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HIGHLIGHTS
  1. Lobo Genetics setting up temporary testing labs starting this week
  2. Lobo will offer a free memory test and a deeper metabolization text for $30
  3. Tests are expected to provide consumers with better insight into dosages, strains and products

Quick DNA tests showing how a person’s genetic makeup impacts their response to THC – such as how an individual’s short-term memory is affected or how effectively their body metabolizes the psychoactive compound – is now being offered in some Nova Cannabis stores in Alberta.

Toronto-based Lobo Genetics, which does DNA testing that reveals how people react to cannabis, is temporarily setting up shop in various Nova stores starting this week, when shoppers will be able to swab their inner cheeks and receive results in 45 minutes, showing how their memory responds to THC due to their genetic makeup. This test is free.

For $30, shoppers can also see how their bodies metabolize THC and what level of risk they are at for THC-induced psychosis.

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The test results are expected to provide cannabis consumers with better insight into the best dosage, strains and products for them based on specific risk levels revealed, rather than deter customers from taking cannabis. A mix of factors that affect individuals’ reactions to THC include genetics, sex, body mass index and what food was recently eaten.

“It’s a good first step for a lot of new users. It’s a guardrail and not a barrier,” said Mike Wiles, vice-president of marketing for Lobo Genetics.

“This gives them a bit of a roadmap. We’re trying to help people navigate the space.”

If a first-time user has a negative experience with cannabis, they may not become a pot-shop customer, but since a bad trip could be the result of how one’s body responds to THC in cannabis, this DNA test provides insight into a person’s probable reaction and insight that a low dosage could lead to a more positive response.

So, I gave it a shot and handed in three cotton swabs lathered in DNA, compliments of my cheek.

My results initially looked typical, showing that I joined the ranks of 83 per cent of the people tested who are normal metabolizers of THC. This means that I can feel the effects from smoking or vaporizing within seconds and this could last up to six hours.

According to Lobo data, just 1 per cent are “very slow” metabolizers and 16 per cent are “slow.”

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“They need to ease into it real slow,” Mr. Wiles said, referring to slow metabolizers using cannabis.

The data breaks things down further by race, with 16 per cent of Caucasians the most likely to carry variants for slower THC metabolism, versus 6 per cent for Africans and 5 per cent for East Asians.

But then I saw my results on memory, which showed my genotype is COMT Val/Val. This means I am at a higher risk of short-term memory loss by as much as 40 per cent, while using cannabis. Thirty per cent of people tested fall into this category, which can also see a drop in long-term memory causing things like hazy memories of events.

“If you’re going to do something you know you’ll want to remember, you may want to just have a little cannabis,” Mr. Wiles said to me.

The test results come with additional information and explain that females experience greater visuospatial memory impairment when using pot than males.

“Visuospatial memory affects your ability to remember locations and movements, like where you left your car keys, where a party took place and even how to get home,” the results said.

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“So, if you are going to use cannabis, it’s best to plan ahead and take potential memory effects into account.”

Got it.

There’s more. The results reveal that while Val/Val carriers clear dopamine faster than others and generally perform better under stress, we also have higher mental-health risks.

Now I just wish I could just remember my third and final result. ... Oh yes, risk of psychosis. By now I’m sure you are not surprised to see that my genotype pegs me at a “higher risk” for THC-induced psychosis, such as short-term psychotic symptoms and long-term psychosis. I did not expect to see that.

“Based on your higher risk profile, consider CBD products instead of THC products,” the results read.

This lumps me in with 25 per cent of other people who are at higher risk of psychosis with long-term cannabis use, while 50 per cent are at intermediate risk and 25 per cent at normal risk. Lobo Genetics breaks down the short-term effects to experiences such as paranoia and hallucinations, to long-term risks like a lack of motivation and schizophrenia.

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While THC increases dopamine levels, which in turn causes the “high” feeling, too much dopamine can lead to negative psychotic symptoms, the results state.

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