SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon’s two senators on Tuesday urged the head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to update federal regulations to permit interstate commerce of food products containing a key non-psychoactive ingredient of cannabis.
The appeal by Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley came after Congress legalized the production and sale of industrial hemp and hemp derivatives, including cannabidiols, known as CBD. Wyden and Merkley had been behind a hemp provision that Congress passed and was included in the 2018 Farm Bill.
But after President Donald Trump signed the bill in December, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb restated his agency’s stance that CBD is a drug ingredient and therefore illegal to add to food or health products without his agency’s approval. The FDA has sent warning letters to some companies making health claims for CBD.
In a letter to Gottlieb, the senators asked the FDA to update “outdated regulations” that prohibit food products containing CBD from being sold across state lines.
“Farmers in Oregon and nationwide are poised to make real economic gains for their communities once these regulations are updated,” they wrote. They said it was Congress’ intent in the bill to ensure producers and consumers have access to hemp-derived products, including those that contain CBD.
The Oregon Democrats asked the agency to clarify to the public several issues, including its authority in the production and marketing of hemp and its derivatives, and whether the FDA will consider issuing a regulation to allow hemp derivatives in food, beverages or dietary supplements that cross state lines.
CBD oils are increasingly popular in lotions, tinctures and foods. Proponents say CBD offers health benefits, including relieving pain and anxiety.
Scientists note there have been few comprehensive clinical studies on how CBD affects humans. Harvard Medical School said the strongest scientific evidence is for its effectiveness in treating childhood epilepsy syndromes which typically don’t respond to anti-seizure medications. The FDA recently approved the first ever cannabis-derived medicine for these conditions which contains CBD. Studies suggest CBD may also help those with insomnia to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Hemp looks like marijuana but contains less than 0.3 percent of THC, the compound that gives pot its high. Both hemp and marijuana are species of cannabis.
Merkley and Wyden noted that the FDA is operating with limited staff due to the partial federal government shutdown and requested a response within 30 calendar days of the government reopening.
Growing cannabis outdoors is easy. All you need is a nice open space that gets lots of light, a water supply, good soil, and a way to cover the plants when the weather turns.
One of the most important things to know is that cannabis is dependent on a photoperiod, meaning that it changes from the vegetative to flowering stage when days start to shorten and nights get longer. You want to time things right so that your plants can maximize their exposure to light during the summer before fall sets in.
Growing and harvest times here reflect ranges of time in the Northern Hemisphere. For more growing tips on specific regions, check out this guide on different climates.
Click to enlarge. (Elysse Feigenblatt/Leafly)
On the West Coast of North America alone, cannabis farmers in Northern California have a long season: They can put plants outside early and harvest later into the season because of the region’s relatively warm weather.
Washington state, on the other hand, will have a shorter time frame, as plants can’t be put outside until later in the season because there’s not enough sunlight yet, and the harvest needs to be completed earlier, before cold weather descends on buds and makes them wet and moldy.
The Spring Equinox is a good reminder that it’s time to kick off the outdoor growing process and start popping your seeds.
As the sun reaches up high in the sky, your cannabis will want to as well. Make sure all of your plants are outside around the Summer Solstice.
The weather will start to turn and the sun will begin descending as your plants fatten up with sweet, sticky buds. It might be tempting, but wait until around the Fall Equinox to start harvesting.
Everything should be cleaned up, dried, and curing well before the Winter Solstice. Now’s a good time to make your own cannabutter, topicals, or tinctures with all that trim from the harvest. Kick your feet up, relax, and hunker down for the cold, it’s been a long growing season!
Notes on Phases
We can’t stress enough that the time frames on this graphic are ranges of time in the Northern Hemisphere. You’ll need to adjust to them based on your specific region and local weather and climate.
Be sure to keep a grow journal to track the progress of your plants. Looking back on your notes will help you learn from mistakes and maximize the quality and quantity of your buds.
Take meticulous notes on when and how you perform each step, as well as what the weather is like. Other notes can include how much water you give plants, at what intervals, and how much nutrients you give them. Pictures will also give you a better sense of how your plants look along the way.
Germinate & Grow Indoors
It takes about 3-7 days to germinate a seed. A lot of growers will do this indoors because seeds are delicate and it’s easier to control the temperature and climate inside. But if you live in a warmer climate, by all means, start growing them from seed outside.
When you start growing your seeds depends partly on how big you want your plants to be for harvest. If you’re going for high yields, the earlier you grow your plants, the bigger they’ll be. But keep in mind that smaller plants are more manageable and easier to top and prune.
Sow & Move Outdoor
If you live in a warmer climate, you can go straight to planting outdoors. But if you grow your plants vegetatively indoors first, this is the time frame that you’d move your plants outside so they can get some serious sunlight.
You’ll want to top your plants a few times throughout the season, to encourage outward development and make your plants bush out. It’s a good idea to give them an initial top after the plant develops five nodes.
Additional topping can happen as needed, but you shouldn’t have to do any more into August, when plants will be well on their way to flowering.
Prune & Clean Up
This is something that needs to be done as-needed. You want to get rid of dead leaves and lower branches that won’t get light so that the plant can use that energy for producing buds elsewhere.
If you have a large crop, growers clean up their plants anywhere from 1-4 times during the season.
What kind of strain you have and what climate you live in will determine when to harvest your strains. Indicas grow stouter and bushier and there is more of a concern that their dense buds will get moldy, so they’re usually harvested on the early side of the season. Sativas are generally taller and less dense, so these can usually get harvested second.
Colder climates will need to finish their harvests earlier, for fear of cold weather setting in and molding out buds. Warmer climates can sometimes harvest well into November.
When it comes to which type of cannabis to buy, the common belief is: indoor = that fire, and outdoor = that garbage. But in reality, there’s no such thing as a “best” type of cannabia. Instead, the choice all comes down to consumer preference and a desired experience.
The Methods: Indoor, Greenhouse, and Outdoor
There are three main methods of growing cannabis: indoor, sun-grown with light deprivation (greenhouse), and full-term sun-grown (outdoor). Each has its advantages and disadvantages.
Growing cannabis indoors gives growers complete control of the entire production process, including room temperature and air circulation.
However, according to Bryan Gabriel, CEO of Washington’s Gabriel Cannabis, this advantage can turn against you. “If you get [toxins] in your grow room, it’s harder to get rid of because it’s contained in a little environment,” he told Leafly. “If we keep it clean, it’s a pro, because we can control [the airflow]. But if you’re not watching your CO2 levels and reading your plants, and if those plants start spitting out some toxins, this can lead to CO2 poisoning.”
Gabriel says another advantage is that some of the newer cannabis genetics grow better in indoor environments. With damn near every strain on the market being a hybrid nowadays, this could be the explanation behind why cannabis retailers prefer indoor cannabis over the others.
The second major method of growing cannabis is sun-grown with light deprivation, otherwise known as greenhouse. Light deprivation allows growers to block out the sun with tarps, tricking plants into flowering faster.
Growing with natural sunlight supports a full and natural terpene profile. Even if plants grow big and full under artificial lighting, the results will still be different from plants grown under true sunlight.
The greenhouse method also has less of an impact on earth’s natural resources. Sun-grown cannabis takes a lot less energy than all of those lights and fans used to power indoor growing, promoting sustainability by leaving a lot smaller of an ecological footprint.
Jeremy Moberg, CEO of Washington’s CannaSol, says that light deprivation produces the highest quality product with the least impact on the environment.
However, there are disadvantages to sun-grown cannabis, as growers have to work around the climate and season, while indoor growers can produce cannabis year-round.
Full-term outdoor growing is the most natural and least expensive way to grow cannabis. It takes no lights and no fans and no tarps, and only uses tents, sunlight, and soil. The obvious disadvantage of this method is that plants are exposed to the elements (environment, temperature, pests, etc.), which could have a detrimental effect on the quality of the flower.
However, when done correctly, Anders Taylor, CEO of Walden Cannabis, tells me, “As a point of fact, outdoor-produced flower will always enjoy a broader, more intense, more deeply penetrating spectrum of light. This advantage allows outdoor grown plants to more fully express their genetic potential.”
Which Should You Buy?
So, if there’s no “best” way to grow cannabis, it all comes to down your personal preference and sought-after experience.
When asked why consumers would choose indoor-grown cannabis over the alternatives, Gabriel says, “You have to be spraying [pesticides] on your plants outdoors, because there [are pests] outside. So if you compare indoor to outdoor, you would probably have a lot cleaner cannabis in general from an indoor grow just because of mold, spores, bugs, and things they have to spray [to protect the plant].”
Unlike fruit, which you can clean with water, anything sprayed on cannabis during flowering gets stuck to the trichomes. “I think that’s probably why the trichomes are a little more pronounced on an indoor grown,” says Gabriel.
For consumers who choose experience over everything, sun-grown cannabis with light deprivation may be the choice for you. “The sun does have different spectrums that indoor can’t really duplicate. It can feed off different terpenes or cannabinoids that enhance [plants] a little bit more, if someone does it the right way,” says Gabriel.
With a greater understanding that effects are most likely derived from terpene and cannabinoid profiles, cannabis consumers are turning to sun-grown cannabis.
“Whether it be called light-dep, sun-grown, or greenhouse, it is quickly becoming the educated consumers’ preference as they learn that light deprivation produces greater amounts of terpenes and cannabinoids. Light deprivation combined with living soils is, in my book, the best weed,” says Moberg of CannaSol.
For consumers who champion sustainability and environmental preservation over anything, the answer may be full-term outdoor cannabis, which is the most natural way of growing cannabis.
“Outdoor cannabis is best for citizens that care about our future,” says Taylor of Walden Cannabis. “Purchasing products made from outdoor-grown cannabis is the only way to support environmentally friendly cannabis production. Outdoor requires no energy for cooling, no energy to help plants photosynthesize, and we regenerate and recycle our nutrients.”
In addition to being the most sustainable cannabis option, full-term outdoor cannabis also tends to be much less expensive than the alternatives. This is not because it is trash, but instead, because full-term requires less overhead to produce, which allows growers to sell it for a lower price.
Still, we must acknowledge that not all full-term outdoor cannabis is created equal, as some is completely destroyed by outdoor elements. So if this is the choice for you, it’s best to find quality producers that have truly mastered the process of high-quality production.
The connection between cannabis and yoga stretches back centuries. Hindu scriptures hold that Shiva, the third god in the Hindu triumvirate, ingested a cannabis-infused drink called bhang to focus inward and harness his divine powers. Shiva is also known as the originator of yoga.
Bhang is not well-known in the West today but a growing number of people are turning to cannabis-enhanced yoga as a way to improve their mental and physical health. They say cannabis puts them in the right mindset for a yoga class and helps them get more out of the class itself.
Many yoga instructors are running cannabis-infused classes in North America and at least one, Dee Dussault, has written a book about it. “I found, for me, with my personal yoga practice, cannabis really enhances the connection to my body,” Dussault told a reporter. “I go deeper into the stretches. It helps me feel more present instead of multi-tasking.”
Juliane Nowe, a yoga instructor based in New Brunswick, began practicing yoga nearly a decade ago. She now teaches cannabis-infused classes to people who have experienced trauma with a particular focus on military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.
She says some of these veterans rely on medical cannabis to get through their days but shy away from situations in which they are criticized for using it. Because she is supportive of their medication, she says, these veterans feel at ease in her class and are able to enjoy the benefits of yoga.
Nowe started down this path by leading cannabis-infused yoga classes to her partner, a veteran with PTSD, and his peers in the military.
Thanks to the burgeoning interest in cannabis-enhanced yoga, Nowe says she will likely start running classes for recreational cannabis users in the not-too-distant future.
Her classes usually open with participants smoking or vaping cannabis before starting their poses. She urges them not to overdo it. “You don’t need to smoke a whole joint or eat an entire edible to benefit from the cannabis,” she says. “It’s not like you want to have this big experience before class. You just want to find the right strain, take it slow and connect with other people.”
Nowe says getting her students into a relaxed state of mind requires less effort when they have ingested cannabis. She believes the greatest benefit of cannabis in a yoga context is that it helps people move into each pose with a sense of relaxation that is otherwise difficult to achieve.
“If you show up to class feeling flustered and you haven’t ingested cannabis, you get on your mat and maybe by the end [of class] you have taken the edge off a little bit,” she says. “But if you use cannabis going into the process, you’re much more present, more focused and connected to start with. You get more out of that class.”
Nowe says cannabis is not necessary to enjoy the benefits of yoga for many enthusiasts but she says it can be a great option for those who have trouble letting go of stress during class.
Every cannabis user has a stoner bucket list of people they’d like to burn one with before death. For some, it’s legendary stoners like Willie Nelson or Snoop Dogg. For others, it’s legendary public figures like Barack Obama or Kermit the Frog. For me, it’s the legendary family member that is my grandma.
The mother of my mother has been a cannabis user for as long as I can remember. I can still smell her bathroom, which was her chosen smoking venue of whenever the kids were around. When I started smoking in college, I made it a true goal of mine to smoke with my grandma one day.
If you ever have the chance to toke up with an elder member of your family, do that shit. It’ll be a memory you cherish forever.
However, in times where the opportunity arose, I was still too scared to bring the request to her front door. Something about telling the elders in your family that you like to get high–even though they do too–is pretty nerve-wracking.
Recently, I was with family in Las Vegas for my great uncle’s 50th birthday, and guess who was there? Yup, my grandma. Knowing for weeks that this trip was coming, I decided that it was now or never. Before meeting up with the whole family, I hit Reef Dispensaries (with my mom, actually) and scooped up a pre-roll of Sherbert. It was some gas.
I head to my cousin’s house and try to scope out an opportunity to shoot my shot. It doesn’t come, but an opportunity to smoke with my uncle presents itself. He knows I smoke, so when he needs to make a store run for paper plates, he tells me to ride with him. I already know what’s going down.
We hotbox his Altima and go back inside.
Rolling With the Afterparty
As the night comes to a close, my family packs into the car and the first thing my grandma says is, “it smells like weed in here. Myron (uncle), you smoke weed in here?” He laughs, which prompts her to ask, “well shit, can I have some?”
Immediately, I knew this was my chance to achieve one of my greatest goals. I reach into my pocket and pull out the rest of the joint that my uncle and I put out, toss a flame to it, hit it a couple times, then pass it back to the mother of my mother. Grandma wasn’t ready for the gas that ya boy was bringing to the table, she coughed harder than I had ever seen before. She hits it a couple times and suddenly, I’m in a joint circle with my uncle and my grandma, whilst my parents sit right there next to us. It was the most beautiful bonding experience I’ve ever had.
What’s it Like Passing Joints With Family?
Incredible. Smoking with your grandma is an experience that’d blow any stoner’s mind. It instantly brings you closer since you find that even though you’re still her little baby, grandma now views you as an adult.
In addition to the bonding experience birthed from mutual respect, it’s also a learning experience. For me, I learned that through all these years, my grandma has been smoking mid. If she was smoking gas, she wouldn’t have almost coughed up both of her lungs. There was a period of her coughing where I legit was like, “yo, is my grandma about to cough herself into an early demise?” Was the high caliber of cannabis that I presented about to cause my grandma serious health issues? It truly was a mind-blowing experience, as well as a point of personal growth.
I got out of that Altima feeling like a whole new man … feeling like a king. So what was smoking with my grandma like? Everything I dreamed and more. If you ever have the chance to toke up with an elder member of your family, do that shit. It’ll be a memory you cherish forever.
Hungry Canadians are easily smitten by the latest food trends and all the delicious food porn dished out on Instagram. But if you ask anyone who has ever worked in a professional kitchen, the descriptions of what happens behind the scenes can be less than glamorous.
Each and every single day, it’s a chaotic shuffle to make and serve up beautiful dishes to hungry customers. And, for every professional chef at work, there’s no shortage of workplace hazards: physical injuries, non-stop shift work, lack of benefits including paid sick time, standing for 10 hours without breaks, and cramped kitchen spaces, just to name a few.
Many chefs, young and old, are often drawn to the demanding profession to create food that people desire but find themselves at a crossroads, for their mental and emotional health, when stuck in toxic kitchen environments.
This is why so many are turning to cannabis and the various products and strains available on the market to help with anxiety, as an appetite stimulant, and as a sleep aide.
We spoke to four Canadian chefs about their relationship to the plant and how it has changed their relationship to food.
Travis Petersen, Vancouver, BC
When Travis Petersen first appeared on TV screens in 2016 on MasterChef Canada, he had decided he needed a change in life. He was a business development manager in the oil and gas industry in Alberta and wanted to do something different and take a risk– filming MasterChef Canada was it.
When filming was over, he decided to follow his heart and become what is now known as The Nomad Cook, a private chef. “For the first two years, I traveled around the country doing private and pop up dinners,” but it wasn’t until he came back home that he decided he wanted to try his hand at something a bit different: cannabis-infused dinner.
As an avid cannabis smoker, who has used the plant for anxiety, he launched his first infused dinner for 4/20, serving 164 guests over four days, 10 people per seating.
While Petersen typically smokes after work, he finds he is drawn to smoking sativa strains but explains that since fully incorporating himself in the culinary world, he finds that distillate is the perfect sleep agent. Petersen shares “I tend to wake up a lot throughout the night and I found the right [dose] will help me sleep throughout the night, without me waking up the next day too cloudy.”
Right now, he believes the future of food and cannabis is really in CBD sharing, “I had the flu a couple of weeks ago and made myself chicken noodle soup, but I used a CBD-based broth and infused my noodles with THC, it helped me.”
Kitchen culture reigned supreme when Ebeni Skinner was growing up.
“Anytime there was a big get-together, there was always food around, […] laughter in the kitchen, and just like, good times no matter what.”
Although nobody in Skinner’s family worked in the hospitality industry, their passion for food inspired her to follow her own dream to pursue food and re-create that kitchen culture for others. She enrolled at The Culinary Institute of Canada in Charlottetown where she was mentored and given hands-on training on the different standards for in the kitchen.
As a medical cannabis patient, Skinner typically uses the plant for her ADHD, which she’s had trouble with since a child. “As I got older and I started to learn the benefits of cannabis, I began to realize how helpful this could be and then I found the right strains for me,” she explains.
Before work, Skinner will smoke from a black and white glass bong named ‘Cruella Deville.’ She’s been really into smoking Gather from the Solei brand but prior to that, she exclusively smoked Girl Scout Cookies.
“When I have the right strain, it’s like I’m focused and my nerves are gone. I’ll just sit down, smoke a bowl and then after a little while, I’ll start to feel myself relax and able to focus again.” Right now, Skinner is working at Terre Rouge, which was named one of Canada’s top 100 restaurants in 2016.
Born and raised in Cape Breton, Nove Scotia, John MacNeil attributes his interest in food to his father who brought him to markets and local docks as a young boy, sharing with him an appreciation for local produce and the bounty of the sea.
Upon his graduation from school, he decided to pursue the culinary arts as his career path enrolling at The Culinary Institute of Canada in Charlottetown. “I really found the passion of what food can be and the high-quality ingredients coming from Canada,” MacNeil professes. After graduation, he worked in kitchens in Calgary, Banff and Switzerland which he explains became “huge influences in my life and my cooking style”. Upon returning to Calgary, he began working in different kitchens and he also discovered the benefits of medical cannabis.
“After being on the line, you’re not really that hungry after work and I found myself sometimes not being able to really eat,” also noting that sometimes he’d be ready to turn his brain off for a bit, but would be hit with a wave of anxiety or a lack of sleep.
Under the advisement of a doctor, MacNeil applied for his Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR) and has become what he calls a ‘novice grower’ with two to four plants growing at a time.
He admits, “Work can be very stressful when you’re doing [service for] anywhere between 50 to 100 people per night,” but something that he looks forward to is rolling a cone of the Jack Herer or DelaHaze sativa strain, while Pink Kush is his go-to for edibles.
His love of edibles helped him to develop a line of products, reTreat Edibles, which blends cannabis infused oil or concentrated oil from licensed producers with premium quality ingredients.
For as long as she can remember, Lida Tuy has been working in kitchens. All throughout high school, she worked in food service and loved the energy, so she decided to enroll in George Brown for Culinary Management.
While she’s only been cooking ‘professionally’ for five years, she feels like she has learned so much, not just about food but also, about herself as a person. As a medical cannabis patient, Tuy discovered that working in kitchens, “you have to numb yourself to that dull craving for food constantly, and it kind of gets a little frustrating because a lot of chefs don’t eat for the whole day because they have to dull that sensation of hunger, and you just have to get through your day.”
As a person who has struggled with anorexia, she found that cannabis pre- and post-work helped her with her appetite. Tuy will make a batch of cannabutter, which has been super helpful for her metabolism issues because of how slow it is to dose. “Since I don’t know when it’ll hit me, I’ll just feel the comfort or the relief.”
Currently, she works in hotel banquets and finds herself in the position of working long hours while pushing out 80-100 meals in a day. This rate can often lead to a lot of general body discomfort and pain, which Tuy shares strains like Blue Dream are super helpful with.
“The first time I got my prescription and went to a dispensary, the first strain that I saw on the list was Blue Dream, and I thought it just sounds cool. I smoked some, and I was having really bad back pain that day, and within five minutes of smoking this bong hit, I just was feeling such relief.” For Tuy, using the plant has helped her “feels almost like that rock is being taken off of my shoulder, it’s like it’s easier to breathe.”
At his opening Senate confirmation hearing today, former-and-possibly-future attorney general William Barr called the current state-federal standoff on cannabis legalization “untenable,” but stopped short of expressing any intent to disrupt state policies on the issue.
At times, Barr seemed like a man who’d emerged from a previous era.
Unlike his predecessor Jeff Sessions, who was never shy about his antipathy toward legalization, Barr downplayed any interest in solving the state-fed split or imposing federal will on the states. Though he disagrees with cannabis legalization, the nominee said he was not “going to go after companies that [relied] on the Cole Memorandum.”
Mueller, Mueller, Mueller…
After a morning full of questions about the Robert Mueller investigation, Barr faced more traditional law-and-order queries from Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-California) on Tuesday afternoon. Booker has long been an unabashed leader on cannabis policy, and Harris has more recently aligned with her state’s legalized stance.
Trump’s nominee doesn’t want to ‘upset settled expectations’ on cannabis, he said.
Booker asked for Barr’s opinion on the Cole Memorandum, the Justice Department cannabis policy guidance that Sessions rescinded in Jan. 2017. Should federal resources be used, he wondered, to interfere with states’ legal medical and adult use cannabis operations?
Barr said he had no intention of using federal powers to destabilize businesses relying on the memo. “My approach to this would be not to upset settled expectations and the reliance interests that have arisen as a result of the Cole memoranda,” Barr said. “Investments have been made, so I don’t think it’s appropriate to upset those interests.”
He stopped short of calling for federal legalization as a solution to the state-federal split on the issue. Going that far, he said, would be “a mistake.”
On Criminal Justice Reform
Booker pressed Barr on his understanding of systemic racial inequality in American justice. Barr agreed to look at the latest data on racial disparities in incarceration and, after some pressing from Booker, to have a “heart-to-heart” discussion in the senator’s office, as he had done with other committee members.
Barr similarly seemed to promise to follow up on other issues he wants more time to consider. Earlier in the day, after being pressed by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) on ballooning civil asset forfeiture practices in the United States, Barr expressed some willingness to pick up Sessions’ guidance on reigning in the practice. However, Barr also emphasized his awareness that law enforcement often considers it a “valuable tool” for self-equipping.
Reforms Will Go Through
In response to questions from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Barr said that he would indeed implement the criminal justice reforms passed by Congress late last year, which include lowering mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders. In response to Grassley and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), who sought similar assurances, he also offered explanations from his time in the Justice Department three decades ago as the reason why he has been against such reforms. In 1992, in fact, Barr wrote an influential policy report titled “The Case for More Incarceration.”
Barr described the impact of the crack epidemic on urban America as “like nuclear weapons,” and suggested that fentanyl and its analogues are “kind of the new crack.” He also suggested that today, as in the 1990s, the “head of the snake” exists outside the country–namely China via the Mexican-American border for fentanyl-type drugs.
During a series of lecture-like responses about the 1990s and the call from local communities to combat violent gangs, both Booker and Harris assured Barr that they recalled being young black people at the time, and knew what that enforcement felt like. Booker also pushed back on some of Barr’s language, stating that the use of such “tropes” about inner-city violence made him “worried and concerned.”
After one round of bipartisan grilling, it remained unclear how Barr would treat cannabis and criminal justice issues going forward, or how long it will take for him to catch up–as he repeatedly expressed interest in doing–on American politics lately.
The beginning of the new year is a great time to start planning your cannabis garden and get a head start on the outdoor grow season, which roughly runs from March to November. Navigating the cannabis seed market can be challenging when states have different degrees of legality and with some great genetics produced overseas. This guide will answer your questions on buying seeds so you can be on your way to growing your own cannabis.
Cannabis seeds are considered cannabis products just like flower, edibles, and concentrates. Their legality depends on which state you live in. People living in states with adult-use legalization can buy, produce, and sell seeds within their own state, but seeds can’t cross state lines. People living in states with medical legalization can only buy seeds if they have a medical card.
Seed companies in other countries are only allowed to sell to people in the US for “souvenir purposes only” because of US laws. A lot of people buy seeds this way, but US Customs will seize any cannabis seeds that they find in packages or on a person.
How & Where Do I Buy Seeds?
Many world-renowned seed banks are overseas in the Netherlands, the UK, Spain, and other countries where cannabis laws are less restricted. Seed banks provide seeds from a variety of different breeders. You can buy their seeds online, but again, US Customs can seize any cannabis products that they find.
In states with adult-use legalization, you can buy seeds within your own state, either at a dispensary or through a specific seed company’s website.
Buying Cannabis Seeds Online
Before you purchase seeds online, you’ll need to figure out what strain you want to grow and what breeder you want to buy from.
Because US federal law still prohibits cannabis, it can be hard to find information on seed banks and breeders. Breeders who have a long history and positive reputation are usually a good place to start. To get an idea of what well-established breeders look like, check out:
You can also do some research and find an online grow journal that details the whole growing process of a specific strain from a particular breeder. Through these, you’ll be able to look over another grower’s specific notes and see pictures of the final results.
If you grow some seeds and like the results, try growing another strain from that same breeder and see how it goes.
Shopping at the Dispensary
Although this option is only available to people living in states with medical and adult-use legalization, buying seeds at the dispensary is far more straightforward. However, your options are more limited.
Dispensary staff should be able to give you information on the seeds they’re selling, but keep in mind that a lot of dispensaries focus on selling flower and end-products. It’s a good idea to call ahead and talk to staff to see if they are knowledgeable about seeds and can give you specific information on growing.
Breeders talk about “unstable genetics,” meaning that a seed’s origin is unknown. Make sure that when you buy a packet of seeds that it or the breeder who produced them can list where the seeds came from and how they were crossed and/or backcrossed to get the seed that you hold in your hand. If you can’t get a seed’s history, it could be anything and the results of poor breeding practices.
An inexperienced breeder might cross a male and a female one time and sell the resulting seeds as a new hybrid strain, but professional breeders usually put their strains through several rounds of backcrossing to stabilize the genetics and ensure consistent plants that reflect those genetics.
What’s the Difference Between Regular, Feminized, and Autoflower Seeds?
If you buy a packet of regular seeds, they’ll come with a mix of males and females. A lot of cultivators prefer to grow these because they haven’t been backcrossed–essentially inbred–as much as feminized or autoflower seeds. You’ll need to sex out the seeds once their reproductive organs show during the flowering phase and discard the males (because they don’t produce buds and will pollenate females, resulting in seeded flowers).
Seeds can come feminized, meaning that you can just put them in soil and start growing for buds. These seeds are guaranteed to be bud-producing females, and growing them cuts out the step of having to sex out plants and discard the males.
It also reduces the risk of having a stray male sneak into your crop–just one male can pollinate a huge crop, causing your females to focus their energies on producing seeds instead of buds.
Autoflower plants change from the vegetative to flowering state with age, not the changing of their light cycle. They have a short grow-to-harvest time and can be ready to harvest in as little as 2 1/2 to 3 months from when you put the seeds in the ground. The downside is that, typically, they are less potent, but autoflower seeds are great for people who want to grow cannabis but don’t want to spend a lot of time doing it.
How Much Do Seeds Cost?
Cannabis seeds usually come in a pack of 10 or 12 seeds and start at around $40 a pack and go up from there. Some high-end genetics can run between $200 to $500 a pack.
Feminized and autoflower seeds will cost more because more breeding work was put in to creating them and they take less time for the grower to get buds.
How Many Seeds Should I Buy? Are They All Going to Survive?
When you grow any amount of seeds, a percentage of them won’t germinate, even if you get them from a reputable breeder. Always count on having a few not germinate or die off, or roughly 2-4 times the total you put in the ground.
When growing regular seeds, some won’t germinate and some will have to be discarded because they’ll turn out to be males. With feminized and autoflower seeds, some won’t germinate, but a higher percentage of them will turn into flowering plants.
If you want six total cannabis plants to harvest for buds, when growing regular seeds, start with about 4 times as many, or 24 seeds. Some won’t germinate and some will turn out to be males, and then you’ll want to discard down to the six best phenotypes. If growing feminized or autoflower seeds, start with about twice as many seeds (about 12) in case a couple don’t germinate, and then discard down to the six best phenotypes.
Make sure to always stay within your state’s legal limit of growing plants.
Cannabis–like asparagus, dates, mulberry, ginkgo, persimmons, and spinach–is a dioecious species, meaning that the male and female reproductive structures involved in propagation are typically found on different individual plants, rather than on a single plant (as in a monoecious species). Cannabis is also an annual, so it dies off each winter, but not before dropping seeds that will sprout the following spring, allowing the cycle of life to continue for another year.
Only the most successful cannabis hybrids will be stabilized and grow popular enough to earn a permanent place in the hearts of cannabis enthusiasts.
In nature, those seeds form in the late autumn–when the male plants pollinate the females. Each time such pollination takes place the result is a genetically unique seed–one that contains DNA from both of its parents–but without the direct involvement of human beings, the amount of genetic diversity seen from generation to generation is practically pretty limited.
In theory, each time two unique varieties are crossed in this way, the result is a wholly new strain. But in practice, only the most successful of these hybrids will be stabilized and grow popular enough to earn a permanent place in the hearts of cannabis enthusiasts. Adding to the complexity (and potential confusion) of this process is the fact that until relatively recently, all of this breeding still took place in the underground, so the documentation of who created what and how is often unknown or in dispute.
But that’s just all the more reason to properly identify and honor the amazing cannabis breeders of yore who performed the alchemical feat of bringing into the world all-new, genetically distinct cannabis varietals that truly changed the game.
Dave Watson (a.k.a. “Sam the Skunkman”)
One of the most fascinating and controversial figures in cannabis history, Dave Watson (far better known as “Sam the Skunkman”) is lauded by some and vilified by others, but nobody can dispute the outsized role he’s played in the once very small world of cannabis breeders.
Watson’s journey began in Santa Cruz, California in the 1970s, where he was linked to two of the earliest cannabis breeding outfits to ever gain notoriety–the Haze Brothers and Sacred Seed Collective–both of which were instrumental in developing the early hybrid strains that helped transform American “homegrown” cannabis from a ditchweed laughingstock to the envy of the world.
In 1985, Watson was reportedly arrested on cannabis charges in California. A month later, he landed at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, allegedly with a box of 250,000 seeds that included Skunk #1, Original Haze, and Afghani #1–all of which had been bred or stabilized by his cannabis compatriots. Watson met immediately with emissaries from Amsterdam’s burgeoning cannabis scene, which at the time relied largely on imported hashish to supply its coffeeshops.
Along with Robert Colonel Clarke (Author of Hashish! and Marijuana Botany), he would go on to form Hortapharm, a company dedicated to collecting cannabis seeds from around the world, both to create a stable genetic library and to breed new hybrids with desirable traits. By the late 1990s, they were doing business with Dr. Geoffrey Guy, founder and chairman of GW Pharmaceuticals, which is now licensed by the British government to cultivate cannabis for use in making “whole-plant extracts” with specific ratios of THC and CBD for use as prescription medicines.
GW has since created “the first cannabis plant-derived medicine ever approved by the FDA,” but at the time, the company was in its earliest stages and still looking for cannabis seed stock to use in developing its pharmaceutical preparations.
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In the late 1960s, Netherlands native Ben Dronkers sailed on merchant ships to exotic ports of call, where he initially sought out fabric to start his own clothing company, but eventually began collecting local cannabis seeds instead. In time, his collection was truly unparalleled and boasted genetics from throughout Central Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Indian subcontinent. He then used those landrace strains to breed his own hybrids.
In 1985, Dronkers formed Sensi Seed Bank and began offering for sale the strains he’d collected and hybrids he’d created, including after crossing his own discoveries with recently arrived American varietals.
Among his most endearing and enduring contributions: Jack Herer, one of the all time most popular cannabis strains, named for one of the all-time most influential cannabis activists.
According to a lengthy 2013 Grantland profile titled “The Willie Wonka of Pot,” DJ Short–the legendary, nearly mythical cannabis breeder behind Blueberry and many other classic strains–is part of a long line of plant medicine workers. His great-grandmother “used to grow pot, opium, tobacco, sage, and lavender in a backyard garden. The curtains in his grandmother’s house were made of hemp. His family used to joke, ‘If the house catches on fire, stay in for a little while and breathe.'”
In 1973, he bought a box of cereal that came with a seed sprouter as the prize inside. That inspired him to try growing the seeds he’d collected.
Colombian Gold (“The smell was that of sandalwood incense, almost frankincense, and the flavor was that of a peppery incense cedar … truly psychedelic, powerful and long lasting”), Chocolate Thai (“deep, rich, chocolate, nutty, woody/spicy”); Jamaican (“Too damned strong and speedy! … It is a heart-lifting herb and I have a sensitive heart. So I am careful with the samples of the commercial J-ganga that I try”).
Then one day, in 1973, after moving to Oregon, he bought a box of cereal that came with a seed sprouter as the prize inside. That inspired him to try growing the sativa seeds he’d collected as a youth, but he found they took too long to mature and yielded too little. Next he tried smoking some indica, but found it didn’t stoke his inspiration or spark his imagination the same way as sativa.
So he set up a 16-square-foot closet grow and began to breed his own strains, mixing sativa and indica varietals and scrupulously smoking the results until he produced not just Blueberry, a marquee strain with the hue and aroma of fresh berries, but also Flo, Blue Velvet, Azure Haze, Whitaker Blues, Vanilluna, and many other varieties that have collectively changed the game–as has DJ Short’s tireless research into cultivation and breeding practices, a lifelong pursuit he continues today.
Don and Aaron (the D and A of DNA Genetics) met in Southern California and initially enjoyed the symbiotic relationship of weed dealer and customer. Then they became friends. And finally business partners.
There was never any question that they’d enter the cannabis business, as both men share a true and abiding passion for the plant. But rather than try to compete in the still grey market medical cannabis industry developing in the United States at the time, in 2004 they decided to pull up stakes and open up shop in The Netherlands.
The move put them in direct contact with Amsterdam’s legendary cannabis scene, which had been serving as a center of breeding and seed banks since the days of Dave Watson and Ben Dronkers back in the 1980s.
As new kids on the block, Don and Aaron brought with them not just enthusiasm and youthful energy, but also a whole new generation of prized California genetics which they used to create next-level cannabis hybrids like LA Confidential, Chocolope, Tangie, and Kosher Kush.
More recently, they’ve moved their operations back to California, where they’re firmly established among the largest and most respected cannabis brands in the game today.
Before humans began actively breeding cannabis strains for desired traits, the plant produced much less THC than it does now, and lots more CBD–perhaps even a 1:1 ratio of its two best known and most plentiful cannabinoids. But because CBD isn’t intoxicating like THC, underground breeders seeking higher highs for decades unwittingly bred CBD out of the cannabis gene pool.
Sour Tsunami, bred by Lawrence Ringo, was the first stabilized CBD-rich strain found in California–a discovery that led to a revolution in medical cannabis.
Well aware of CBD’s therapeutic potential, however, in 2010 a non-profit organization called Project CBD formed to boost research into the compound, and help identify and proliferate what few CBD-rich cannabis varietals remained in circulation. From its inception, Project CBD partnered with California’s commercial cannabis testing labs to flag any bud testing high in CBD, in order to build up a breeding stock of high-CBD strains.
Sour Tsunami–bred by Lawrence Ringo of Southern Humboldt Seed Collective–was the first stabilized CBD-rich strain they found in California, a discovery that led to a revolution in medical cannabis.
Ringo himself had begun growing as early as 1971, though he remained largely in the underground until 2010 when he founded his seed company. That’s also when he had his crops lab tested for the first time, and discovered the unique medicinal properties of Sour Tsunami were due to its high CBD content (around 11%). From then until the end of his life in 2014, he focused on developing additional CBD-rich strains, including Harle-Tsu, Canna-Tsu, Swiss-Tsu, and ACDC.
While browsing Leafly’s strain database, you may wonder what a cross of this and that strain is, what a hybrid or a backcross is, or what a parent strain is. All of these have to do with plant breeding–essentially, breeding a male and female plant to combine or refine the genetics of two plants or strains. Breeding two different strains often results in a new strain, or hybrid.
Cannabis breeders typically breed to purify and strengthen strains, combine strain traits, or enhance specific characteristics.
Cannabis breeders typically breed to purify and strengthen strains, combine strain traits, or enhance specific characteristics like higher yields, specific aromas, potency, and many other things.
When growing and breeding, it’s important to know where your seeds come from and what kind of genetics they have. If the seed breeder can’t give you a detailed history of how a packet of seeds was bred or what they were crossed with, you never really know what you’re getting.
Plant breeding is a fundamental process of growing cannabis. Breeding is highly technical and typically done on a commercial scale, but with legalization increasing, breeding is becoming more popular. You can do even do it yourself.
The Basics of Breeding
Cannabis plants can be either male or female. Cannabis consumers are mainly concerned with female plants, because only females produce the sticky buds that we all know and love. But male cannabis plants are important for the breeding process, as they are needed to pollinate the bud-producing females.
Take the strain Super Lemon Haze as an example. It’s a hybrid (or a “cross”) of Super Silver Haze and Lemon Skunk–these are the parent strains. At some point, the breeder decided that they liked some attributes of Super Silver Haze and some of Lemon Skunk and decided to combine the two.
To do this, you need a male of one strain to pollinate a female of the other. Once pollinated, the female will then produce seeds that express the genes of both the male and female plant. Those seeds will be harvested and grown separately, and voila: You have created a hybrid.
So how do you know whether to pick a male or a female of each strain that you’re crossing?
“Often in cannabis, the traits of the female carry over to progeny (seeds) more than the male. That said, the traits of the male are often obvious to the discerning grower so one should definitely choose a male that will complement the traits of the female,” says Nat Pennington, founder and CEO of Humboldt Seed Company who’s been breeding cannabis for 20 years. “So much is possible with truly intentional breeding strategies.”
How to Breed Cannabis Plants
After two parent strains are selected for breeding, a male and several females are put into a breeding chamber to contain the pollen. A breeding chamber can be as simple as an enclosed environment with plastic sheeting on the sides, or a specially designed sterile environment for large-scale breeding.
“A healthy male can pollinate up to 20 females, and by pollinate, I mean absolutely cover the plant with seeds.”
Nat Penningon, Humboldt Seed Company
A single male plant can pollinate tens of females. “It’s always a good idea to have only one male, genetically speaking, per pollination effort,” says Pennington. “A healthy male can pollinate up to 20 females, and by pollinate, I mean absolutely cover the plant with seeds.”
This is intentional breeding–any grower who’s accidentally grown a male and pollinated a crop will know that one male can easy pollinate hundreds of females, filling your whole crop with seeds.
Once in the breeding chamber, you can grow the plants vegetatively for a few weeks to let them get bigger, but it’s not necessary. Put them on a flowering light cycle: 12 hours of light, 12 hours of dark.
The mature male will grow pollen sacs within the first couple weeks of its flowering phase. Pollen will release from the sacs, move through the air, and land on the female plants, pollinating them. Having an enclosed breeding chamber is important to contain the pollen and also to prevent outside pollen from getting in.
You can also help along the pollination effort by shaking pollen from the male onto the females, or by collecting pollen from the male and directly applying it to the females. These female plants will continue to grow and flower, during which they’ll grow seeds (as well as buds). These seeds will express the genetics of both the male and female plant.
When the seeds are mature, they are harvested and stratified (or dried). “The secondary process of maturation happens after the plant is dead, and the seed needs to be stratified before it will germinate,” says Pennington. “In general, harvest for flower takes place three to four weeks before harvest for seed.”
These seeds–now a hybrid of the two parent strains–will be grown on their own, outside of the breeding environment.
But the process doesn’t end there. The hybrid strain that you buy at the dispensary has likely gone through many rounds–or generations–of breeding to strengthen its genes and to ensure that its descendants are healthy and consistent.
Just as you and your sibling might have different physical attributes from your parents, each seed created from a round of cross-pollination will have different attributes from its parent strains. Maybe you have your father’s eyes and your mother’s hair, but your sister has your mother’s eyes and hair. Each cannabis seed is unique and will express different traits, and different combinations of traits, from one or both of the parent strains. These seeds with various expressions are called phenotypes.
Homozygosity ensures that a plant will consistently produce the same seeds with the same genetic makeup over and over again.
A plant that produces a set of phenotypes that have a lot of variety are said to be heterozygous. With cannabis, you typically want seeds that are homozygous–ones that have the same set of genes. Homozygosity ensures that a plant will consistently produce the same seeds with the same genetic makeup over and over again, ensuring that buyers and consumers will get the same plant or seed time and again.
After a strain is crossed, a breeder will then have to select which phenotype of the new strain they like best. For large-scale growers, they want to choose the best phenotype for mass production.
Back to the Super Lemon Haze example: This strain takes a lot of its bud structure, trichome and resin production, and overall appearance from Super Silver Haze. But it takes its flavors and aromas from Lemon Skunk.
Lemon Skunk also tends to grow extremely tall and has loose buds, whereas Super Silver Haze grows smaller and has denser buds. Through selecting specific phenotypes, a breeder can pick one that has the attributes they want to keep. In this case, a phenotype that has the structure and bud density of Super Silver Haze and the flavors and aromas of Lemon Skunk.
Most likely, there were early phenotypes of Super Lemon Haze that grew tall and loose like Lemon Skunk, or tasted more like Super Silver Haze. But the breeder discarded those phenotypes and keep growing the ones that have the attributes of what we now know is Super Lemon Haze.
High-quality breeding still doesn’t stop there. Once a breeder has crossed a strain and narrowed down a phenotype and finally has the one, they will usually backcross that strain to strengthen its genetics.
Backcrossing is a practice where a breeder will cross-pollinate the new strain with itself or a parent–essentially, inbreeding the strain. This makes the strain more homozygous, and strengthens its genetics and desirable characteristics, and also ensures that those genes continue to pass down from generation to generation.
The hybrid that you bought from the dispensary has gone through months and even years of growing, crossing, and backcrossing, as well as a selection process to pick the best phenotype of that strain.
Breeding is about time and patience. Says Pennington: “To be a breeder, you have to be willing to accept the fact that you won’t have uniformity in the offspring, [you’ll get] lots of ugly ducklings in the hunt for your golden goose. To make seeds that will actually reflect the golden goose takes time, and it takes more than just a one-off cross. Even after you found your golden goose, expect to have to do a whole number of stabilizing backcrosses to reproduce your golden goose in seed form.”