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Turner, C.E., H.N. Elsohly, and G.S. Lewis. "Constituents of Cannabis sativa L., XX: the cannabinoidcontent of Mexican variants grown in Mexico and in
Mississippi, United States of America" Bulletin on Narcotics, vol. 34, No.1 pp 45-59 1982

Constituents of Cannabis sativa L., XX: the cannabinoid

content of Mexican variants grown in Mexico and in

Mississippi, United States of America

,Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences. School of Pharmacy, University of
Mississippi, University, Mississippi, United Stages of America

office of Procuraduria General de la Republica, Mexico City, D. F., Mexico

,Research and Education Department, Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social, Mexico City, Mexico


Cannabis growing in 12 different localities in Mexico was analysed quantitatively for
10 cannabinoids by gas-liquid chromatography. Cannabinoid profiles of 12 variants
from Mexico were compared with profiles derived when 7 out of these 12 variants
were grown in Mississippi, United States of America. The effects of temperature and
rainfall on the delta9-THC content of these variants are presented.


The crude marijuana produced from Mexican Cannabis is well known for its potent drug quality. Previous studies by Turner and others on a Mexican variant (ME-A) and Indian variants showed that the major cannabinoids cannabichromene (CBC), cannabidiol (CBD), delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (delta9-THC) and cannabinot (CBN), vary in a cyclic pattern and are a function of time of day, sex, age of plants at sampling, and parts of plants sampled [ 1-4).

Cannabis has been divided into three distinct types - the drug, fibre and an intermediate type. The last is mostly used to produce hashish. The fibre type is used to
produce fibres, and the drug type is used for its psychoactive properties. The psychoactive agent in Cannabis is generally referred to as (-)-trans-,delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (A9-THC). As the supplier of research marijuana for the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), we have the responsibility to correlate analytical data, when possible, with biological data. Previous to recent work in these laboratories demonstrating that a Cannabis plant could be a fibre type one day and another type on a different day [2,3], marijuana samples from a particular geographical location were assunned to be identical and delta9-THC was thought to be the only cannabinoid of importance in understanding the pharmacology of the drug. The delta9-THC content of any marijuana sample
cannot explain all the biological properties experimentally observed. Therefore, the study of the fluctuation of cannabinoids in different types becomes important in
correlating the pharmacology of marijuana with the analytical data.

The research findings discussed above prompted a complete evaluation of the cannabinoid profile and chemical classification of Cannabis grown in Mexico and
subsequently grown in Mississippi, United States of America. The drug type Cannabis, grown in Mississippi and used to produce NIDA's standard research  marijuana, originated from a seed stock obtained near Acapulco in the state of Guerrere, Mexico. Since Acapulco is on the west coast of Mexico, and since considerable illicit Mexican marijuana originates on the east coast near Veracruz, it was necessary to investigate Cannabis growing in diverse locations within Mexico.

Material and methods

Plant material

Twelve Mexican-grown Cannabis samples were collected near 12 cities in 10 different states in 1973, plus one Cannabis seed sample from the state of Oaxaca (see table 1). The dry plant material, mostly flowering tops, was manicured, and leaves were separated from stems and seeds by passing it through a 14-mesh sieve. During 1974 and 1976, seeds of seven Mexican variants of known geographic origin were grown in the medicinal plant garden at the Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Mississippi, under the same soil and fertilization conditions.

Leaves were randomly collected from bottom to top [1] from six different plants of the same variant at the same time and day of each week. The age of the plants was recorded from the dates of planting. Samples from vegetative, staminate and pistillate plants of each variant were collected, air dried and manicured.

For this investigation, 7 seed stocks were selected from 12 Mexican Cannabis samples originally collected in 1973 from the following 10 states: Aquascalientes,
Campeche, Chihuahua, Durango, Guerrero, Jalisw, Nayarit, Puebla, Sinaloa and Veracruz. These locations provided a relatively good cross-section of different
geographical locations within Mexico. A weekly cannabinoid analysis was performed on the randomly collected leaves in order to determine the cannabinoid growth profiles for these variants grown in Mississippi. Data from these experiments were compared with data from the original analysis of the sample obtained in Mexico.


Cannabinoid analysis

Manicured plant material (1 g) of each variant was extracted with chloroform. The residue was dissolved in 1 ml of internal standard solution (androst-4-ene-3, 17-dione 1 per cent in ethanol). The resulting solution was quantitatively analysed by gas-liquid chromatography, using a Beckman GC-65 equipped with a 2 per cent OV- 1 7 column. A 6 per cent OV-1 column was also used to quantitate cannabicyclol (CBL), (-)-trans-delta9-tetrahydrocannabivarin (delta9-THCV), CBC, and CBD [2].


As a result of cannabinoid analysis of different Mexican Cannabis variants (see table 2) collected in different locations in Mexico, delta9-THC was found to be the most abundant cannabinoid. The average content of delta9-THC was 1.69 per cent, with the highest 2.97 per cent, and the lowest 0. 14 per cent. Cannabinol (CBN) and (-)-trans- delta8-tetrahydrocannabinol (delta8-THC) were not present in fresh samples of Cannabis. However, during storage and the analytical process, delta9-THC acid decarboxylates to give delta9-THC, which then went through hydroxy intermediates to give CBN by air oxidation or delta8-THC by isomerization [51. When we combined the delta9-THC, delta9-THCV, delta8-THC, and CBN content, the average percentage of the psychologically active cannabinoids in samples of Mexican Cannabis grown in Mexico was 2.02, with the highest 3.27 and the lowest 0.71. All but one of the Mexican-grown Cannabis variants contained only trace, or undetectable, amounts of CBD. The exception, ME-H, was collected from Poza Rica, Veracruz, and had 0.54 per cent of CBD (see table 2). Plants of this variant grown in Mississippi also showed significant amounts of CBD. In 1974, only vegetative plants showed maximum CBD levels at 12 weeks of age (0.38 per cent) and 16 weeks of age (0.37 per cent), while staminate and pistillate plants contained only trace amounts of CBD (see table 3). Other Mexican variants planted in 1974 and 1976 in Mississippi usually contained less than 0.05 per cent of CBD (see tables 3 and 4). In 1976, vegetative plants contained 0.90 per cent of CBD at 13 weeks of age and 0.38 per cent at 16 weeks of age (see table 4). For staminate plants, maximum CBD amounts were found at 19 weeks of age (1.19 per cent) and 24 weeks of age (0.91 per cent). For pistillate plants, maximum CBD percentages were found at 19 weeks of age (0.67 per cent) and 21 weeks of age (0.63 per cent) (see table 4).

The fluctuation of delta9-THC levels in ME-N planted in 1976, was similar to that of ME-A planted in 1971 [1). Both ME-N and ME-A seeds came from Acapulco, Guerrero. Vegetative plants showed maximum levels of delta9-THC at week 15 and minimum levels at weeks 17 and 18. Staminate plants contained maximum amounts of delta9-THC at week 20 and minimum at week 22. The pistillate plants showed maximum amounts at week 19 and minimum at week 23. The highest delta9-THC level was in the vegetative plant prior to any sexual differentiation at week 15. However, in 1974, ME-N vegetative plants showed a maximum amount of delta9-THC at week 18. Staminate and pistillate plants had maximum levels of delta9-THC at weeks 21 and 18 respectively, and then dropped sharply in succeeding weeks. In this case, the highest content of delta9-THC was in the staminate plants at week 21. This pattern of two cyclic peaks is consistent with
the data obtained in 1971 with ME-A seed stock [1].

In 1974, vegetative plants of ME-H, ME-K, ME-L, ME-N and ME-0, at 13 weeks of age had higher delta9-THC content than at weeks 12 and 14. They showed minimum delta9-THC content at week 15. For the most part, 1974 staminate and pistillate plants grown in Mississippi produced a low delta9-THC concentration. None of these plants had a delta9-THC content higher than the original samples of material grown in Mexico in 1973 (see table 2). However, these same variants grown in 1976 showed a higher delta9-THC content in at least one growth week than the original analysis. In general, variants grown in 1976 showed two periods of maximum delta9-THC levels between weeks 13 and 15, and weeks 19 and 20. The minimum amounts were between weeks 17 and 18, and weeks 22 and 23 respectively.

In all variants, the average delta9-THC content was higher in 1976 than in 1974. Also, a greater fluctuation of delta9-THC levels was observed in 1976 than in 1974. More importantly, the major cannabinoid growth profiles for the same variant were found to differ significantly between 1974 and 1976. Since biosynthesis and rnetabolism of delta9-THC in individual plants varies hourly [1], no simple explanation for the differences in delta9-THC growth profiles is possible. Small amounts of cannabigerol monomethyl ether (CBGM) also existed in each Mexican variant. Such levels were also found to exist in a previous study of Indian variants [2, 3]. Small and Beckstead [61 classified Cannabis containing a small amount of CBGM, especially variants originating in north-east Asia, as phenotype IV.

In 1976, all Mississippi-grown Mexican variants (see table 4) showed increased CBC content when compared to the 1974 data. In most cases, pistillate plants showed less CBC content than staminate plants of the same variant.

From this study on Mexican Cannabis grown both in Mexico and in Mississippi, United States of America, we conclude that Mexican Cannabis is almost exclusively of the drug type (see tables 3 and 4), except in three cases. These exceptions were samples from staminate plants derived from ME-H at weeks 19, 23 and 24 (see table 4). This is the only variant in which CBD was detected. Although it is generally believed that the genetic character determines cannabinoid profile [7], these data indicate that environmental factors can influence the cannabinoid profile.

The results of the effect of temperature and rainfall on the delta9-THC content of the different Mexican variants, ME-H through ME-0, are indicated in table 5. Thus it can be seen that, with a fairly high temperature and a reasonable amount of rain, an increase in delta9-THC can be anticipated. In 1974, the temperature showed a cooler trend, starting from week 15 from the date of planting, when compared with that of the growing season of 1976. Also, the total amount of rainfall in 1976 (19.57 in.) was 28 percent less than in 1974 (27.22 in.). This might explain why the delta9-THC content of Cannabis grown in 1974 was much lower than that grown in 1976, although all plants were produced from the same seed stock and in the same garden using identical agricultural procedures.

From this study it is concluded that all these variants, with the exception of ME-H, had similar growth profiles. Accordingly, Mexican Cannabis could possibly include two variants. Using the Wailer method [4], one variant is always a drug type no matter when samples are collected. Using the Small and Beckstead method [6], this variant belongs to different phenotypes. The second variant can be a drug or a fibre type, depending on when the collection was made, according to the Wailer method. This variant generally contains appreciable amounts of CBD, whereas the other variants contain appreciable ainounts of CBC and negligible amounts of CBD.

Thus, seed code ME-H is of variant two and all others are of variant one. If we use both the Wailer and the Small and Beekstead methods and apply these methods to all seed codes, we find that all seed codes fall predominantly into phenotype 1, or phenotypes 1 and IV, depending on the age of the sample when analysed; whereas all fit in the drug type, according to Wailer. Tle exception of both of these is the variant which contains sufficient quantities of CBD (ME-H) which fits in phenotypes I, II or IV and in the drug or fibre type in the Wailer system. Tlese data strongly indicate that a single analysis gives a classification for this sample only and not for the variant.




This work has been supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, contract numbers HSM-42-70-109 and 271-78-3527, and the Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, School of Pharmacy, University of Mississippi.


1 . C. E. Turner and others, "Constituents of Cannabis sativa L. X. Cannabinoid profile of a Mexican variant and its possible correlation to pharmacological activity", Acia Pharmareurica Jugoslavica, vol. 25,1975, p. 7.

2.  C. E. Turner and others, "Constituents of Cannabis sativa XV. Botanical and chemical profile of Indian variants", Planta Medica, vol. 37,1979, p. 217.

3.  C. E. Turner and others, "Constituents of Cannabis sativa XIV. Intrinsic problems in classifying Cannabis based on a single cannabinoid analysis", Journal of Natural Products, vol. 42, 1979, p. 217.

4.  N. J. Doorenbos and others, "Cultivation, extraction, and analysis of Cannabis saliva L.". New York Academy of Sciences Annals. vol. 191, 197 1, pp. 3-14.

5.  C. E. Turner and M. A. Elsobly, "Constituents of Cannabis sativa L. XXI. A possible decomposition pathway of delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol to cannabinol". Journal of Heterocyclic Chemistry, vol. 16,1979, p. 1667.

6.  E. Small and H. D. Beekstead. "Common cannabinoid phenotypes in 350 stocks of Cannabis". Lloydia, vol. 36,1973, p. 144.

7.  5. Guerrero Dayalos and others, "Analysis of a population of Cannabis sativa L. originating from Mexico and cultivated in France", Experientia, vol. 33, No. 12 (1977), pp. 1562-1563

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