In the last 25 years, I have collected and grown-out hundreds of strains of medical marijuana. I have traveled to Holland and attended the Cannabis Cup seven times. I’ve also lived in Amsterdam. One thing I still believe is that the best Cannabis in the world is in North America, in some unknown garden belonging to someone who keeps to themselves.
We have been lucky enough to collect some amazing examples. Some of my all time favorites are Genius and Apollo-13 by Brothers Grimm, also Killer Queen and Space Queen by Vic High. Our most potent strain is Jack’s Cleaner, a Pluton x LambsBread x Purple Haze freak, which can literally make a non-grower puke if they’re not used to her brutal raw potency. We call it the “they’re coming to take me away” stone.
Now, MzJill and I continue this tradition working as a team. She has some of her own favorites as well. The Black Russian strain that gives all of our Sputnik crosses their insane purple coloring came from MzJill via Nebu. Over the past five years, we have worked with these crosses to create new and interesting varieties. MzJill comes up with her own crosses using her favorites and even helps me pollinate when the males are ready. We would like to share with you a little of what goes into breeding a new strain.
Breeding has many complexities that I won’t begin to try and explain here today. But I think our main goal was very simple, to combine an extremely potent Sativa hybrid with a heavy yielding, ultra purple strain. The results would be a purple strain with the potency added from that parent.
What gets tricky is that many strains, like G-13, are extremely dominant and can take over a cross. When you cross BlueBerry and G-13, usually you just make a nasty tasting, watered down version of both. This doesn’t mean that there are not good Blueberry G-13 crosses; its just breeding is not as easy as 2+2=4.
There is also a big difference between “breeders” and “seed makers”. Anyone can take a male and pollinate a female. This is not breeding; it is making copies with large variations. Again, if they’re sold cheap, a winner can still be found if enough seeds are grown out. The difference is the selection process of the parent strains.
The Mamas and The Papas
Selection of the mother plant (or P1) was easy. Apollo-13 is in the top three of my favorite strains and I think it may be the most unique strain we have. It blends potency and a bizarre and putrid rotting-fruit smell that make it a one of a kind. Selection of a male Black Russian was not as easy. The first mistake people make in selecting a male is by choosing the most vigorous. Remember those complexities I mentioned earlier? Well, the recessive drug traits we seek are stashed away in non-vigorous males.
Think about the plant in the wild, the natural progression of Cannabis is back to Hemp. The strains we have today are a direct result of human intervention. Robert Clark says it better:
“In the wild, the early males always win the breeding contest. Without proper selection, these early males cause ‘acclimatization’ of the variety, and a decrease in drug quality.
This is the ‘dominant’ state of Cannabis. If it were otherwise, why would we need breeders? All you would have to do is let the plants do their own thing and they would become more potent over time, but they don’t. The only way marijuana varieties ever get better is through human intervention in the natural order.”
So, in order to find these recessive traits, we choose males based loosely on the following:
– At time of germination, are there any capitate trichomes on the cotyledon leaves?
– What is the number and frequency of non-glandular trichomes (this can be a great indicator of future glandular production).
– The earliest males to show sex get tossed, no ifs, ands or buts.
– Dominant males are useless for drug (misuse of this rule has caused more hermaphrodite strains than the world deserves)
If these basics are followed during each male selection process, then this gives us a much better chance of finding the genes we want. This is not meant to be a guide for anyone, just a basic explanation of what a Cannabis Breede” looks for when selecting strains to work with and/or improve upon.
Sometimes taste is the desired goal, or maybe potency. I have taken cherry flavored Ortega and crossed it with Killer Queen to create a cherry phenotype called Danny Boy. Danny Boy is done in 48 days and the taste is like cherry candy. The famed Jack’s Cleaner was crossed with a BlueBerry to create Batgirl, and then JCB males from that cross have created entire seed companies. Our JCB male has blue pollen sacs and drips with resin.
Also in the works is an Orange Velvet x Space Queen that will be our first Pineapple-Orange offering. This is MzJill’s creation, so we have named it JillyBean. Orange Velvet is a PNW strain obtained from “some hippies” as the story goes. Our goal is to create badass strains that we want to grow out and smoke ourselves. Once breeding pairs are selected, they are sent to BadBoy to replicate successful crosses or create insane new things, like BadBoy’s Astro Boy (Apollo-13 x Ortega C99).
As we board the plane to Denver I can hear the late singer John Denver singing in my head “Rocky Mountain High Colorado” and it just seems so fitting. The beauty of the snow capped vista’s took my breath as we started the approach into Denver and I could barely contain my excitement about my first visit to wild wild west of the Cannabis frontier that is Colorado. If you have not heard yet pot shops line the streets like Starbucks or Subway only there are a lot more Dispensaries than places to eat in some locations. Speaking of food, Denver has some a great places to dine at with a wide range of flavors and an overall party atmosphere and the people are Very nice! I think it’s the sunny weather myself but everyone being medicated may add to that general feeling but MzJill and myself simply loved the city and it’s people. We checked into the hotel and unpacked our medical cannabis that we legally fly with simply by writing our medical card info on and checking with our luggage. The first thing I see is a magazine with an article Tittled “Reefer Madness” about two prominent attorney’s that are spear heading the movement and how this man and wife team are a very different face of legal Cannabis. I took the time to get a shot of the story with Denver in the background knowing it would make a great start or inspiration for a story. Welcome to Colorado it seemed to say to me.
We had some good friends that used to live in Oregon that now live near Denver come in and show us around and take us to one of the dispensaries in the area the first called 420 wellness. This first place was not what I expected and although everyone that came in to get medicine had proper paperwork the over all feel of the place was of a dorm room more than a legal Cannabis clinic. I am not trying to make anyone mad and the owner was a super nice guy with cheap prices that obviously cared about his patients but it had much more a package shop feel than a medical dispensary. Its also possible since the owner “Rich” believes in giving such good deals he hasn’t been able to invest in upgrades to his spot yet. His 1/8ths were 35$ when some other clubs charges as much as 80$ for an 1/8th. He had people medicating on site and later when we visited a nicer club I learned this is strictly prohibited. He showed me some amazing looking Melt product but when I smoked some it crackled like it was full of impurities like butane so I didn’t actually medicate at the first place. I am legal in Colorado before you ask I actually am legal in like 8 states now. Check out this amazing map of all the dispensaries in Denver alone.
The second place we went to was really nice and much more what I expected to see a quality shop to look like. Discreet and classy with art decorations and steel doors leading to the different areas. You show your paperwork and then your buzzed in to a waiting area. Then there is another secure door before you can make a purchase. I was impressed to see TGA genetics for sale in both seed and clone form. This is the shop that had the CO2 Critically Extracted med Wax that blew me away but you will hear more on that later. The owner Scott was really nice to us showing us around and letting us take a few shots behind the green door as it were.
The third place we went to was even nicer, Denver Relief was located 2 doors down from a Cop Shop and after speaking with the owner he told me that the landlord actually provides free rent for the cop shop to make the community a better place.. The business before had adopted that policy and when the Pot shop came in the owner explained that the cops would be forced to move and instead the owner of the building offered to honor the contract keeping the cops close by to keep things safe. Denver Relief’s Bio- Diesel was the 2009 Harvest Cup winner. The shop was super nice with close circuit cameras and nicely decorated and spotlessly clean. This would be my shop of choice if I lived in the area out of all those we visited.
Sunday evening was the actual event we flew down to attend. The famous Cheese Cake Lady was hosting a Hash Bash and I had been asked to speak and sign books ate the event. We arrived early to get our passes and then made a trip around the displays. There was tons of killer looking Hash and Bud and every type of medicating utensil you could imagine. We met some really cool people and even a former Professional Hockey player that suffered a severe injury and was now a medical cannabis user. Everyone was super friendly and glad to meet us, it was a nice change from the drama that can be the internet to be honest. One grower came up to me with a grin and said ” I have a complaint Subcool, I planted 100 seeds and only 99 grew” then his smile got bigger and he gave me a big hug. Another grower had just germinated 150 TGA seeds with only 3 duds. The third person I spoke with handed me a bud of Chernobyl he drove 400 miles to show to me. I gave him the proper respect I hope rolling a joint for everyone else from my stash and rolling me and this cat PCG a joint of his amazing Chenobyl and we shared the whole spliff together. I told him it was as good as our mother buds and he smiled. ‘Coming from you Sub thats about the best compliment I have ever received” It’s awesome to make people feel so good with just a few kind words.
This is the stuff that impressed me the most of any thing I saw there or in the 8 years I went to Amsterdam to be honest. While they would not reveal there method and they charge 100$ per gram for this stuff it must have been amazing as it’s the first cannabis I have paid for in some 7 years now. From what I could piece together there using Super Critical c0@ extraction with Dry Ice. I found a few links if you want to read more.
I think they are using some type of extraction tube and liquid CO2 along with the dry ice to keep the CO2 in a liquid form as it passes through the extractor. I have also not given up on getting the inventors to tell me more but at 100 a gram I do understand why they want to keep the method to themselves. If They tell me they know I will tell the world. I have never smoked anything so pure and even made with a strain called Blue Dream it was phenomenal I can only imagine when they start producing it with Space Bomb. When any heat is applied it forms a golden pool and then its gone. They smoke it over coals and pull it through upside down bowls but I like the screen method. The only problem is when it cools it clogs the pipe and then forms a pool of pure wax in the bottom of the pipe which I actually heated up and got more hits. This stuff was just the coolest and I quaickly smoked up 100$ worth in just 2 days.
At 8 PM they asked me to head upstairs and give my talk and answer some questions. There was a good many people present and I was actually a bit nervous at first but I simply spoke with passion about soil and breeding and organics and breeding and when I finally took a breath and asked for questions I was over whelmed by the interest in what I had to say. When I was speaking I couldn’t tell if they were learning or thought I was an idiot, judging by the number of Books we signed and the fact I had was swarmed for almost an hour after really made me feel like what I had to say was worth hearing. I met so many cool people that were growing my gear and using my soil. One really clean cut guy told me my recipe cahnged his life then proceeded to show me like 7 strains he had grown in my soil. When I asked if he ever used liquid fertilizer he replied. I just add water Sub like ya told me. He actually picked up my recipe from THC farmer a site I am now banned from. If you guys wonder why I post my info on so many sites even if its cut and paste this is a perfect example.
The next morning I was asked to go out to a remote location at 10,000 feet high to see a TGA garden. Canyon Road was so cool as a road cuts deep through the rocks next to a stream that I assume dug the canyon millions of years ago. The lights were off and we fumbled in the dark a good bit but I was able to capture these pictures to show you guys that whats going on all over the state. There Growing Dank and helping treat people naturally and with love.
It’s obvious to me that some regulation needs to take place but the thing everyone reading this needs to remember is this. The people of Colorado voted by a margin of 2/3rds to change their constitution and its not going to change back. These life loving people have made the decision for responsible adults to medicate with cannabis and not to put everyone in there state in jail for wanting a natural cure to many of lifes problems and ailments. The people that don’t support our movement might as well get used to us just like I put up with drinkers and cigarette smokers when I go out in public. We should have the same rights they do as our drug of choice is much less harmful and toxic to them than theirs are to us.
I can’t wait to go back to Denver
But the Colorado rocky mountain high
I’ve seen it rainin’ fire in the sky
The shadow from the starlight is softer than a lullabye
Rocky mountain high. John Denver
Pot magazines like High Times are famous for publishing amazing pictures of cannabis flowers of mostly the female species. Cannabis is a dioecious plant, which means that the male and female flowers develop on separate plants, although monoecious examples with both sexes on one plant are found. Sibling crosses draw genetic traits from both the mother and father plant, the male plays just as important a role as the female does but its rare to see male cannabis plants in full bloom and pollen collection and use is almost a mythical craft. I will do my best in this article to shed some light on the ways pollen is collected and dispersed.
Before we talk about collecting pollen let’s talk about staggering. This is a trick I learned by trial and error that allows us to get the maximum number of seeds per plant. This doesn’t apply to those just working with a branch or two.
When pollinating a mother plant for seed I will start her into 12/12 a full 7 days before I move the male into budding room. Keeping in mind that each strain is going to be a bit different on its time frame, this 7 day rule has worked very well for us.
Once the male is flowering well the females will be entering a window around day 21-24. Most hybrids I work with are done in less than 9 weeks so 3 weeks in is good place to start. You can pollinate up to day 30 but you stand a good chance of the seeds never getting mature so I find each strain perfect window. Apollo-13 is closer to 21 days and Jacks Cleaner is better at say 26 or so.
One thing I must insert – and I am not trying to be rude for young, aspiring breeders out there – is advice to concentrate on producing the best herb you can and mastering the craft of room set-up. Again, no offence, but you can’t breed properly in a cab. I do it in a limited space but I have been growing successfully some 32 years and didn’t start breeding till I had around 20 years under my belt. It doesn’t hurt to experiment – that is how we learn – but I think at least a few years as a grower are in order before anyone attempts breeding even though I lay out every single step. If you think its easy, ask a grower how many complete garbage strains he’s grown out from so called “Established Breeders”. It takes an eye and that is gained from experience.
Ok, so now we have our male in full bloom and we have our females in the breeding room. This area should be completely separated from main bud area preferably in another building completely. If the two rooms share a common HVAC duct system you will get pollution into your main area. Pollen is serious stuff and flies everywhere and you cannot see it. It will stick to your clothes, pets, etc. You must change clothes and bath after entering your breeding area.
Over the years I have budded out quite a few males and each one acts a bit differently. Some bud extremely fast while others tend to release pollen over a longer period of time. The best males to work with are one that matures in a short window maturing and releasing pollen in a short time span.
I prefer to simply allow my males to hang out with my mothers for a few days with a small fan positioned on the male with females in the air stream. As the stamen open the pollen naturally flies into the air providing max coverage. We also like to pluck off ripe pods and gently roll them between our fingers over each cola head. This is how we capture the amazing suspended pollen shots I set as a standard and later Jill perfected.
The Pollen Trap
One trick I have used in the past is the pollen trap. This trick takes a good eye for when the male is about to open. If you can figure that out – simple – take two large Tupperware containers and form a box that will hold a cup with water. Wax paper in bottom and along sides and tops you have cut off the mature male. Place the tops to hang over the wax paper and tape the entire box shut this allows you to have it in a non secure place like a vegetive room. Warning: don’t spill the water as it ruins the pollen and don’t put more into the glass than you need to. I used a heavy bar glass that wouldn’t tip over.
One thing we should cover is male cluster formation. When selecting a male for breeding we run him as a mature full size plant and we want to see even if he has met all our other breeding criteria that he makes big gnarly male clusters this indicates the bud formation he might pass on. If you male produces small clusters he most likely will not pass on larger yields to the offspring. This is not set in stone but it is a very good indication.
Once the plants are fully pollinated I wash the females off with a spray bottle of water and if its raining I place out doors for a night up high on a barrel where no bugs could possibly get to her. I prefer a gentle long rain to a spray bottle as it removed any access pollen. Once I have redundantly rinsed I place the mothers back into my main bud not in the main air stream of my blowers
Back to the male we have used for the breeding party. I will bend his branches over and cover them with a V spaded hanging trap I make from wax paper. This is the process I will get Jill to shoot here in about 3 weeks and add to the thread. One thing to watch out for is the male flowers they contain water and must be removed from pollen. I find the hanging traps I make can be shaken and the flowers being heavy fall to the corners and can be removed from the pile.
Collecting pollen is a bit like milking a gnat, when you manually roll a pod and it falls it may be a million grains but its is barley visible to the eye it also tends to stick to the wax paper but the solution is to mix in some dry flour. I used a ratio of about 5 to 1 and ended up with a yellow looking mix that resembled cake batter. I allowed the flour to dry well and microwaving wouldn’t be bad idea to remove any moisture that might remain in the flour.
The male Cannabis plant is amazing in its own right and in the game of creating hybrids a male known for his attributes can be worth a lot more than the most elite female cutting.
-diverse group of organic HydroCarbons (C5H, produced by a wide variety of plants
-terpenoids are terpenes which have been chemically modified. They are important building blocks for certain odors, hormones, vitamins, pigments, steroids, resins, essential oils, and CANNABINOIDS!
-they are released from plants when temperatures are higher, helping to seed clouds which then cool the plants
-they interact with each other synergistically for a range of different smells/qualities/effects
Effects when ingested by an animal can be:
-anti-microbial, anti-carcinogen, anti-oxidant, analgesic (painkiller), anti-inflammatory, muscle relaxer, anti-depressant, psychoactive (active molecules in Wormwood/absinthe, Salvia, and Cannabis), anti-anxiety, sedative, vasoconstrictor, vasorelaxant, sensory elevator…
-some are poisonous to varying degrees and act as natural pesticides (poison hemlock)
-over 120 different terpenes can be manufactured by Cannabis, some only in trace amounts with others in double-digit percentage
-produced in the trichomes, the same glands where THC is
produced, comprising between 10 and 20 percent of the total oils produced by the glands
-about 10-29 percent of marijuana smoke resin is composed of terpenes/terpenoids
-age, maturation and time of day can affect the amount and ratios of terpenes. They are constantly being produced but are vaporized by heat and light of the day… so harvest in early morning!
-climate and weather also affect terpene and flavonoid production. The same variety, even genotype, can produce a different terpene profile when grown in different soils or with different fertilizers.
-in addition to many circulatory and muscular effects, some terpenes interact with neurological receptors and modify their chemical output
-a few bind weakly to Cannabinoid receptors
-others seem to alter the permeability of cell membranes and allow in either more or less THC
-others affect serotonin and dopamine chemistry (neurotransmitters)
Examples of some common Terpenes found in Cannabis:
-Borneol- menthol, camphor, pine, woody. Can be easily converted into menthol. Found in Cinnamon and Wormwood. It is considered a “calming sedative” in Chinese medicine. It is directed for fatigue, recovery from illness and stress.
-Caryophyllene – spicy, sweet, woody, clove, camphor, peppery. Found in black pepper(15-25%), clove(10-20%) and cotton(15-25%). It binds weakly to CB2 receptor. As a topical it is one of the constituents of clove oil, an anti-inflammatory and analgesic treatment for toothache. In high amounts, it’s a calcium and potassium ion channel blocker. As a result, it impedes the pressure exerted by heart muscles. Since THC does not have a smell, drug dogs are trained to find one, very smelly molecule called Caryophyllene-epoxide!
-Cineole/Eucalyptol- spicy, camphor, refreshing, minty. Found in rosemary, eucalyptus. It is used to increase circulation, pain relief and easily crosses the blood-brain-barrier to trigger fast olfactory reaction. Eucalyptus oil is considered centering, balancing and stimulating. It is possibly the stimulating and thought provoking part of the cannabis smoke stream.
-Delta3Carene- sweet, pine, cedar, woodsy, pungent. A constituent of rosemary, pine and cedar resin. In aroma therapy, cypress oil, high in D-3-carene, is used to dry excess fluids, tears, running noses, excess menstrual flow and perspiration. It may contribute to the dry eye and mouth experienced by some marijuana users.
-Limonene- citrus (orange, tangerine, lemon, and grapefruit), rosemary, juniper, peppermint. Repulsive to predators. Found in the rinds of many fruits and flowers. With the presence of other certain terpenes, Limonene can be an anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-depressant and anti- carcinogen. It can synergistically promote the absorption of other terpenes by quickly penetrating cell membranes. The result can be increased systolic blood pressure. Since Limonene is such a potent anti-fungal and anti-cancer agent, it is thought to protect against aspergillus fungi and carcinogens found in cannabis smoke streams!
-Linolool- floral (spring flowers), lily, citrus and candied spice. Possesses anti-anxiety and sedative properties (also in lavender).
-Myrcene – clove like, earthy, green-vegetative, citrus, fruity with tropical mango and minty nuances. The most prevalent terpene found in most varieties of marijuana, it is also present in high amounts in Mangos, hops, lemon grass, East Indian bay tree, verbena and Mercia. Myrcene is one of the most important chemicals used in the perfumery industry. Because of its pleasant odor, it is occasionally used directly. It’s a building block for menthol, citronella, and geraniol. It possesses antimicrobial, antiseptic, analgesic, antioxidant, anti-carcinogen, anti depressant, anti-inflammatory, and muscle relaxing effects. Myrcene affects the permeability of the cell membranes, allowing more THC to reach brain cells.
-Pinene- Alpha: pine needles, rosemary Beta: dill, parsley, rosemary, basil, yarrow, rose, hops, the familiar odor associated with pine trees and their resins. It is the major component in turpentine and is found in many other plant essential oils including rosemary, sage, and eucalyptus. Pinene can increase mental focus and energy, as well as act as an expectorant,
bronchodilator (the smoke seems to expand in your lungs), and topical antiseptic. It easily crosses the blood-brain barrier where it inhibits activity of acetylcholinesterase, which destroys acetylcholine, an information transfer molecule, resulting in better memory. It may counteract THC’s activity, which leads to low acetylcholine levels. Largely due to the presence of pinene, rosemary and sage are both considered “memory plants.” Concoctions made from their leaves have been used for thousands of years in traditional medicine to retain and restore memory.
-Pulegone- mint, camphor, rosemary, candy. It is implicated in liver damage in very high dosages. It is found in tiny quantities in marijuana. Pulegone is an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor. That is, it stops the action of the protein that destroys acetylcholine, which is used by the brain to store memories.
-Sabinene – Found in oak trees, tea tree oil, black pepper and is a major constituent of carrot seed oil.
-Terpineol- floral, lilac, citrus, apple/orange blossoms, lime. It is a minor constituent of many plant essential oils. It is used in perfumes and soaps for fragrance. It reduces physical motility 45% in lab rat tests… Couch-lock effect?
Synthetic Cannabis alternatives:
-Marinol, synthetic THC, contains no terpenes… hence little medical value
-Sativex maintains a strict ratio of THC and CBD but also maintains a strict ratio of certain terpenes, yet the company doesn’t mention what the actual concentrations of terpenoids might be. Probably still not the same profile nor medicinal benefits as the whole cannabis plant.
Try at home!
-Inhale the aromas prior to consumption. Break up the bud, releasing volatile terpenes and INHALE deeply through your nose. Wait 5 minutes and you will maximize the benefits from that bud.
-Eat a Mango 1 hour before consuming Cannabis. Mangos are high in Myrcene which increases the effects of THC. Especially if it’s a less potent strain, you should notice more of a “zing”…