Are we messing with cannabis too much?
I recently ran into a post on Reddit where a User asked the question whether we’re “messing” with cannabis too much. At first, I thought the user was going to talk about blending the different genetics together, creating hybrids, and reducing the instances of pure land races – however, this was not the case.
Instead of me trying to explain it, here’s the User’s comment.
Alright so we as humans have kind of a problem with fucking with nature….
In sooooo many ways….
When it comes to natural plants that produce pleasant effects though we always take that shit too far via manipulation.
For instance with Coca you have a plant that native farmers realize has stimulant properties and they chew it to help them work the land and do their tasks.
Then we do some study and find out exact compounds producing that stimulant effect and we do some crazy ass chemistry and isolate cocaine as a salt.
Time goes by and we realize.. Well wait we can make this even stronger.
So we study the mechanisms of action and then realize well if we make it smokable it will increase the intensity even more and baam no we have crack. And then an epidemic kicks in.
Same goes with the poppy to morphine to quicker blood brain barrier to heroin then to synesthetic opiates and again another epidemic.
This is just the path we do over and over and over lol
Now with cannabis we started with a plant that usually has around 2-4% thc.
We did select breeding got that all the way up to around 20-30% now-a-days.
Then we started doing extraction techniques and got that to the point of using butane hash oil and other techniques that are producing extremely isolated and intense amounts of those particular compounds.
Now I do believe this is the same level as some of those more intense realities but it goes to show maybe we are just fucking with a great thing and end up with not such a great thing.
What do you all think about this?
While I think that the conclusion the Redditor reached was erroneous, I do think there is merit in the question, Are We Messing With Cannabis Too Much?
It’s not about potency…
Selective breeding is something that humans have been doing for thousands of years. This isn’t the problem. People have always wanted to maximize desirable traits from their crops/animals, and in a way, it’s our birthright as humans – the apex of nature.
We enjoy the understanding of being able to take naturally occurring things, splice them together to create new and interesting variations. However, it’s as another Redditor in the same thread pointed out;
I don’t think we’re “messing” with it per say, there are still ways to get weed comparable to 70’s weed, as long as people are conscious of preservation. As long as we’re only diversifying choices and not limiting them I think every person is capable of choosing what kind of weed suits them best.
I think this is far more of a noteworthy discussion than trying to compare cannabis cultivation with what happened with the heroin or crack epidemic. The major issue with hybrids is that it’s taking up the entire market and unless we embark on an active effort to preserve certain strains, we might actually “science away” our choice.
Therefore, in the hopes of helping educate people in this matter, we’re going to be taking a deeper look at cannabis breeding terminology, and how we should go about preserving genetics, lest we breed out characteristics that might come in handy at some point in the future.
A break down about cannabis vocabulary:
Before we get into the technical aspects of this article, let’s start by clarifying a few terms:
Gene: This refers to a section of DNA that is responsible for generating a specific trait or characteristic in a cannabis plant.
Phenotype: This refers to the external appearance of a plant which can include things like color, size, shape, etc.
Genotype: This refers to a specific gene that produces the particular phenotype.
Cultivar: This is what you call a plant that has been bred for specific traits & characteristics
Cannabinoids: These are the chemical compounds located within the cannabis plant. Most people are aware of the existence of THC and CBD, but there are hundreds of minor cannabinoids as well.
Terpenes: These are the chemical compounds that give cannabis the taste, flavor, and also impact the feeling of the cannabis when ingested.
How to sound like a cannabis snob – and be right about it!
Before we continue, let’s talk about the word “Strain”. Most people talk about different cannabis varieties by utilizing the word “strain” however, strains are mostly applied in virology. During the C19 pandemic, we saw several “strains” of the virus develop due to its evolutionary programming. Yet, when we’re talking about cannabis strains – they didn’t “naturally evolve”. They were selectively bred for their particular characteristics.
This means that the word, “Cultivar” is a more accurate depiction. In fact, in the world of Breeders, the word “strain” is a bit outdated. Just like the words “indica and sativa”. Instead, they use the word “cultivar” to describe their selectively bred cannabis plants.
Therefore, the next time you go into a dispensary you can snobbishly point out that their usage of the word “strain” is actually a bit outdated and you can ask them about the latest “cultivar” they have.
In the end, it doesn’t matter, but I guess if you want to be accurate – cultivar is the way to go.
Preserving Heirloom Cultivars
Now let’s move into the world of preservation. Over the past twenty years the rush to the highest THC levels created a market of inbreeding. Breeders discovered that people were willing to pay more for higher THC levels, and as a result the race began.
Now, we have cultivars that top 30% and while this isn’t a “bad thing”, it does get rid of certain characteristics that might become more valuable over time. We might think that high THC is the trick and breed out some of the minor characteristics, yet you never know when you might need those characteristics at some later stage in life.
“We don’t know what the future brings, and as new research and technologies are developed there could be huge medicinal and scientific benefits lost if we do not preserve the original genetic source,” said Jason Martin, president of Tree of Life Seeds, a hemp cultivator in Boulder County, Colorado.
Dan Heims, a breeder and consultant for Potpots in Aurora, Oregon, echoed that point.
“The inbreeding in the industry right now is severe,” he said. “One of the most important parts of landrace strains is that you’re returning to original genetics.”
But preserving landrace strains is not easy and requires skill and patience. Plus it’s a tricky business proposition that requires balancing the preservation of these strains with the demands of consumers who want more modern hybrid varieties.
Preserving Landrace Strains
There are some landrace strains, cannabis plants that won the evolutionary race – that have become the base for most modern strains. For example, Afghan Kush falls under this category as well as Durban Poison.
These are OG genetics that weren’t tainted by other “strains”. In Mexico, Acapulco Gold in its original form can no longer be cultivated because we lost the genetics sometime in the past. Perhaps even the government eradicated them with their atrocious war on drugs.
Fortunately, there are breeders in Mexico that are currently on the lookout for landrace strains and preserving them and stabilizing them. This is a key when it comes to breeding. You don’t simply want the cultivar, you also want to be able to make them stable to consistently produce the same characteristics.
Now, with Mexico on the verge of legalizing it for commercial purposes, there have been several breeders down there “strain hunting”, going into the mountains, getting seeds from the Narco-plantations and making sure to preserve the heritage.
Perhaps, someone might rediscover the lost genetics of Acapulco Gold and once more it can become a stable ingredient in creating new cultivars.
In fact, you can see these Landraces as “primary colors” for creating new and interesting hybrids. Therefore, even if a landrace isn’t the most potent, prioritizing its preservation can become incredibly important in the creation of new cultivars.
“I value every one of our landraces and heirloom strains as part of our toolbox,” Epstein said. “Just like a famous tomato variety, the ‘Celebrity’ tomato seeds you buy right now are not the same as the seeds you bought 10 years ago. Though they’re still called ‘Celebrity’ tomatoes, they’re always being worked on and tweaked.”
Epstein sees the importance in landrace strains, yet the market dictates his growing decisions.
“For the consumer, I think it’s extremely important to keep these old genetics around,” Epstein said. “But you’d have to dedicate yourself to preserving those genetics. The market seems to not want to reward you for doing that right now. It’s a bit of a quandary.
“For me to sell a product that the current market wants, I better take it and cross it with something that’s going to increase the potency, make it grow normal in a commercial growing environment and make it yield appropriately.”
This is why it’s important to preserve these heirloom strains, because once they are lost – we loose variety as we know it. It’s not easy, but fortunately there are plenty of people around the world working on preservation.
Sticky Bottom Line
To answer the question, “Are we messing too much with cannabis”, I think that it depends on who you ask. Personally, I’m all for experimentation, however, we should not have economy and prices dictate the experimentations.
We have learned that THC alone isn’t what makes a cannabis cultivar great. Understanding the nuances of the different terpene profiles, minor cannabinoids, flavonoids, etc – is what makes a great cultivar…well GREAT!
As our understanding of cannabis evolves, we will praise those who maintained their heirloom strains because it will only become more valuable over time. As we discover new technology and understand human/cannabis interactions, this might even lead to the development of new medicines and could potentially even cure diseases we haven’t heard of yet.
The point is, that we need to be careful going forward. Then again, as humans “are nature”, perhaps we are playing an evolutionary role in fueling selective breeding and creating new strains. But then again, if we look at companies like Monsanto, it limits our diversity and this could be bad for us in the future.
It’s important to maintain biodiversity and this is where we might be “messing with cannabis” a bit too much!
MANIPULATING BUD, READ ON…
FRANKENSTRAIN WEED CREATED BY ISRAELI SCIENTIEST!