Preserving Cannabis Genetics: How to Collect and Store Seeds and Pollen

Sometimes a grower has to move on from a certain strain. Maybe you’ve been growing the same strain for a long time and it no longer makes as much money as it used to, or maybe you just want to mix it up and start growing something else and don’t have the space for it.

It can be bittersweet saying goodbye to old genetics, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. You can take clones or keep a mother plant, but those aren’t ideal because they require a lot of care and maintenance, especially if they aren’t producing flower.

Fortunately, preserving genetics for long-term storage is easy and will save time, money, and space in the long run. Through seed and pollen collection, you can hang onto those genetics that you can’t fully get rid of and safely store them for future use.

The Benefits of Long-Term Storage

Cannabis genetics are often sourced from external companies and organizations such as nurseries and seed banks. For the individual grower, saving seeds and pollen removes this reliance on external companies. This is especially true with pollen, as very few (if any) companies offer pollen to the public.

Saving space is a big reason to consider long-term storage of seeds and pollen. Mother plants lay dormant in a vegetative state and take up lots of space. Maintaining this extra space is time-consuming and takes extra resources like water, soil, nutrients, light, and other costly elements, all for something that doesn’t produce flower. Even keeping clones of an old strain around will take up space and resources.

A grower or breeder can also freeze the progress of a breeding project for months or years without losing any of the long, hard work. Endeavors such as phenotype hunting and maintaining desired mothers for breeding and cloning can all be saved for later through genetic preservation. This process is like backing up work on a hard drive.

How to Collect Seeds

Cannabis is for the most part dioecious, meaning that the male and female reproductive organs exist on two separate plants (although hermaphroditic plants do occur). It is also a wind-pollinated plant, so pollen must be transferred from a male stamen to a female pistil via the air in order for pollination to occur and seeds to form.

A female cannabis plant that has received pollen from a male will produce many seeds over the course of its maturation cycle. Upon senescence, when the female plant is fully mature and ready for harvest, its seeds will be ready for stratification and collection.

To collect seeds, it’s important to wait until they are fully mature and ready for harvest. Cannabis with seeds takes longer to mature than cannabis that only produces flower.

To tell if a seed is mature, take a look at its shape and color. Premature seeds will be small and light in color, taking on a beige hue. Fully mature cannabis seeds are more full in shape and size and have a much darker brown hue, sometimes accented by black tiger stripes.

Deseeding cannabis can be done by hand or machine. This process typically takes place after the plant has been dried for one to two weeks after harvest. This way, seeds will have reached their maximum maturity and plant material will be brittle enough to break apart with minimal effort.

When collecting seed by hand, use a fine screen to help catch trichomes that will break off during the process. This material is valuable and it would be a shame to waste.

To release the seeds, simply break up the dried buds over a screen and they will fall out. You can release the seeds en masse by rubbing the flower between your fingers and lightly breaking it apart.

Separate or sift seeds over the screen to remove any unwanted plant matter from the seeds themselves. Brush off the seeds–they should be completely free of any remaining plant material such as leaves, stem, or trichomes, as these elements put seeds at a higher risk for contamination and spoilage during long-term storage.

Collecting Pollen

Male cannabis plants will produce pollen several weeks into their flowering cycle. Once their pollen sacs have opened up and released, the plant will begin to senesce and eventually die. It is important to collect pollen right as the sacs are beginning to open up, as this is the time pollen is most viable.

The best way to harvest pollen for storage is to remove an entire male flower cluster and place it in a sealed storage container for several days. After the cluster has dried, place it over a micron screen with parchment or wax paper underneath, and give it a light shake. This will allow the pollen to separate from any remaining plant matter and fall through the screen and onto the wax paper.

Moisture is a death sentence for pollen viability. Because of this, many breeders opt to mix flour into their pollen at a ratio of 4:1 (flour to pollen) when storing it long-term. This additional step will help keep pollen dry for a longer period of time.

Seed and Pollen Storage

Long-term storage requirements for seeds and pollen are similar. Both require cool, dark, dry, and oxygen-deprived environments for optimal preservation.

When storing seeds, place them in an air-sealed container that doesn’t have any light leaks. Film canisters, medicine bottles (non-translucent), and any sealable storage jar will work fine. The idea is to reduce the amount of oxygen present in the storage space as much as possible. You can also add uncooked rice to the storage container, which acts as an absorbent, to reduce moisture content.

For a cool environment, store seeds in either the refrigerator or freezer. Seeds need a consistent temperature without fluctuation to remain dormant long-term.

As mentioned above, the best way to reduce moisture in pollen is to mix it with flour. For long-term storage, it can be kept in a sealed vial or freezer bag. You can keep it in the refrigerator or freezer, though for optimal long-term storage, the colder the better.

The Shelf Life of Seeds and Pollen

You can expect cannabis seeds that have been sealed and properly stored to last for several years, and in many cases, longer. Seeds may be dormant, but they are still alive. Over enough time, they will lose their viability.

It’s important to continually practice germination testing to be sure your stored seeds haven’t lost all viability. To test this, periodically plant a seed and document its ability to germinate.

Fresh seeds should have a germination rate close to a 100%, whereas older seeds will see a significant drop off over time in their ability to germinate.

Out in the open, pollen may be viable for one or two weeks under normal conditions. However, when frozen and sealed, it can last up to a year and even longer. Pollen is more unstable than seed and even under the most optimal conditions, it isn’t expected to have as long of a shelf life.

For both seeds and pollen that have been frozen long-term, it’s important to avoid defrosting until they are ready to be used. Fluctuations in temperature and moisture content will quickly destroy their viability, so maintain a steady temperature for as long as possible. Warming and freezing multiple times isn’t good.

When it comes time to use frozen seeds, remove them from their container and let them sit out on a dry surface for several hours. Letting the seeds reach room temperature will help ensure a successful germination.

Pollen should also be placed at room temperature before using. Since pollen can be much messier to handle, it’s best to carefully transfer a sample from its long-term storage container to a fresh container before using it to pollinate a plant. This way, you don’t have to use all of the pollen and saved pollen can go back in the freezer with minimal exposure to warm air.

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Which Terpenes Are Found in ‘Kush’ Cannabis Strains?

In this series, Leafly explores what makes each family of strains unique based on their terpene profiles. A strain “family” refers to a line of hybrids branching from one genetic matriarch that expresses unique and desirable characteristics that breeders seek to build upon. This introductory primer will help you learn a little more about cannabis breeding and strain variability.


The term “Kush” is as familiar with cannabis enthusiasts as “puff, puff, pass.” The word is derived from cannabis that originated in the Hindu Kush mountain range, but culturally, most of us have used it to describe high-grade cannabis.

With there being so many Kush-named strains on the market, we have to wonder: are here notable similarities or differences between them?

To answer this question, we looked at the terpene profiles of four popular THC-dominant Kush strains: OG Kush, Kosher Kush, Kimbo Kush, and Bubba Kush. This composite chemical data was provided by Confidence Analytics, a leading testing lab in Washington.

Click to enlarge.

Terpenes are the aromatic compounds within cannabis that provides its aroma and flavors. When you smell skunk, grape, lemon, berry, or pine–those are the terps talking. It’s believed that terpenes shape the experience of cannabis by interacting with our bodies and other compounds such as THC and CBD.

The average terpene profiles of four Kush strains–overlaid in the graphic above–look similar, suggesting that they may provide similar experiences. But when you break down the data for each individual strain, each has a different story to tell.

OG Kush

Originally bred in Florida, then brought to California to get that real good grow love from Josh D, OG Kush is one of the most influential cannabis strains of all time–although its genetic lineage is murky. According to Josh D, OG Kush is a cross between an unnamed strain from Northern California and a Hindu Kush varietal from Amsterdam. Its aroma features pungent funkiness, hints of lemon, and gassy undertones.

OG Kush expresses abundant amounts of caryophyllene, limonene, and myrcene. These terpenes are believed to relieve stress and anxiety, and promote relaxation in the mind and body. OG Kush also contains a moderate amount of linalool, pinene, and humulene–terpenes which may reinforce this strain’s relaxing effects and offer potential therapeutic benefits like inflammation relief.

At this point, we understand that cannabinoids and terpenes can affect each consumer differently. Personally speaking, OG Kush provides a heavy, yet manageable high. It can put me down if I’m already in a tired or chill state of mine, but the high generally isn’t too sleepy or couchlocking. For other consumers, OG Kush is that knockout punch that’ll send you into Dreamville.

That’s why lab data is important–it helps you understand how different amounts of cannabinoids and terpenes affect you personally.

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Kosher Kush

Click to enlarge.

Kosher Kush is one of the most prolific phenotypes of OG Kush. While a brilliant reflection of OG, Kosher Kush’s terpene profile looks a bit different. While still influenced by linalool, humulene, and pinene, Kosher is clearly dominant in myrcene, followed by limonene and caryophyllene.

Though some find Kosher Kush to carry a sweeter aroma than OG Kush, the two tend to provide similar experiences. It personally leaves me with a body full of feel-good, however some consumers say Kosher Kush provides a ZzzQuil-like experience, especially when consumed in exorbitant amounts.

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Kimbo Kush

Click to enlarge.

Kimbo Kush is a cross between Blackberry Kush and Starfighter. Though not a descendant of OG Kush, Kimbo produces a similar terpene profile to Kosher Kush. Also dominant in myrcene with limonene and caryophyllene trailing behind, Kimbo Kush tends to offer a heavier-than-average experience.

While this strain is influenced by multiple terpenes, myrcene–which is believed to reinforce the potent punch of high-THC strains–is indeed the most abundant.

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Bubba Kush

Out of all of the observed Kush data, Bubba Kush is the biggest outlier in terms of terpene profile. Dominant in caryophyllene and abundant in limonene and humulene, Bubba Kush is the only strain in our dataset that produces lower levels of myrcene.

Bubba Kush is the only strain in our dataset that produces lower levels of myrcene.

Considering most consumers seek Bubba Kush for its relaxing experience, it’s surprising that it contains very little of the terpene that cannabis enthusiasts associate most with the couchlock effect.

Bubba Kush is a perfect example of why you can’t attribute the effects of cannabis to a single terpene. Every terpene affects the perceived experience, and this goes to show how important it is to consider the complete symphony of cannabinoids and terpenes when selecting a strain.

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FDA Commissioner Resigns, Leaving CBD Status Uncertain

Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), resigned on Tuesday, citing a desire to spend more time with his family. He is expected to leave the agency in about a month.

Gottlieb’s presence mattered because he made CBD one of his high-priority issues.

In the cannabis industry, Gottlieb’s departure raises immediate questions about the status of cannabidiol (CBD), the popular, nonintoxicating cannabis component. Congress’ passage of the farm bill in late 2018 seemed to open the door to nationwide CBD legality. But the DEA still considers nonprescribed CBD to be an illegal Schedule I drug, and many legal scholars caution against assuming that CBD is legal just because it’s available in a growing number of mainstream stores.

Gottlieb’s presence mattered because he has made CBD, along with nicotine vaping and opioid abuse, one of his high-priority issues. Just recently, Gottlieb told a congressional committee that the FDA was “deeply focused” on finding an appropriate way to handle CBD.

One Leader Makes a Difference

Gottlieb also said he’d like to work with Congress to find a legislative solution that would allow CBD to be sold in conventional food and dietary supplement stores. The FDA could consider CBD in an agency rulemaking process, Gottlieb said, but that process could be subject to long delays and would not be, in his words, “straightforward.”

“There’s not a good proxy for us doing this through regulation, and if we get comments back and find that this is sufficiently complicated for the agency, we will come back and have a discussion with Congress about how we might be able to work together on this,” Gottlieb said in testimony Feb. 27 before the House Committee on Appropriations. (That testimony was covered by reporter Josh Long at the Natural Products Insider.)

Gottlieb also addressed the CBD question last month at a conference hosted by the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture. Marijuana Moment’s Kyle Jaeger was there to capture this quote about the FDA seeking “possible alternative approaches” to regulating CBD:

“We’re planning to seek broad public input on this pathway, including information on the science and safety behind CBD. But we know that this process could take time,” Gottlieb said. “So we’re also interested in hearing from stakeholders and talking to Congress on possible alternative approaches to make sure that we have an appropriately efficient and predictable regulatory framework for regulating CBD products.”

Actually Competent

Some public health experts and activists took the news of Gottlieb’s departure hard, in part because the former physician and venture capitalist has been considered one of the most competent Trump appointees.

NPR described Gottlieb as “widely viewed as an effective advocate of public health,” and some praised his team’s work cutting tobacco and opioid deaths, lowering teen nicotine use, and reducing the cost of generic drugs.

Others saw the commissioner as a public official who remained too cozy with commercial interests. “We are not sorry to see him go now,” Public Citizen’s Michael Carome told BuzzFeed News, “and [we] hope he is not just replaced by someone else with such deep entanglements with industry.”

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As of 2019, Legal Cannabis Has Created 211,000 Full-Time Jobs in America

As of 2019, Legal Cannabis Has Created 211,000 Full-Time Jobs in America

How many jobs are there in the legal cannabis industry? It’s a common question–and one the government refuses to answer.

Because cannabis remains federally illegal, employment data agencies such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics ignore all jobs related to the industry.

Legal cannabis is the greatest job creation machine in America. Our employment data proves it.

That’s too bad, because they’re missing one of the most dramatic job booms in recent history.

Over the past three months Leafly’s data team, working in partnership with Whitney Economics, has gone state-by-state to tally the total number of direct, full-time jobs in the state-legal cannabis industry.

There are now more than 211,000 cannabis jobs across the United States. More than 64,000 of those jobs were added in 2018. That’s enough people to fill Chicago’s Soldier Field, with 3,000 more tailgating outside.

Legal cannabis is currently the greatest job-creation machine in America. The cannabis workforce increased 21% in 2017. It gained another 44% in 2018. We expect at least another 20% growth in jobs in 2019. That would represent a 110% growth in cannabis jobs in just three years.

Download the Full Report

Special Report: 2019 Cannabis Jobs Count is available only at Leafly. The main report offers a national overview of direct employment as well as indirect positions and jobs induced by the legal cannabis industry. We also offer data about tax revenue in legal states, growth predictions for 2019, salary ranges for the most in-demand cannabis jobs, and tips on getting hired. The report’s appendix offers a state-by-state analysis of market size, growth, and job numbers.

Click to download the full report.

Growth Compared to What?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently compiled a list of the industries with the fastest-growing employment figures. Opportunities for home health care aides are expected to grow 47%. Openings for wind turbine technicians are expected to increase 96%. The need for solar voltaic installers is expected to grow 105%. Those gains are projected to happen over the course of 10 years.

Here’s the incredible thing: The 110% growth in cannabis jobs will have happened over just three years.

Federal job counters won’t tell you that. We just did.

These States Are Booming

Some states that have had legal adult-use cannabis sales for a while now–Colorado and Washington opened their stores in 2014–are just now seeing the growth in cannabis jobs start to plateau.

Meanwhile, newly legal states, such as Florida (medical) and Nevada (adult use), are experiencing cannabis job booms with eye-popping gains:

  • Florida grew its cannabis employment by 703% in 2018, adding more than 9,000 full-time jobs.
  • Nevada added more than 7,500 jobs during that same year.
  • Pennsylvania ended 2017 with around 90 cannabis jobs. It ended the 2018 with nearly 3,900.
  • New York grew its cannabis employment by 278%, ending 2018 with more than 5,000 jobs.

Download the State-by-State Analysis

Click to download Leafly’s state-by-state analysis.

Who’s Hiring in 2019

California, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Florida, and Arkansas are seeking talent–and they need it now.

  • California’s cannabis hiring remained relatively flat in 2018 due to the disruption caused by the changeover from an unregulated medical system to a licensed, regulated markets for medical and adult use. But we expect cannabis jobs in the Golden State to increase by 21% in 2019. In raw numbers, that means 10,261 jobs with good salaries, benefits, and opportunity for advancement are waiting to be filled.
  • In Massachusetts, the state’s adult-use market is just getting underway. We expect more than 9,500 jobs to be added in the next 12 months.
  • Florida should add more than 5,000 jobs in 2019, bringing the state’s total cannabis employment to around 15,000.
  • Oklahoma is the Wild West of cannabis right now. There were zero cannabis jobs one year ago. Now there are 2,107. A year from now, we expect there to be 4,407.
  • Arkansas is just getting its medical marijuana program underway, but there’s room for growth: from 135 jobs now to 960 jobs by the end of the year.

How to Land a Job

All this week, Leafly will roll out a series of articles about working in the cannabis industry: where the growth is, what it’s like to work in the cannabis industry, and how to crush that job interview and bring an offer home.

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