[Canniseur: You can’t go wrong with any of these strains. Keep current on Cup winners.]
The birthplace of medical marijuana doesn’t slouch when it comes to having the best pot possible on any given day. Because it is the closest urban center to the ancestral homeland of the best marijuana in America (the Emerald Triangle), some of the best cultivators in the world ply their trade on the shores of the San Francisco Bay Area. When the time comes for the locals to show their top phenotypes of the moment grown to the best of their ability, it’s pretty exciting stuff.
As always, I hit every booth and checked out their spreads at the High Times Cannabis Cup in San Francisco’s legendary Cow Palace. All of the cultivators and booths in this collection had zero trash on their table. If I approached a booth and got the slightest hint of poor effort in post-production, I moved on to the next. Perhaps I missed something nice, but the people who grow the best pot in the world couldn’t even fathom putting that grassy-smelling John Deere Lawn Mower Clippings Kush on their table. However, overall, I was impressed with the showing. Here is our rundown on the most flame strains at the 2019 Cannabis Cup in San Francisco.
Diamond Back Genetics — Granpa’s This Is The Sh*t
When I went through my first pass of judging the sungrown entries just going on looks, I was struck at how absolutely stunning this strain looked. (Of course, at the time I didn’t know what strain it was, it was simply labelled Full Sungrown Entry 8.) Amongst some offerings that looked a little dated from last season, this strain had a fantastic visual. The nose took a little coercing to get out, so it wasn’t a pure jar jumper. But once I cracked into a nug, my nostrils were attacked with a sensory overload giving me flashbacks to the best OG Kush experiences of my life. I called it the winner even as it was the first jar I opened, and I was correct.
Str8organics — Mendo Breath
The crew at Str8organics have a wide array of flamage, and while many of their strains may be a bit more exclusive or exotic than the Mendo Breath, I regularly find myself going back to it. As I told the strain’s breeders at Gage Green Group when I interviewed them last year, my absolute favorite rendition of their now uber-popular strain is certainly the light deprivation-grown version coming from Str8organics. It’s basically as good as 92% of the indoor Mendo Breath you’re going to see, without all the emotional baggage of a carbon footprint.
C.R.A.F.T. — Cherry Punch
As you know, I love Cherry Punch. After we named it on our Harvest Hype strain list last harvest season, it went on to a podium spot at The Emerald Cup a few months later. While C.R.A.F.T. made it to the podium four times this weekend at the Bay Area Cannabis Cup, including taking home the Indica Cup, shockingly, none of the accolades were for their Cherry Punch. Make no mistake about it, until proven otherwise, C.R.A.F.T. has the best cut of Cherry Punch on the planet. They previously put out a small batch last fall, and it’s now in full production. People spent a pretty penny on Cherry Punch seeds when they bought the from Symbiotic Genetics at California’s first legal adult-use Cannabis Cup, which led to some less-than-perfect phenos getting out there, because people simply couldn’t afford to lose the whole pack. The C.R.A.F.T. phenotype is like Brad Pitt’s character in “World War Z” compared to all those other cuts: It will never be infected with the sickness of simply being described as “above average.”
The folks at Sovereign also found themselves on the podium four times this weekend, including scoring both first and second place in the infused products category. But what took our breath away was Sovereign’s flowers, particularly their XXX and Blueberry Muffin strains. While neither found their way to the podium, they both were something special.
Seven Leaves did not travel light to the Bay Area. The Sacramento-based cultivators brought a lovely spread that included BonBon, Biscotti and Vovo. The BonBon was a delightful Gushers phenotype, while the Biscotti pairs Gelato #25 and South Florida OG and the Vovo is a wild GG4 cross named in a manner to prevent future litigation with adhesive companies. All were flame! However, if someone gave me a ticket for a free eighth and I had to pick one of these three strains, I would pick the Vovo.
Wonderbrett — OZK
Obviously, an OG crossed with Zkittlez is going to be banging, and — outside the personal collection of Brandon from 3rd Generation Family, who bred the OZK from Zkittlez and OG Eddy — it’s tough to imagine anyone having a better version than Wonderbrett. We’re expecting a lot of OZK in the not-too-distant future, so don’t be surprised if it makes the Harvest Hype list this year, as enthusiasm around the strain continues to percolate.
3C Farms — Sasquatch Sap, Lime Sherbert and Club 33 OG
With a lineage tracing back to the famed Josh D cut of OG Kush, 3C Farms has been known for producing the absolute heat for years. You may remember that in 2017, their Sasquatch Sap placed second in the mini cannabis competition we held at the National Cannabis Industry Association’s annual conference in Oakland. We love the Sasquatch Sap, but it’s hard to rank it above the Lime Sherbert and Club 33 OG. The Lime Sherbert is like a citrus smoothie with fuel notes, while the Club 33 OG is quintessential SoCal OG Kush grown to peak performance.
[Canniseur: The field of biogeography is fascinating. The authors speculate cannabis separated from hops 27.8 million years ago. How scientists determined the path of cannabis from Tibet, to Kazakhstan, to Turkey, then around the world is pretty cool.]
The latest research is pointing to the Tibetan Plateau as the origin of cannabis, reaffirming academia’s long-held belief the plant first evolved in central Asia.
A new study has put forth a compelling argument about where the cannabis plant originated: in the Qinghai Lake region of the Tibetan Plateau, about 28 million years ago.
The scientists behind the research, known as biogeographers, used data on the way wild cannabis pollen has distributed over the years to ground their study. Then, using information from 155 fossil plant studies that have been conducted in Asia, they were able to get more precise. The pairing of the two led to civilization’s best localized guess yet of where marijuana evolved.
According to the study, published in the journal Vegetation History and Archaeobotany, the location is about 10,700 feet above sea level in the Qinghai Lake region of the Tibetan Plateau. The lake has a huge surface area of 1,700 square miles. The region is home to an array of Buddhist monasteries and rare birds like the black-necked crane. It is currently under the control of China. The lake is the largest lake on the largest, highest and youngest plateau in the world, as well as the largest lake in China, as noted by the People’s Republic’s submission to make the lake a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2017. Now that we believe the cannabis plant was born there, how can it not be?
Using “molecular clock analysis,” or a tool that looks at the mutation rate of biomolecules to estimate how long ago two species diverged, the researchers estimated that the cannabis plant diverged from the hops plant 27.8 million years ago.
The research was led by John M. McPartland of the University of Vermont and GW Pharmaceuticals, William Hegman from Middlebury College, and Tengwen Long from the University of Nottingham’s Ningbo China campus.
McPartland spoke exclusively with Cannabis Now about what inspired his research. “People have wondered about the origins of cannabis for over a millennium. Ibn Wahshiyya wrote the first hypothesis back in 930 AD!,” he said in an email, “Not too many crop plants provide us with three different products: fiber, food and medicine.”
While McPartland obviously points to identifying Qinghai Lake as the biggest takeaway of his study, he says researchers found out a lot of other cool stuff, too.
“By the time humans invented agriculture, [cannabis] had spread throughout Asia and Europe —even in India,” he said. “Botanists have long argued whether or not cannabis grew indigenously in India, before humans started spreading seeds around. Thus, wild cannabis was available for people across Eurasia to bring into cultivation. It was likely domesticated, independently, in several places.”
How Researchers Discovered the Origins of Cannabis
So, how did McPartland and his team do it? Many of those fossil plant studies they looked at assigned the same markers to pollen from cannabis and pollen from its cousin hops. This is because the two can be told apart, but their structure is similar enough that a lot of research just threw them under one label. To map pollen in space and time, the publications combed through fossil plant studies and separated cannabis pollen from hops pollen.
While the authors speculate that cannabis separated from hops 27.8 million years ago, the oldest pollen they discovered that fit all their parameters of the research and was consistent with cannabis dated back to 19.6 million years ago. The site where it was discovered is in Ningxia, China, on the border between the Tibetan Plateau and the Loess Plateau.
From Tibet, the researchers said the cannabis plant migrated to Europe by 6 million years ago, the Northwest part of China by 2.5 million years ago.
In the last 130,000 years, cannabis has popped up everywhere. It found its way into four of six Chinese regions, starting with Kazakhstan and then Turkey about 19,000 years later.
[Canniseur: ‘…good moral character determinations are based on discretion.’ Discretion being the mercy of the presiding judge. This is why judge appointments are so critical. Until cannabis is legal at the Federal level, this kind of BS will continue.]
While many Americans were planning their 420 festivities, last Friday, the Department of Homeland Security sent out a stern warning to anyone who hopes to be an American citizen in the future about being associated with marijuana.
The policy alert from DHS’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office was titled: “Controlled Substance-Related Activity and Good Moral Character Determinations.” The memo that followed stated that any violation of federal controlled substances laws, even for marijuana, remains a conditional bar to establishing “good moral character.” This means that any foreign national who admits to or is caught smoking marijuana in the United States — even in a legal state or a medical state where their doctor has approved their use — will never again be able to establish they are a “good enough person” to become a citizen of the United States.
The memo went on to note on all the major changes that have happened in marijuana policy since California passed Proposition 215 in 1996, but reiterated that the federal government still considers cannabis to be a Schedule I drug.
Lorilei Williams is an immigration attorney and founder of Mariposa Quebrada, an organization that aims to support immigrants through art and activism. She said that she had a client who was a legal permanent resident of the U.S. and originally from West Africa. He had three cannabis offenses around simple possession for personal use, so when he tried to become a naturalized citizen, his application was denied on the grounds of those cannabis offenses.
“None were deemed crimes under [New York state’s penal law], but were classified as violations,” Williams said, adding that her client had paid the fines and done the community service that New York had required.
Not only was the naturalization application denied, Williams said, the federal government also moved forward with proceedings to deport her client because he was deemed deportable for drug offenses.
“We worked with a criminal defense attorney to get two of the three offenses vacated,” she said. Thanks to that effort, Williams said deportation proceedings were terminated and her client kept legal permanent resident status.
However, without the support of a dedicated legal team, most immigrants would not be able to contest the federal government’s push to use cannabis as an excuse to deport.
Memo: State-Legal Cannabis Employees Can Be Denied Citizenship Also
Beyond targeting those people caught possessing cannabis, the memo released on April 19 clarified that violations of the federal Controlled Substances Act, established by a conviction or admission, remain proof that a person does not have “good moral character” — even where the conduct would not be a violation of state law.
The memo also provided a terrible angle for those in the legal cannabis industry to get stonewalled: “An applicant who is involved in certain marijuana-related activities may lack [good moral character] if found to have violated federal law, even if such activity is not unlawful under applicable state or foreign laws.”
This could certainly prove a hindrance to any Canadian person who has been in the legal cannabis industry in their country and may want to move to the U.S. as the global market eventually opens up.
Alejandra Rosero is an immigration attorney in San Francisco and part of the legal team at Dolores Street Community Services, whose stated goal is to nurture individual wellness and cultivate collective power among low-income and immigrant communities.
Rosero said that the memo from the DHS is essentially a continuation of the status quo.
“The use of marijuana has always had negative immigration consequences, even if used for medicinal purposes, because it continues to be a ‘crime’ at the federal level,” said Rosero. “However, if legalized by state law, a [judge] may become more sympathetic when granting immigration petitions since good moral character determinations are based on discretion.”
TELL US, do you think smoking cannabis should disqualify you from becoming a citizen?
[Canniseur: Ridgeline Farms in Humboldt County is the kind of craft cannabis farm we want to thrive in the new world of legalized pot. Jason Gellman tends to the land with love and his winning plants shine.]
Ridgeline Farms has won some of the biggest awards in cannabis in recent years, all while working to stay afloat as they watch a sea of their small farmer peers fail to make the bar set by cannabis legalization in California.
Jason Gellman is a second generation Southern Humboldt cannabis farmer, hailing from lands known to produce some of the finest outdoor cannabis on the plant. He says the lands are a part of his blood and his way of life, which is why he says he hopes the culture of the hills will survive through this tumultuous period in California cannabis.
Gellman, who is the founder of Ridgeline Farms, recently took home that culture’s biggest prize. In December 2018, the farm won first prize in the full sun category of The Emerald Cup for their strain Green Lantern. For those uninitiated, the Emerald Cup is essentially the world championship of outdoor-grown pot — and winning in 2018 was a huge deal, since it was the first competition since California’s adult-use market officially opened on Jan. 1, 2018.
Following the Emerald Cup, on March 28, a limited line of Ridgeline Farms’ Green Lantern is now available (while supplies last) for purchase in a few select California dispensaries, through a partnership with Flow Kana.
Like many other growers, Gellman spent years working under the guidelines of California’s medical marijuana law, Proposition 215, as well as the guidelines that then-Attorney General Jerry Brown provided the California cannabis industry in 2008. But a new era began following the passage of Proposition 64 in 2016, which legalized adult-use cannabis in California and ushered in the brand new world of permitting.
While the challenges of regulation proved too much for some, Ridgeline has survived so far. But Gellman admitted that it’s been an uphill battle.
“I don’t even know where to start. This has been a part of my life forever and it is for everyone else around here,” Gellman told Cannabis Now. “I’ve been working on the permitting for about three and a half years — and it’s been nothing but a struggle, to be honest.”
Surviving California’s Regulations, With a Little Help from the Emerald Cup
Gellman said at times it has been very difficult to come out from behind the curtain of the past. The first challenge was becoming a business, as Ridgeline Farms is a family-run and owned operation without the backing of any mega-investors. Gellman is still jumping through the hoops that followed in getting his permits with the county. He said he had to downsize from two properties due to the challenges he faced with regulations.
Prior to the Emerald Cup, Gellman said he wasn’t sure what he was going to do about staying in the cannabis industry or not. Farmers were finding various methods to get their legal product to the world, be it organizing amongst themselves or signing on with large distributors who have made their way through the hills. But even then, their cannabis wasn’t really getting out there.
“Everyone was struggling, nobody was moving product,” Gellman said. “There has to be money to make the wheel spin. We’re paying taxes from every end. To grow is super expensive.”
He noted that the kind of soil used to produce champions takes a lot of love — i.e., time and money — just like the plants do.
“Then, you add in the county fees and the state fees. So, we’re doing all that and then you grow all this product and suddenly there is nobody there to buy it,” Gellman said. “[Licensing] made a real roadblock for a lot of people.”
After winning the Emerald Cup, Gellman was finally pushing his product out to the masses.
“It’s funny because I’ve been growing Green Lantern for years, and nobody has ever wanted it,” Gellman said. “I mean, they like it, but our town has kind of been in the OG Kush or Sour Diesel generation for about 12 to 15 years.”
Green Lantern: The Award-Winning Strain
Gellman first got his hands on the Green Lantern strain from a good friend. He says back in the day there were barely any strains, and Green Lantern was one of the few on offer. “Not like nowadays where there are a million different crosses, there was just a couple,” he said. Gellman and all his buddy’s parents were growing seeded weed.
Gellman’s pal had some OG seeds from many years ago and was always doing crosses. On one of the pairings, he got a lone seed in a bag of some high-end full sun cannabis. He paired the OG-heavy strain with something a bit fruitier, eventually finding single bag seed. After more seeds were produced, Gellman weeded out his winning phenotype from between 50 and 100 plants. It was the combination of fruit and gas he was looking for.
“We stuck with that one and we’ve been growing it a while. Now I know people like it,” Gellman said. The Green Lantern has topped off at over 30 percent THC.
Gellman is proud of the hype being driven by Green Lantern, despite its old school roots.
“We didn’t send out genetics off, we didn’t test it, we didn’t know any of this stuff,” he said. “Everyone getting into it now is so scientific. Listen, I can tell you it will knock your butt on the floor. I can tell you it’s really strong and good. And that’s how we test it.”
Gellman admits the next generation of Green Lantern genetics he’s working on will have some lab work involved, as he hopes to get the genetics out to an even wider audience. He says what people notice about the strain — if they’re lucky to get some, because there isn’t that much out there — is it’s not a pungent smelling strain to grow. However, when you grow it to perfection and dry it to perfection, it smells great.
The batch that won the Emerald Cup was a random 20 plants they threw in late and let go the full light cycle and it came out amazing.
The Future of Ridgeline and Humboldt Cannabis
As for the future, Gellman said “we’re staying small.” Despite a flurry of folks that would love to financially back an Emerald Cup champion looking to scale up their operation, Gellman said he’s not interested. “I’ve been growing for my whole life, and so I’m kind of burnt out a little bit,” he said. Gellman said he wants to focus on doing the best he can at a smaller scale.
Gellman spoke of looking up at the ridgeline of King’s Peak, the namesake for the farm. “I just love my home. I love Southern Humboldt. I love this way of life. It’s a really great community — and 99 percent of the people grow weed, even if they say they don’t,” he said.
He also hopes the recognition he is receiving at the moment is passed on to the Garberville community that been such a major part of cannabis in America for decades with little to no props given.
“Everyone knows the Humboldt name, but we’re starting to get pushed out,” Gellman said.
“More than anything, I just really want people to know this recognition I’m getting, is because Southern Humboldt grows some of the best weed. I have so many friends and family members, you can’t beat it,” Gellman said.
[Canniseur: Grow season is here. Get fabulous basic grow tips for growing your favorite cannabis strain.]
For home cannabis growers, springtime means laying the groundwork — literally — for a successful harvest come fall.
It’s the end of March, and that means it’s prep time for marijuana home growers.
While cannabis is similar to plenty of other crops that home gardeners might be used to, given that the same key ingredients are soil and light, the cannabis plant still requires some unique expertise. Ahead of the 2019 planting season, Cannabis Now spoke with two experts to get their take on how home growers should prepare their gardens for a successful marijuana cultivation season.
The first expert is the legendary Ed Rosenthal. Rosenthal has spent decades educating people on marijuana cultivation, and he said that this year, he will be personally working with mostly older genetics this year. He expects the strains he’ll be working with will be a bit closer to landraces than some of the newer stuff out at the moment.
The second expert is Dark Heart Nursery founder Dan Grace. Grace’s catalog of genetics provides a big chunk of the clones that make their way to California home growers.
Both Grace and Rosenthal said that there are four main things that every cannabis cultivator should consider when setting up their home garden.
1) Building Healthy Soil
“Your garden’s success depends on the quality of your soil. Invest now to feed your soil,” Grace said. “Compost, Guano, worm castings — these are all great.” He added that you’ll want some nitrogen to get your plants off to a strong start, and some phosphorous and potassium to promote flowering later into the season.
“But one overlooked element is calcium,” Grace said. “Cannabis plants consume as much or more calcium as nitrogen! So bulk up.” He noted that oyster shell meal is a great organic supplement for calcium.
Beyond the compounds in the soil, the soil’s structure also matters. The experts recommend turning your soil over with a shovel while amending it with new nutrients in order to improve structure. With enough time, you can even plant a cover crop like clover, which naturally improves the quality of the soil. When it’s time to plant, you can till in the cover crop — and the decomposing vegetation helps build soil.
Rosenthal said that it is “ideal” for home cannabis growers to also have a vegetable garden. He says the similar soil preparation can save you time — and who doesn’t love fresh tomatoes?
2) Selecting the Proper Site
Rosenthal next stressed that home growers should make sure that they choose a spot that’s sunny in the fall, which is when the plants will be flowering — not just in the summer. “You get long shadows and blockages in the fall because the sun is at an acute angle,” Rosenthal said. He also noted if the grower feels another part of the yard is going to be sunnier in the fall, maybe they should plant the cannabis in movable containers.
“Cannabis thrives in the sunlight,” Grace said. “Even partial shade can cause cannabis plants to flower early, especially if they’re planted early in the season.”
Grace also mentioned that if you’re not sure how the sun travels across your garden, try Google Earth’s sun feature. “It’s a great way to see how sun exposure changes over the course of the year.”
3) Thinking About Appropriate Plant Size
If privacy isn’t a concern and you want to go as massive as possible in your home garden, you need to start the vegetative process inside, Rosenthal said.
“People who grow these big plants outdoors, in general, they start them indoors and they’re already three to five feet high when they plant them outside,” Rosenthal said. This saves the plant an extra two months of vegetative growth.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, if privacy is a concern over size, you can just plant a bit later in the season as to not worry about height. Rosenthal says sometime around July 1st should do it.
4) Investing in Simplicity
Grace’s next tip for making life easier this summer is cheap automation.
“We all get busy, and a few missed waterings can really hurt your plant health,” Grace said. “Invest in the spring in a simple drip irrigation system on an automatic timer. This will save you when the summer heat comes around.”
Another time-saving idea for keeping a low-maintenance garden is to cover your soil with a layer of 1-ply cardboard and cover with 3 or more inches of mulch, making sure to leave a few inches between the mulch and the plant stems.
“The sheet-mulch will prevent weeds and retain water,” Grace said. “If you do this on top of a drip irrigation system, you’ll have a practically care-free garden.”
Grace’s final advice was to have fun.
“Don’t stress out about it too much,” he said. “Think about placing your plants someplace you’ll most enjoy them. If you’re concerned about visitors or the neighbors, hide them in the back. If you want to enjoy the aroma from the porch, put them in the porch.”