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The Cream of the Crop: Biology, Breeding and Applications of Cannabis sativa
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  • Susanne Schilling*^,
  • Caroline A. Dowling*,
  • Jiaqi Shi*,
  • Louise Ryan,
  • David Hunt,
  • Eve OReilly,
  • Antoinette S. Perry,
  • Oliver Kinnane,
  • Paul F. McCabe,
  • Rainer Melzer^
Susanne Schilling*^
University College Dublin
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Caroline A. Dowling*
University College Dublin
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Jiaqi Shi*
University College Dublin
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Louise Ryan
University College Dublin
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David Hunt
University College Dublin
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Eve OReilly
University College Dublin
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Antoinette S. Perry
University College Dublin
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Oliver Kinnane
University College Dublin
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Paul F. McCabe
University College Dublin
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Rainer Melzer^
University College Dublin
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Abstract

Cannabis sativa is an extraordinarily versatile species. Hemp and its cousin marijuana, both C. sativa, have been used for millennia as a source of fibre, oil and for medicinal, spiritual and recreational purposes. Because the consumption of Cannabis can have psychoactive effects, the plant has been widely banned throughout the last century. In the past decade, evidence of its medicinal properties did lead to the relaxation of legislation in many countries around the world. Consequently, the genetics and development of Cannabis as well as Cannabis-derived products are the subject of renewed attention.Here, we review the biology of C. sativa, including recent insights from taxonomy, morphology and genomics, with an emphasis on the genetics of cannabinoid synthesis. Because the female Cannabis flower is of special interest as the site of cannabinoid synthesis, we explore flower development, flowering time well as the species’ unique sex determination system in detail. Furthermore, we outline the tremendous medicinal, engineering, and environmental opportunities that Cannabis bears. Together, the picture emerges that our understanding of Cannabis biology currently progresses at an unusual speed. A future challenge will be to preserve the multi-purpose nature of Cannabis, and to harness its medicinal properties and sustainability advantages simultaneously.