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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.

Cannabis

10 Couch-Lock Cannabis Strains to Help You Stay Home

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PHOTO | Sunset Sherbert

COVID-19 has changed the world as we knew it. For the foreseeable future, we all have to do our bit and stay home to try and flatten the curve and prevent the virus from spreading further. But it’s not all bad news. Try to think of this time to stay home and reset. Why not start that project you’ve been putting of, or earn a new language? Maybe rearrange all the furniture in your house and alphabetize your record collection. Then, once that’s finished, sink into your couch and enjoy one of these iconic couch-lock cannabis strains while you binge on Tiger King.

Afghani

Named after its geographic origin, Afghani grows in the Hindu mountains, where cannabis was first discovered over 1000 years ago. Afghani delivers a deeply relaxing,mood-boosting high, perfect if you have issues with insomnia, chronic pain and stress disorders.

Buy seeds from sensiseeds.com

Girl Scout Cookies (GSC)

A potent mix of an OG Kush x Durban Poison x Cherry Kush mother backcrossed with a prime-looking OG Kush father created Girl Scout Cookies. The winner of multiple Cannabis Cups and packing a powerful 28% THC, GSC is possibly one of the best Northern California strains of all time.

Buy seeds from homegrowncannabisco.com

Granddaddy Purple

Delivering a THC level between 17-27%, Granddaddy Purple is not a strain to take lightly. If you’re looking for a mental and body high that will feel like you are floating euphorically, as well as being great for easing pain and relaxing muscles, this distinctively fruity tasting strain is for you.

Buy seeds from seedking.com

G-13

Perhaps one of the most notorious cultivars out there, the legend of G-13 is that it is an escapee from a breeding experiment funded by the U.S. government. With 22-24% THC level potential, G-13 provides a couch-locking feeling of euphoria.

Buy seeds from pacificseedbank.com

Northern Lights

Multiple award wins have solidified Northern Lights as another classic indica strain.  THC levels range from 16-26% and promise a mellow and pacifying high.

Buy seeds from seedsman.com

OG Kush

World-renown for its potency and distinct flavour, the legendary OG Kush needs to introduction. Tokers will enjoy equally intense body and head highs from around 20% THC levels.

Buy seeds from royalqueenseeds.com

Superglue

Superglue brings calming relaxation to the mind and body while leaving you functional and energetic enough for social activities or a productive afternoon.

Buy seeds from cannaconnection.com

Sunset Sherbert

Mario Guzman aka Mr. Sherbinski grows some of the finest cannabis you’ll ever smoke. Stress and tension will melt away as a full-body high creeps, delivering a deep physical relaxation.

Buy seeds from homegrowncannabisco.com

Super Skunk

Super Skunk delivers a notoriously powerful body high thanks to a THC content of 20% or higher. Consumers can expect a whole-body relaxation that kicks stress to the curb and will have you in full couch-lock mode.

Buy seeds from homegrowncannabisco.com

Triple Cheese

Known to consistently reach 22% THC or higher, Triple Cheese by world-renowned breeder Barney’s Farm offers Cheese lovers a very enjoyable high and a unique terpene profile.

Buy seeds from barneysfarm.com

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Cannabis

Taking the Temperature of Northern California’s Heritage Cannabis

Long story short, it’s rocky out there for many of the Emerald Triangle’s heritage cannabis businesses — but they want to be doing it legally.

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Heritage Cannabis
PHOTO | Aran

It’s been over two years since Proposition 64 was passed in California. Profit projections, law enforcement, the black market, and climate change have kept the cannabis business in the Golden State everything but predictable. People continue to be imprisoned for crimes connected to cannabis while legal businesses are turning a profit. Legal weed has even backfired on the people who made it legal, as big corporate investors coming in change their business landscape.

Yet it remains a general consensus that legalization is all for the better. No one wants to go to jail anymore for growing or selling weed, there’s absolutely no denying the many medical benefits of the plant and hemp is poised to present itself as the green alternative to the overconsumption of fossil fuel products. Cannabis is a disruptor to big pharma, big alcohol and big tobacco, which in turn has the “bigs” attempting to either sabotage and/or establish themselves in the marketplace.

Long story short, it’s rocky out there for many running legitimate legal cannabis businesses but they want to be doing it.

Northern California took a big hit — and it wasn’t just profit loss. While policymakers tried to model California’s legal market after Colorado, they fell short because the cultivators in California don’t operate the same way. The green rush flooded prime growing communities with people who were so green to cannabis, it doesn’t seem right to even call them that. But many heritage cannabis farmers in these communities wanted to break the cycle of fear instilled over the years and moved forward with legalization regardless, for all the right reasons.

Chiah Rodriques and her husband James Beatty run River Txai Farms and Arcanna Flowers, the brand and sustainable cannabis farm and nursery in Mendocino County. Rodriques and Beatty grew up on a large back-to-land intentional community and are second-generation Mendo cannabis farmers.

Chiah Rodriques and James Beatty. PHOTO | Trina Calderón

Committed to legal growing since the 9.31 ordinance enacted in 2008, they founded Mendocino Generations, a collective of sustainable cannabis farms in Mendocino County who strive to work together as a brand, farm landrace genetics, and promote “better living through cannabis.”

But keeping Mendo’s exceptional cannabis tradition alive throughout legalization has presented challenges. Visiting the area during this season’s harvest, I took the temperature with Rodriques.

“Basically over-regulation is like the ankle-biter,” shared Rodriques. “It’s the Achilles heel of the small farmer because in order to compete in this market you have to cultivate enough cannabis to compete with farms in other counties with larger cultivation allowances. Ultimately, they’re our competition but on a shelf with jars of cannabis, they’re not, because you wouldn’t want to put that cannabis in a pretty jar on a shelf — most of that product is going to oil and biomass. You have different levels of competition. You have competition for pricing because their cannabis is still going into the market, which makes prices fluctuate. Then you have the shelf space for all the brands, and lots of these brands thought that they could do a small brand and survive with that, but I don’t think that that’s really going to play out as we thought. Running a small brand takes a lot of overhead.

PHOTO | Trina Calderón

“Basically it’s hard to know if your brand from one small farm can have enough cannabis if your brand goes big,” she continued. “You may need to start reaching out and getting cannabis for your brand from other cultivators. In Mendocino County, we have a disadvantage because we can only cultivate 10,000 sq. ft., but there is a push for there to be a ballot to change it to one acre. That has mixed reviews from the farmers too, basically half the farmers hate that idea and half the farmers are into it. I think that’s mostly because they don’t have the space or the water or the infrastructure to handle that much.”

Rodriques believes that a contributor to the disconnect in policy is that no one consulted with Mendo’s heritage cannabis farmers when creating regulations.

“Farmers were not invited to the table until much of the ordinance was in place and there was a big rush to push things through as is and make changes later — so the county was ready for Prop 64 to go into effect. It was a race to the finish line. They didn’t think we had valid concerns, or maybe felt like the hippies needed to get organized. Admittedly so, we were all over the place with requests and needs that I’m sure it was overwhelming to lawmakers,” Rodriques said.

There was no real insight into what is actually practical or what is actually happening on farms in the area. Most of the regulations were written around indoor cultivation and don’t play out for sun-grown farms in Mendo.

A more community-oriented step towards action is the Mendocino Appellations Project, a group designed to set up a process for defining cannabis appellations, which are geographic areas in which small farmers can classify their crop with that name. A valiant effort, it plays into marketing and promotion, though the true cannabis aficionado will appreciate the information the same way a wine connoisseur likes to know where exactly a pinot noir grape is grown.

PHOTO | Trina Calderón

Small farming is no easy task in itself and going legal has created hardships for many.

“I think last year sucked so bad most people were struggling pretty hard, and in terms of pricing, it was bad last year,” said Rodriques. “Crops this year were a mixed bag. We definitely had a lot of people who had frost, and we had mold. There’s a lot of powdery mildew this year because the rain didn’t come. It’s like this weird humid that makes no sense because it’s really been dry. There’s been a lot of theft. There have been a lot of fires, so there’s smoke damage material.

“[As for] the market, who knows what it’s actually going to look like in the next couple months. Right now, its sort of a mixture, a lot of people are saying they’re going to back out. A lot of people are scared, but then there’s a lot of people that are moving forward with all these other ideas and plans. They’re doing okay, so it’s hard to tell what’s going to happen with the ultimate heritage cultivators, like my parents’ generation. Most of them aren’t doing it anymore because they were on the brink of retirement anyway so who wants to go through all this bullshit, right?”

Heritage Cannabis

Chiah Rodriques. PHOTO | Trina Calderón

Recently, the county has realized they’re not getting as much tax money as they hoped and the Board of Supervisors are planning to give the small farmers what’s called a Cannabis Cultivation Amnesty Transition Pathway. The plan would give more years for legacy growers to transition into county compliance, which may help attract more applications. The vote was unanimous to create the Amnesty, which Rodriques sees as the county throwing them a bone. Considering 1588 total people applied to participate in legal cannabis in the county, and only 232 were approved and issued permits, and it appears not many more would apply since the regulations are so problematic. Building and planning issues like commercial zoning and ADA rules for bathrooms and parking lots are costing farms money they don’t have. Especially when the reality is it’s usually not probable to have anyone in a wheelchair working on a farm. Workarounds are likely because people are trying to be compliant, but the same rules are putting people in uncomfortable positions.

“Comparatively to Humboldt, I would say that Mendo is struggling a little bit harder and that’s more because the bureaucracy hasn’t allowed people to get into the system,” Rodriques concluded.

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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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