Cannabis Breeding: How Are New Strains Created?

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.

Phenotypes

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.

Backcrossing

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.”

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Project CBD Releases Educational Primer on Cannabinoid-Drug Interactions

New: This report is now available in Spanish and Japanese translations! See bottom of this article for downloads.

Project CBD, a California-based educational non-profit, has published an in-depth primer on Cannabinoid-Drug Interactions for health professionals, patients, and public policy-makers. The 33-page report, summarized below, is available for free download at the bottom of the page.

Drug interactions are a significant consideration in modern medicine. More than half of U.S. adults regularly take prescription meds and at least 75 percent of Americans take at least one over-the-counter drug. Many people, including most seniors (the fastest growing demographic of cannabis users), take multiple drugs, and these compounds can interact and affect the metabolism of each other.

Cannabis is one of the most widely consumed substances in the United States and throughout the world, and a huge number of cannabis users also consume pharmaceutical products. Given the increasing acceptance and prevalence of cannabis as a therapeutic option, it’s important for physicians and patients to understand how various cannabis components, including cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the major phytocannabinoids, may interact with commonly consumed pharmaceuticals.

But pertinent information about cannabinoid-drug interactions is difficult to obtain because of marijuana prohibition and consequent restrictions on clinically relevant research. Hence the need for Project CBD’s primer, which was written not only to help health professionals and patients anticipate and avoid problematic outcomes but also to take advantage of situations where cannabis and pharmaceuticals can act synergistically in a positive way.

A complicated issue

“It’s a complicated issue,” says research chemist Adrian Devitt-Lee, the author of the Project CBD primer. “Although drug interactions are rarely so dangerous as to entirely preclude the use of a medication, they can have serious impacts on a patient’s treatment and wellbeing.”

The Project CBD primer includes a discussion of various “substrates” or drugs that are metabolized by cytochrome P450, a large family of non-specific enzymes that are involved in breaking down an estimated 60 to 80 percent of all pharmaceuticals. Cytochrome P450 enzymes may be inhibited or amplified by CBD, THC and other plant cannabinoids, thereby reducing or prolonging the activity of another drug.

By suppressing or inducing specific cytochrome P450 enzymes, CBD and THC can alter how one metabolizes a wide range of substances. Much depends on the particular substrate involved in the drug interaction. Some pharmaceuticals, known as “prodrugs,” don’t become functional until they are metabolized into an active component. If CBD or THC inhibits the breakdown of a prodrug, the latter will remain inactive – whereas inhibiting the metabolism of a regular drug will result in higher blood levels of the active substance.

Several variables make precise predictions about drug interactions difficult, even for practiced physicians. “It is much easier to assess whether drug interactions are likely than to predict their exact effect,” the Project CBD primer asserts.

The CBD paradox

Thus far, based on observations regarding the widespread use of raw cannabis flower and full-spectrum cannabis oil, it does not appear that there have been many problems because of cannabinoid-drug interactions. The clinical use of Sativex (a 1:1 CBD:THC sublingual tincture) and Marinol (a pure, synthetic THC pill) has resulted in few, if any, reported adverse events attributable specifically to interactions with pharmaceuticals.

To the extent that there have been problematic drug interactions with cannabinoids, these have involved high doses of nearly pure CBD isolates, not cannabis in general. Even though THC is an intoxicant and CBD is not, the fact that people tend to use much higher doses of pure CBD makes it a much riskier player in metabolic drug interactions.

Consider the numbers: Ten milligrams of THC in a cannabis product is a hefty dose for a naive patient and sufficiently psychoactive for the occasional recreational user. Ten mgs of THC combined with an equal amount of CBD in a Sativex tincture hit the analgesic sweet spot in clinical trials. These are moderate doses compared to the amount of single-molecule CBD administered to epileptic children in clinical trials – up to 50 mg per kilogram – with CBD doses as high as 2000 mg not uncommon among patients who obtain CBD isolates from internet storefronts and other unregulated sources.

THC has its own built-in guard rails – consume too much and you’ll know you’ve hit your limit. With CBD, there are no guard rails, no dysphoric feedback loop that says you’ve had enough. CBD is intrinsically safe, but when extracted from the plant and concentrated as an isolate, high doses are necessary for therapeutic efficacy – unlike whole plant CBD-rich extracts, which have a broader therapeutic window and are effective at lower doses than single-molecule CBD.

Drug interactions are much more likely with high dose CBD therapy than other forms of cannabis consumption. Physicians and patients should be concerned about this, given that the current regulatory regime privileges CBD isolates over artisanal, plant-derived, multicomponent formulations.

Mode & sequence of administration

The way cannabinoids are administered (smoking, eating, etc.) also has a major impact on whether or not drug interactions occur. Interactions are far more likely when both drugs are taken orally and processed by the liver before being distributed through the body. Cannabinoids are absorbed more if ingested on a full stomach. Ingested cannabinoids will have higher peak liver concentrations than inhaled cannabinoids, so ingested cannabinoids should have more potent drug interactions.

The Project CBD primer notes that the sequence as well as the route of administering cannabidiol can influence how another drug is metabolized. One study disclosed that CBD has a stronger inhibitory impact on a particular cytochrome P450 enzyme if it’s administered 20 minutes before the second drug.

CBD also interacts with THC. By taking CBD and THC together, individuals may find that the effects of THC are tempered but prolonged slightly. It is known that 11-OH-THC, a THC breakdown component, is more potent than THC at the CB1 cannabinoid receptor, which mediates psychoactivity. 11-COOH-THC, another THC metabolite, has anti-inflammatory effects without causing a high.

Some people can hardly tolerate any THC. The wide range of reactions to THC-rich cannabis may be influenced by genetic factors. A common polymorphism (or variant) of a gene that encodes a particular cytochrome P450 enzyme alters how one metabolizes THC so it breaks down more slowly and stays active longer, resulting in hypersensitivity to THC’s psychoactive effects.

That may be one of the reasons why some people find THC-rich cannabis to be unpleasant, while hundreds of millions smoke it to relax. This genetic variant exists among 20% in European & Middle Eastern populations, meaning one in five Caucasians are THC-averse. Less than 10% of Africans have this genetic variant and among Asians it’s less than 5%.

Positive synergies

Other noteworthy findings in the Project CBD primer:

  • THC v. lung cancer. When cannabis is smoked, cytochrome P450 enzymes in the lungs convert inhaled ash into potent carcinogens, including highly toxic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). But THC may protect against lung cancer by inhibiting the same metabolic enzymes that PAHs induce.
  • Cannabinoid-opiate interactions. Supplementing an opioid-based pain-management regimen with cannabis could result in lower doses of opioids required for adequate analgesia. Lower doses of opioids will reduce the number of overdose deaths. This is an example of a potentially beneficial cannabinoid-drug interaction.
  • CBD, THC & chemotherapy. Limited preclinical research indicates that administering CBD and/or THC in conjunction with first-line chemotherapy drugs could potentiate the latter, thereby reducing the dosage of highly toxic chemo necessary to treat the cancer. If this translates to human experience, it would be a huge benefit. But if pure CBD delays chemo metabolism, dangerously high levels of a toxic drug could accumulate unless the dose of chemotherapy is reduced and properly managed. The fact that cannabinoids make radiation and chemotherapy both more tolerable and seemingly more effective is an area worth studying.
  • Blood thinners. Both THC and CBD delay the metabolism of warfarin, a widely prescribed blood thinner. Mis-dosing warfarin causes tens of thousands of ER visits every year because of excessive bleeding. The Project CBD primer reviews a recent case study as an example of how physicians can successfully adjust the dose of warfarin for a patient who is also taking a CBD isolate.

Research barriers

The information presented in the Project CBD primer is intended to help doctors and patients understand if and when drug interactions with cannabis or cannabinoids are likely. “It is not meant to stoke fears about drug interactions or add to decades of ill-advised, anti-marijuana hysteria,” the author emphasizes.

How dangerous are cannabinoid-drug interactions? As dangerous as mis-dosing the other drug(s) that a patient is taking. Problems are more likely to arise when a patient combines a high dose of an otherwise benign CBD isolate with a pharmaceutical that has a very narrow window between its therapeutic and toxic levels.

In GW Pharmaceuticals’ clinical trials of Epidiolex, an almost pure CBD compound, there were potentially dangerous interactions with Clobazam, an anti-epilpetic drug, which necessitated a dosage adjustment of the latter. The FDA recently approved Epidiolex as a medication for children with refractory seizure disorders. And the DEA classified Epidiolex as a schedule V substance in September 2018.

Epidiolex would surely command a lot of “off label” attention if not for the potent price tag. And just as surely a huge unregulated market for hemp-derived CBD isolates will continue to flourish in a tenuous legal environment. An already massive consumer demand for CBD products has far outpaced the gathering of clinical data on cannabinoid interactions with pharmaceuticals for pain, cancer, autism, heart disease and many other chronic ailments.

The longstanding barrier to requisite research is the Schedule I status of cannabis, a category reserved for dangerous substances with no medical value, according to federal law. But the paucity of federally sanctioned clinical research, a consequence of cannabis prohibition, should not be an excuse for physicians or patients to shun nonlethal cannabinoid therapies, which show promise for a wide range of conditions.

Project CBD hopes that “as cannabis therapeutics continues to gain acceptance among physicians and patients, adequate resources will become available for clinical studies involving drug interactions with CBD, THC and other plant cannabinoids.”

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Dr. Ethan Russo: CBD, the Entourage Effect and the Microbiome

Project CBD: I’m Martin Lee with Project CBD, and this is another edition of Cannabis Conversations. Today, we’re very pleased to have Dr. Ethan Russo come back in the studio with us. Dr. Ethan Russo is a neurologist, a scientist, widely published author in many peer-reviewed journals and currently a director of research and development for the International Cannabis and Cannabinoid Institute, which is located in Prague, in the Czech Republic. Thanks for joining us, Ethan.

Russo: It’s a pleasure to be here.

Project CBD: Ethan, there’s been an explosion of interest in CBD lately. Explain what the excitement is about. What is CBD?

Russo: Well, first of all, this has been long in coming. For probably 40 years now the real concentration in breeding has been toward THC, the main psychoactive ingredient of cannabis. Unfortunately, a lot of that is a by-production of prohibition. The market was driven by people in the recreational sphere that were looking for escape or sometimes medical use. In the process, a lot of the benefit of cannabis was lost genetically because customarily, in many parts of the world where cannabis was grown, it was typically a plant that had equal amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol – the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis – and cannabidiol.

So what is cannabidiol? Cannabidiol is frequently mischaracterized as being non-psychoactive. Rather, it is psychoactive. It is an anti-anxiety agent, and anti-psychotic agent. But it also complements a great number of the effects of THC, in that both are analgesics, painkillers, both are anti-inflammatory, and because cannabidiol has this ability to counteract some of the prominent side effects of THC it’s a very valuable thing to have in any cannabis preparation – whether it’s predominant or in conjunction with THC. It is a very versatile compound. It has a lot of effects. But unlike most drugs that have multiple effects, in this instance it’s very hard to pick out any particular side effect of CBD that’s problematic. The only thing that we can really point to is that in extreme doses, when it’s used in isolation, it can produce some drug-drug interactions such as producing sedation with drugs like Clobazam that are used to treat severe seizure disorders. But, on its own, it does not product anxiety – rather treats it. It’s really hard to come up with a significant side effect that we need to warn people about. Of course, it depends on the preparation, and other ingredients may be prone to side effects, so we have to be careful in that regard.

Project CBD: You refer to both THC (the high causer, so to speak) and CBD in the same breath. That suggests that they work together in some way. There’s this phrase, “the entourage effect” or “ensemble effect,” explain what that is in terms of the cannabis plant.

Russo: So, cannabis is a botanical. This is a way of saying that it’s a plant-based medicine. And, although the thrust of pharmaceutical development for decades has been on single molecules, often synthetic, this is the more common concept in medicine historically. What I mean is, traditionally people have used plant drugs to treat their problems. It’s only been in the last 75 years there’s been this shift toward synthetics. So, a botanical doesn’t rely on one compound to produce the beneficial effects. Rather there may be many – and that’s certainly the case in cannabis where we know that there are actually over 100 related molecules, we call cannabinoids, but in addition there are aromatic compounds, the same things that you’d find in lemon and pine needles called terpenoids that alter the effects of the cannabinoids in a way that often is synergistic. Synergy is a boosting of effect. So, it would be the idea that 2 + 2, instead to equaling 4, it gives you an 8 in terms of the benefit. So, for example, as we’ve mentioned, cannabidiol treats pain. But there are other ingredients in cannabis that also treat pain or may limit the side effects of other components and so it is sort of like an ensemble of musical instruments where you might think if THC as the soloist with an important part provided by cannabidiol, but you also have these other components producing a harmony that really increases the overall effect and makes hopefully the best possible medicine.

Project CBD: And you referred to pain: we are in the midst of a painkiller epidemic really. It’s well known now we have many overdoses due to addiction to opioids. Maybe you could talk a little bit about that in terms of what cannabis might bring to the table in terms of addressing this crisis.

Russo: This is an absolute medical crisis in that 72,000 Americans died of opioid-related overdoses in 2017. We have known – and this may come as a surprise to almost everyone – it’s been known for 150 years that cannabis is capable of acting in concert with opioids to treat pain and allowing what’s called “opioid sparing.” This means a lower dose producing the same or better level of pain control. Additionally, it was observed in the 19th century that cannabis could treat withdrawal symptoms from opioids and other addictive drugs, reduce craving, and allow people to get off of them entirely. The same thing has been observed for decades in people who have used cannabis medicinally. But, again, until recently that was primarily with THC predominant cannabis, which did work in this regard. But the real missing ingredient until say the last decade has been cannabidiol. Because cannabidiol on its own acts as an anti-addictive substance. It actually works on an area of the brain called the insula that reduces craving. Particularly in combination with THC, we’ve seen a really amazing response in patients to reduce their opioid doses and often get off of opioids that they may have used chronically. Additionally, there’s another component in cannabis, a terpenoid called caryophyllene, that also is anti-addictive through a totally different mechanism than CBD. It’s working on another receptor called the CB2 receptor that’s involved in addiction. So, a preparation that had THC, CBD, and caryophyllene may be an ideal way of dealing with chronic pain and particularly people who are addicted to opioids.

Project CBD: You mentioned CB2 receptor – you’re referring to a cannabinoid receptor which is part of something we refer to as the endocannabinoid system. Could you basically define that or describe what that is, and why it’s important.

Russo: So, we have this thing in our bodies and all mammals and a lot of lower animals, anything that has a spinal cord basically, has an endocannabinoid system. This came about through research on cannabis and specifically THC. So in 1998 it was discovered that there were endogenous cannabinoids; the first one was called anandamide (“Ananda” in Sanskrit means bliss), then a couple of years later it was observed that there was a cannabinoid receptor that was named CB1 (cannabinoid 1). Very shortly thereafter, a second receptor – a non-psychoactive receptor – called CB2 was discovered that is involved in inflammatory responses, pain control, and limiting fibrosis (the buildup of scar tissue in the body). So, THC works on CB1 and CB2. Caryophyllene works just on CB2 with no effect on CB1. Certainly, with adequate amounts of it, it has this ability to treat pain, inflammation, and addiction, without producing any unwanted psychoactive side effects. And when I say that, I mean anxiety, paranoia, the things that we associate with a situation where someone has too much THC.

Project CBD: What about CBD? Does it also bind or activate these receptors that you refer to? Or how does it work?

Russo: Well that’s really interesting – a little complicated. CBD does not bind directly to the regular sites on either CB1 or CB2. On CB1 it does bind to another site called the allosteric site (“allo” means other). When it does bind to these allosteric receptors it produces what’s called a negative modulation. Functionally what this means is when CBD is present it’s a little harder for THC to bind to the CB1 receptor. Now that really would make it sound like it’s going to interfere with the benefits of THC on pain and other conditions, but that’s not what we see. What we see, though, when CBD is combined with THC is a blunting of the peak high. If someone smoked material with both THC and CBD, they’re not going to get quite as high if they would with THC alone. But, much more importantly, the effect is prolonged. In medical settings, this is very important because it allows people to, say, dose with an oral preparation, perhaps two or three times a day, as opposed to smoking medicine where they might have to utilize it every two to three hours because of a higher peak and – peaks and valleys of activity – rather than a smoother contour of effect, which is much preferable in a medical setting.

Project CBD: I have lots of questions I’d love to ask, but I think we have time for one more. I believe in the Ayurvedic Indian medical tradition, and traditional Chinese medicine, there’s an emphasis on the gut. The idea that health is rooted in the gut. And we hear a lot these days, the buzzword about the microbiome, the bacteria beneficial or otherwise, in the gut and the role that that plays in terms of health. Does the endocannabinoid system play into this at all? And if so, how?

Russo: Well, yes it does in a very important way. There’s been some very interesting work done recently that shows that the microbiome, which is a collection of natural bacterium in the gut, has a great deal to do with our health overall. Whether someone has problems with inflammation or not, it provides neurotransmitters that go to the brain, effects our moods in a very key way, it’s very involved in autoimmune diseases. What it was found is that THC actually stimulates production of some of the more beneficial bacterium and suppresses the disease-causing bacteria like clostridia that produces severe diarrhea syndrome.

Project CBD: That’s THC in particular does that.

Project CBD: And CBD? Do they know how it plays into it?

Russo: We’ve got a little less knowledge. And yet, however, there seems to be a key role for the microbiome, or gut bacteria, in endocannabinoid tone. Endocannabinoid tone is a function of how many receptors, say CB1 receptors, are active in the brain. The amount of the endocannabinoids like anandamide and 2-Arachidonoylglycerol, and also the function of the enzymes that make these substances and break them down. So, it’s a very important concept. We can define it – right now we don’t have good methods of measuring it. We can do serum levels of endocannabinoids in the blood, but it might not reflect what’s going on in the brain. And today, I’m afraid we don’t have a scan of the brain yet to show the activity of the receptors. But these are research projects that hopefully are going to give us better diagnostics in the future.

Project CBD: The implication is that – and maybe it’s too obvious we don’t have to say it – but our diet is key to our health, and that the endocannabinoid system mediates that whether for good or ill in some way.

Russo: That’s absolutely right. And this is one of the reasons you see a lot of emphasis now, people may see ads on TV for what are called probiotics. This is a way of taking a supplement by mouth that’s going to provide, hopefully, more of these beneficial bacteria. But those beneficial bacteria need something to eat, and it isn’t always what we have in the American diet. The American diet, I’m afraid, with a lot of fried food and carbohydrates upsets the balance of the bacteria in the gut and favors the production of inflammation. If, however, people are eating certain foods called prebiotics, they tend to be non-digestible fibers. This is what the beneficial bacteria really like. And when they’re functioning well, we have good evidence now, it’s going to increase the endocannabinoid tone and really contribute to overall health.

Project CBD: I think that’s good food for thought. I want to thank you Dr. Russo, you’ve been a great educator for our community and when we appreciate it very much. It’s been another edition of Cannabis Conversations, hopefully we’ll do more with you in the future.

Russo: Thank you.

Dr. Ethan Russo can be contacted at www.icci.science.

Copyright, Project CBD. May not be reprinted without permission.

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I Found a Seed in My Bag of Cannabis. Can I Grow It?

You just picked up a new strain that you’ve been waiting to try. The moment you get home, you rip into the package and take in its smell. When you dive in deeper, you spot something buried within the bud. It’s small, round, and has an outer casing.

Congratulations, you’ve found a seed. More specifically a bagseed, as the seeds found in packaged or bagged flower are commonly called.

Maybe congratulations aren’t quite in order. Depending on where it came from, who you ask, and if the seed is viable or not will affect your level of excitement.

While finding a seed in your stash is not ideal for truly exceptional flower and much less common than it once was, it is a pretty ordinary occurrence. Anyone who has been smoking cannabis for some time has undoubtedly come across a bagseed. Sometimes you’ll notice one when grinding down some flower or you’ll see it pop, spark, and crackle as the heat of your lit bowl pops the precious kernel within.

Ok, so you found a bagseed. Now what?

Is Bagseed Good or Bad?

Seeds found in finished cannabis flower can develop for a number of reasons. A nearby male plant can accidentally pollinate a flowering female. More commonly, though, they’re a sign of stress and can be attributed to high temperatures during the final stages of flowering or an exaggerated spike in climate or environment.

Seeds can also form in plants with genetic disorders or instability, like hermaphrodites–plants that develop both male and female reproductive parts. Generally these conditions are viewed as negatives, and for that reason alone, temper your expectations with any plants you start from a bagseed.

If found before lighting it on fire, the first thought from excited smokers is: “Let’s grow some weed!” But before you jump in headfirst, ask yourself a few questions to help decide if it’s worth the time and energy to grow the seed.

Was the Seed Found in Good Cannabis?

The first and most apparent question you should ask yourself is whether you enjoy the cannabis that the seed turned up in. If you don’t like the flavor, effects, or even the looks of the bud, then it’s probably not worth growing.

Strains like the legendary Chemdog wouldn’t be possible without adventurous smokers planting and proliferating the seeds they found in a bag.

Sometimes you’ll get lucky and find a mature seed in some really nice herb. Strains like the legendary Chemdog wouldn’t be possible without adventurous smokers planting and proliferating the seeds they found in a bag of kind bud.

So don’t discount your bud just because there’s a seed or two in it. While not ideal, it could be the origins of the next great cannabis strain.

Are You Ready to Grow?

Growing cannabis takes a certain level of commitment. Plants need nurturing for months in the right environment with a close eye for detail. All this takes investment. Whether it’s time, energy, or financial resources, you’ll have to commit to the whole process if you want to produce something you’re proud of.

Fear not! If you’re simply curious to learn how cannabis grows and less concerned with the overall outcome, you can plant a couple of bagseeds outside and see what the result are.

If you’re ready for a more serious approach, make sure you have the space for a proper garden and pop the seeds to see what fruit they bear. That is, if the seeds you found are viable.

Is the Seed Viable?

If you like the strain and you’re ready to grow, then it comes down to whether or not the seed is viable, or able to successfully germinate. For a seed to be viable, it must be mature enough to have a completely formed genetic blueprint and it must be strong enough to “pop” through its hard casing and sprout its crucial tap root.

Immature seeds tend to be light in color and have a soft outer shell.

Stress on a plant and unstable environments can produce bagseeds, and often, a bagseed’s viability is questionable at best.

There are a few indicators that will give you a sense of whether the seed is worth germinating. Immature seeds tend to be light in color and have a soft outer shell.

Visual signs like tiger stripes–dark stripes that resemble tiny roots or veins on a leaf–are generally good. A seed with a solid shell will withstand a little pressure when pinched between your fingers. If it crumbles or cracks, the seed will be effectively destroyed, but don’t agonize over your loss.

In some cases, even if a seed isn’t completely mature, there’s still a chance it could be viable. But often these are extremely weak, take long to develop, and express other unfavorable characteristics. Growers usually discard weak plants to free up space in their limited gardens.

However, I’ve watched seeds that I had zero faith in their ability to germinate turn into strong, healthy plants–but that isn’t common.

You might also find a mature seed that has been physically damaged through poor handling, like rough trimming. In those cases, it probably isn’t worth the effort to try and germinate the seed.

But if the seeds you found look decent or even questionable, you might as well germinate them and see what sprouts.

Time to Germinate

Viable or not, there’s only one sure way to find out. Once you’ve decided you’re going to see what those beans can do, it’s time to germinate. Germination is the incubation period that encourages seeds to sprout and develop into a new plant.

There are a number of different ways you can germinate cannabis seeds, but they all require the same things to be successful: water, heat, and air. For a complete, step-by-step guide, check out our article How to Germinate Cannabis Seeds.

Even if your seed sprouts fast and grows vigorously, it has roughly a 50/50 chance of being female and producing seedless, cannabinoid-rich flowers.

Remember, once a seed germinates, the real work begins. Sexing, selecting, vegetative growth, flowering, and the eventual harvest all lie ahead.

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Welcome to the Country’s First Cannabis Speakeasy

As diverse a group as we are, it’s safe to say that almost all cannabis smokers have a common dream: to see cannabis integrated into the public spaces of our everyday lives. And while a few states like Oregon are currently leading the way when it comes to offering space for cannabis public consumption, it surprises no one that Nevada’s already broken through the glass ceiling.

Having legalized cannabis on July 1st, 2017, the state has already generated $55.53 million in tax collections since recreational sales began. It’s also the home of the biggest dispensary in the world (the 112,000 square foot Planet 13) and is now also home to the world’s first cannabis “speakeasy.”

“When we decided to create this experience in our dispensary, we wanted to offer a safe and comfortable place for consumers to learn about product offerings.”

Ed Bernstein, Co-founder of Las Vegas ReLeaf

Named Dana’s Place, it sits snugly inside the Las Vegas ReLeaf Dispensary–500 feet off the Strip. The story behind the name is sure to tug a heartstring or two: Named for the late Dana Bernstein, the daughter of Las Vegas ReLeaf co-founder Ed Bernstein, who succumbed to a lifelong struggle with Crohn’s disease in 2017.

“Dana was an inspiration for us when we first opened Las Vegas ReLeaf. She found comfort in medical cannabis, as it eased her painful symptoms,” said Ed. “When we decided to create this experience in our dispensary, we wanted to offer a safe and comfortable place for consumers to learn about product offerings. And naming the space after Dana was a natural way for her legacy to live on.”

Having only just opened on December 10th, the speakeasy is small but cozy. It straddles the area between reception and sales floor, looking like a friendly bar in every respect. A tap handle pours out Cannabiniers’ Two Roots beers, with several brews (IPA, blonde, lager, wheat) available.

Each “beer” contains less than 0.5% of alcohol, with 5mg of THC per can. Individual cans are priced at $8, with a 6-pack going for $37-40 after tax. It’s the first of several Cannabiniers tasting bars that’ll crop up throughout dispensaries across the country, all of which will showcase the Two Roots Brewing line.

(Courtesy of Dana’s Place)

The beers themselves taste more or less identical to their non-infused counterparts. That’s probably because the beers are imported from California and infused with THC on-site, ensuring consistency in every beer. A few shelves hold other cannabis merch, including Just Society cold brew coffees and BASKiN health and beauty products, with the hopes of adding on other items like the Creative Waters Beverage Company “mocktails” at a later point in time.

It’s a promising step forward in the fight for public consumption, one I hope other states will be inspired by. Grabbing a cannabis beer before sauntering over to the counter for a joint is definitely the best way to spend an evening in Vegas.

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This is a demo store for testing purposes — no orders shall be fulfilled. Dismiss