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Cannabis

BC Bud Depot and the Collective Cannabis Consciousness

Matt Harvey from BC Bud Depot on genetics, Canada’s path to legalization, and why human connection is an integral part of the plant’s vitality.

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BC Bud Depot
Dense frosty trichomes cover the BC God Bud. PHOTOS | BC Bud Depot
Rocket Seeds

Based in British Columbia, Canada, award-winning seeds producer BC Bud Depot has been collecting elite cannabis strains for over 25 years. They have received over 21 Cannabis Cup awards, including seven first-place awards, nine top strain awards, six top three strain awards and an induction to the Seed Bank Hall of Fame in 2009.

Their genetics vault contains over two hundred unique strains, including the cultivar that put Canada on the map: the feminized version of the BC God Bud, whose dense and heavy crystal-coated nuggets make for an out-of-body experience.

Master grower Matt Harvey is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of BC Bud Depot. We spoke exclusively to Harvey about genetics, Canada’s path to legalization, and why human connection is an integral part of the cannabis plant’s vitality.

Cannabis Aficionado: How did you get interested in breeding as opposed to growing flower?

Matt Harvey: Back in the late 1990s in BC, not many people were breeding in a serious way, or at least not with the intention of sharing their work outside of their tight-knit grow communities. Breeding in those days was mostly directed at increasing potency and yield, and shortening flowering times for an early harvest. Some really nice flower was hitting the market, but BC breeders were generally more interested in keeping their strains proprietary rather than distributing their genetics worldwide. The reputation and demand for BC-bred genetics was growing, so we stepped up to the plate and the rest became history in the making.

Growing top quality flower is part of the breeding process, and you can’t breed properly without also growing flower. How the flower is received by connoisseurs, in both taste and effects, is a key data set that informs our breeding processes. It’s also necessary to grow seedless flower to test peak cannabinoid production potential.

What makes a great seed better than a good seed?

For home gardeners and professionals alike, a great seed will pop a vigorous sprout, and a strong start to life is an important factor in achieving maximum growth potential, yield, and flavor. With a great seed, you know what to expect in the mature plant, since its genetics will be fully expressed and stable.

Every once in a while though, a great seed will grow a bit differently than what you’d expect and expresses a natural mutation that can open up a new trajectory into a breeding program, such as exhibiting ultra-high levels of a newly discovered cannabinoid or terpene. This recently happened with a Sweet God plant mutating to produce a staggeringly high CBG content.

Great seeds are always the most vigorous, and generally the most predictable, but occasionally the greatest seeds can be the most unpredictable of all.

BCBD’s The Big (G13 x Butterscotch Hawaiian) grows big in Israel.

How do you qualify genetics?

Genetics need to exhibit certain qualities in order to enter and to exit a breeding program. When elite cuts [clones] are used to start a breeding program, in cases where seeds are not available, it’s important to pollinate them with a well-known and stable male plant and to grow out a variety trial to see how stable the female genetics are.

There are so many poly-hybrids being grown these days — some of which produce amazing flower — but if their progeny is all over the map, it’s going to be harder to breed a stable strain; you’re more likely to achieve better results breeding with more stable parents. Sometimes it is absolutely worth it and sometimes it is not. It all depends on your goals and what you are setting out to achieve.

Cold storage tissue culture and genome sequencing are giving us new tools to pinpoint the qualifying factors that we breed for, and with more information and accurate data we can learn which genes express what, and apply this new knowledge to achieve our breeding goals.

Is there an interest in landrace strains?

Yes, and there always should be. I’m actually doing this interview from Colombia where there are some famous landrace strains, one of them being the Santa Marta Gold, which we are very excited to breed with.

Crossing a landrace with a known cultivar can produce amazing results. Since we’re discovering new cannabinoids all the time, and landraces can have exceptionally high levels of certain cannabinoids and terpenes, it’s important that we preserve them and their habitat. It’s like preserving the rainforest because it’s full of biological treasure that we haven’t even discovered yet. Too much inbreeding with cultivars can lead to an amalgamated gene pool, which is not very desirable.

Just like blue-blood families need to outbreed with barbarian genetics every so often to maintain their biological viability and vigor, so does cannabis. Mother Nature should always play a role in the breeding process, which we sometimes forget in our scientific age.

A cup full of the God.

What are the current strain trends that you are seeing?

We’re pleased to see that the kush craze seems to have passed. While there will always be a place for kush, it’s great to see things trending towards more interest in exotic fruit flavors, with more of an emphasis on terpene profile. Watermelon, cherry, peach, sours, and ice creams are all exotic terpene profiles with more rewarding qualities to breed for than just yield and THC potency. It is actually where the greater part of our interest has been since we started breeding. We are not surprised to see this trend, as cannabis connoisseurs worldwide develop more discerning palates.

While we still breed for cannabinoid ratios, and are inspired by all the new discoveries of the benefits of obscure cannabinoids like CBG, achieving these breeding goals relies more on lab data and strict variety trials, whereas the artistry of breeding is in teasing out new exotic terpene profiles; this is what makes our job fun.

Who is your favorite breeder/seed company other than yourself?

We are very impressed with the work of our homie Kasper at Kre8 Genetics, and are ecstatic to be working and collaborating with him after meeting at the San Bernardino Cup many years ago. Scott from Rare Dankness is also coming out with some great work these days. Of course, so much of our gratitude goes to all of the old school pioneers, breeders like our friend Soma, who have played such a key role in sending us on this journey.

What do you see as the most exciting thing happening in seed production and breeding?

We are all learning so much about the healing potential of cannabis these days. As we discover new cannabinoids and their medical applications, it’s very exciting to consider the positive potential that they can have for the world and our collective health.

It’s exciting to see new strains coming out with high levels of all these other little-known cannabinoids. When we see these random genetic mutations that yield astonishingly high levels of newly discovered cannabinoids, it confirms our long-held belief that cannabis has a collective consciousness that is in communication with us as people and wants to provide us with medicine.

Another great new development is high-tech genetic sequencing and cataloging, which promises to clarify our understanding of the cannabis gene pool, and provides us with useful data to inform our breeding programs.

The Black is a heavy hitting narcotic indica.

Are there any seeds you wish you had?

We’re always open to cataloging new seeds in our vault but at this point in time we have so much in the way of new genetics to work with, and with our breeding facilities at full capacity, we’re not in a place to be wishing for any new genetic stock.

I suppose, though, there’s always some unique old strains that would be great to work with, though unfortunately, we don’t expect to see them again. I’ll give a shout-out to the Legends Ultimate Indica circa 2002 — that would be a fun surprise.

Do you have a favorite cultivar to grow?

The BC God Bud will always be my personal favorite. Her pink pistils and fragrance are so familiar and dear to me. I’m sure a lot of veteran growers out there can relate to the way a favorite strain, cultivated lovingly for years upon years, becomes like an inseparable lifelong companion.

How many different seeds are in your inventory?

We offer over 120 elite strains bred by ourselves and other breeders. Our extensive vault of genetic breeding stock, collected over 25 years, houses thousands of different seeds in hundreds of different varieties.

Ladybugs protect the Black Goddess.

What’s something you are often asked that is a misconception about growing cannabis?

The largest, glaring misconception that I see in the cannabis world today is the assumption that high-quality flowers can be grown on an industrial scale, using industrial farming methods. I mean, it can be grown on a massive scale, but not well. Cannabis thrives with a gardener’s touch and loving attention, and the element of human connection is, in my experience, an integral part of the plant’s vitality.

If you could give one tip to beginners, what would it be? What about other professionals?

For beginners, I would suggest growing organic in the best soil you can make, and to avoid the use of fertilizer salts. Connect with and talk to your plants; grow with them and meditate on their health and vitality. Know that your plants are aware of your presence and resonate with them on a vibrational level.

For professionals, never cut corners, and stay connected with your plants even if it means longer work hours. Keep your fundamentals sound and keep experimenting while logging all of your data.

How has demand changed over the years?

The demand for new genetics is constant, and every year there are more and more people wanting to grow BC Bud Depot genetics in their gardens, for the joy of it more than for any other reason. People start growing, fall in love with the process and become interested in growing new and exotic cultivars. Seasoned and veteran growers find their elite strains and comfort levels. Legalization has accelerated this trend, and even more people are experiencing the joy of cultivating their own cannabis.

The award-winning BC God Bud in all of her glory.

Which BC Bud Depot strains are most popular?

BC God Bud still remains our most popular strain, 15 years after it was released for the world to enjoy. Other classics like Original Blueberry, The Purps, and Girl Scout Cookies are still very popular. The Tangie Cookies and Animal Cookies are growing in popularity. We expect that the soon to be released Wedding Cake will be a hit!

Which BC Bud Depot strains are your favorites?

Every strain in the catalog is a favorite. There are dozens upon dozens more that haven’t quite achieved favorite status, so they’re not in the catalog and stay in the vault, or are works in progress for now. We are always working on developing new elite strains.

How has cannabis legalization in Canada affected your business?

It’s created an environment in which we can make new partnerships out in the open, and have access to resources that were previously unavailable to us, such as genome sequencing. There are a lot of very bright people entering the industry now; that the stigma and legal liability are things of the past. It allows us to operate how we have always wanted to throughout those dark years of prohibition. It has been an overall positive transition, with many new opportunities and relationships among professionals and the general public, now that we can all work out in the open. Legalization has shone a bright spotlight upon us and the industry, which allows us to share the benefits of our unparalleled cannabis genetics with even more people.

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Cannabis

Why Independent Third-Party Cannabis Testing Is Important

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Cannabis Testing
PHOTO | HQUALITY

During cultivation, the cannabis plant acts like a sponge. It absorbs everything it is exposed to, from pesticides, nutrients, and heavy metals present in the soil. For these reasons, it is essential that reputable and reliable third-party labs carry out cannabis testing to assure safety and efficacy of the product.

Lab testing of cannabis products is an essential part of the regulated market’s supply chain. It detects offensive chemicals or contaminants that can lead to adverse health effects when consumed, while additionally providing cultivators and retailers with efficacious cannabinoid and terpene profiles of legal cannabis products. 

In Canada’s regulated market, batch release quality control testing is required for potency and product safety, so it is necessary to measure substances like pesticides, mycotoxins, bacteria, and molds. Unfortunately, reports on potency and contaminants can vary from lab to lab, while recalls of contaminated products threaten consumer trust of legal products. 

Sigma Analytical Services is a full-service pesticide, elemental, molecular, genetic, and pathogen analysis laboratory for cannabis, hemp, and cannabis-derived products. It delivers reliable science for cannabis products to the cannabis industry and cannabis consumers.

Cannabis Aficionado spoke with Ashton Abrahams, co-founder and COO of Sigma Analytical Services, to learn more about the importance of cannabis testing and Sigma’s strict processes.

Cannabis Aficionado: Tell me about your entrepreneurial journey to cannabis.

I’m a serial entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience in starting and growing several successful ventures. In 2017, when Canada was in the process of legalizing cannabis, my partner and I saw an opportunity to focus on a different side of the new cannabis industry — ancillary testing and quality reassurance requirements. We knew there would be new products in the market, and they would all require testing. So, we started a testing lab that focused on cannabis and cannabis products, and this is how Sigma started.

What sets Sigma apart from other testing labs?

We want to ensure products available in this new market are efficacious and safe, and ensure the levels of both remain consistent. Sigma is the only GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) certified, cannabis-focused lab in Canada and the only cannabis-focused lab with cross-continental operations. We developed and validated our methods back in 2018 and 2019, so we are the frontrunner in Cannabis 2.0 product testing and are set up to test a comprehensive list of cannabis products — including flower, edibles, beverages, and topicals. 

Sigma also has validated methods for quantifying and testing 16 cannabinoids and 43 terpenes — one of the highest in the market — and our analytical and microbiology tests are compliant with Health Canada, EU, and US Pharmacopeia.

Additionally, Sigma was awarded the Best Cannabis Lab/Testing Facility in Canada at the Grow Up 2019 awards.

Inside Sigma Analytical Services’ state-of-the-art lab.

What need does Sigma fill in the global cannabis industry?

Sigma brings reliable science that is already available in food and pharma to the cannabis industry, its products, and consumers.

Cannabis, food, and pharma share certain quality requirements. However, there is a big difference: in terms of quality assurance, food and pharma have decades of testing experience, while cannabis is a new industry, and the science is still being developed. 

What kind of samples do you test?

We have developed and validated testing methods for many different types of cannabis products, from traditional dried flower and oils to Cannabis 2.0 products , such as concentrates, beverages, edibles, and topicals. From a testing standpoint, each and every one of these products is different and can have a different matrix. In turn, we develop a testing  method for each one.

What should customers be looking for to see reassurance that a product’s been tested? 

Make sure their products are purchased through legal channels. It’s the regulatory bodies’ responsibility to make sure the products launched in the market are not just tested, but tested specifically by qualified labs.

Moldy cannabis is a problem in legal markets and there are numerous reports of Health Canada product recalls after customers discovered moldy flower. Can you talk to us about how you test for these pathogens?

From day one, instead of using the traditional culture-based method, Sigma has tested for mould and all microbial contamination using a newer technology called qPCR (quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction). When we first started it in late 2018, nobody was familiar with it in the cannabis industry, so we had to take time to explain to our clients that it was a better, more reliable, and faster process. In the last six months, however, we have seen a huge shift in attitude. Not only have the cannabis producers accepted qPCR, but more cannabis labs are starting to use the technology to test for microbial contaminations.

Cannabis Testing
Moldy cannabis. PHOTO | LabRoots

What are some of the most exciting developments in cannabis testing?

Using qPCR for microbial contamination is very new for the cannabis industry. We’re happy and excited about it because we see the benefits and we hope the whole cannabis industry embraces it. 

Secondly, the challenges of formulating, developing, and testing new products. The developments in the past six months have been really promising.

Thirdly, discovering more about the cannabis plant and what ends up in cannabis products is really an exciting development. As we progress, we are sure to learn more about the effects of cannabinoids and terpenes.

What’s your pinnacle vision of cannabis testing?

There are two sides to it. There is a regulatory side, and there is the testing side. On the regulatory side, it’s about what needs to be tested, and how it needs to be tested. 

A very important part of the quality assurance initiative for cannabis is ensuring the testing sample is representative of that batch. There are different factors in place. Is that batch homogeneous or not? Are the characteristics consistent or not? Cannabis is a plant. It’s an agricultural product. It’s not something that’s coming out of a machine, so we cannot expect all of the plants to have exactly the same characteristics. I believe one key is to limit the size of the batch. Other jurisdictions have clearly defined regulations. For example, in California, it clearly states that each batch cannot be larger than fifty pounds. In the Canadian regulations, there is no definition at all.

Secondly, labs need to get more serious. Some labs are testing cannabis products with outdated instruments or unvalidated methods, meaning their results cannot be truly accurate or reliable. Cannabis labs cannot use a 15-year-old second-hand instrument and expect to get the same results as pharmaceutical labs that use the best, most advanced instruments. Some people might think that testing cannabis products is not as important as pharmaceutical products, but it is just as important.

Cannabis has a very complex matrix which requires complex testing methods. Not all labs have good enough or validated methods. However, I’m optimistic that it’s a matter of years, maybe between five to ten, for cannabis testing to get there.

How is Sigma helping to foster the growth of a responsible and safe legal cannabis industry?

I think everyone active in the cannabis industry has a responsibility to make sure they are doing a good job and providing safe and efficacious products to the consumer. That’s because, if the consumer is not happy with what they’re getting from us, it will translate into unhappiness with the whole legalized framework.

Finally, what’s next for Sigma?

We are going through some expansion at our headquarters in Toronto and we’re about to acquire a lab in British Columbia, which will be our second lab in Canada. Additionally, we have a joint venture in Colombia and are setting up the first GMP certified cannabis lab in South America.

We are also becoming more involved with helping develop formulations for new products, and testing them, especially for the producers that follow GMP requirements either in pursuit of higher quality or for international cannabis markets.

We also recently received our GMP clearance from the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (“TGA”). The approval designates Sigma as an approved testing laboratory for Canadian companies to introduce their products into the Australian cannabis market.

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Cannabis

Pink Lemonade: This Sparkling Strain Is Both Pretty & Potent

The frosted pink buds of Pink Lemonade might dazzle the beholder with glittering layer of golden trichomes, but this gorgeous flower isn’t all looks.

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Pink Lemonade
PHOTO | Anna Wilcox

Dusted with a glittering layer of golden trichomes, the Pink Lemonade strain is endowed with a mystical appearance that embodies everything curious, attractive, and intriguing about cannabis flowers. Tightly bound calyxes dazzle with a bouquet of pink, violet, and sage coloration.

Cracking open one of these flowers emits a comfortable herbal aroma. A burst of crispness teases the nose, somewhat akin to the tart fizz in a carbonated cherry drink. This dessert-like aroma nicely compliments a definite happy hour high. Calm, relaxed, and downright chill, Pink Lemonade is a true afternoon delight.

The Pink Lemonade High

Put on some chill beats and pour yourself a nice drink. This plant is smooth, easy, and well-rounded. If inhaling Pink Lemonade feels like the first meaningful breath you’ve taken all day, you might be pleasantly surprised as a subtle relaxation works its way along the limbs and through the muscles.

There’s no doubt about it–this plant is a go-to strain for mellowing out. While often described as thoughtful and creative, the herb is better suited to leisure activities than it is serious concentration.

While solo consumers may enjoy putting on some Netflix after a little of this plant, it’s peaceful and contented nature is ideal for social gatherings. Spending time with friends may always be fun, but it’s easy to sit back enjoy a pleasant conversation after a few tastes of Pink Lemonade.

It’s worth mentioning, however, that cannabis affects everyone differently. The herb tends to be a mood enhancer rather than an instant remedy for happiness. If you are in an easygoing and relaxed environment, expect even more mellow after enjoying a little bud. If you’ve been having a bad day, strains like Pink Lemonade may provide relief by softening negative emotions and making them more tolerable.

Pink Lemonade Strain Background

Today’s cannabis market is truly a craft one. To say that the lack of federal recognition of the herb is problematic is an understatement. However, one benefit of state-by-state legalization is the development of truly local, expertly crafted products.

Pink Lemonade is a superb example of such a flower. There are many renditions of Pink Lemonade out there, yet the particular version pictured is a cross between two contemporary hybrids, Lemon Cheesecake and Huckleberry Soda.

Each parent strain is exceptional in its own right. Lemon Cheesecake is a sativa-dominant flower with a sour cream aroma and substantial THC production. Huckleberry Soda is a craft hybrid from Annunkanki Genetics, an intriguing cross between two hybrids, Black Cherry Soda and Huckleberry Hound.

Pink Lemonade Strain Benefits

As a craft flower, Pink Lemonade was arguably bred more for enjoyment than serious medical potential. It’s frosted pink buds dazzle the beholder, showcasing the fact that this plant is truly a treat. However, this gorgeous flower isn’t all looks.

The flower produces upwards of 25 percent THC. This means that the plant may be useful to those who benefit from high-THC therapies. Those interested in making a full-extract oil, hash, or other forms of concentrates may also enjoy experimenting with this sugary herb.

This plant is not too energizing nor is it overly sedative. However, those hoping for a little extra help falling asleep at night may find the flower helpful. The relaxed flower may also be beneficial for anxious individuals in search of a social lubricant.

However, the high-THC content in Pink Lemonade can inspire the opposite effect in some people. Bottom line: if you are prone to social anxiety or often respond poorly to THC, this potent flower is likely not the best choice.

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Cannabis

Everything You Need to Know If You’re New to Dabbing

Dabbing is an ideal ingestion method best for those that have a high tolerance to cannabis or patients that need a quick, controlled dose of cannabis.

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Dabbing
PHOTO roxxyphotos

Dabbing is an ideal ingestion method best for those that have a high tolerance to cannabis or for medical users that need a quick, concentrated and controlled dose of cannabis. However, it can be confusing, even for long-time pot smokers. In fact, unless you’ve done it, seen it, or read up on it, dabbing can be a total mystery.

Dabbing is a relatively new way to consume cannabis and it is has become very popular in recent years despite rumors that it is dangerous.  It is a highly concentrated experience, with THC at levels much more elevated than most regular flower you would encounter in a joint.  For patients, dabbing can be a very effective way to dose because the effects hit the user very quickly and can typically be measured more easily. For those with a high tolerance for cannabis, dabbing can be a way of feeling the effects of pot with more potency.

Before you can get into dabbing, you need to know a little about cannabis concentrates and extracts. Shatter, budder, wax, crumble, pull and snap, and hash oil are a few of the most popular types of cannabis concentrates and extracts. Extracts and concentrates are named so because they are products of a process where THC and other cannabinoids are extracted from the flower. Sometimes, during the extraction process, a solvent (like alcohol or butane) can be used and other times a solvent is not used. Either way, the final product is a smaller, stickier package that packs a powerful punch.

The Dabbing Process

Keep in mind that nails and domes can get incredibly hot. Like, RED hot, literally. Do not underestimate the heat that can occur — be cautious to prevent any burns.

First, you will need something to dab. We have heard the recommendation more than once to keep away from alcohol-based extracts when dabbing. Consult your budtender about this one, or just skip alcohol based-extracts — your call. There are a lot of concentrates and extracts to choose from, enjoy the hunt for your perfect pick.

Next you need something to dab out of. You can purchase a dab rig or just convert an existing glass water pipe with glass dab attachments. You are also going to need a titanium, ceramic, quartz or electronic nail that fits the glass dab attachment you are using. A typical nail is going to require the use of a dome in order to trap the vapor before it dissipates into the air. A dome can be as simple as a glass piece that fits over the reservoir where the extract or concentrate is vaporizing.

Get your dabber ready. A dabber is a tool that is ceramic, metal, glass, that is used to place the dab, or concentrate/extract, on the super-hot nail.

Lastly, unless you are using an electronic nail or e-mail, you will need a mini torch. Some less patient dabbers will use a full-on, propane-fueled torch in order to more quickly heat their nails — experiment at your own risk. In case the dab is a little overwhelming for you and your body, the safest place for you to be is sitting down to avoid any falls.

Turn on your e-nail OR use your torch to heat your nail until it is red-hot. Allow it cool for at least 10 seconds (for titanium) and up to 45 seconds if you are using ceramic or quartz nail.

Once cooled, use your dabber to place your concentrated dab on the nail. Place the dome over the nail as you inhale. Then, exhale. Victory!

If you weren’t already sitting down, you probably will be now!

Take these words of advice to heart — start small. If you haven’t tried dabbing at all before, don’t make your very first dab a large one. You won’t regret taking a small dab, but you might regret taking one that is too big. Always ask your budtender any questions you have about your purchase and if the product you are buying is the best thing you can buy for dabbing, vaporizing, smoking, etc.

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