open cannabis project

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Open Cannabis Project Dissolves In Response to Controversy Over Ag-Science Company Phylos Bioscience’s Breeding Program

The Open Cannabis Project, an Oregon nonprofit that aimed to protect the cannabis genome from patent trolls, dissolved May 6, in response to intense backlash against its former business partner Phylos Bioscience.

The nonprofit spun off from Phylos in November 2017, but its executive director Beth Schechter says people’s suspicions about Phylos, an ag-science company, continued to pop up in messages from the community.

Last month, Phylos Bioscience announced its intent to launch a breeding program to create new, better strains of cannabis and hemp. Many farmers in the industry balked at the news because they had given the company genomic data with the understanding that it would not be used to enhance a breeding program.

Mowgli Holmes, executive director of Phylos, told WW his company cannot do much with the data it has, because the data set is too small and lacks important context.

Last week, a Cannabis Now story publicized a video clip of Holmes telling investors the near opposite: He boasted that the DNA samples would give the company a “huge lead” in creating new plant strains.

“I think the main ones are that it would be impossible for anyone else to collect this data set at this point,” he says in the video, “we are fully integrated in the cannabis industry, we have more trust in the cannabis industry than any other science company.”

Schechter says those statements undermine the work that the Open Cannabis Project set out to do.

“Dr. Holmes’s presentation to investors confirms many of the fears the community has had about Phylos’ intentions for years,” she said in a statement Monday morning. “We also feel we have been deceived. As a result, no matter what we do as an organization going forward, Open Cannabis Project will never escape this deception.”

The Open Cannabis Project will formally dissolve at the end of May, Schechter says. Its last project will be a workshop to help farmers develop better license agreements and understand rules around patents, interstate commerce and growing and selling hemp. (Disclosure: That event is part of Cultivation Classic, an event presented by WW.) The data the nonprofit has collected will continue to live online and be publicly accessible.

“Though the organization is ending on a sad note, we are proud of much of the work we’ve been able to do,” Schechter said in the statement. “We’re excited to see what grows from those seeds, and for all the rest of it to turn into compost.”

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