Application of new DNA markers for forensic examination of Cannabis sativa seizures - Developmental validation of protocols and a genetic database


While Cannabis sativa has many industrial and therapeutic uses, drug varieties of C. sativa remain Australia's most frequently used illicit drug. It is widely presumed that organised crime groups largely supply the domestic black market for C. sativa. However, law enforcement agencies are often unable to link producers operating in suspected syndicates or to determine whether crops of legalised fibre varieties are being used for the covert production of drug varieties of the plant. This report builds on this earlier work and describes the development of an Australian national genotype database for the forensic investigation of Cannabis sativa. The specific objectives of the research were to enable the transfer of DNA typing of C. sativa to the forensic community by: i) validating a set of ten STR markers for the forensic analysis of C. sativa seizures; and ii) establishing a database of genotypes across the ten validated STR loci for approximately 500 C. sativa samples. The sampling for the database included drug seizures from five states and territories of Australia and fibre varieties currently being evaluated for the hemp industry in Australia. The report presents the outcome of the validation study which confirmed the reproducibility and reliability of the ten STR loci that subsequently formed the basis of the genetic database that are described and analysed in the second section of the report. The report concludes with a general discussion on the forensic implications of our findings. (Introduction, edited)