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.”
10 Couch-Lock Cannabis Strains to Help You Stay Home
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.
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
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
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
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
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 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
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 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
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
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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?”
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.
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.
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.