Earlier this year, Phylos Bioscience announced its plan to launch an in-house breeding program. The news prompted outrage within the community, sparking conversations about intellectual property and genetics research across the cannabis industry.
Many cultivators felt betrayed by the idea that the Portland-based cannabis science company would use data they submitted to the Phylos Galaxy — a comprehensive database that documents the cannabis genome — to steal vital cultivar information and use it against them.
Phylos released a statement assuring growers not to worry, that their fears were unfounded. They insisted they weren’t going to use their submitted data to create super strains to put craft cannabis growers out of business. None of that data can be used for breeding, and the breeding work they do will be primarily for large-scale biomass producers. The varieties they do develop for the craft flower market will be released under open-source licenses and should help to keep craft growers in business.
Now, a couple of months have passed. For the most part, Phylos has kept out of the media spotlight. Cannabis Aficionado spoke to CEO Mowgli Holmes to learn more about their approach to large-scale agriculture, plant patents and IP rights, and the future of cannabis.
Growers submitted their genomic data to you with the understanding that it would not be used to enhance any breeding programs. How did you not foresee this backlash from the industry following the announcement of your breeding program?
We didn’t foresee this reaction because this data isn’t useful for plant breeding. It’s just genetic sequence data, with no information on the plants themselves. The purpose of the galaxy has always been to empower everyone to learn from their plant’s data by comparing it to everything else. We made the galaxy and the raw data publicly available so that everyone could have full access to it.
I don’t think this question has really been about the data. It’s about having a company in the cannabis industry that is working with people from big ag. The science we’re using comes from those companies, and we’re hiring scientists who understand it. We’re also a company that is focused on environmental and social impact, and on moving agriculture toward sustainable practices. Cannabis growers don’t trust big ag and they don’t see how we could be working with people from those companies and still have these progressive goals. But we do.
You claim that your new breeding program will focus on large-scale agriculture. Why then do you think there is such a negative response to your breeding announcement from cannabis growers and craft cultivators?
Phylos concentrates on the global market because that’s where the plant needs the most work. I think that a lot of small growers assume that large-scale ag means lousy cannabis, so they don’t respect it. But it matters how the large growers operate. Phylos believes large-scale cannabis and hemp agriculture can actually operate sustainably and we’re committed to doing our part to move it in that direction. We also want to see the craft flower market thrive. We won’t be doing a lot of work there, but when we do it’s going to have a positive impact. The flower plants we release will be good for growers, and breeders will get to keep working with them.
Your presentation to investors at Benzinga seemed to confirm that you will use the submitted data to breed new strains. Why did you tell that to investors if it isn’t your intention? Why do you think your words were misconstrued?
That is not what I said to investors. But when I said that our testing business was a valuable data collection tool, I meant it. Having a high-throughput molecular genetics lab allowed us to generate lots of valuable data, but all of that work has been independent of the customer data we collected. As I said, the data we collected from customers cannot be used for breeding, period.
The data collected from customers was very limited and was made public via the Phylos Galaxy in order to prevent patent infringement and support greater transparency within the cannabis industry’s supply chain. It’s a tool for the industry, including our competitors, to use in understanding varieties and the evolution of cannabis. It’s not a tool that can help with breeding except in a very general way by letting people see relationships — and it’s available to everyone to use in that way.
Have you kept any of the genetic data so you could replicate any of the submitted material via plant tissue propagation?
No, we wouldn’t do that and it’s not possible. You can’t create a living plant from data and you can’t create a living plant from a dead tissue sample. We are not using any of our customer’s plants in our breeding program. The Galaxy is evidence that our customer’s plants belong to them.
We do have a large collection of living cannabis varieties, which we’ve acquired through fair and generous contracts with breeders, and we’re continuing to in-license new varieties.
Was patenting genetics, or your plans to use the data to create your own breeding program, in any fine print that people may have missed?
We’ve never had any plans to use that data for breeding because we always knew it wouldn’t be robust enough to breed with. But we were very openly and publicly building a breeding program meant to support other people’s plant work with our scientific tools. We just weren’t originally intending to do the actual plant work ourselves.
The largest part of a modern plant breeding program is the data infrastructure and we were clear very early on that we were developing genetic markers for breeding. As we’ve said, the customer data had no information on the physical characteristics of the plants themselves and couldn’t be used for breeding. We believed that this simple scientific fact would keep people from making the mistake of thinking we were using it for breeding.
As far as patenting goes, our position has always been that plant patents are fine, as long as they’re responsibly narrow and don’t cover entire categories of plants. Overly broad patents are bad for innovation and bad for the cannabis industry.
The Open Cannabis Project (OCP) closed at the end of May in response to your announcement, citing “deception” as the one reason. What are your thoughts on this situation?
We helped start the OCP to create a transparent and open-source repository of cannabis data that could enlarge the public domain and help to preserve genetic diversity in cannabis. I resigned from the board in order to ensure there was no connection between OCP and Phylos, but the board was already planning to dissolve the organization in December 2018 based on difficulty fundraising.
The OCP knew we were doing breeding work, they knew the science we were using was from big ag and they knew we were going to be willing to apply for limited patents. The OCP themselves have always supported limited patents. They also know how strong my personal commitment is to doing things differently than they’re done in traditional agriculture.
Nothing illustrates the intense emotion around this issue better than this does. Despite knowing all of that, I think they were genuinely shocked to see that we’re working with and hiring people from big ag companies. Progressives see those companies as truly evil, and they don’t have a framework for understanding how good people could possibly be working with them.
Unfortunately, nobody on the OCP board contacted us before they issued their statement. The idea that you could have one foot in both worlds and still be committed to being an ethical company — that’s impossible for many people to accept. But that stance is a decision to leave all of this scientific power in the hands of people you don’t trust.
How can growers trust you when you say you are not using their genomics and data to advance your own breeding program?
Anyone who looks at the science comes to see that you can’t use this data for breeding new plants.
But we are seeing that trust doesn’t come from scientific facts alone. We’re a mission-driven company and eventually people will see the benefits of the work we’re doing. The dust will clear and we’ll be working away, and then people will see.
Why do you think people were so quick to jump to the conclusion that you are using your position and power to harm the very people that you have spent so many years trying to protect?
This is the part that’s hard for me. Phylos has always been clear in our mission to bring science to cannabis and new approaches to agriculture, to preserve genetic diversity, and to help small farmers. It’s pretty crazy to find out that people can overnight decide you don’t mean the things you say. But again, I think the assumption is that if we had good intentions we wouldn’t be hiring scientists and advisors from the major ag companies. We need these people because they understand the complexities of the large-scale agricultural system better than anyone and they are uniquely positioned to help us change it for the better. The team of scientists that have joined Phylos is building an agricultural model that is profitable and sustainable for farmers. We always meant it when we said we cared about the craft flower community. But we also care about agriculture as a whole.
What is your desired achievement with your breeding program?
I got a lot of shit for saying this, but I’m just going to say it again: Phylos is going to create outrageous new plants. They’re going to work better for farmers and for consumers and they’re going to be constantly evolving.
We also believe that it’s important for us and the industry to give both fair credit and fair compensation to the breeders who have created amazing plants already and those that continue to do so. We are already signing agreements to make sure those breeders get paid as they should, and we hope it becomes the standard way of acquiring plants in the industry.
Phylos has built its mission around preserving the genetic diversity we’ve inherited. At the same time, we’re going to drive forward into the future of what this plant can do, which really will be incredible. We need to do both of those things.
We’re combining advanced science with sustainability principles. We’re using traditional breeding driven by genomic knowledge. We’re studying methods that let farmers minimize inputs costs at the same time as they’re building healthier soil. We’re going to help farmers profit from sustainability — and we’re going to make sustainability work better because it’s driven by hard data.
Where does Phylos Bioscience go from here?
We have to accept that some people see big ag companies as the enemy and they don’t trust anyone who’s working with them. But we need to have companies who can use the science from big ag in ways that are driven by a sense of social responsibility. We need to have companies who can figure out how to support environmentally sustainable approaches as they use this science. We need to have companies that are a bridge between these two worlds.
Phylos has one foot in the cannabis world and one foot in the world of large-scale agriculture. The role of our company is to be a bridge between these two worlds that don’t trust each other. To make it work, we’re going to have to be really committed to maintaining our values and measuring our success based on them. We’re going to have to be a little bit like Switzerland and work with everyone. We have to accept that we’re not going to make everyone happy, but we’re going to make damn sure the farms that work with us are successful.
To us, that means that they’re sustainably successful in ways that work long-term for them, and their workers, and the environment. For most of these larger farms the first step is simple: start growing hemp.
New G Pen & B Real Collab Seamlessly Fuses the Best of Cannabis Culture
In these days of uncertainty and social distancing, it’s refreshing to finally see some good news. Two pioneers of cannabis culture, Grenco Science (G Pen) and Cypress Hill frontman B Real have joined forces to launch a range of co-branded products.
“B Real has been a cultural force in both music and cannabis, and together with Grenco Science, we are reinventing the cannabis experience for our customers who have come to expect quality and innovation like only Grenco Science can provide.”
Grenco Science’s new partnership with the critically acclaimed artist and entrepreneur behind Dr. Greenthumb’s Dispensaries will see a line of products introduced to the market, that is set to include co-branded product offerings and fully integrating the G Pen line into Dr. Greenthumb’s Dispensaries with custom build-outs in California.
Sex & Sinsemilla: The Pleasure Enthusiast on Using Cannabis to Reduce Pain During Sex
For many a cannathusiast, sex and weed make the best of bedfellows. From helping you unwind and taking you out of your head, to increased sensation and pleasure, for some, the herb can be a natural aphrodisiac. An entire sub-category of cannabis products has been developed to help people enjoy sex more, whether it be to reduce pain during sex or to increase their connection with their partner.
However, there is also research that suggests smoking herb increases orgasm length, raises sperm count, that cannabis improves their experience and people who partake in weed also partake in sex more frequently.
Enough sexy data talk. Valentine’s Day seemed like the right time to debut the sex and sinsemilla advice column from Cara Cordoni, Cannabis Aficionado’s resident Pleasure Enthusiast, who will be answering your questions around cannabis, intimacy and sex, as well as offering up product reviews and suggestions to help you maximize your sexy times.
Dear Pleasure Enthusiast,
I want to have a sexy night with my partner, but I’ve been experiencing pain during penetration. I’ve heard that cannabis can help… can it?
– Sexy ‘n Suffering
Dear Sexy ‘n Suffering,
You’re not alone in experiencing pain during sex — and the first order of concern is to explore the root cause. Has there been an injury? Are you emotionally comfortable and safe? Is there an underlying condition like an infection, endometriosis or fibroids? Have you been to see a medical professional? Understand the source before addressing the symptoms. Once you know what’s up, then yes, cannabis could help reduce pain during sex.
Many of us gals feel pain due to lack of lubrication, which can be addressed with relaxation, foreplay and the use of a sexual lubricant like Intimate Oil by Privvy Peach, Smooth Operator by Quim, Awaken by Foria or Quiver by HerbaBuena.
These lubes combine cannabis, in the form THC, CBD, or both and known herbal aphrodisiacs like passionflower extract to provide pelvic relaxation, increase blood flow and reduce inflammation. Many women experience enhanced sensitivity with these infused lubricants, as well. Quim is aloe vera based and safe with latex, while Foria is coconut oil-based and not latex friendly. Luckily, there are many options on the market in legal states, or with CBD for everyone. I always recommend a patch test before applying to your privates. And if the first one you try doesn’t suit you, don’t give up, try another as each is unique.
I applaud you on your journey of pain reduction and pleasure enhancement.
The Pleasure Enthusiast at Work
QUIM: Smooth Operator
Squirt squirt; a slippery, opaque, white liquid coats on my fingers. Smooth Operator reminds me vaguely of semen, which is both titillating and disturbing. I apply it liberally to myself for a solo test flight. I wait for the 5-7 recommended minutes for the serum to penetrate and take effect feeling hopeful and skeptical. Yet as I read Quim’s elegant pamphlet, the slippery serum feels fantastic on my clit and labia and I notice that blood flow is visibly increased. Everything is gently engorging and I like it.
Foria: Intimacy CBD Lubricant and Awaken
I apply four squirts of Awaken directly to my vulva. I like the smell: it’s faint, the slightest edge of thin mint. The feeling is almost immediate, a coolness, very subtle and engaging, then a warmth. I see and feel blood flow increasing.
I then pour Foria’s clear coconut oil-based lube into my palm — it’s messy, some runs down the bottle. Coconut oil is my preferred lubricant when there’s no latex involved, so this liquid oil feels nice. After some experimentation, I find Foria’s products are super helpful with anal play, where the relaxing and slightly numbing qualities work best.
Do you have a question about sex that you’d like the Pleasure Enthusiast to answer? Get in touch: email@example.com.
Cannabis Aficionado’s Guide to a Luxurious Valentine’s Day
Treat yourself or that special someone with the Cannabis Aficionado guide to partaking in a luxurious Valentine’s Day. From precious jewels to pleasuring lubes, silky robes to stylish home decor, the dankest weed to delicious chocolate treats, there’s something for all you lovers out there.
Lovers Edition combines five herbal aphrodisiacs with cannabis to create what they call “the best sex drug in the world.” It’s formulated for both a physical and psychological high, working to increase blood flow while also helping you relax and get out of your head.
This multi-aphrodisiac blend is formulated for people with vulvas, to enhance tactile sensation and pleasure while decreasing tension, discomfort and dryness.
Genifer Murray and Glenn Murray are expert jewelry makers as well as being passionate cannabis advocates. This beautiful sativa leaf pendant necklace is artfully crafted from 14kt gold and is available in a variety of sizes.
Jacquie Aische designs jewelry with the intention of empowering women. Join her tribe with these stunning Dream Catcher Hoops from her Sweet Leaf collection.
The Ganja Urn from Jonathan Adler’s Botanist collection is the perfect bougie scene-stealer — a must-have for all cannabis aficionado’s to stash their secrets.
Maria Valentino is a cutting-edge formulator and leader of green beauty and wellness for conscious consumers. This statement ring from her fine jewelry collection features pave diamonds, emulating the plant’s natural trichomes, and is set in 14k gold.
House of Saka
Toast to love with House ofSaka’s luxurious sparkling pink wine. Based on grapes from Napa Valley’s terroir and infused with the finest craft harvest. The resulting experience is intended to leave the imbiber feeling invigorating, clean and relaxed.
Mario Guzman aka Mr. Sherbinski grows some of the finest cannabis you’ll ever experience. His Pink Panties cultivar is a cross of Burmese Kush and a Florida Kush backcross. It expresses dense, medium-sized buds that reek of tart and tangy citrus alongside a strong floral bouquet.
White Fox on this planet is to formulate, alchemize and create specific effect driven medicine with the intention of showing you your own true greatness. Using a 2,000-year-old ayurvedic formulation, they have developed vape pens to increase your sexual energy and sensitivity.