‘Dirt Is Inert, Soil Is Alive’

It’s a dreary late-November day at Alter Farms and Cody Alter is ecstatic. No, not because of the 3,000 plus cannabis trees he and the crew were able to tackle before the rains came. Nor was it the fresh batch of seeds they collected from hand-pollinated varietals. For Alter, the excitement is in the soil.

“We planted our cover crop a little late but it sprouted and by spring these rows will be knee high in vegetation,” Alter says. “We are constantly growing something in our soil, the continuous growth maintains the microbial communities.”

I lean down and stick my hand into the soft earth, layered loosely with decomposing leaf matter and speckled with the tiny seedlings.

“This is some nice looking dirt,” I say.

From the look on Alter’s face, I can tell I’ve said something silly.

“Dirt is inert, soil is alive,” he responds with a grin.

Cody Alter examines the soil. Alter Farms sends soil samples in for regular testing to ensure it contains the right mineral balance for optimal plant growth.

This is my second trip to the licensed recreational cannabis producer outside Grants Pass, Oregon. I had visited earlier in the fall with my wife, a mycologist, who was tasked to sample root tips on the farm for fungal diversity. During that visit, we were blown away by the size and consistency of their acre of canopy, packed with vibrant bushes of colorful colas and buzzing with biodiversity. I had to ask what they fed their plants.

Alter replied proudly with their farm’s motto: “sun, water and soil.”

In an industry fueled by bottled liquid nutrients and heavy chemical fertilizers, it is a rarity to see low-input organic cannabis farming, especially at scale.

A few months later, I returned to the farm to learn some tricks-of-the-trade from Alter and his co-founders, Jason Rambo and Jodi Haines. None of the three 30-somethings match my stereotypical expectations of an organic farmer and neither does their jargon.

Rambo and Haines say they bought the property about three years prior. The grounds are neatly kempt and sprouting garden beds dominate the main field, while two greenhouses, fruit trees and compost piles all claim smaller sections of real estate. A pasture dotted with sheep and goats occupy about a third of the land. The livestock are for meat and their waste is used for compost.

Alter Farms, as viewed from above. The outdoor farm uses cover crops and works to improve the clay soil layer that is common in their growing area by adding all-natural nutrients to the soil.

The trio attributes some of their success to the better part of a decade they’ve spent growing cannabis together. According to Alter, sustainable farming practices have always been a priority. As far as pulling off this season’s massive field of flower with minimal inputs, they say it’s not so simple.

“I’ve done side-by-side comparisons with plants grown in commercial soil mixes and fed bottled chemical nutrients to others grown in a local soil with only top dressing and water,” Alter says. “I noticed a huge difference in flavor and pest resistance and, even though we aren’t able to completely quantify it yet, a more nutritionally complete flower.”

The concept of a nutritionally complete cannabis flower is entirely new to me and takes a few minutes to sink in. We know through scientific research that plants need little more than NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) to survive, but if a plant has the option of a complete diet of natural ingredients, won’t it thrive more? Akin to the difference between a greenhouse-grown tomato in a grocery store and a juicy mid-summer varietal grown at home, not all fruits are created equal. The color and shape may be the same, but I can’t shake the feeling one is better for the soul.

All of the founders agree the farm has taken plenty of labor and lots of love. For example, below their land is a common clay soil layer that growers in Southern Oregon refer to as the infamous “red clay death.” While many farmers would truck in hundreds of yards of pre-mixed peat moss, perlite and coco coir to cover the clay soil, Alter Farms took a different approach and worked to improve the clay soil itself.

ETV blooms brightly at Alter Farms.

“Everyone worries about heavy clay soils,” Alter says. “They are mineral rich, but the difficult part is making those minerals available.  We send our samples off for soil nutrient analysis every season and add what we need to allow our plants to uptake what is here.”

It’s only been a few weeks since Alter Farms finished harvesting, and the rows have already been tilled, amended, broad forked, planted with a cover crop and layered with locally collected leaf material.

I ask how much topsoil, sand, pumice or perlite they brought in initially to mix with the clay, and again, I feel as if I’ve said something silly. Their list of soil additives is incredibly short. However, they do admit, almost with shame, that before their first season they had enough forest humus trucked in to cover their rows with about a half-inch of material. Over the last two seasons, they’ve started building their own.

“Our cover crop is a mix of vetch, peas, cereal grains, a couple different mustards and a type of rye that, when we till it in the spring, has a fumigant effect that drives away pathogenic fungi and root-feeding nematodes and symphylans,” Alter says.

He explains that without tilling, the perennial grasses would take over the farm’s garden beds. The cover crop keeps the weeds at bay, adds biomass and restores nitrogen to the soil. In the spring, they till again, add amendments, plant the cannabis and top-dress a few remaining nutrients. Once in the ground, the plants only drink water.

Cody Alter Farms Oregon Marijuana Cover Crops Cannabis Now

Cody Alter walks the sprouting field at Alter Farms in November. Continually growing something in the soil helps to restore nitrogen levels.

In the grey gloom of the late fall day, my mind travels back to my previous visit in the sunshine. At the ends of the beds and along fence lines, I saw brightly blooming zinnias, cosmos and sunflowers, with hummingbirds and butterflies sucking their nectar. One entire row was dedicated to herbs and brassicas and a corner of the property covered by a corn and cucurbit patch. The back of the field was dotted with fruit-bearing trees.

Alter Farms’ founders say their land provides enough to feed the crew and supply Haines’ local restaurant, Ma Mosa’s. Their theory is that the cannabis flowers bring beneficial bugs to the farm, and that having a healthy balance of many species will work to persuade any particular pest from taking over.

Even on my return trip to the farm, life is still abundant.

“Our goal is to leave the land healthier than when we arrived,” says Alter. “We are not fertilizer applicators, we are farmers, hands in our soil, and constantly working with and studying the effects of nature.”

I say my goodbyes after the tour. Back in my car, I head down the driveway and an advertisement pops on the radio for a local dispensary offering “Alter Farms Pineapple.” In a region that grows enough cannabis to feed the state and half the nation, I’m happy to hear their name stand out above the pack.

Originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now.

The post ‘Dirt Is Inert, Soil Is Alive’ appeared first on Cannabis Now.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021 Headlines | Marijuana Today Daily News

A close-up photograph shows a dark-green mature marijuana plant- just the fan leaves- no buds are showing. The background is blurred and appears to show an outdoor setting. The dark green of the leaves in sharply contrasted with the white vein-lines running over them.

Marijuana Today Daily Headlines
Tuesday, January 26, 2021 | Curated by host Shea Gunther

// Boycott spurs Massachusetts cannabis trade group to withdraw delivery suit (Marijuana Business Daily)

// Virginia Marijuana Legalization Bill Approved By Senate Committee With Home Cultivation Provisions Intact (Marijuana Moment)

// Arizona Begins Recreational Marijuana Sales Just Weeks After Voters Approve Legalization (Marijuana Moment)

These headlines are brought to you by the upcoming Homegrown Weed Summit, the first and only online event dedicated to teaching you how to grow elite cannabis from seed to harvest right in your home. The Homegrown Weed Summit is coming up on February 15 and will feature four days of online events with noted cannabis pros like Tommy Chong, Danny Danko, and Ed Rosenthal. You can learn more about the Homegrown Weed Summit and get your free ticket now over at HomeGrownWeedSummit.com!

// Harvest closes $34.6M Florida sale-leaseback deal with marijuana REIT (Marijuana Business Daily)

// New Psychedelics Reform Group Sets Sights On Congress As Movement Builds (Marijuana Moment)

// Washington Lawmakers Approve Marijuana Homegrow Bill In Committee (Marijuana Moment)

// Premium flower demand drives Colorado wholesale marijuana prices to nearly five-year highs (Marijuana Business Daily)

// Marijuana Legalization Could Create $43 Million In Annual Tax Revenue Delaware State Auditor Reports (Marijuana Moment)

// Anti-Marijuana Lawmaker Files Legalization Bill In North Dakota To Avoid Activist Ballot Measure (Marijuana Moment)

// New Mexico Governor And Senate Leader Say Marijuana Legalization Can Pass This Year (Marijuana Moment)

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Mama Cultiva & the Fight for Cannabis Legalization

When it comes to cannabis activism, there are groups all over the world, fighting the governments and public sentiments of the countries they are in. One group stands out among the rest, though. A group of mothers on a quest to help their sick children, and effect change in the process. When it comes to activism, Mama Cultiva fights hard for cannabis legalization.

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The beginning in Chile & a sick 7-year-old child

Mama Cultiva’s biggest chapter is currently in Argentina, but the story of Mama Cultiva and the fight for cannabis legalization starts in Chile, as early as 2014. It was founded by Paulina Bobadilla, a mother of an epileptic daughter, Javiera, who was no longer responding to medications to stop her seizures in 2014, and who was suffering so much pain, and had become so numb, that she would inadvertently rip off her own fingernails.

Bobadilla was already having a hard time shelling out the $800 a month needed for these medications that weren’t even working, and had to sell her hair salon to make payments. Javiera began receiving a couple drops of cannabis oil a day at the age of seven, and according to Bobadilla, her seizures dropped from about seven a day to one, she was able to sleep, and general irritability went down. Bobadilla said positive results began within a week.

In September 2014, Bobadilla’s brother was arrested when he helped her buy approximately 20 grams after she ran out of cannabis to treat her daughter. They were pulled over in a car, where Bobadilla’s brother claimed responsibility for the cannabis and was charged with ‘micro-trafficking’. This means if convicted he faced at least 561 days in prison. I could not find information on the outcome of the case.

children with epilepsy

A couple more examples of early group members include Gabriela Reyes, who in 2014 had an only seven-month-old son who had suffered through up to 300 epileptic seizures a day. When her son stopped responding to medication completely, she was told he was a terminal patient, and essentially would die. Reyes found out about cannabis oil as an alternative treatment and began adding it to the infant’s bottle. His seizures dropped down to approximately 12 a day from 300, at which point he was able to start eating normally. Reyes strongly believes that cannabis saved her son’s life.

Another mother, who would only giver her first name, Susana, was cultivating with her husband in 2014 to make oil for their son with epilepsy. She said how growing can go very slow at times, and often the couple (and other families) would resort to buying off the street when needed. This sometimes meant being taken advantage of by dealers, or sold the wrong plant (male instead of female). For mothers like Susana, learning things like how to reproduce plants in a Mama Cultiva workshop, helped provide better grows so as not to require help from outside, less dependable, sources.

Understanding the illegality of her actions, Bobadilla began the group Mama Cultiva with other parents in similar situations, so they could discuss growing methods to cultivate cannabis to help their sick children. These parents continued to meet and grow secretly, even with the threat of 15 years in prison hanging over their heads, and the reality of Bobadilla’s own brother’s arrest.

Not only did they start to grow marijuana secretly at that time, as it was illegal to cultivate cannabis under Chilean government law, but Mama Cultiva began to push for a medical cannabis legalization that would allow their children treatment without breaking the law. At that time, the Health Commission of the House of Representatives had already approved legislation to home-grow in these cases, but Congress had not actually passed it yet. When Mama Cultiva held its first event, it attracted 11 families. By the second event, over 100 families were involved.

And today…

The early members of Mama Cultiva used social networks like Facebook to find each other and come together. As they grew, neighboring countries started their own chapters all across Latin America. Now, Mama Cultiva is a not-for-profit organization aimed at helping those who suffer from diseases and disorders like epilepsy, cancer, autism, and a host of other ailments that cannabis has shown to be useful for, and where standard Western medical treatments do not work. The organization guides families through the process of obtaining and using cannabis therapeutically, and advocates for legalized self-cultivation, as well as legal medical and recreational programs in South America.

For many looking to use cannabis for medicine, these are uncharted territories, often involving taking part in illegal measures, and Mama Cultiva helps families make it through. The group is also devoted to educating the public about medical cannabis in general, holding workshops, classes, and seminars on the topic. For the last several years, the group has been officially operational, helping those in need, and being instrumental in enacting cannabis legalization laws in different countries. Even in countries that have passed medical legalization measures, the infrastructure is often so paltry (or non-existent) that medications are still not widely available, leading many to grow on their own, and seek help from Mama Cultiva.


According to Gabriela Cancellaro, communications director of Argentina’s chapter of Mama Cultiva, “Self cultivation is still a debt our governments have with their societies, for it is still prosecuted and penalized in most of Latin American countries.”

How they’ve helped

Mama Cultiva activism can be seen all over South America. When Argentina legalized cannabis for medicinal use back in 2017, Mama Cultiva was said to have had a major influence on that legislation passing, even though the group was dismayed that self-cultivation was not legalized at that time. The group was involved in discussions to produce draft legislation for the 2020 decree which did finally legalize home-growing for medical purposes.

Part of what allowed this was the switching of presidents from Mauricio Macri who was in office for the 2017 law passage, but who did very little to make anything accessible to anyone, to Alberto Fernandez, whose government began working on regulations that are more permissive and allow more accessibility.

Mama Cultiva is very active in Paraguay. In 2019 the activist group gave out free cannabis seeds for the cultivation of hemp for sick children. They did this in a public square in the capital city of Asuncion, and it was meant to both help spread the ability for medicine, as well as pressure the government to legalize self-cultivation for medical purposes. This government is currently run by President Mario Abdo Benítez. His predecessor President Horacio Cartes did enact a medical cannabis law, but it was never effective as a regulatory framework was never created to run it.

As of 2020, a current law making its way through Paraguayan government, dubbed the ‘Mama Cultiva Law’, is seeking to decriminalize growing, harvesting, and the production of cannabis oil for home-growers, which would also in turn relax the current legal limit for possession, which is 10 grams. A translation of the modified text goes something like this: “Anyone who has in their possession substances referred to in this Law, which the doctor has prescribed or whoever has them for their exclusive personal use will be exempt from penalty.”

Back to Chile where the group originated, Mama Cultiva has been working with other groups like the Daya Foundation and Movimental to push for greater freedoms for cannabis use, specifically medicinally. While Chile does have a medical legalization, (and a decriminalization measure which has been stuck in the channels of government since 2015, but still hasn’t passed), the lack of access has led to protests literally every year.

cannabis activists

In 2019, as many as 80,000 protesters marched in Santiago for the ‘Cultivate Your Rights’ march organized by the groups above. One of the main issues is the quick passage of the Safe Growing Law, which would stop medical patients from having their home-grown plants seized by the government. Pressure from these groups does seem to be moving things along, albeit slowly.

Stories can be found in all the countries the group operates in, like Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Argentina, and Paraguay.

Effects of Covid

One of the many catastrophes caused by the Covid-19 pandemic – or rather, the reaction to it – is that most of Mama Cultiva’s activities had to stop, and with them, the flow of income into the group which keeps it operational. So just as should be expected by a group known for pushing boundaries, and thinking outside the box, Mama Cultiva moved their fight to places like Instagram, using it as a platform to educate about cultivation, and general marijuana philosophy.

In fact, Mama Cultiva used the pandemic as yet one more reason to push for legalization. Founder and director of Mama Cultiva Argentina – Valeria Salech – stated “In times like these, we find comfort in knowing that we can grow our own therapeutic products in our backyards…Now, more than ever, we want to highlight the importance of the sanitary autonomy provided by growing marijuana at home.”

Even so, these are trying times for an organization putting everything into helping the public. Anyone who would like to donate to the cause, and help keep these fighter-moms going, can do so through their site: here.


When it comes to cannabis heroes of history, Mama Cultiva as a group, has been one of the more influential entities fighting the fight for legalization. All over South America this group has inserted itself into legislative processes, organized protests, educated the public, and risked the freedom of its own members for the sake of helping sick children, and sick people all over the continent. Mama Cultiva has made the fight for cannabis legalization not just about getting high and selling products, but about an actual, legitimate way of saving and improving lives.

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Argentina Allows Cannabis Self-Cultivation

With 2017 legislation, Argentina joined the growing number of South American countries to relax cannabis laws. At the end of 2020, that legislation was expanded, and now finally, Argentina allows cannabis self-cultivation for medical use.

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Cannabis in Argentina

Cannabis is not legal for recreational use in Argentina, but small amounts of it were decriminalized back in 2009. In the Arriola decision, which was the result of a court case arising from the arrest of five men, the court determined that small amounts of drugs meant for personal use, that won’t affect or cause harm to anyone else, and which pose no threat of danger, are decriminalized. There is no official amount set for personal use, meaning law enforcement and judges must use their own discretion per case.

Much like Mexico and South Africa, which each have constitutional rulings related to cannabis and the right of an individual to live life as they see fit without intrusion from the government, Argentina’s court ruled that “Each adult is free to make lifestyle decisions without the intervention of the state.” The decision was also meant to encourage law enforcement money to be spent on bigger cases, while leaving small-time users to enter treatment programs instead.

Cannabis trafficking is illegal in Argentina and can incur a penalty of 4-15 years in prison. It’s illegal for residents to grow marijuana for commercial purposes.

Medical bill 2017

cannabis medicine

On the 29th of March, 2017, Argentina’s senate approved legislation for the legalization of medical cannabis. The bill requires those in need of cannabis medications to register with the country’s national program, which is overseen by the Ministry of Health. Not only that, the government actually set it up to provide free access of these medications to patients and children approved for their use.

The reason it’s free is because the medical ‘program’ was set up under the bill as a research initiative called the National Program for the Study and Research of the Medicinal Use of the Cannabis Plant and its By-products and Non-conventional Treatments. By law, patients have to be enrolled in the program, and the program allows for medical cannabis oil to be provided to patients free of charge. This law did not technically institute a structured market, leaving the only way to access these medications through the government run program.

Besides starting government run cultivation, the law did something else. It instituted the Cannabis Exceptional Access Regime which allows the import of medications with cannabis by-products into the country for verified patients with epilepsy. This provision, as it was written in 2017, does not cover other disorders that can be treated with cannabis medicines. Only licensed physicians, specifically neurology specialists, are able to make such requests on behalf of their patients under this provision.

Argentina now allows cannabis self-cultivation

When the bill was passed in 2017, cultivation carried a sentence of up to two years. While it was pushed for this bill to include a provision for self-cultivation, Argentinian legislators did not include it in the bill, restricting the ability for sick people to grow their own marijuana. By many, including activist group Mama Cultiva – which helped lead the way for this legalization, this was a major failing in an otherwise big step in the right direction.

In early November 2020, a decree was published in the Official Gazette making the statement that Argentina now allows cannabis self-cultivation for medical purposes. The government legalized personal cultivation, along with legalizing the sale of cannabis products (creams and oils) in pharmacies. The decree was signed by President Alberto Fernández, and states that there should be “timely, safe, inclusive and protective access for those who need to use cannabis as a therapeutic tool.” He added that a regulatory framework must be set up quickly to do so. Though the decree made the statement that Argentina now allows cannabis self-cultivation, it did not detail how many plants an individual could grow, stating that this information would be announced later.

Argentina allows cannabis self-cultivation

Patients, or groups, who want to access products in pharmacies, or cultivate cannabis plants, must still be registered with the ‘National Cannabis Programme’, through Reprocann – the Registry for the Cannabis Program, which was originally instituted by the 2017 legislation, but which was never actually operational due to a lack of regulation to govern it. When patients register, they can choose to cultivate their own marijuana, buy from a solidary grower, or obtain products through a pharmacy.

It’s good to remind here that simply passing a bill, or signing a decree, does not institute a regulated market. This decree updated the bill passed in 2017, but didn’t do more to offer a regulatory framework, which means in order for these things to happen, more laws have to be passed to provide details for actual usage. Even so, it’s nice to have the law on the books.

This new decree also expands the ability to import cannabis medicines. Whereas the Cannabis Exceptional Access Regime only applied to epilepsy patients when the 2017 bill was passed, this has now been expanded to include other ailments like fibromyalgia, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and other diseases and disorders that have shown to be helped by cannabis medicines. The government will continue to promote production of cannabis for medical treatments, and, in the same spirit as giving it out to patients for free, will guarantee availability of medications, even to patients who do not have standard health coverage.

According to Prohibition Partners (via Forbes), apart from helping sick people get the medicine they need, and expanding laws so that Argentina now allows cannabis self-cultivation, the cannabis market in Argentina could be worth as much as $40 million in sales by 2024. An increase in revenue has been a strong reason for legalization in other locations, and very likely was an even more powerful motivator than a group of mothers with sick children.

Mama Cultiva and the activists

Argentina is home to a group of influential activists known as Mama Cultiva. As the name implies, this group was started as a group of mothers trying to get medicine for their sick children. Mama Cultiva is an NGO that was originally founded in Chile in 2016, and has been working towards cannabis legalization since that time, both in fighting for new legislation, and providing educational information about cannabis.

Mama Cultiva was a strong force behind the 2017 legalization, and at the time was quite dismayed that cultivation was not given the green light. In light of this new legislation, Mama Cultiva’s Argentina chapter head Valeria Salech said “We’ve been fighting for this for three years… We’re no longer going to be criminalized for seeking a better quality of life for ourselves and our loved ones.”

She explained in a separate statement, “It’s not a law on usage. It doesn’t regulate cannabis. It’s a research law, and the fact that we can insert a mini-regulation in that research law for those of us who grow (the plant) for our health is a big deal.” Mama Cultiva is not just fighting for medical usage, but full recreational legalization, as the organization views it as important for mental health in general.

cannabis activists

To give an example of the level of dedication of Mama Cultiva, and why they are so committed, consider that the woman who made these statements, Valeria Salech, has a now 14-year-old son with both epilepsy and autism, who has been using cannabis treatments for six years.

This desire for greater legalization is echoed by the Argentine Cannabis Confederation, a group of pro-legalization product producers that are involved with the production of things like cannabis infused beer, and marijuana growing supplies. This group, which was upset by not being involved in the debates to determine draft legislation, thinks that the current law still doesn’t reach far enough.

Group president Leandro Ayala reminded “We don’t know what’s going to happen with low-level possession, which is what’s hurting us at the moment, the fact that we can be arrested for carrying two marijuana cigarettes.” He did say that he believes the cannabis industry could benefit from self-cultivation, especially in the form of supplying to these home-growers, but was still concerned overall about the issue of minor possession still being illegal.

He went on to point out that cannabis use shouldn’t have to be associated with sickness, and stated about the recent update in laws: “I don’t celebrate that because you’re only going to be able to grow if you’re sick, and in my case I don’t feel like a sick person. I use (cannabis) recreationally. Why do I have to use the shield of saying I have a pathology in order to grow when that’s not true?”


In a way, Argentina just tripped over its own toes, but not in the worst manner. Before even fully setting its 2017 legislative measures into workable motion, Argentina went ahead and updated them. That Argentina now allows cannabis self-cultivation is great. Going at this rate of updating that which hasn’t even been fully instituted, I can only imagine that a recreational legalization really isn’t too far off in the distance.

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How Honeydew Farms Grew Into the Legalized Cannabis Market

California’s Lost Coast is often described as wild and unruly – a scene of jagged mountains, fluffy firs and hillsides that give way to the agitated tides of the Pacific. The coastline that spans Humboldt and Mendocino counties is without any major highways thanks to the engineering challenges of building among the craggy landscape.

In the foothills of the Lost Coast’s King Range lies Honeydew Farms – a cannabis farm that is anything but lost and unruly. Shots of the ranch reveal neat rows of marijuana plants – weighed down with fat colas ripe for harvest. Unlike many growers who are struggling to figure out California’s new marijuana regulations, Honeydew has its licensing in order. After cultivating cannabis for some 25 years under the state’s caregiver model, Honeydew owners Alex and Miranda Moore were the first to submit an application for a Humboldt County cultivation license. Now, they’re turning their operation into a for-profit medical cannabis company.

Strain: SFV OG

Much has been made about the struggles of California cannabis growers to ensure compliance in the brave new world of regulated medical and recreational marijuana. The Moores’ journey to becoming one of the first county-licensed farms was an arduous but serendipitous one.

For the past decade, Honeydew has been in the process of subdividing and re-zoning their property to accommodate a partnership on one of the ranch’s parcels of land. Through that ordeal, Honeydew had to make sure its roads and buildings were up to code, securing permits for its greenhouse and barn structures. “We had to be reviewed by all these same agencies that are now reviewing cannabis,” said Alex Moore.

So when California proposed new medical cannabis regulations, the Moores found themselves perfectly poised to apply for a license. “It was a blessing in disguise that we went through that process,” he said. Many other cannabis grows in the area lacked permitted buildings.

Still, it wasn’t easy. The Moores got involved with Humboldt County’s process in crafting its local cannabis ordinance, hiring a land-use law firm and attending county meetings. Humboldt’s economy had been suffering due to the decline in the logging and fishing industries. “We helped to convince county officials that [they’re] sitting on a massive industry that’s already here,” said Moore.

Honeydew Farms Humboldt Cannabis Now

Honeydew Farms has secured a cultivation license in Humboldt County.

Humboldt’s Planning Commission eventually approved Honeydew’s application in a 4 to 1 vote. With its paperwork in order, Honeydew could turn its attention to its plants.

“Sustainably farming cannabis is a priority for us,” said Moore. “We just have a deep connection to our ranch, to the land, to the environment. This property is hopefully going to be in our family for generations.”

Honeydew eschews harmful chemicals so it can re-use its soils year after year. Their living soils are regularly tested for deficiencies and supplemented with organic amendments that are locally mixed. “We have [soils] here on the ranch we’ve been using for 20 years,” said Moore. “[It’s] also quite a benefit to us financially because we don’t have to replace our soil every year.”

While the farm has its paperwork in order, it’s still dealing with the anxieties that come with being one of the first license holders in the historic cannabis-growing region.

“We got a lot of hate from locals that we know in the cannabis industry,” said Moore. “That was kind of shocking to us.”

Honeydew Farms Humboldt Cannabis Now

Honeydew Farms owners Alex and Miranda Moore.

Even more pressing is the concern over volatility in the marijuana market. Farmers pay high costs to become compliant with little knowledge of what prices their crops will command. “That creates anxiety,” he said. “Then, you’re slapping on all these different taxes and you still have a black market that a lot of people are operating in.”

There’s also the oversaturation of the cannabis industry. Estimates put California’s cannabis production at anywhere between six and 12 times its demand. Then add newcomers to the mix: “All these new people with big Wall Street backing are popping up and walking into million-dollar facilities in the Central Valley,” said Moore.

Still, joining the regulated market affords its benefits. “I think there’s definitely going to be a lot more conscious consumers,” said Moore. Those customers will be looking out for lab tests and seeking organic producers. “More people are going to be trying cannabis… and are going to care about what they put into their bodies,” he said.

Honeydew Farms Humboldt Cannabis Now

Honeydew also keeps Scottish Highland cattle. These two are named Indica and Sativa.

Going legit also gives growers who have operated under the radar a chance to create a brand. “Trying to figure out marketing and all these different things that aren’t related to farming has created a bit of anxiety for us,” he said. “But we feel blessed and grateful to opportunity to build a brand.”

As for what the future will hold for Honeydew, Moore says they hope to expand to the recreational market. “As a business person with bills to pay, the recreational market is a lot bigger than the medical market.”

That ambition dovetails with the farmer’s view of the plant too: “Personally, I’ve always thought that you shouldn’t have to wait to use cannabis until you’re really sick.”

Originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now.

The post How Honeydew Farms Grew Into the Legalized Cannabis Market appeared first on Cannabis Now.

CanBreed Introduced The World’s First Fully Stable and Genetically Uniform Cannabis Hybrid Seeds

(PRESS RELEASE): Marketing of CanBreed stable Cannabis seeds, which will enable standardization in the Cannabis industry, is expected during 2021

CanBreed, a leading Israeli Cannabis genetics and seeds company engaged in the development and enhancement of Cannabis seeds, is proud to announce that it has completed the development of the first known stable and uniform Cannabis hybrid seeds in the world. In doing so, the company brings a solution to the main problem of the Cannabis industry that suffers from lack of uniformity and standardization due to the absence of genetic stability in Cannabis plants resulting also in high production costs that hamper growers’ profits. Stable and uniform hybrid seeds, with improved genetics, are the solution to both these problems.

In June 2020, after more than three years of strenuous research and development, CanBreed completed the development of the first uniform homozygous (100% stable) Cannabis parental lines. Crosses between these parental lines creates the world’s first true F1 hybrids Cannabis seeds. The company has completed the first F1 hybrid seed production cycle in the world. These stable hybrids will ensure the reproducibility, standardization and high quality of raw material for the entire Cannabis industry.

In the present cycle, CanBreed produced dozens of stable new varieties from diverse genetic backgrounds, which will be planted for testing in CanBreed’s breeding and seeds production farm that is at its final stages of construction. At the end of the selection phase, which is expected to be completed during the first half of 2021, the seeds of the varieties that fit industry demands will be marketed.

Unlike most agricultural crops that are grown from stable seeds, Cannabis plants are presently propagated vegetatively through cloning by using cuttings from mother plants. Cloning is done in order to ensure genetic identity between the offspring and the mother plants, which until now could not be achieved by growing Cannabis from seeds because there were no stable Cannabis seeds.

The main cause of the lack of standardization that exists in the industry is that the raw material extracted from Cannabis plants grown from cuttings is not reproducible. On one hand, cloning ensures a genetic identity between the offspring and the mother plant, but on the other hand, the cloning methods that exist today (such as tissue cultures) do not prevent the aging of the mother plants. Thus, similar to the natural aging processes that take place in any living organism (including humans) mother plants accumulate aging related mutations and changes in the

genome that cause differences in the chemical profile of the plant. This leads to the fact that despite being genetically identical, the chemical profile of offspring differs from those of the young mother plants.

The reason that until now it was not possible to get reproducible and uniform Cannabis products by growing Cannabis from seeds is that all Cannabis strains in the market today are heterozygous (genetically unstable) and crossing between two unstable Cannabis strains will produce seeds with high genetic variation. Thus, today every seed grown on a plant produced from the crossing of two unstable plants is genetically different from all the other seeds on the same plant. The fact that all the seeds are different from each other in a particular Cannabis plant means that plants grown from these seeds, even though they originated from the same plant, will have a different genetic profile. Therefore, to this day, the only method available for Cannabis growers to preserve the genetic identity of the offsprings has been through cloning of mother plants.

CanBreed's genetically uniform Cannabis hybrid seeds
CanBreed’s genetically uniform Cannabis hybrid seeds

The solution to the problem comes from the seeds industry.

In the agricultural industry, plants, such as tomatoes, corn, watermelon, etc, are grown exclusively from stable seeds thus ensuring genetic uniformity that enables high quality growing and reproducibility of the products.

Stable seeds, such as tomato seeds, corn, etc. used in the agricultural industry, are produced from homozygous parental lines (plants that are 100% genetically stable). The procedure of creating homozygous plants requires dedicated resources, unique agronomic and scientific knowledge and consumes considerable time. Crossing of two different homozygous plants will produce seeds that are genetically identical, meaning that all the resultant seeds of the crossing will have the same DNA (identical twins). These seeds are known in the seed industry as F1 Hybrid seeds. Using F1 Hybrid seeds will always result in plants identical to each other, thus eliminating the need for cloning of Cannabis and Hemp and ensuring the reproducibility and uniformity of the raw material extracted from the plant.

In parallel to the development of stable seeds, CanBreed is developing YieldMaxTM, an enhanced genetic trait platform, which contains all the agronomic traits that Cannabis and Hemp growers need for consistent, high-quality, cost efficient mass-scale cultivation. The breeding of the YieldMaxTM traits is achieved by using CRISPR-Cas9, an innovative gene editing technology. Upon completion of the YieldMaxTM development, the stable seeds of CanBreed will contain also these traits.

At November, CanBreed announced that as part of its project to develop a Powdery Mildew resistance trait, which is one of the traits in the YieldMaxTM platform, the company performed and identified an editing event in the Cannabis plant genome using CRISPR-Cas9. This report follows the company’s announcement on signing a commercial license agreement for CRISPR-Cas9 foundational patents with the CRISPR patent owners – Corteva Biosciences and Broad Institute

(of MIT and Harvard). The CRISPR developers were recently awarded with the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for 2020.

The company further announced recently that it had purchased a 3.5-acre farm in San Diego county in California. A production facility of stable hemp seeds intended for the US market is planned to be set-up at the farm. The farm’s initial output is expected to be about 12.5 million seeds annually, which will subsequently increase to about 50 million seeds annually.

Ido Margalit, CanBreed CEO: “The company’s achievement comes after nearly four challenging years of development as the company faces extensive knowledge and infrastructure gaps in the field of Cannabis seeds, and in parallel invests in market education regarding the feasibility of developing stable Cannabis and Hemp seeds. CanBreed’s achievement, first of its kind in the world, positions the company at the forefront of this emerging industry that will provide a solution to a huge global potential market of Cannabis and Hemp seeds, estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars a year”.

About CanBreed

Founded in 2017, CanBreed’s goal is to increase the profitability of Cannabis farming, while enabling growers to supply uniform and high-quality raw material to Cannabis-based industries. The company is based in Israel, where the use of Medical Cannabis is legally permissible, operating one of the largest R&D Center and a seed trialing and production facility in the country. CanBreed is managed and staffed by a multidisciplinary team of dedicated seed and genetics professionals.

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Hunting Big Buds in Bigfoot Country

I cling fast to the battered bed of an earth-spattered pickup truck as my guide deftly tools it down a narrow, unpaved road carved into the slippery cliff edge of a muddy mountain ridge — in reverse at full speed.

He chats with me casually through the open back window, as if his high-speed automotive acrobatics are as normal as walking. I furiously scribble notes and puff fresh organic cannabis grown from the same warm earth that rises with the mist to meet my eager nostrils. I’m somewhere in the wild woods of Willow Creek, California, at the meeting point of Humboldt and Trinity Counties. I have come here, to the beating heart of the world-famous Emerald Triangle, to hunt legends.

This is Bigfoot country, a fact advertised at regular intervals throughout the small town, from the shameless accumulation of Sasquatch souvenir shops and tourist traps to the explicit theme of our lodging for this adventure: the Bigfoot Motel. Here, we’ve booked the “suite” — a cozy cabin with a kitchenette, one bedroom and a wrought iron Bigfoot cage on the side of the patio opposite the charcoal grill.

And it isn’t just a gimmick — or if it is, it’s one the locals are deeply committed to keeping up. Scratch the generally polite surface of nearly any Willow Creek resident and you’ll find a Sasquatch story.

My guide for this excursion, Kyle Walton of Spire Ridge Farms, is no exception. He shares his theory as he effortlessly tools the sturdy blue pickup around a rain-slicked hairpin turn at full speed with all the interest of a man folding his socks.

“Look, nothing can hide in these woods for that long. People have been out here looking for Bigfoot for years. If it was a big ape or something it would have been found by now,” he says. “So my best guess is that it’s some kind of inter-dimensional alien. That’s why you see it but then can’t find it here afterwards.”

But the aliens I’m here to see aren’t reality-bending proto-apes or pre-evolutionary hominids. I’m here for the flagship flowers of a new cannabis brand carrying a very old torch in the Willow Creek way: Spire Ridge Farms

With house strain names like Alien, Space Wrangler, Halley’s Comet, Abduction OG and U.F.O.G, the farm’s branding promises an otherworldly cannabis experience. And as I spend the day zooming from one part of the ridge to the next — soaking in the scope, size and sophistication of this remarkable farm — I’m struck by the feeling of being worlds away from the slick packaging and mainstream marketing of the cannabis industry.

Land of Legends

Cannabis is a unique industry because everyone who’s worked in it for any substantial amount of time is an outlaw. That’s easy to forget in those places where cannabis has become a de facto commodity. In today’s California, the experience of purchasing marijuana is about as exciting as buying milk.

But the struggle-hardened farmers who work the unforgiving Humboldt hills have never walked an easy road, and they still don’t. The ascendancy of the legal cannabis industry means new opportunity, but it also means the looming threat of marginalization for the people who created the genetic and cultural bedrock of the cannabis capital of planet Earth.

“These are the guys who make it possible for you to have cannabis, the people who make all of this happen,” Walton says as he gestures towards his business partner, and president of Spire Ridge, Percy Busman. “They’re the kind of people who get their whole crop chopped down and confiscated by the feds,  who get arrested and go to jail — and the first thing they do when they get out? Go home and replant all those seeds.”

Busman, a longtime Willow Creek grower who’s been cultivating cannabis for nearly two decades — with all but four of those years spent on the land now known as Spire Ridge — is quick to affirm this.

“It happened to me two times,” he says.

“And is that what you did?” I ask him. “Replant the minute you got home?”

He looks at me — not with pride or frustration, but almost a hint of confusion: his mouth says “That’s exactly what I did.” His eyes say “What else could I possibly have done?”

And while law enforcement is an ongoing concern, it isn’t the only threat to the farm. Like anyone sitting on large quantities of high-value product, security is a constant concern during the window between full bloom and harvest when theft becomes a serious possibility. Theft has plagued the region for years, sometimes with lethal consequences.

Walton and Busman both avoid talking too directly about their security issues and how they address them. This seems to be about 50 percent motivated by a desire to keep things light and friendly for our visit and half rooted in the kind of tight-lipped secrecy that keeps a farm like theirs safe.

Busman will say that the vibe gets more intense as the later portion of the season kicks in.

“When it’s that time in the season, you look out into those trees and you can feel the difference,” he says. “We have a system of cameras and…” he stops himself, “We’ve got everything we need to keep our farm secure.” 

Mo Money Mo Problems

All of the grows on the ridge were once independently owned and operated by individual farmers, Busman among them. Now it’s one unified farm, which means more buying power, more manpower, more product and more profits.

But that growth isn’t just the result of the farm’s aspirations, it’s a defensive response to the influx of outside capital into the cannabis industry. From a spectator’s vantage, it might seem like the sudden spike in interest about cannabis among venture capitalist types would be a good thing, but for traditional cannabis cultivators unable to adapt to the rapidly shifting legal and financial realities, it’s a case of “mo money mo problems.”

So what Spire Ridge has created is bigger than a collective of farms and farmers, it’s a union of cultivators united for economic representation and market viability.

Now, with the care and cooperation of a unified group that includes original owners like Busman, Spire Ridge isn’t just repairing the soil and bringing the ridge into county compliance. They’re also doubling down on the old ways — the traditions, values and culture responsible for making the Emerald Triangle the high-end “brand” it’s becoming.

Willow Creek is not an easy place to grow cannabis, but Walton is quick to point out that cannabis can grow easily enough anywhere with proper care — it’s the people growing it who face the biggest struggle.

“This plant grows everywhere in the world and develops strains adapted to its environment,” he says with a tone that borders on reverence. “But logistically and legally speaking, there’s pretty much no harder plant to grow.”

Because in the face of the seemingly bottomless capital being leveraged on the sales and marketing end, back on the farm, it’s still dirty work.
The Emerald Triangle has a long history of massive, coordinated enforcement efforts by local and federal authorities, and to this day, police in helicopters are a part of life. With legalization taking hold, the new challenge isn’t prohibition but regulation — and the county is enforcing those regulations.

Our visit is early in the season, and some structures not currently in use are being renovated to meet county codes. The ones already in action are textbook examples of the kind of innovation that fuels the legendary quality of Humboldt bud: a wood-burning furnace helps control the greenhouse temperature without reliance on a generator.

And as Busman points out, wood is one resource Spire Ridge is in no danger of running out of.

And ultimately, it’s that ingenuity on display at every level of operations that is the farm and the region’s greatest strength. Despite the insistence of those advocating for the concept of “terroir” in cannabis cultivation, the true value of the Emerald Triangle as a region has less to do with its soil or climate than it does the collective knowledge and experience of the committed, generationally invested community of cultivators who call the region home.

The Humboldt Braintrust

Humboldt is a braintrust of cannabis knowledge and know-how — and those two things are not the same by a long shot. It’s easy to find people who can tell you everything there is about growing cannabis. Those guys are lurking in Instagram comment sections right now, fighting each other.

Meanwhile, up on Spire Ridge, they’re working the land the hard way — the only way they know — and creating some of the best cannabis on planet Earth using the wisdom of the Humboldt old timers.

Busman visibly bristles at the idea of Central Valley-style monoculture replacing the arduous soil amendments and hillside cultivation style he’s dedicated a major chunk of his life to. However, he also exudes pride and confidence when he addresses the issue head-on.

“If it ever comes down to that — growing in 60-acre monoculture fields — we’ll change it and do it right,” he says. “We’ll find a way to do permaculture on that scale.”

Before we head down the hill into town, we make a pre-descent stop at a house near the top of the hill for some dabs of the farm’s top-shelf quality BHO shatter and a sampling of some more of their flowers.

And because this is Willow Creek, Bigfoot comes up in conversation.

Busman has heard a more terrestrial theory than Walton when it comes to the legendary monster. Like most knowledge in this part of California, it comes by way of the “old timers,” the foundational growers whose expertise and experience earned the global reputation of the region’s herb.

“I know an old timer — of course he wouldn’t want me to share his name — but he claims he knows the truth behind the whole Bigfoot mystery,” Busman says nonchalantly. “He said a bear got its leg stuck in a trap and broke it pulling it out, so it walked with a club foot, which is why the tracks look different.”

It isn’t the most compelling theory I hear during my visit, but it’s more plausible than an inter-dimensional alien.

After a long day spent showing us around and the better part of an evening spent discussing every facet of the cannabis plant (and several dozen Bigfoot theories) over some surprisingly decent pizza and a few gallons of excellent beer (which he didn’t drink), Walton is understandably tired and heads back to the farm.

I, on the other hand, am still dead set on sighting a Sasquatch, or at least giving it the old City College try.

Back at the Bigfoot Motel, my Cannabis Now colleagues are asleep. I sit up in the small kitchenette for an hour or so, drinking beers, smoking joints, taking dabs and building up the courage to venture down to the shadowy banks of the Trinity River alone in the wee hours.

As I near the river’s edge, a shadowy figure darts across my field of vision. I spin on my heel to follow it but find only deep darkness. My pulse quickens as the air fills with the unmistakable feral stench of a wild animal and the shadow splashes across the river — much larger now —  vanishing at the edge of my vision, leaving only the beastly smell (stronger now) and the deafening roar of my own pounding heart and frantic breath.

A hand grips my shoulders and I shriek with mortal terror as my body crumples into a quivering heap of disjointed limbs and raving panic. The hand keeps shaking me, thrashing me into oblivion, as I fall into the icy depths of the river, the hand still clinging to my shoulder.

And then I hear the sound of a familiar voice and feel the hard wood of a kitchen table under my head and a hand gently nudging my shoulder.

“Greg, it’s checkout time — pack your bags.”

Originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now.

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Death Penalty for Cannabis: Which Countries Will Kill You

It’s almost hard to believe that as the UN voted on recommendations to globally open the legality of cannabis, that some countries are still so against it that they’ll kill you for crimes related to it. Yup, it might be 2020, but you can still receive the death penalty for cannabis crimes in many different places.

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The first thing to understand about the death penalty for cannabis is that there are different kinds of cannabis crimes, and just because a country employs the death sentence, it doesn’t mean it’s applicable to all crimes involving cannabis. Some countries will only enforce such a law for traffickers, others are more hardcore, and will go after actual users with death. While it all seems like a massive overstep in any scenario, here are the places that still give out the death penalty for cannabis crimes.


China is at the top of pretty much any list when it comes to the use of capital punishment. Though the country didn’t begin handing out sentences for cannabis use until the 1980’s, it certainly went from 0 to 100 pretty fast. In China, being caught with just five kilograms can be enough to get the death penalty, though some publications put the amount at 10 kilograms of hash or 150 kilograms of marijuana. Lesser punishments involve prison sentences of five years to life, with a fine of up to 1,000 yuan. Sale and supply crimes will get you a death sentence that much faster, even with smaller amounts. The problem with China is that information is very rarely released with actual, usable numbers. While there is a strong expectation that China is killing its own people for all kinds of crimes, the specifics are merely speculation.

According to Amnesty International in its 2018 report for the use of the death penalty in the world, there was a 30% decrease in 2018 for known applications of capital punishment. However the report went on to stipulate that China is not involved in these numbers as it has never released this information, making the actual death – and the percentage it has increased or decreased, unknown. It stated: “As in previous years, the global totals do not include the thousands of executions that Amnesty International believed were carried out in China, where data on capital punishment is classified as a state secret.”

death penalty

So, the number of deaths could be in the hundreds, or thousands, or even tens-of-thousands, but we have no way of knowing. What we do know is China doesn’t have a problem killing travelers in its country. In August of this year, China sentenced its fourth Canadian to death on drug smuggling charges. This highlighting an escalating tension between the two countries that began with Canada’s arrest of Meng Wanzhou in late 2018. Wanzhou is the daughter of Huawei’s founder and an executive of the company. The request actually came from the US, stemming from fraud charges related to Iran. It is thought by some that the recent death sentences leveraged on Canadian citizens Ye Jianhui; Xu Weihong, who was sentenced to death a day before Jianhui; Robert Schellenberg, a convicted Canadian smuggler; and Fan Wei, who was given the death penalty in April of 2019, are a form of retaliation for Wanzhou.

China’s illegalization and harsh punishments for cannabis are similar to India in the sense that China is home to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), just like India is home to Ayurvedic medicine. Both are thousands-of-years old natural medicine traditions that employ the use of cannabis. While it’s not often spoken about these days – probably because China is good at suppressing information it doesn’t want out there, cannabis is considered one of 50 fundamental herbs, which goes by the name ‘da ma’. This has not helped with acceptance of the plant today, nor has it inspired China to legalize cannabis for medicinal use.


Another country known for its liberal use of the death penalty for cannabis crimes is Singapore. This shouldn’t come as a huge shock to anyone who remembers young Michael Vay being caned in Singapore as a punishment for minor vandalism charges back in 1994. Whether the numbers released by Singapore’s government are accurate is a different story, but they are at least released through the Singapore Prison Service which publishes execution numbers for each year. In 2019, it stated there were four hangings, two for drug-related charges, and two for murder. In 2018 there were 13, 11 for drug offences, and two for murder.

The country’s drug policy is carried out through the Misuse of Drugs Act, which puts the burden of proof on the individual rather than the government. Being found with a large amount of drugs is automatically considered a trafficking offense, and if illegal drugs are found in the home or car of a person, it is deemed theirs automatically, even if it is not. In terms of cannabis, the amount at which it is termed trafficking is 10 grams of hash, or 15 grams of cannabis. Schedule two of the Misuse of Drugs Act allows for the death penalty for cannabis if the offender has 200 grams of hash, or 500 grams of flower.


Iran is yet another country known for its strict laws, and use of the death penalty for cannabis crimes. Possession of 50 kilograms can still get a person a death sentence, although Iran has technically loosened its laws to be a bit less harsh. It was reported in 2018 that Iran got rid of the death penalty for some drug charges, creating a need to review all death row cases. It was estimated at the time that as many as 5,000 lives could be spared because of the update. It used to be that 30 grams of cocaine would incur the death penalty, and now the amount has been raised to two kilograms. Both opium and marijuana were increased to 50 kilograms. It was approximated that of the 5,000 people sitting on death row at the time of the legal update, 90% were first-time offenders between the ages of 20-30.

What was just mentioned is merely for use. If a person is caught trafficking over five kilograms of cannabis in Iran, they are likely to get a death sentence, as well as having all property taken away, save for what is necessary for the offender’s family to survive on. This means the family of offenders pay for the crimes of those who actually perpetrate them. Cultivation is illegal in Iran, and offenders caught for the fourth time are subject to a death penalty. Strangely enough, if the plants are not intended for narcotic use, cultivation is tolerated, although how this is determined is less defined.

illegal cannabis


India truly seems out of place on the list. Like China, it has a longstanding medical tradition – Ayurvedic medicine – which employs the use of cannabis, and yet this history hasn’t helped with legalization measures. India does stand apart from China in that it is slowly loosening policies, or at least giving individual states the ability to set their own laws. Some states even instituted medicinal cannabis policies.

India isn’t generally known as having a high level of violence, unlike other entries on this list. But this hasn’t stopped the country from employing the death penalty for cannabis crimes. And, it’s a country that will use the death sentence on non-trafficking crimes. In India, if an offender is caught with 20 kilograms of marijuana or hash with a THC content of 500 grams, they can incur the death penalty. It used to be that such a crime automatically meant a death penalty, but this was struck down in 2011 by the Bombay High Court, which knocked it down from a requirement to an option. Since possession and supply crimes actually have the same penalties, suppliers caught with 20 kilograms can be subject to the death penalty. When it comes to actual trafficking, this is considered just as severe. The maximum sentence of a 100,000-200,000 rupee fine is the same as the top punishment for possession and supply crimes, and trafficking also can incur the death penalty under certain circumstances.

The rest

The examples above are not the only countries to employ the death sentence for cannabis crimes. Saudi Arabia is another hardcore country that doesn’t allow for much. Cannabis is illegal in the country in all forms. The country beheaded approximately 60 people in 2017 for drug-related crimes, with some of them being for cannabis. This amount equals about 40% of beheadings for that year, which was up from about 16% the year before according to Amnesty International. What it takes exactly to incur the death penalty in Saudi Arabia is hard to say, but it seems first time offenders and small-time users are punished with minor jail sentences, or lashings, with beheadings saved for repeat offenders who deal with large amounts.

Malaysia is known as one of the toughest countries on drug possessors and traffickers. Malaysian law makes the assumption that if a person has 200 grams or more that they are trafficking. Under the Malaysian Law Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, this is punishable by death. In 2018, upon enough public outrage over these killings, the government began talks to legalize cannabis for medicinal use, which is quite a turnaround from capital punishment.

The case that caused this disruption regarded a man, Muhammad Lukman, who was sentenced to death for selling cannabis oil to sick people. After his sentencing, over 10,000 residents signed a petition to have his case reviewed, resulting in the government announcing it would remove the death sentence for drug charges and 31 other crimes. Talking is not the same as doing, however, and it seems that talk of removing the death penalty hasn’t resulted in action yet. As of May 2020, the Malaysian Court of Appeals upheld Muhammad Lukman’s conviction, stating that there was no evidence that cannabis could be beneficial for cancer patients.

In fact, to give an idea of how little the proclamation to abolish the death penalty meant in 2018, another man, R Siva Raman, was sentenced for drug trafficking on September 30th 2020. And this for having 208 grams only. In general, Malaysia is not a country that releases statistics on capital punishment for drug charges, so specifics are hard to come by.

drug trafficking

Vietnam, much like China and Malaysia, isn’t really big on releasing data on executions. It is therefore impossible to know how many death sentences for cannabis, or drugs in general, were handed down. The UN Human Rights Committee has repeatedly asked for this data, but the Supreme People’s Court has repeatedly sidestepped the request. The only information to go on comes from media reports which state Vietnam gave out at least 75 death sentences in 2019, 74 for drug offenses!

Then there’s Egypt, which approved death sentences for drug traffickers as late as 2019, which is odd since the general trajectory has been to get rid of capital punishment, not institute it. In Egypt, sale and supply crimes can be met with the death penalty, although possession of small amounts can still incur severe punishments as well.

Indonesia technically allows the death penalty for traffickers. This can be imposed if the offender has over one kilogram of raw drug materials, or five kilograms of processed drugs. Though Indonesia has plenty of people sitting on death row for drug trafficking, there have been no executions since 2016, likely because of building public outrage against them.

Myanmar gets added to the list as well. Though it’s not a country that comes up often when discussing death sentences for cannabis crimes, it came into the spotlight in early 2019 when a US citizen and two locals were sentenced to possible death for violating local drug laws.

Other countries like Bahrain, Kuwait, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, Jordan, Mauritania, Qatar, South Korea, Palestine, Taiwan, Yemen, Cuba, Oman, Sudan, the UAE, and the USA all have the ability for the death sentence, though not all will do so for drugs. Countries like Libya, North Korea, and Syria have death penalties as well, but limited information on how they are used.


There really isn’t much to be said. Be careful where you do drugs. And know the laws of the country you are in if you don’t want the death penalty for cannabis.

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Still Standing: Northern California’s 2020 Harvest In Review

The harvest was glorious, mellow and abundant. It was sunny and mostly warm up until the first week of November, when forecasts of the first rain and then a hard frost mandated that we cut the final cultivar a few days early. 

Other than the unfortunate farms that burned and lost their whole crops, and some other growers in the immediate area who were smoked out, the 2020 California sungrown cannabis crop doesn’t seem to have suffered much testable damage.

Photo Nikki Lastreto

Every harvest is different, but I would be lying if I didn’t report the unique challenges the cannabis community endured this season. Repeating the litany of crises can become wearisome, and I don’t want to sound like I am complaining. However, in spite of being declared an essential industry and evidence of a growing market for cannabis as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown, I am not sure anyone in the legal cannabis business is actually making a profit. 

Most businesses in the legal market are just happy to be “still standing” at this point. We clearly are in a moment of transition, or in astrological terms, we are on a cusp, about to enter another phase. How much of the predicted events will in fact transpire – no one knows.

An Extra Helping of Hurt

For the cannabis farmers of the Emerald Triangle, the challenges came thick and fast in 2020. Like everyone else, we have been affected by “the virus,” a presidential election, Black Lives Matter, social distancing and the lock down. But as 2020 started, the cannabis community received an extra helping of hurt. 

First, there was the rise in the California cannabis cultivation tax, which doesn’t make much sense since excessive taxation is the reason for a thriving illicit market. This was followed by the COVID-19 lockdown, which brought the cancellation of most public cannabis events, including the 420 national holiday. 

Initially, cannabis dispensaries were shut down as part of the shelter-in-place orders. A ray of hope came when cannabis was declared an essential business in late May, and sales picked up, especially delivery and the newly authorized curbside pick-up.

Cultivators took this as a green light to carry on with the springtime garden preparations. However, at the start of the planting season, it was realized that even including all the drought years since 2000, the previous eight months had received the least rainfall since 1979-80. Subsequently, springs and creeks began to run dry, and farmers who are dependent on trucked-in-water were freaking out as towns put a limit on withdrawals.

This was followed by the belated realization that two thirds to three quarters of all cannabis licenses in California are provisional because they had not met the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The January 1, 2022 CEQA deadline suddenly seemed awfully close as county and state officials realized there were not enough working hours, staff or money to pay them to process the approximately 7,000 provisional licenses before they expired. This meant that 90 percent of the compliant cannabis businesses in the state could be shut down due to an unrealistic deadline.

Some counties even require an additional report of threats to sensitive species posed by cannabis cultivation in the mountains. The cost for the licensee to secure these clearances was estimated to be in the tens of thousands of dollars. Suddenly, it seemed that virtually the entire cannabis economy would be reduced to the biggest and richest operations while the small pioneer legacy businesses would go under.

Apocalyptic Skies

To top it all off, the fire season started earlier than usual. As anyone living in California in the summer of 2020 knows, the sky turned a dark, apocalyptic orange while ash fell like warm snowflakes that didn’t melt. It was so dark at mid-day that cars had their headlights on, and the street lights were lit. 

Many people lost homes, farms and crops. Fires blazed throughout the Emerald Triangle, the Santa Cruz mountains, Big Sur, the foothills of the Sierras, and even up into southern Oregon. Watching the fire lines, shown on the Cal Fire maps, as they inched closer to one’s neighborhood and ranch was daunting and stressful.

The only good news was that, for the most part, the fires were in forest land, which meant the ash was not nearly so toxic as a town or city on fire. But still, everyone was afraid that the entire crop for the whole state would be ruined by the smoke and ash. The talk among the cannabis community was focused on how to remove ashes from the leaves and flowers. Most people used leaf blowers or gently shook their plants.

Pineapple Cannabis Plant
Photo Brian Parks

Building Hope

In spite of all this, the harvest turned out great. The days of August and September were hot and the nights were cool, furthering the development of THC and the terpenes. When we finally started cutting in the first week of October, there had been no significant smoke or ash for several weeks, and our feelings of hope began to rise. Even though we desperately needed the rain, everyone was glad that it held off until the end of harvest.

Once the cutting actually began, everyone shifted into high gear – literally. At Swami Select Garden, we harvest in the wee hours of the morning when it is still dark out. Because of all the smoke and ash, we added extra precautions: After each plant was brought in and weighed, we  dipped every branch in a diluted hydrogen-peroxide solution. Next, we dipped them in clean water before hanging them outside on wires strung between trees for a brief drip-dry.

Cannabis hanging to dry during harvest.
Photo Brian Parks

As the sky slowly begins to lighten, and all the plants for that day’s cutting are hanging, we take a break for breakfast, when I cook omelets or pancakes for the crew. Then, we go back to hanging everything in the official drying area.

Interestingly, the need to get up at 5 a.m. creates a bond between the team members. It is really a magical time under the moon and stars. The terpene aroma is delightful, the buds are at their peak, and there is a sense of pride seeing the giant colas come down and loaded onto the trailer. It’s hard work, but one can literally see the fruits of their labor.

Looking Ahead

All during October, the humidity was in the twenties and thirties, so the issue was preventing the flowers from getting too dry. Then, as the drying area filled up and the rain came in November, we had the dehumidifiers going full time. Drying takes between 10 days and two or three weeks depending on outside humidity and how many fans and dehumidifiers there are. 

Nikki deleafing after harvest.
Photo Zach Sokol

When sufficiently dry, the smaller twigs snap rather than bend. This signals that it’s time to take the branches down, off the drying nets, and roll them up in brown Kraft paper – like three-foot tall burritos. Now they are ready for bucking, when we remove any large fan leaves and take every bud off of its branch in preparation for the fully manicured trim at the processing center.

The farmer’s harvest work may be over, but it’s time to prepare for next year’s grow already. First, we planted a cover crop of nitrogen-fixing plants followed by spreading compost on top of the soil to discourage the turkeys from flying over the fence to eat the seeds. Finally, all the equipment and gardening gear must be put away for the winter. A good farmer is always thinking ahead to the next season.

The 2020 election has brought some positive news for the cannabis industry as 30 cities and counties in California passed cannabis legalization measures, which hopefully means we’ll see more retail outlets soon. The election wins in five states were also a boost, proving cannabis is the one thing most Americans can agree on. News like this is encouraging for us farmers who work so hard to grow the best cannabis in the world. We will not give up!

The post Still Standing: Northern California’s 2020 Harvest In Review appeared first on Cannabis Now.

Ed Rosenthal’s Guide to Understanding Nutrients

When plants cannot get the nutrients they need, they do not function properly, adversely affecting growth and yield. This can occur in any growing medium, while using any planting mix or technique — coir, rock wool, soil, soil-less, hydroponic or aeroponic. Plant disorders are characterized by their symptoms, which appear more quickly in hydroponic gardens than in planting mixes or soil.

An overabundance of nutrients can result in nutrient burn or toxicity and can also lock out other ingredients. Unless the damage is slight, individual leaves do not recover from nutrient deficiencies. Some nutrients are mobile and are translocated from older to new growth so the damage is seen in older leaves, not in new growth. Other nutrients are not mobile. Their deficiencies are apparent in the new growth.

All fertilizer packages list three numbers that identify the N-P-K ratio. They usually appear as three numbers with dashes between them such as 25-10-10. The first number represents nitrogen (N), which is responsible for foliage or leaf development. Fertilizers that promote heavy leaf growth have a higher first number (N) than the other two. The second number represents phosphorus (P), which is important for strong stems and flowering. The third number is potassium (K), which promotes healthy metabolic function. Sometimes micronutrients are listed after the macronutrients: These are calcium (Ca), copper (Cu), manganese (Mn) and zinc (Zn).

All nutrients are required to be present for proper metabolic function. Most growers who use premixed nutrient systems and faithfully follow the manufacturer’s feed schedules never see deficiencies before they flush their plants. Two deficiencies that may appear when using commercial fertilizers are calcium (Ca) and magnesium (Mg). On the other hand, organic, living soil and outdoor plants that do not receive supplemental nutrition are more often subject to deficiencies, but only because living soil systems have more variables involved in delivering nutrients compared to concentrated nutrient products.

The Importance of pH

pH is a logarithmic measure of the acid-alkaline balance in soil or water. A pH of 1 is the most acidic solution, 7 is neutral and 14 is the most alkaline. When the pH is within the 5.8-6.3 range, slightly acid, the nutrients dissolve well and are available to the plants. As the pH rises above or falls below those numbers, some nutrients precipitate out of solution. Plants cannot absorb nutrients when they are precipitated. Plants can only “drink” them when they are in solution, so even if nutrients are present, they are only available to the plants only when they are dissolved. As a result, even though sufficient nutrients may be present, plant roots do not have access to them so and the plants will indicate deficiencies. Plants that are growing in water or soil outside the proper pH range grow very slowly.

Different species of plants have adapted to living under different pH levels. Marijuana has been grown in hydroponic solutions with a pH as low as 5.5, but it does best when grown in soil or water within a pH range of 5.6-6.3, slightly acidic. This is the pH of good garden soils. All plant nutrients are water soluble in this range so they are readily available to the plants. Outside this range some become less available.

pH can be viewed as a see-saw. As fertilizers are added it can drop or rise rapidly. It’s up to the grower to keep it the pH stable. It is important to measure pH after adding nutrients. When pH levels are out of the “safe” range, nutrients fall out of solution and are unavailable to the plants. pH is important for both soil and hydroponic gardening. Failing to monitor it can lead to disastrous results. The pH level directly affects plants’ ability to absorb nutrients. When the pH rises above 6.2 some micronutrients precipitate out of solution and are less available. Below 5.5, boron (B), copper (Cu), manganese (Mn) and phosphorous (P) become too available. This can result in toxicity.

The only accurate way to adjust the pH is by using a pH meter or pH test papers. Guesswork won’t do.

Marijuana Garden Saver” excerpt originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now.

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