Humboldt County has been a magnet for wayward and wandering souls for decades, and with its remote mountains and plentiful sunshine, it’s also been a haven for cannabis growers and enthusiasts. Willy G left Massachusetts about five years ago looking to immerse himself in the Humboldt lifestyle, and he was also on a mission to seek out the best medicine to help him manage the symptoms from his cerebral palsy.
“I wanted to be in a place where marijuana was more accepted and part of the culture,” he said. What Willy likely didn’t anticipate when he moved to the cannabis mecca of California is that he would play a leading role in the proliferation of a “landrace” strain of cannabis that originated in Lebanon thousands of years ago.
NorCal Rebirth for an Ancient Strain
Humboldt Seed Company (HSC) has been breeding and propagating some of the finest cannabis seeds in California for the last 20 years, and its founders are experts in the art of breeding and stabilizing new strains for commercial growers and hobbyists alike. When HSC’s CEO and founder Nathaniel Pennington first met Willy G, he was impressed with his knowledge of cannabis, and in particular his appreciation for landrace strains, which are the original indicas and sativas that have been grown in the wild for thousands of years in different parts of the world. Generally speaking, these strains are a pure representation of the original cultivar, have never been crossed with another variety, and are still growing in their native environment.
Not long after Willy moved to Humboldt, his cousin sent some seeds from a landrace strain that he had singled out as a special variety after touring several cannabis farms in Lebanon. “Lebanon has the oldest hash culture in the world, and my bet is that this is some really old strain that they’ve been cultivating for a long time,” said Willy.
When Pennington heard the story behind Willy’s seeds and saw some of his first efforts at growing it out, he was immediately intrigued by the unique leaf structure and enticing nose on the flowers — rare for a landrace strain, he says. He soon decided to help Willy in his quest to propagate this exotic cannabis plant, and it wasn’t long before Willy G was sprouting shoots on the company’s farm, in isolated greenhouses where its pollen could be captured and released for breeding purposes.
After submitting some of the first Willy G plants for lab testing, Pennington confirmed that the strain was rich in CBD – anywhere from 10-20 percent, depending on the phenotype – and low in THC. For a landrace strain, he says, it also displays an unusually high variety of cannabinoids and terpenes, which give cannabis plants their seductive smells and flavors. Pennington said the company had a huge demand for the Willy G seeds last year, and it plans to make the seeds available at about 60 dispensaries throughout California this year. Ultimately, he hopes to see it thrive not only as a smokeable flower, but also in extracted formulations.
“Willy G really stands out because of all of its terpenes and flavonoids and large-scale producers should be interested in that for full plant extracts,” he says. “Using the whole plant (for extraction) is one of the best ways to get the full benefit of the CBD and the plant’s other medicinal properties.”
Willy G Puts CBD Flowers Back on Track
Since most growers and breeders have focused on developing cannabis strains high in THC, to maximize potency, CBD levels have been on a downward slide for decades. However, as consumers become more aware of CBD’s potential therapeutic qualities — anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, neuro-protector, and more — the demand for CBD-rich flowers is on the rise. Willy G is somewhat unique because it has a high percentage of CBD and a low percentage of THC, making it an ideal product for people who want to smoke without the mind-altering effects that most cannabis strains deliver.
Pennington and Willy G are both strong believers in the “entourage effect,” which refers to the complex combination of cannabis compounds interacting with our brain and endocannabinoid system, creating myriad physical and psychological responses. Researchers, scientists and medical professionals are only beginning to understand the medicinal value of these interactions and the various ways to utilize them in treatments.
The Willy G plants (aka, phenotypes) that are growing at Humboldt Seed Company garden late in the season exhibit different characteristics, which is not unusual as cannabis plants within the same strain often vary in structure, smell and potency. Looking across the garden, however, the Willy G plants are notably different than their hybrid cousins, with long, stretched-out stalks – reaching 15 feet high in some cases — and jumbo colas weighing them down. As Willy G navigates his wheelchair through the rows of imposing cannabis bushes, he stops to admire one of his namesake plants, dunking his nose in a Coke-bottle-sized cola that’s popping out through the lattice.
“The taste and smell is different than any strain I’ve ever smoked…it reminds me of Train Wreck but has other things going on too,” he notes. More importantly, he says that “it produces a very medicinal product that has a good effect on my muscle spasms, which is one of my main symptoms.”
Willy primarily uses THC-heavy products (bubble hash, oil extracts) to manage his pain, but CBD-rich flowers can be effective for controlling spasms and reducing inflammation, sore muscles, and stress. “It’s about understanding about what to use when you need it, that’s what I like about cannabis and creating my own medicine,” he said. “I am very involved with what I’m treating myself with, so that’s a lot different than having a doctor tell you to take 200 Oxy 30’s (OxyContin), and then that’s the end of your appointment.”
In addition to growing out and selecting the best Willy G phenotypes for seed production, Pennington and Willy are also crossing it with other strains to develop new cultivars that are rich in both THC and CBD. “It takes a while to see where you’re at with these landraces, but I believe there is a lot of potential with Willy G,” says Pennington.
Aside from his interests in breeding and landrace strains, Willy is excited about the potential to help other people with his namesake strain and its offshoots. “If we don’t seek new strains, we’ll just end up with different types of OG, Sour D and Cookies, which is not ideal for medical patients,” he argues. “I need new and diverse medicine for myself, so will keep making it and sharing with my community.”
While he doesn’t know where his exploration of cannabis medicine will end, Willy does know the possibilities are vast.
“It’s a personal dream of mine to go to the Himalayas and pick landraces from the fields,” he says. “It’s crazy to think about cannabis in other countries because we think we’re big balling over here with 10-acre fields. Over in Nepal in the mountains, there are plots that are 10 hectares and vast fields of wild strains that are yet to be bred.”
Cannabis Classification System Announced for 2022 Emerald Cup Awards
One of the factors that make the Emerald Cup so important to California’s cannabis market is its continued strive for excellence and innovation. For the 2022 awards, the judging process is undergoing a transformation and with it comes a new cannabis classification system that will classify entries based on terpenes, flavour, and effects for anybody — from customers to budtenders, dispensaries, judges, and cultivators.
Cannabis Is More Than Just THC
The days of just searching out the highest THC totals are rapidly receding as research has now proven that terpenes are at the base of the entourage effect that customers desire are rapidly fading.
Terpenes, on the other hand, have mostly added to the consumer confusion already caused by overly broad Indica/Sativa/Hybrid terminology, whimsical strain names, irrelevant THC/CBD percentages, and other ambiguous factors that make selecting the best or correct strain a less-than-satisfying ordeal for even the most experienced cannabis connoisseurs.
The Emerald Cup competition will serve as a testbed for a new classification system for cannabis flowers. The event organisers and their testing partners at SC Labs decided to further break down the flower categories based on the chemometrics of each cultivar (better known as “chemovar” — the evolution of the term “dominant terpene”) evolving beyond last year’s flower category sorting by primary terpene content, in order to level the playing field and eliminate as much bias as possible in the blind/anonymous sampling done by Emerald Cup judges each year.
This paradigm-shifting insight sparked months of additional research and discussion, culminating in the Emerald Cup Cannabis Classification System based on PhytoFacts® powered by SC Labs.
The all-new classification system builds on last year’s approach of sorting flower entries by primary terpene content, leveraging a decade of Cannabis phytochemistry research between PhytoFacts®, developed by Napro Research in 2013, and a powerful database of over 250,000 terpene tests aggregated by SC Labs, dating back to their launch of terpene testing on Cannabis in 2013. The key class names were chosen to represent current terminology, are widely used in the business and are familiar to dispensaries and consumers. Each class is further explained using taste notes, effects, and popular strains or cultivars to promote understanding and acceptance.
The New Cannabis Classification System
The classes of the Emerald Cup Cannabis Classification Based on PhytoFacts® powered by SC Labs include:
“Jacks + Haze” Class
- Mostly ‘Sativa’-leaning varietals
- Tasting notes – Fruity, Pinesol, Haze
- Effects – Energizing, Cerebral, Artistically Inspiring
- Common Cultivars – Classic Trainwreck, Jack Herer, Durban Poison, Super Lemon Haze
- Terpenes Profile: Terpinolene, Caryophyllene, Myrcene
“Tropical + Floral” Class
- Mostly ‘Indica’-leaning varietals
- Tasting notes – Sweet, Floral, Tropical Fruit
- Effects – Calming, Soothing, Relaxing
- Common Cultivars – Super Skunk, Hawaiian, In the Pines, Dream Queen
- Terpenes Profile: Ocimene, Myrcene
“Sweets + Dreams” Class
- Mostly ‘Indica’-leaning varietals
- Tasting Notes – Fruity, Sweet, Woody, Hoppy, Herbaceous
- Effects – Relaxation, Couch Lock, Analgesic
- Common Cultivars – Blue Dream, Tangie, Forbidden fruit, Grandaddy Purple, Purple Urkel, Grape Ape, Cherry AK, God’s Gift, Purple Punch
- Terpenes Profile: Myrcene, Pinene, Caryophyllene
“OGs + Gas” Class
- True ‘Hybrid’ varietals
- Tasting Notes – Gas, Fuel, Sweet, Citrus, and Pepper
- Effect – Uplifting, Stimulating, Analgesic, Relaxation
- Common Cultivars – Classic OG Kush, ChemDawg, Sour Diesel, Gorilla Glue
- Terpenes Profile: Any combination or shifting codominance of Caryophyllene, Limonene, Myrcene
- True ‘Hybrid’ varietals
- Tasting Notes – Deserts, Doughs, Citrusy & Spicy
- Effects – Stimulating, Racy, Uplifting, Comforting
- Common Cultivars – Classic Bubba Kush, GSC, Gelatos, Cakes
- Any shift in codominance of Caryophyllene & Limonene
“Exotics” (Rare Terpene Combinations) Class
- True ‘Hybrid’ varietals
- Tasting notes – varied based on chemistry of entry
- Effect – varied based on chemistry of entry
- Common Cultivars – rarest terpene profiles entered into the Emerald Cup Competition
This game-changing development in cannabis classification levels the playing ground for the 2022 Cup as well as market competitiveness amongst brands. The system seeks to become an open-source, globally recognised grading solution for Cannabis, with six simple classes/names/descriptions. In the same way that a Chardonnay would not be tested against a Merlot in the wine business, this new system permits strains with comparable profiles to be judged against each other. This new classification system will also be used at the California State Fair Cannabis Awards in July 2022.
The 2022 Emerald Cup Awards will be presented live on stage on May 14th at the Green Street Festival in Downtown Los Angeles, California.
The Sativa Preservation Society Project Will Protect Rare Haze Genetics
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.
Peach Oz: This Sweet And Juicy Cultivar Will Stimulate Your Creativity
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.
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.