When it comes time for TreeHawk Farms CEO Jason Olsen to determine the strain allotments for his indoor grow space, he always saves plenty of room for Magnum PI. A top seller for his Chimacum, WA-based business, Magnum PI is a citrus-heavy sativa cross of Blue Hawaiian and Agent Orange. According to Olsen, the strain has become quite popular with local consumers looking for a functional, daytime high.
“If I’m going to a [Seattle] Seahawks’ game, or if we’re going to sit down and have a cup of coffee, I’d be smoking Magnum,” Olsen says. “It gives you that ‘happy day’ feeling, like the sun’s out. It’s a euphoric, stimulating sativa high, which a lot of people love.”
Proof of Magnum PI’s popularity in Washington is evidenced by the fact that Olsen and his small staff of ten are constantly seeking to restock supply of the strain to the 30 or so stores within the state that currently carry TreeHawk’s products. A holdover from Washington’s days as a medical-only market, Magnum PI is believed to have originated with Seahorse Gardens, a breeder near Puget Sound.
For the past five-and-a-half years, however, consumers eager to taste this explosion of orange-centric terpenes and enjoy the ensuing, energizing high, have had only one option: Olsen. In truth, it was his great-grandfather and grandfather who first put his family on their current path when they bought the property that’s now TreeHawk Farms back in the 1950s and started a dairy farm. Eventually, diminishing returns and deaths in the family left Olsen, 38, to determine what course to pursue next.
“Small dairies had started to go out of business,” Olsen says. “There were eight dairies in this little valley that all shared a milk truck. We were all land-rich and money poor. Once my uncle passed away, and with costs around the business going up, it just didn’t seem like it could be profitable going forward, so we closed down.”
From Patient to Producer
As a lifelong cannabis consumer, Olsen says he applied for and received a medical card with the state as soon as the opportunity first arose. During his time as a medical patient, Olsen recalls observing the potential for a retail cannabis market and quickly realizing that if he wanted to act, the time was fast approaching. Seeing cannabis as a viable way to reinvent his family’s property with a new agricultural slant, Olsen and his wife made the decision to use their life savings to start TreeHawk Farms.
Despite a lengthy application process, battles over water usage and a spate of other bureaucratic hurdles, their efforts would ultimately prove highly successful.
Today, Olsen oversees an indoor production flow that yields about 60 pounds of cannabis each month. In addition to perennial favorite Magnum PI, the farm’s also renowned for their Candyland Cookies strain, which combines two classics in the form of Granddaddy Purple and Bay Platinum Cookies. Other notable strains on the TreeHawk menu include Chocolate Thai and The Wills, although Olsen acknowledges that his Magnum PI is likely a cut above the rest.
“It has the bag appeal,” he says. “It’s covered in sugar. It’s just a really beautiful plant. It really liked our feeding regimen and everything just fell into place.”
Room to Grow
Currently encompassing a trio of 600-square-foot grow rooms, each with 21 lights, TreeHawk Farms will soon expand its operations to include a fourth room, which Olsen confirms will include a whole row of what amounts to a third of the room’s potential production—to growing Magnum. The reasoning is simple: people just can’t get enough of it.
“A lot of people get strain-tired,” Olsen says. “With Candyland, I’m probably going to back off on that a little bit because people just want something different after a while. I haven’t had to do that at all with Magnum. I sell out, so I have to divvy up our harvest to spread it out to our stores as best we can, but everyone will take twice as much Magnum as any other strain, without blinking. The demand is still there.”
What is it about this tropically flavored, funk-forward blast of cerebral stimulation that makes it such a mainstay for Washington State cannabis regulars? Perhaps it’s the cut, maybe it’s the care that goes into cultivating it but most likely it’s a potent combination of both. After all, beyond the caché that comes with growing rarer, more exotic strains, there’s a family legacy inherent to TreeHawk Farms that clearly informs not only its craft approach but the quality of the finished product.
And for now, Olsen is proud to say that the reputation of Magnum PI can be directly traced to his efforts to bring his family’s farm back to life under the auspices of his new cannabis enterprise and its star strain.
“Honestly, there’s no one else that has this particular strain,” Olsen says, “So, if you’ve smoked Magnum PI in the last five years, you got it through TreeHawk Farms.”
Strain: According to Olson, the name is a play on the strain’s lineage: Blue Hawaiian x Agent Orange. It reminded him of a Hawaiian private investigator, like Tom Selleck from the TV show Magnum P.I.
Breeder: Seahorse Gardens in Seattle, Washington.
Type: Sativa Hybrid
Genetics: Blue Hawaiian x Agent Orange
Taste: A citrusy orange-lemon flavor with a little tropical earthy funk on the back end.
As all good cultivators know, the most crucial part of growing cannabis is twofold: choosing the right genetics and sourcing them from a reputable seed bank or breeder. Royal Queen Seeds, regarded as one of Europe’s leading cannabis seed banks, just launched a new range of F1 hybrid cannabis seeds—the first cannabis company to offer a true F1 hybrid cannabis cultivar.
With over ten years of experience breeding exceptional cultivars and delivering world-class customer service, Royal Queen Seeds (RQS) is a leader in the cannabis genetics space. The Barcelona-based company’s new F1 hybrid seeds are already being touted as revolutionary for today’s cannabis industry, just as feminized seeds were in the ‘90s.
“F1 hybrids are uniform plants with countless benefits for all sectors of the cannabis industry: Medical patients will benefit from consistent, quality cannabinoids; commercial growers will be able to streamline their operations by working with a reliable crop; and even home growers will have access to more potent, higher-yielding plants for their gardens/tents,” says Shai Ramsahai, CEO of Royal Queen Seeds. “The new autoflowering F1 hybrids have a solid structure, are nicely uniform, and have a beautiful inflorescence structure—almost indistinguishable from a photo-dependent cannabis plant.”
Understanding F1 Hybrid Seeds
F1 hybrid seeds result from cross-pollinating two different parent plants to breed a plant selectively. Genetically speaking, the term is an abbreviation for Filial 1, which means “first children.”
The RQS team started developing the F1 hybrid seeds in 2019 when the bank created its first pure inbred lines (IBLs), a technique the vegetable industry used for decades to create uniform produce. Breeders select two plants (or lines) with desirable qualities—for example, high yields or particular terpene profiles—and then intentionally mate the plants together. Once confident they had created the optimum traits, RQS applied the same technology to cross its IBLs, creating the new genetics.
The initial RQS F1 hybrid seed launch includes a CBD strain called Cosmos F1, which offers high CBD levels, high yields and seven THC cultivars with the following favorable characteristics:
Hyperion F1: Touted as the tallest plant, this is a vigorous and resistant cultivar.
Apollo F1: A compact and robust plant with a lavender aroma.
Titan F1: The plant’s highest THC level offering is matched its high trichome density.
Milky Way F1: A uniform and convenient plant with a delicious, chocolatey flavor.
Orion F1: This sizable and resilient plant delivers large yields.
Epsilon F1: With a low odor output, this plant is a great option for discreet growers.
Medusa F1: Offers the highest flower density and high levels of the CBG cannabinoid.
The Benefits of Choosing F1 Hybrid Seeds
With a promise of unbeatable consistency and superior results with exceptional traits in every harvest, the autoflowering F1 attributes include high THC levels, fast flowering, larger yields and greater resistance to stress and uniformity.
Let’s explore three of the ways F1 hybrid seeds will outperform traditional seeds:
1. Greater Yields
Certain inputs will affect a cannabis plant’s end output, including lighting, nutrients and even the size of the pot. However, every cannabis cultivar is genetically predisposed to produce yields within a specific range. With F1 hybrid seeds, every plant is selected to deliver the most significant yield. As they say, the greater the yield, the greater the reward.
2. Consistency and Stability
Medical patients will benefit from the uniform cannabinoid and terpene profiles offered with F1 hybrid seeds. One of the perks of synthetic cannabinoid medicine like Dronabinol is its consistent cannabinoid delivery, which some patients find therapeutic for their health concerns. This helps give patients peace of mind, as they can rest easy knowing the cannabinoid content in their medicine will always be consistent.
The new F1 hybrid cannabis seeds are auto-flowering, meaning that after two to four weeks of growth, the plants will start to flower independently. This is a convenient characteristic for growers, as it removes the need to switch the light schedule to initiate and maintain the plant’s flowering phase.
As Ramsahai says, “Royal Queen Seeds’ new F1 hybrids are set to transform the cannabis industry with superior performance, offering growers uniform plants with higher yields, increased THC potency and unbeatable F1 stability.”
Anna Schwabe PhD is a cannabis genetics researcher focusing on population genetics. She currently works with 420 Organics, a recently licensed family-run hemp and cannabis farm in New Jersey that grows organically and with aquaponics. In this interview she shares her in-depth knowledge on cannabis genetics, how the science applies to the emerging industry, and the best ways to employ this practice for the benefit of growers and consumers, both medical and recreational.
QUESTION: What are cannabis genetics, and how are they identified?
There are two ways that people use the term cannabis genetics, and in the cannabis industry, it’s typically used to describe different varieties, seeds or clones. But that’s not how I use the term because I’m a geneticist, so to me, cannabis genetics means modes of inheritance, inherited traits and the different kind of traits that you can breed for such as yield, cannabinoid and terpene content, and color, which are called the transmission genetics. There’s also molecular genetics, looking at the DNA genome, genes, chromosomes, which are the genetic components of the organism.
And there’s population genetics, my specialty, which means looking at the DNA genome but using that information to investigate relationships amongst different groups. This information can be used to compare different populations around the world, so let’s say Chinese versus North American cannabis but also intra-group relationships, such as hemp versus marijuana, wild versus cultivated, sativa versus indica, and it’s also possible to compare strains, for example, Chem Dog versus Blue Dream. So that’s what I’m referring to when I refer to cannabis genetics.
QUESTION: How did you get into cannabis research?
I’d always had an interest in cannabis, and even tried to grow plants in my parent’s basement when I was a teenager – my dad caught me, and that was the end of that. As an undergraduate, I studied a variety of drug and addiction modules as part of my Anatomy and Physiology degree, but I had no intention of entering the world of plants. However, due to a few different factors, I was forced to switch my major to Cellular and Molecular Biology and to take a Plant Systematics class – you know, one of those small decisions that became life changing.
In order to graduate, I needed lab time, and ended up working with a professor named Mit McGlaughlin who at the time was running an experiment on genes. McGlaughlin’s lab specializes in the study of rare plants for conservation. I went onto to do a Masters, also working with Mit, and was the first student to graduate from his lab at the University of Northern Colorado. I went on to work for the Denver Botanic Gardens, managing their genetics lab. But I first became interested in cannabis research in 2015 when Colorado legalized adult-use cannabis. At the time, one of the researchers in my lab mentioned that when he bought Blue Dream from different dispensaries, it wasn’t the same.
I knew most plants were bred through cloning as opposed to seeds, so why would there be a difference in appearance or effect? Was it the case that the same strains from different dispensaries were genetically identical or highly similar in the same way you’d find in seed lots? With my skills in population genetics, this was a question I could answer. So I approached Mit again, and proposed this research as part of a doctorate program. It took some negotiation but eventually he agreed. And I ended running four big experiments along side a module of Biology Education to meet the university’s credit score system. I completed my PhD in four years. It was a great experience.
QUESTION: And what did you find?
I did the experiment from a consumer perspective, meaning I didn’t let the dispensaries know I was a scientist conducting a study because I didn’t want them to change the product. I brought the strains back to the lab to investigate if they were the same, which is a straight yes or no question. In the end, I collected 30 different strains from 3 different states, and of those strains, 27 had at least one genetic outlier. And the 3 strains that were the same, there was genetic variance too. So, if you expand that out to a larger sample, it means there’s a lot of variety, and it’s likely that environmental factors play a role. It’s the same with identical twins. Even if they have an identical genetic code, they don’t turn out exactly the same as adults.
By the same token, you can find two people who are not at all related and yet they look very similar. In the case of dispensaries, it’s possible that strains got mixed up or mislabeled or even re-labeled to sell it faster. When that happens there’s no way to go back to the dispensary, and say, “this isn’t Blue Dream,” because of course, they’ll say, “how do you know?” The problem is there’s no one policing this. And it may just be an honest mistake on the part of the dispensary because the strain looks so similar to another strain, they’re sure that’s what it is. To be honest, this problem is not unique to cannabis. It happens across the food industry, one example is the fish industry where studies find sampled fish is not the same as advertised. But again, there’s no way for consumers to police this.
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QUESTION: Is there a way to police this?
To be honest, this problem doesn’t just affect consumers, and there’s really no way to know at what point in the supply chain thing went awry. It can all the way up to the person supplying the seed or the clone. Unless you get it from the breeder who bred that specific strain, there’s no way to tell what you’re getting, and it’s the same for growers, dispensary owners and consumers. Now, when people ask me, how do I know what I’m buying, I say, you don’t. Instead, I tell consumers that if you find something you like, go back to the dispensary and buy it in bulk because the chances of you finding it again are slim.
QUESTION: What causes these genetic differences?
A range of different factors can be at play, for example, in-breeding depression or accumulation of mutations. When you have a mother plant, and you cut clones, all those clones become unique individuals subject to their own stresses and environment. The mother can also change because she’s stressed by the cutting, and once she develops stress markers, she can pass those onto her clones. These are called epigenetic changes, where they epigenome is changing but the DNA is not. The plant can’t get up and move, so it adapts its epigenome to survive, and it passed on those changes to its offspring.
QUESTION: So really, every plant is individual?
Yes. If someone gave each of us a clone from the same plant, and each of grew it in our homes, those plants would turn out very different because we’ll treat those plants differently, different soil, nutrients, weather conditions, and so on. One way to combat this problem is to develop a set of standard growing conditions which includes a specific soil, light, nutrient regime, and so on. That way we can say a given plant should turn out in a given way, and if there are deviations from the regime, results will vary. That would enable growers and dispensaries to say, a given plant was or was not grown under the standard conditions, and as a result, the plant may be better, for example have more cannabinoids or terpenes. In this way, growers can still put their art into the process, and consumers have benchmark.
QUESTION: How important is it for consumers to be aware of this situation?
This becomes really important when talking about medicinal cannabis, as patients need a consistent quality. So if they can search for the strain grown under standard conditions, it gives them some guarantee that it will work for them. But to be fair, we deal with this same problem in other industries. In the wine industry for example we know what a Chardonnay is supposed to look and taste like but individual wineries will produce their wine in a different way, growing the grapes under certain conditions. Plus, we know there are excellent wineries out there, and not so good ones too. So, we know how to do this, and the same set up applies to the cannabis industry. And consumers know how to get around it. One good way is to find a favorite grower.
QUESTION: Do Indica and Sativa classifications add to the confusion?
Yes and no. Indica and sativa describe growth morphologies as well as a set of effects and those two things are not correlated in any way. For the consumer, all we’re taking about is a type of an effect. But no consumer is going to know what the plant looks like, so in that regard it doesn’t matter at all. That’s for scientists to figure out, and it’s driving us crazy because none of us can agree on anything. I think of indica and sativa as different categories, in the same way I think about beer and wine. Some people like beer, some like wine, and they have an expectation of its effect.
Some people, like me, can’t drink beer at all because it puts them to sleep. But not everybody has that experience. And the same is true of cannabis. I know people who say, sativa has the opposite effect on me, it puts me to sleep, or I start cleaning when I consume indica. Everyone has their own unique chemistry, which means the same plant will interact with them in different ways. We can describe the effects of these plants in a general way but it’s important to let people experiment and make their own decisions based on their preferences.
QUESTION: Can genetics testing offer consumers a better experience?
Not really. Again, it would be more important to test the genetics of the consumer, the same way we do with drugs, but that’s expensive. In terms of scientific discovery, we don’t have a clear genetics split on indica and sativa but we can’t expect to see such a clear differentiation within a species. There are examples of species that are only differentiated by six regions in the genome but are completely different – I’m thinking of a bird. The point is small changes in the genome create big differences. There are 800 million base pairs in the cannabis genome so we haven’t looked at them all, and of the ones we are looking at, such as a cannabinoids and terpenes, we’re only researching a handful.
We’re looking at 15 cannabinoids and 35 terpenes, but there are more than 120 cannabinoids and terpenes each. Also, abundance does not equate to potency. There are some compounds that are very potent that are only found in small amounts, an example is THCP, which is 30 times more potent than THC. So there could be compounds in tiny quantities that we’re not even testing for that are driving these indica and sativa effects. It’s a very bold statement to say, there’s no difference between indica and sativa because we just don’t know yet. We only found THCP in 2021, and more recently we discovered that the compound responsible for the smell of skunk is not a terpene but a thiol called 321MBT.
QUESTION: When more scientific research comes out, do you see cannabis as a gateway for personalized medicine?
Cannabis is an incredibly complex plant. I have a friend with brain damage who was having all sorts of problems and he found a strain that helped him, so he began breeding for it. He bred generations of this clone, arriving at a strain that really helped him, but it was an odd strain with hardly any THC in it. But again, we’re not testing for every compound so we’ve no idea what each plant has in it. Even if we have all the genetic information it doesn’t mean that the plant will express it. I think that whole plant medicine is always better rather than individual components, and I know there are companies out there working on specific formulations for specific conditions. But it doesn’t matter what drug a patient is taking, there’s typically a trial and error process involved to find the correct dosage for that patient. The same is true for cannabis. Everyone has to figure out the dose that works best for them.
This interviewed has been condensed and edited.
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The world of modern cannabis genetics can tend to feel like it’s dedicated to the hype of the moment, but Green House Seed Company founder Arjan Roskam taps into cannabis genetics at the source.
Be it the hills of South America or the rivers of Africa, Roskam has spent much of his life hunting the best genetics in the world since he opened his first Amsterdam, Netherlands coffeeshop in 1992. This would lead to the breeding work that ended up taking home a ton of trophies.
Roskam first found his way onto the Cannabis Cup podium in 1993, placing second with Silver Pearl and then again placing second for Citral Skunk in 1994. But 1995 would be the year he found his way to the podium with White Widow, kicking off the legend of a strain that carries weight to this day, even if we never see it anymore.
After another runner-up finish in 1997, the era of Super Silver Haze would kick off with its 1998 victory. The next year, in 1999, it would be the first strain to win back-to-back Cannabis Cups. Things went well the next few years, with another win in 2003 for Hawaiian Snow and Arjan’s Ultra Haze climbing to the top in second place in 2005 before winning in 2006.
Green House Seed Company’s Super Lemon Haze went on to back-to-back Cannabis Cup wins in 2008 and 2009. It was arguably the strain Americans were the most exposed to from Green House through the 2010s, as there were some exceptional phenotypes going around Northern California. The Village, half of Symbiotic Genetics, placed third in the first legal Cannabis Cup in California with Super Lemon Haze in May 2018. Most of the Cannabis Cup podiums would see Green House on them somewhere until Dutch officials started to crack down on the competition and Europe’s weed enthusiasm began to move toward Barcelona, Spain, or even Germany, where they are now legally importing medical cannabis from Canada. While Amsterdam is the legendary homeland of cannabis genetics, its glory is a bit more diluted now than in years past.
Thankfully for Amsterdam, Roskam—known as the “king of cannabis”—spent the majority of his life helping build up local lore since he opened his first coffeeshop at age 21. But the world closing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, just one month before his 50th birthday, would throw a wrench in his adventures.
However, when we met with Roskam at Hall of Flowers in Palm Springs, California, the world was feeling more open than ever—and Roskam was taking full advantage of that fact as he bounced around the globe in the months leading up to the California event.
“We are super, super busy. We just made a new movie in Africa,” Roskam told High Times.
“The last six weeks, I’ve been doing shows in Barcelona, then we did Cape Town, then we did Rome, and we did Bologna, then we went to the 420 Golden Cup in Colombia in Santa Marta.”
We asked Roskam if the pandemic afforded him time to go back into his genetics collection and search for new winners and breeding stock. He explained his team was still able to “hunt 100,000 seeds at a time” at their operation in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He also said there was plenty of work to be done at home too, and the pandemic was the perfect chance to reimagine Green House coffeeshops.
“The moment COVID hit Holland, I’m talking about March or February 2020, we all sat in the office and couldn’t go nowhere. We knew this [pandemic] was gonna take one to two years,” Roskam said. “We did a remodel of our coffeeshops. We have five in Amsterdam, we had four and we bought another one. So we decided to remodel all the Green House coffeeshops. We took six weeks for each coffeeshop, and they look amazing now.”
With no coffeeshops to run, the coffeeshop staff wanted to help with the rebuild. The bouncer became one of the painters. One of the guys had some plastering experience. They worked 10-hour days going from shop to shop. Much of the time, it was a full rebuild, even including new walls to go with the updated floors, lights, and marble.
GREEN HOUSE X COMPOUND GENETICS
We held our interview with Roskam in the Compound Genetics booth at Hall of Flowers while he and Green House CEO Joa Helms met with American fans. Roskam explained that Green House has some future plans lined up with Compound Genetics.
“We’re going to use some of our genetics with their genetics,” Roskam said. “So we’re looking at crossing the famous Exodus Cheese and some other things that we can’t speak about right now.”
Christopher Lynch, founder of Compound Genetics, told High Times he is excited to work with Roskam.
“Our connection with Arjan is in a league of its own,” Lynch said. “His knowledge of cannabis, worldwide experiences with the plant, and professional demeanor is truly impressive. I’m beyond excited for the Green House Seed Co. x Compound Genetics collaboration.”
HYPE VS. HERITAGE
Lynch and his company have played a big role in determining the exciting weed trends in recent years. We asked Roskam how Holland responded to the wave of dessert weed that first started coming out of Northern California just over a decade ago as Cookies started to take off.
“It’s still only 15% of everything [in Holland],” Roskam said. “Because people cannot pay it. And 15% can pay the prices of $18 to $30 for a gram. So most of the people buy the normal stuff. And in Europe, it’s kind of a shame, because the American imports are just much more expensive. Of course, that will change in the future.”
Roskam has had plenty of his own “hype” strains over the years. Two new flavors he hopes his fans will add to the list are Fullgas and Lemon Orange. On top of the 12 strains he’d already launched in 2022 by the time we chatted, he also had three new Banana strains that would be dropping in the weeks to follow.
Roskam noted that before the last four years that he has spent bouncing around Canada and Africa, he’s spent another eight in the bush. Now he’s taking a little bit of a pause to focus on everything he’s collected over the years.
“We’re going full gas on new genetics,” Roskam said of their efforts. “There are four places in the world where we work besides the Congo. We work in Columbia, Denmark, Spain, and America. So we have a lot of opportunities to make new genetics, and we think Green House Seed Company, with all our knowledge and experience and guys around us, we can be very soon [a] leader again in the seed market, you know?”
We asked if it ever felt like there were just more places for people to spend their money over the last decade, as opposed to Green House falling off the mountaintop.
“Sure, which is great for the industry no?” Roskam replied. “More people makes everyone more happy because there are more varieties.”
As for hype surrounding strains, we asked Roskam if he has ever had concerns about everyone growing the same types of cannabis because of their popularity, which in turn narrows down the flavors available in the marketplace. He laughed and saw the premise as a very American problem. Roskam believes that there are a lot of great strains in America, but said in the rest of the world, there are even greater strains.
He said most American genetics come from four breeding lines.
“There’s a lot of Kush. There’s a lot of this. There’s a lot of that. Listen, they’re great strains. I still consider Hawaiian Snow the best strain in the world.”
As he spent the nights in Palm Springs socializing with some of the most influential people in cannabis, many of them agreed with his opinion of the Hawaiian Snow or at least agreed that it is a contender in the conversation.
“If you and your wife go out to the restaurant with friends, you get all the food and you put it out in the middle of the table. Why would you narrow yourself down to one variety? Do you eat the same food every day? Do you drink the same wine? Some people do, but these are not people that enjoy life,” Roskam stressed.
GREEN HOUSE’S GENETIC LIBRARY
The conversation then moved to how many genetic lines Green House is able to work on at once. Given Green House’s multi-decade success, Roskam said it’s a lot. He argues that thanks to a trick developed in-house over the years, he’s able to understand a lot about a plant’s expression over the course of two months. He boasts that he can even pick up on traits passed down from parents and grandparents.
“We like to come with new things, strange tastes, and bring new genetics to the world,” Roskam said.
One of the funniest things about American breeding for the Green House team is how many people have used Super Lemon Haze over the years in their own work. He notes that some breeders are openly selling it now, which they really appreciate. Roskam wouldn’t mention any names but shared that they’re using Green House genetics, and he plans to use their genetics in the future.
“And this is great. Why not, you know?” Roskam said. “The Lemon Orange, we used a seed from Crockett [Family Farms] with my Super Lemon in it,” Roskam said. “Cloud Walker, we used our Punta Roja, which we scouted in our movie with Mendobreath. So yeah, we are mixing these days, but we are putting the pure genes in to make sure it’s strong. I think that’s really important.”
He argued that you’re less likely to see the plants impacted by diseases with sturdier genetics. He also contends you see less powdery mildew when the plants are properly cared for.
When asked what kind of technology has made his life the easiest over the last decade, he shook his head, noting that it wasn’t really a technology issue once you got down to what works.
“Listen, from the bottom of my heart, you can only do a really great job with huge fields,” he replied. “Nobody has that in America because everybody has an investor, and the investor wants to see his return by profiting on every square foot.”
Roskam, on the other hand, is in a very different situation. Green House’s Africa setup allows them to pop 20,000 to 40,000 seeds at a time on the quest for true genetic outliers.
“We have 40 glasshouses across seven valleys,” Roskam said. “And in those seven valleys, we flower out our phenos that we hunt. That creates the possibilities we have that nobody else does.
In agriculture purposes, it’s scientifically known that you need 10,000 plants to find one. Nobody can do that in America. That’s why there’s a lot of public companies. That’s the difference between Green House Seed Company and others.”
As for how stable American seed companies are compared to their European peers, it depends on how you look at it. Roskam said, of course, some Dutch lines are very strong after 30 years of work.
“And don’t forget we are Dutch farmers. Seventy percent of all the world’s agricultural seeds come from Holland,” Roskam said. “The whole glasshouse industry comes from Holland. We are farmers. We are simple farmers. But we are very good farmers.”
He conceded there are many more possibilities in America because cannabis is legal in many states.
“But still here in Holland, even though we are totally illegal, we have big places in Africa and Morocco where you are able to do a very, very great job,” he said.
What’s the most important thing to get right in growing cannabis? This is, of course, an ongoing argument and every grower will probably give a different answer. Be that as it may, choosing the genetics is the first and one of the most important decisions you can make.
Selecting the right cannabis seeds is a process requiring several stages of decision making, and it will impact all other aspects of the grow. If you pick the wrong seeds for your environment and climate, then you could lose the whole crop to mold, frost or mildew. There are also market demand factors to consider. For example, deciding to go for all fruity cultivars because you like them even though everyone in your market area is buying gas, could mean the crop won’t sell. Alternatively, growing what everyone else grows may mean you will be competing with bigger, more established companies who offer a cheaper product. Then, it might be best to grow something unique.
Deciding Between Regular, Feminized or Auto-flowering Cannabis Seeds
The first, most basic thing you need to decide is if you will grow fromregular seeds,feminized seeds or auto-flowering seeds, assuming you won’t start from clones.
There is something special about sprouting your own cannabis seeds, watching them grow and mature—they become your babies. Up to this point, I have always used regular seeds here at Swami Select. These plants are often the most robust and vital, usually producing the biggest yield. Nevertheless, this year, after a long conversation with Nat Pennington, owner of Humboldt Seed Company, he finally convinced me to use some feminized seeds. He said approximatley 90% of his sales are for feminized seeds, and in some of the cultivars I wanted, he only had fems.
Growing from regular cannabis seeds has its drawbacks. To begin, about 50% of the sprouts will declare as male plants, but they won’t do this until at least two months after sprouting. This means you must feed and water half of your plants for that long, only to have to put them down when they show male, sometime in June. And not only that, but during May and June and sometimes into July, you have to visually inspect each and every plant every day for signs that it has declared its gender and then separate the males from the females. This is tedious and costly work.
In addition, with regular seeds the chances of different phenotypes cropping up can be high, particularly in F-2 and F-3 generations of a breed. So, you might get eight green/yellow plants and two pink/purples, from the same batch of seeds. With feminized seeds, this is less likely, and a few males may still show up.
One way to avoid the extra labor of having to visually determine male plants is to contract with a gender testing company, such as Leafworks, to determine the sex of the plants. This involves meticulous record keeping, while you carefully snip the end of leaf from each plant with sterilized scissors, place the specimens on a special pad prepared by the testing lab, send the samples off, and you should get results in about 10 days. This can cost up to $15 per plant, but the savings in water, nutrients and labor costs is worth it, because the female plants can be transplanted into the garden beds in early May rather than late June and the males no longer take food and water.
For these reasons, many people opt for feminized seeds, so you don’t have to look after all those male plants, feed them, water them and inspect them, or pay for lab testing to find the males.
After Nat Pennington explained to me that there are three ways to produce feminized seeds, I looked up some details.
Light Poisoning: First, there is “light poisoning.” This is when you interrupt the 12-hour dark cycle of an indoor grow halfway through with an hour of light, so there are five-and-a-half hours of dark, then one hour of light followed by another five-and-a-half hours of dark. This will shock the plant into producing “bananas,” which are little yellow croissant curved protuberances that have pollen which will fertilize the female bracts on the plant or other plants. Since the pollen is produced by a female plant, it only has X chromosomes (that is, no male Y chromosomes) so the seeds will all be females. This can also happen spontaneously in the garden, and if you don’t catch it right away, this so-called hermaphrodite plant can seed the whole garden.
Spraying with Collodial Silver: A second method involves spraying the plants with a dilute form of colloidal silver. Starting just before the plants will begin to flower outdoors, or just before you switch to 12 and 12 on an indoor or light-dep grow, spray the plants with the colloidal silver for several days in a row. This will cause the plant to produce the “banana” with pollen and that pollen can be used to fertilize other plants. Here’s how to make colloidal silver:
Spraying with Gibberellic Acid: The third method is a little more space age. It again involves spraying the females just before they start to form the first buds, but this time it is with gibberellic acid (GA). GA3 is a naturally occurring phytohormone, produced by plants, fungi and bacteria. GA is a pentacyclic diterpene. It is familiar for its role in increasing reproductive growth, cell elongation, seed germination, dormancy, reproductive growth, tolerance against various environmental stresses and senescence. Of course, if you are buying feminized seeds from a seed company you don’t need to do any of this yourself.
The last option for cannabis seeds is the auto-flowering variety. These seeds flower a set number of days after planting, which is a trait that was developed in northern latitudes where there is a very short summer. Regular and feminized seeds flower according to the photoperiod, which refers to the specific number of hours of darkness needed to trigger the flowering cycle. That exact day of the year is dependent on the latitude of the grow. Auto-flowers can produce several harvests during a summer at latitudes closer to the equator because they can finish in three months. They are available as regular or feminized.
Weighing the Pros and Cons
Each of these kinds of cannabis seeds has its weak points and strong points—so it is a good practice to consult with local cannabis farmers and breeders and ask questions at the local nursery.
Another factor in seed choice is to determine if you have enough drying space to properly dry and cure the crop come harvest time. Remember, it takes about the same square footage to dry the plants as to grow them. With limited space available, choose cultivars that are ready to cut in three separate harvests, allowing time for the first cut to dry before the second cut is harvested.
If you are growing in full sun, this means choosing some cultivars that come in early—meaning late September or early October; some that are ready in mid to late October; and some that are ready in November. With a highly efficient drying system employing dehumidifiers and fans, however, you can add harvested plants to the drying room before the first cut comes down. Even so, it still helps to stagger the harvest over several weeks, so as not to exhaust the work force.
Next, consider your specific local climate and whether mold and mildew are problematic, then choose cultivars that are resistant to these threats. These weather-based threats also include heavy frost at harvest time and heavy rain or fog, especially in the spring or at harvest. This is a good reason to buy seeds from local breeders who can provide you with seeds suitable to your terroir.
Finally, unless you have a signature cultivar that you always grow, consider doing some market research to see what cultivars are hot in your area, then grow a range of cultivars for a menu that is aimed at your market. To this end, it is worth considering a full menu or library of the different major categories of cannabis based on a complete terpene profile: fruity, fuely, floral or earthy, with sweet and sour traits as qualifiers. This will serve a variety of smokers with different tastes and effects which are created by the various combinations of terpenes. Alternatively, if everyone you know or sell to only likes the gassy varietals or the florals or whatever, then you know what kind of cannabis seeds to grow.
In the end, make sure you grow what you want for your head stash and do it with love. And don’t stress. Everything will come out alright, as the plant will absorb your vibe.
About six years ago, Jordan was approaching his 40th anniversary as a cannabis grower. He believed he was through — ready to quit a lifelong hobby and ready to liquidate a priceless (and, as it would turn out, wholly unique) seed bank, the product of decades of careful labor — because he was bored.
It wasn’t that the self-described “hillbilly,” whose last name Cannabis Now is withholding at his request, didn’t love weed. He’d had his first hit before he was a teenager, started collecting seeds at 17, and started sprouting huge trays, producing hundreds of seedlings, shortly thereafter. What Jordan didn’t love was what had happened to weed: It wasn’t weird anymore.
Jordan is an autodidact. Beyond cannabis growing, he also taught himself motorcycle repair, garment production, battle-ax construction and year-round permaculture — all useful skills when you live off-grid somewhere in rural California near Yosemite National Park, as Jordan has done for 39 years. Through his self-driven study of cannabis growing, Jordan had seen hints of what the cannabis plant could do. And it was much, much more than everyone else involved with the plant seemed to know or care about. He’d seen the freaks and the weirdos — like the “dwarf plants” no more than three feet tall at maturity, or the plants producing buds on the petioles — and he’d seen what happened to them, discarded, weeded out in favor of something predictable.
“People just want something that’s huge and looks good,” Jordan explained to Cannabis Now via telephone.
Judging cannabis based on expedient looks — bag appeal, or grow-room appeal, whatever you call it — “is such a mistake,” he says. And yet, because of market pressures or because of prohibition, predictability became de rigueur.
With legalization looming six years ago, it also seemed there wasn’t much room for weird in the cannabis industry. Just more homogeneity, more conformity. Companies touted themselves as “the Apple Store of weed,” the “Uber for cannabis.” That meant, maybe, as a grower who’d never done more than “medical cannabis patient numbers,” there wasn’t much room for him. Considering that he’s a lifelong lover of sativas and other narrow-leafed tropical-bred cannabis plants working in an era that prized Afghan-ized broad-leafed indicas, maybe that was always the way.
Doubts, boredom and a looming exit were the shadows flickering on the wall of his mind when Jordan set to work on his latest breeding project. He was attempting to stabilize a particular terpene profile, crossing a mother bred from the strains Big Bud and Skunk #1, with a male plant stemming from Big Sur Holy Bud and Banana Kush, when the plant decided it was time to act out.
It was time to get weird. It was time for Freakshow to make its grand entrance.
In his decades growing, Jordan had already seen some phenotypes produce bizarre, out-of-the ordinary mutations. He says that it wasn’t too rare, but also not too normal, to see mutations in the leaves: serrated leaves so deep that they reminded him of a wood saw or alligator teeth. One of these phenos from the above-mentioned cross, however, produced not only deep serrations, but also extra leaflets — not two or three on top of the usual seven, but “a crazy amount of extras,” he recalled, enough to support a millipede. Intrigued and encouraged, Jordan did the opposite of what you’re “supposed” to do: He threw out all the normies and kept breeding the freaks. He sprouted hundreds of seeds — how many he can’t recall.
“I had never taken time to sit there and try to create a mutant,” he said. “But once I did, it was working… Maybe I got kind of lucky. You can say that for a fact.”
He can say that, because the fact is that a mutant appeared: A cannabis plant with serrated leaves so long they almost look like ferns. He named the plant Freakshow, which has leaves so long they almost look like the cannabis plant has developed arms, like the plant is trying to reach out and grab your attention, give you a hug, or smother you in its embrace.
“When I first saw that, it was, ‘Oh man, what have I done?’” Jordan recalled. “That was the moment. I knew right then and there that nobody had ever seen this before.”
A quick Instagram search revealed he was right. Jordan’s son, active online, started circulating photos of Freakshow. Weedheads around the world reacted with disbelief and anger. Surely this was a hoax. Surely this was a Photoshop job. No plant looks like this.
More photos — several generations’ of Freakshow worth — revealed that, no, this was a real plant. Soon shock turned to awe turned to envy. Growers around the world wanted Freakshow for themselves. And now, they can have this rare cannabis in their collection, thanks to a chance encounter with Nathaniel Pennington, the founder and CEO of genetics outfit Humboldt Seed Company.
By the time he crossed paths with Pennington, Jordan had pulled off the other trick of a cannabis breeder: Having “discovered” Freakshow, he’d also “tamed” or domesticated it. He’d breed enough generations of the plant so that its genetics were stable, or stable enough so that when a Freakshow plant produced seeds, those seeds would also reliably produce more Freakshow. Meanwhile, Pennington was running a massive genetics search, what he called the phenotype hunt. He hadn’t yet heard of Freakshow — he was after some other genetics that Jordan had developed — but when Jordan’s kids approached him and told him about this really weird plant, Pennington was intrigued. At the next meeting, at a small cannabis cup event prior to the passage of Proposition 64, Jordan himself appeared — and brought with him a living example, a small Freakshow in a pot.
“Immediately a light went off,” Pennington said. “‘Oh my gosh,’ I said. This is the most unique thing I have ever seen in my life.”
Even better than the weird “random stubby leaves” is the fact that Freakshow actually produces nice buds. It’s also a tough plant, able to do well in regular garden conditions or on the darker side of a house, Jordan and Pennington say.
“It literally could be classified as brand new,” says Jordan. He’s already coined a term (and filed for a United States patent) to classify the plant: Not indica, not sativa — but cannabis monstra. He says it could be the genetic foundation for a whole new breed of plant, a style of ornamental cannabis that you’d pick up at your local nursery. Classifying the plant, and clarifying whether it qualifies as a subspecies of cannabis sativa or something else, is a job for the nerds and the scientists. More pragmatically, just because a plant is weird and cool doesn’t mean it will “survive” in “the real world.” Even though Freakshow was available, would anyone want to buy it?
Freakshow had what you could call its coming-out party at the Emerald Cup in December 2019, and the results were promising.
“We had a line out of the door to the Great Pavilion,” Pennington said of the thirst for Freakshow seeds. “We had people fly in all the way from London.”
And there was Jordan, signing seedpacks from total strangers who came an awful long way to find the mad genius behind this really freaky pot plant.
Pennington doubts this is the first time Freakshow has appeared on Earth.
“To be honest, I think maybe nine out of 10 breeders have seen those funky weeds — and then immediately gotten those genetics out,” he said. “I think most are like, ‘Uh oh, what did I do wrong? I’m starting to see a mutant.’”
And Jordan himself tends to agree. In Freakshow, he sees echoes of some of the very first cannabis he ever saw. “The first Thai stick, back in the 1970s, had a lot of these small, little serrated leaves,” he says. Maybe the old sativas of his youth, the plants he always loved, decided to return in his hour of need?
Metaphysics and magic aside, the science behind Freakshow — what produced it and how — is evolving in real time. Humboldt Seed Company hopes to publish studies on the strain, produced in concert with botany PhDs and other plant scientists, Pennington said. In the meantime, Jordan himself has some theories, some of which already seem like they’ll be borne out.
Epigenetics, he notes, is the study of how mutations occur not when DNA changes, but when various genes in the same genetic sequences are expressed or suppressed. Think of it as reaching (or suppressing) inherent potential, sometimes in response to stress, other times in response to chemical exposure or another intervention.
In plant biology, a gene called the KNOX1 affects the shape and length of leaves and shoots. Maybe Freakshow has a suppressed KNOX1 gene?
The Freakshow experience also underscores how cannabis breeding should be approached with a sense of urgency given that the commercial industry might be breeding itself “into a dead end,” Jordan notes. Other plants offer ominous warnings, should we bother to heed them. For example, commercial bananas — the standard yellow fruit that most humans not living in tropical climates consider to be “bananas” — weren’t a thing before 1960, when a fungus ravaged the flavorful Gros Michel banana strain and freaked-out banana growers replaced it with the supposedly hardier, less delicious Cavendish.
Jordan also wonders how much he’s in control of Freakshow, about what the untapped potential of the cannabis plant means for the future.
“It far outdid what I set out to do,” he said. “It made me realize, ‘Wow — as a manipulator of cannabis genetics, it shows you how far we can take things.’”
When talking about a strain’s effect, why do we say indica or sativa? Technically, these are botany terms; they classify the subspecies of the cannabis plant. They have a lot more to do with plant genetics and characteristics than the way a bud will make you feel. It begs the question, why do we use […]
It starts as a tale of great genetics, as most
strain stories do. Today, WiFi Mints from Seed Junky might be garnering the
most hype of any new strain up and down the West Coast — and that’s thanks to
its legendary parents.
One side of the WiFi Mints lineage comes from the WiFi 43 bred by California seed breeder OG Raskal and hunted down by famed Los Angeles cultivators the Jungle Boys. The other side of the lineage is the very same Animal Mints male that Seed Junky used to create the similarly popular Wedding Cake strain. (Animal Mints is a cross of Animal Cookies paired with Blue Power and Girl Scout Cookies.) The results are buds that smell like both mint and pine, with a light fuel note in the background and a hard kush flavor punching through.
But a notable heritage isn’t the only thing establishing WiFi Mints as a strain to watch. WiFi Mints has garnered so much enthusiasm because one of the top breeders in the world at the moment — The Village — added it to his rotation.
The Village has been working with WiFi Mints for over a year and a half. He received a cut of the strain from the Jungle Boys, who originally scored the most-famed WiFi Mints phenotype from Seed Junky, who in turn was gifted the strain by the grower who popped it. In an Instagram post describing the lineage of how the cut got around, Seed Junky noted that in The Village’s hands, Wifi Mints was being grown to its full potential.
The Village told Cannabis Now that he received
the WiFi Mints cut the second time he linked up with the Jungle Boys. “I didn’t
know much about it. The [Jungle Boys] were just like, ‘Here, try this.’ And it
was right when Seed Junky was blowing up,” he said.
Though he thought at the time that it was cool to
get another strain from Seed Junky, given the buzz Seed Junky was starting to
create, The Village still didn’t know much about the gem he’d gotten his hands
on. After his first batch was harvested he realized it was impressive.
“I had some buddies try it and they were like, ‘Dude,
this is some of the best kush I’ve ever tasted.’ It actually has that minty
kind of kush taste,” he said.
From there, The Village did a full run of the
WiFi Mints in one of his rooms. He brought the resulting flowers to the High
Times Sacramento Cannabis Cup in 2018. While The Village made it to the podium
with his personal cut of Mimosa and not WiFi Mints, some of the most excitement
that weekend swirled around the WiFi Mints.
“Sacramento was where we released it and it got
pretty big, because everyone just loves it,” he said. “I always tell people
nine out of ten times I’m getting tagged online, it’s because of WiFi Mints.”
The Village said he has yet to make any extractions with the WiFi Mints because the flowers are just so nice and in demand. Of course, he says, he wouldn’t mind smoking some fat WiFi Mints THCA diamonds, but part of the fun is seeing that immaculate flower through to the final end stages — holding high quality in your hands before you roll it up and flaunt it at the world of boof pre-rolls.
To go along with the
flavor and eye-catching buds, WiFi Mints is also enjoyable to grow.
“What I like is it doesn’t stretch much,” The Village said. “I have never grown the WiFi 43 from the Jungle Boys, but it has a short-grown kind of style. I wouldn’t say it is like a bubba or indica-leaning [strain], because it just doesn’t have any crazy internode spacing or anything
The Village also enjoys that it stays short when
it enters the flowering stage, which is always a plus for indoor cultivators.
“Overall, it’s just an easy plant to grow,” he said. “I don’t have to do anything crazy if she’s happy overall. She throws down. She doesn’t change much on the look when other strains might change batch to batch. I enjoy growing her and basically have had her in every room for a long time now.”
The Village said the WiFi Mints is a staple
strain for any garden, which is high praise from a guy who needs the space to grow
all his own original genetics. When asked how a strain like WiFi Mints seals
the deal on getting real estate in one of his grow rooms, he said the process
changes, but he tends to keep an eye out for trends and what people are liking.
That methodology has led to the WiFi Mints in every room.
“Lately, I’ve been switching it up with other
strains,” The Village said. “We just got that Modified Grapes I’m trying to get
in every room. We just got a Kombucha cut we’re trying to get in every room. So
it changes as I find things, but WiFi Mints, Jungle Cake, Wedding Cake —
those are kind of my go-tos.”
The Village also noted that he’s not really growing
Banana Punch or Mimosa anymore because they’ve gotten so popular. This might
mean that one day, WiFi Mints will be phased out of his grow room. But for now,
it’s the star.
TELL US, have you ever smoked
Originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now. LEARN MORE
Forbidden Fruit is one of the San Francisco Bay Area’s fastest rising strain stars. San Francisco gave us Girl Scout Cookies, the East Bay gave us Granddaddy Purple — and now the South Bay can stake a claim to having one of the hottest strains on the scene by a mile. It was tough to track down the breeder of the now-famous strain, so tough that it felt like he was actually putting effort into not getting too much credit for Forbidden Fruit.
“It’s just not really a big deal like that,” says Joseph of Chameleon Extracts, the Santa Clara, California-based breeder behind Forbidden Fruit. “It’s not going to change anything in life, you know what I mean?”
With the plant pollinated, Joseph was off to the races. The first wave of the propagation began with 37 phenotypes, which Joseph says leaned heavily toward the Tangie side of its genetics. Despite the number of test subjects, Joseph was immediately able to narrow it down to one winning phenotype.
“The one that we ended up keeping was purple from the beginning and that was how we ended up keeping the first one,” Joseph says. “Out of the 37, it was the only one showing any color at all. There was a couple that maybe smelled a little better, but it had that visual appeal I knew people would enjoy. But it tastes like Tangie all the way through. It had the Pie look, it just tasted like Tangie.”
From what Joseph understands, he was able to score a batch of seeds from Jigga’s Cherry Pie with a stroke of luck — some other cultivators had a falling out and gifted him the Cherry Pie seeds in the resulting break up. The Chameleon Extracts team popped 30 seeds and narrowed it down to one stunning Cherry Pie plant, the first they’d had in their possession.
“Then I acquired the cut of Tangie and the rest is history,” Joseph told us. “The Tangie we got is super special. There are a lot of people who don’t like it because they think it’s fake terpenes when we extract it.”
The mother Tangie plant behind Forbidden Fruit has been a cherished family cut of the folks at Crockett Family Farms for over a decade and the original genetics trace back to the mid-1990s. This Cali-O x Skunk cross continues to make waves, especially as the world of extracts caught up to its terpene profile. The fruity aroma of the Tangie is easily one of the most identifiable out there.
Forbidden Fruit was the first strain Chameleon Extracts would produce with their star Cherry Pie genetics. Today, Chameleon has a house purple strain that seems nothing like the purples that have come before it. When smoked, the strain’s fruity aroma results in a nice cerebral buzz and a satisfying body high, free of the couch lock one might presume would come from this vigorous of a purple.
In Joseph’s opinion, the amount of Tangie grown in previous harvest seasons has been pretty overwhelming, making a Tangie cross a potentially bold move. “Too much Tangie!” he said with a laugh. “I actually backcrossed it with the Cherry Pie two more times to try and just dumb it down a little and get a little more of that potency behind it. Because when we first made it you wouldn’t get stoned at all.” Joseph believes that these backcrosses also provided for a new subtle cherry aftertaste in the strain’s smoke.
When the Forbidden Fruit entered the cannabis landscape, Joseph immediately faced claims questioning the legitimacy of his genetics on Instagram. And it was difficult for Joseph to respond, given that his Instagram has been deleted four times. “It’s under @Extractosdecamaleon now,” he says. “They kept deleting it, so I put everything in Spanish.”
But Joseph says that the truth about how his new prized genetics got out into the public realm is that his cut fell into the wrong hands. “Everyone I originally gave the cut to was on the up-and-up,” he says. “Then I took it to a secret sesh one time and I gave away one plant to one person who shouldn’t have gotten it. And that was the end of it all.”
We mentioned to Joseph that on a few occasions, we’d seen less than top-shelf versions of Forbidden Fruit — one cannabis competition in 2017 even had subpar versions featured at four different booths. Joseph says he knows exactly what other cultivators are doing wrong.
“The genetics are so strong that you don’t have to push it,” he says. “And everybody is pushing their PPMs [nutrient levels] so high that it’s actually stunting the growth. I hate saying it, but it’s kind of a Blue Dream in that you can literally throw it in the ground and hit it with a garden hose and you’re going to be extremely happy with the end results.”
The problem is that most experienced growers are pushing the plants so far that they have trouble scaling it back. “They always think that pushing the plant more is the answer and it’s not,” says Joseph. “It’s a really easy plant to grow. It doesn’t over-veg. It keeps a nice shell. The nugs are nice and tight. It’s just a matter of not doing too much.”
With its biggest year on the books yet, you should definitely keep your eye out for Forbidden Fruit — and hope your grower didn’t overfeed it.
Lineage: Tangie X Cherry Pie Profile: 75% Indica Flowering Time: 8-9 Weeks
Originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now. LEARN MORE
TELL US, have you been hearing the hype about Forbidden Fruit?