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Researchers Finally Pinpoint Cannabis Chemotypes

In order to distinguish between the genetic markers that separate cannabis varieties, researchers coined the term chemotype.

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Chemotype
PHOTO | Adobe Stock
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Every dedicated cannabis consumer knows intuitively that different strains produce different effects. It is only recently, however, have researchers really begun to understand why. In the 1970s, dedicated herb enthusiasts caught on to the fact that a single molecule is responsible for the famous cannabis “high”, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It wasn’t long before growers began to cultivate plants that produced the highest levels of this psychoactive compound, which were also plants that produced the most profound highs. Aficionados of the hippie era even began harvesting seedless flowers to ensure a top-notch euphoria and truly potent experience.

Yet, while consumers have known about psychoactive THC and its euphoric effects for several decades, some perplexing questions remain. For one, why do some cannabis plants make you sleepy while others do not? Further, why do some strains seem more likely to cause a so-called “couch-lock” while others seem more lighthearted?

Scientists have known since the mid-1960s that THC has different effects on different people, yet the molecule alone didn’t seem to be responsible for the varying effects of different cannabis plants. At least, not responsible on its own. For one, isolated THC doesn’t cause the heavy sedation or the heavy-bodied experience offered by small to moderate amounts of certain strains, particularly of the Hindu Kush variety.

THC may be the star of the show, but the molecule itself certainly doesn’t explain the experiential subtleties that distinguish one strain from another. In 2004, theorists proposed an answer: the psychoactive experience is refined by synergistic molecules produced by different cannabis varieties. THC provides the overall melody, but the symphony wouldn’t be as appealing without the harmony, tone, and mood provided by other molecules.

Today, the theory of chemical synergy has a name: the entourage effect.

A New Paradigm for Cannabis Cultivars

For decades, cannabis strain names have been passed down from generation to generation. Like horses or show dogs, most cannabis plants are named after their family heritage — OG Kush and Chemdawg Sour Diesel being two prime examples. In recent years, however, researchers have uncovered that there’s more to strains than the name. Scientists and industry gurus alike are moving to classify cannabis strains not by their names or their indica or sativa status but by the chemical compounds they produce.

In total, the cannabis plant is capable of producing over 500 distinct chemical compounds. Not all plants, however, produce all of these chemical compounds in the same concentrations or at the same time. In fact, both genetic and environmental triggers seem to influence what types of compounds a plant is able to produce, and when. The most famous chemical compounds in cannabis are cannabinoids. THC, the primary psychoactive in the cannabis plant, is a cannabinoid. So is non-intoxicating cannabidiol (CBD), which is abundant in certain cannabis varieties but not others.

In 2016, scientists began to identify the genetic markers that separate cannabis varieties that produce THC from those that produce CBD. In order to distinguish between the two, researchers coined the term chemotype. Chemotype is the word used to classify different cannabis varieties based on their chemical constituents. Since the isolation of THC, scientists have discovered that the cannabis plant can produce over 100 different cannabinoids, although only a few are present in high concentrations.

Cannabis strains will produce different effects depending on the mixtures and concentrations of cannabinoids present in a given plant. Simply stated, it is the entourage of these molecules together that creates a unique experience. Thus far, researchers articulated that three primary chemotypes currently exist: THC-dominant chemotypes, CBD-dominant chemotypes, and mixed THC-CBD chemotypes.

The Three Most Common Cannabis Chemotypes

While the plants that produce these chemical compounds may all look the same, these three chemotypes exert profoundly different psychological effects when inhaled. A THC-dominant chemotype, for example, famously produces a euphoric experience that distorts memory and time. Anyone who has ever sampled a high-quality batch of Original Glue, for example, has surely felt the pleasant yet sometimes overwhelming potency of a strong psychoactive strain.

In contrast, a flower like Charlotte’s Web, which frequently produces high levels of CBD, may not be notably intoxicating at all. Instead, these high-CBD plants are more likely to promote feelings of calm alertness, without an inconveniencing intoxication. For this reason, many consumers tend to rely on these chemovars for daytime consumption.

Mixed chemotypes produce far more varied effects depending on the amount of THC present in a given cannabis flower. In a 2018 study published in Planta Medica, survey data suggest that mixed THC and CBD chemotypes were less likely to be sedating, and more likely to be energizing, functional, and focused. Flowers that fall under the mixed category include Harlequin, Pennywise, and Sour Tsunami.

Terpene Chemotypes Recently Identified

The discovery and classification of cannabinoid phenotypes is nothing short of revolutionary for the cannabis industry. Now, more than ever before, budtenders, medical professionals, and consumers alike are able to more or less select their desired cannabis experience by simply looking at lab results reported on the package picked up from the local pot shop. Recent breakthroughs, however, have taken cannabis chemotypes one step further.

In late 2018, researchers found that you can classify cannabis strains into three distinct categories, based not solely on cannabinoid content, but aroma. Like wine, the cannabis plant produces a host of molecules that create complex and unique flavors and aromas. In fact, scientists have discovered over 200 distinct aromatic molecules in the plant thus far, all of which add depth and character to individual cannabis varieties.

The aromatic molecules in question are called terpenes, and these natural chemicals are abundant throughout the plant kingdom. Terpenes are responsible for the soothing pine-aroma which resonates from forest trees, as well as the sharp scent of black pepper and the musky fragrance of hop fields. When it comes to cannabis, terpenes may also have an effect on your high.

Two separate studies published in the past year found that there are also at least three mayor aromatic varieties of cannabis plants. Some of the most common are myrcene-dominant varieties, which tend to be sleepy and hypnotic in nature. Myrcene is a musk-scented aroma molecule often found in lemongrass, hops, and some varieties of mango.

Myrcene-Dominant Chemotypes

These myrcene-dominant varieties also tend to feature higher concentrations of pinene, which is the terpene aroma molecule responsible for the unique aroma of pine trees. In a 2016 analysis, researchers found that these two terpenes were most abundant in “Kush” plants, although, admittedly, the Kush family is very large and not all flowers that bear the Kush name will follow this pattern.

Limonene and Beta-Caryophyllene-Dominant Chemotypes

Plants that produce high levels of limonene and beta-caryophyllene fall into a chemotype of their own. Limonene is the molecule that provides a citrus scent to orange rinds and similar fruits.  Beta-caryophyllene is a spicy compound that is abundant in black pepper. Classic Cookies is one such strain that falls under this chemotype. Additional research suggests that OG varieties may be more likely to produce these citrus-spice aroma compounds. These flowers tend to be more alert in nature.

Terpinolene-Dominant Chemotypes

The least common chemotype contains the terpene terpinolene. Terpinolene is an aromatic constituent of allspice, offering a woody yet floral quality to cannabis strains like Trainwreck. This terpene is most common in cannabis varieties classified as sativa, but, despite popular belief, may have a slight sedative effect.

Researchers have yet to determine whether or not certain cannabinoid chemotypes are more likely to express certain terpenes than others, but the odds are that they likely do. Using this information, aficionados now have a glimpse into the cannabis experience that was not possible in earlier generations.

Not only do we now know what causes the famous cannabis high, but we also now know how to fine-tune the experience. Just as sommeliers develop a pallet that allows them to distinguish the bouquet of tastes and aromas in different wines, cannabis aficionados now have a language that helps distinguish different cognitive and physiological experience s— a true entourage effect in action.

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Cannabis

The Sativa Preservation Society Project Will Protect Rare Haze Genetics

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Sativa Preservation Society Project
PHOTO | SATIVA PRESERVATION SOCIETY PROJECT

Space Coyote, the totally cosmic cannabis company, has launched the Sativa Preservation Society Project — a movement that protects Haze genetics while paying homage to the custodians and cultivators who kept the seeds alive.

Celebrators of the cannabis culture’s stoner heritage, Space Coyote’s aesthetic and ethos embraces the vibes and psychedelic Seventies scene, where the creativity and community of cannabis intersect.

Co-founder and self-confessed ‘Sativa Diva’ Libby Cooper calls it the “ultimate passion project”. 

“We’re truly passionate about saving these genetics that are the actual grandmothers of every modern-day sativa strains that people love — all of these desert strains, all of the fruity strains,” Cooper tells me from the Space Coyote van en route to Hall of Flowers.

Founding the Sativa Preservation Society Project

The concept of the Sativa Preservation Society Project was years in incubation as the Space Coyote team deliberated over how to bring it to life. It was important for them to give back to the community while helping to educate about the history of cannabis culture.

The stars aligned earlier this year when the team met Bam Vachher-Gnanathurai, nursery and plant breeding manager from the Posibl Project in Salina. A mutual love of the unique effects of Haze genetics made for a truly cosmic outcome.

“Bam is super passionate about sativa,” said Cooper. “When we went and met up with Bam for the very first time, he rolled a blunt from Cuban Black. It was such an amazing experience to smoke that flower.” 

“The initial conversation of the Sativa Preservation Society coming to life happened during that smoke session. It was like, ‘holy shit, we could actually do this.’”

The Haze Experience

The Sativa Preservation Society Project is launching with three incredibly rare cultivars — Cuban Black Haze, Uptown Haze (also known as A5 Haze), and C5 Haze — all of which were originally cultivated in the 1980s by legendary grower Neville Schoenmaker. The flower will be available as bagged eighths and as infused prerolls.

Cooper likens the Haze experience to being “a bit like mushrooms” — colors are brighter, your smell is enhanced and your hearing is sharper.

“It’s really like a cup of coffee without any jitteriness or anxiety usually associated with sativas. This is pure energy without any sort of adverse effects,” explains Cooper. “You really feel as if your eyelids are getting peeled back — you’re awake, you’re uplifted. Basically, I smoke it and I immediately start stretching.”

“Many sativa genetics are dying out due to a number of reasons,” says Cooper. “Typically, they are more difficult to grow, have a longer curing time, and the fluffy buds are easily crushed in transit.” All of which makes sativas less cost-effective in California’s highly competitive legal market.

“This truly is the first time these original sativa strains are going to be commercially grown,” says Cooper. “It really wouldn’t have been possible, funnily enough, without this group named Posibl.”

Learn more about the Sativa Preservation Society Project in the video above. While you’re at it, find your nearest Space Coyote here.

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Cannabis

Peach Oz: This Sweet And Juicy Cultivar Will Stimulate Your Creativity

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PEACH FUZZ | PHOTO: WONDERBRETT

If you’re looking for a premium cultivar with legendary genetics and a euphoric high, look no further than Peach Oz, the latest addition to Wonderbrett’s stellar strain menu.

A cross of Peach Rings with OZ Kush and a descendent of Zkittlez, the sweet, stimulating citrus taste profile of Peach Oz will get your creative juices flowing.

While the cultivar may be new to the public, according to Wonderbrett Co-Founder and famed Breeder Brett Feldman, it’s five-years-old in the world of genetics.

“There’s only a small handful of heady smokers who follow these things,” says Feldman. “I wanted to bring it to the masses to share the experience with everybody. That’s where my passion comes from with this strain. Similar to an amazing dish at a restaurant, you want to share it with your friends.”

Grown in small-batches at scale from the company’s state-of-the-art Long Beach cultivation facility, the strain was first created by Dying Breed Seeds, then perfected by Cannabis By Corey, before making its way to Feldman.

Wonderbrett’s grow room | PHOTO: Courtesy Wonderbrett

Bursting with flavors and aromas that bring to mind the sweet ocean breeze and fragrant fruit orchards of the California sunshine state, Peach OZ’s four dominant terpenes: Caryophyllene, Linalool, Limonene and Humulene, create a distinct sweet taste of ripe peaches, citrus candy and cream.  

“When any strain has that unique, recognizable consistency in its flavor, whether that be peach, lemon or orange, that’s what myself and other breeders appreciate most and look for when bringing a genetic like this to market. It’s mind-blowing what Peach OZ can do that, translating a fruit flavor to a smoking experience,” explained Feldman.

Peach OZ is available at select dispensary and at Wonderbrett’s flagship dispensary in L.A.

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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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