In fact, Florida's top law
enforcement officials admit that even if the cultivation of Nanofsky's
orange were to be outlawed, it would be exceedingly difficult to identify
the presence of outlawed fruit among the state's largest agricultural crop.
Greg Aharonian -=- Internet Patent News Service
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© 1998 Peter Langston