A forensic biologist at the University of New Haven is developing a DNA databank that will help federal authorities track where marijuana originates. It’s aimed at assisting law enforcement with drug busts, but it could also be used to protect against bio-terrorism.
UNH assistant professor Heather Coyle has created two types of marijuana DNA databases. "We have a database for the evidence, so that’s the material seized off the street or from dealers or growers that are growing illegally. Then we also have reference databases, for example Mexican marijuana, or some of the European community samples or China…some of the major areas that we know its being grown and perhaps being shipped into the U.S."
She says just like human DNA analysis, investigators can compare evidence samples back to the reference samples and find the closest match by DNA.
Coyle is working with the National Marijuana Initiative and the Office of National Drug Control Policy. She says the agencies are also interested in using this technology to protect the U.S. against bio-terrorism."If you have other countries that are able to send in things in through our borders, we need to look at how those samples are being sent through into the U.S. and whether that presents a security issue."
Police are using the DNA marijuana database now to verify information given by drug informants. Coyle expects it will be used in court in the coming years.