Superior Court in Brazil Affirms Right to Cannabis Home Grow

On Tuesday, Brazil became the newest country to decide that sick people can cultivate cannabis and extract its components into oil to treat chronic pain.

The case is significant domestically. Currently the law prevents domestic cultivation of all kinds. Cannabis-based medicines that are dispensed legally must all be imported, although Brazil is currently wrestling with how to proceed with further domestic reform.

As a result of this decision, the Brazilian Health Ministry must now set up regulations to guide the same. This is exactly what the judges intended. Judge Rogério Schietti said that the court acted because of the failure of the government to take a scientific position on the issue. “The discourse against this possibility is moralistic. It often has a religious nature, based on dogmas, on false truths, stigmas,” he said. “Let us stop this prejudice, this moralism that delays the development of this issue at the legislative, and many times clouds the minds of Brazilian judges.”

What he did not add is that this is an issue which has clouded the minds of both legislators and judges, not only in Brazil but other countries too. The issue of patient home grow is controversial everywhere. Yet it is this right that has moved cannabis reform of a federal kind forward in multiple countries, starting with Canada.

In Germany, for example, the right to grow your own cannabis was removed from patients in 2017 almost as soon as it was granted via court decision after the legalization of medical use by the legislature. The subsequent failure of the insurers to cover sick people—with a refusal rate that some analysts are putting at about 50% of all claims—makes such legislative changes vital as the country considers further reform.

Yet Germany is far from the only country where similar legal challenges are bubbling.

Why Home Grow is Seen as Seditious

One of the largest opponents to home grow is often the burgeoning “legal” cannabis industry. There are many on the commercial side of the discussion, including those in the strictly medical vertical, who stand adamantly opposed to home grow. Their arguments range from lack of standards to the trickle of such product into the black market and or the “children.”

While none of these situations are ideal, the abrogation of rights of particularly chronically ill people has so far been the answer to the same in too many jurisdictions.

That said, as countries in Europe, in particular, wrestle with how to implement recreational reform, this is now becoming a relatively safe half step. See Malta, Italy, and Luxembourg. It is also a burning question that so far, at least, has not been answered by the recreational reform debate now underway in Germany.

From an industry point of view, however, human rights too often take a back seat to profits. This is why commercial “rights” are trumping constitutional ones. This is why the right of individuals to grow their own—for either medical or recreational use—remains directly opposed by what is termed “the industry lobby.” This is also why home cultivation of plants, even for medical use, remains a criminal offense in many otherwise legalizing countries.

It is also why it is patients, not the industry, who are having to challenge such laws on a case-by-case basis. That process is not a fun experience. Most people do not want to go down in history as “cannabis Gandi” for trying to address the dire consequences of being both sick and poor. Yet this is precisely the situation every country which refuses patient home grow now puts their chronically ill populace in.

Changing this often brutal reality is overdue—and on an international level.

Perhaps Germany, the next country to face this on a federal basis, will apply the same philosophy, finally, to the topic. After all, as the last government said to then-President Donald Trump when he tried to corner the market on a German-made vaccine for COVID, “There are limits to capitalism.”

In Brazil, the Superior Court of Justice has just reaffirmed that principle.

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German Government to Hold Hearings on Recreational Cannabis Reform

There is certainly something to be said about German cannabis reform that the rest of the world—and in particular, the U.S.—can learn from. The issue may have dragged excruciatingly slowly forward since 2017, but now that they have decided to actually do it, the government is moving forward quite fast to implement a new policy.

Last week, the government announced that ten new federal positions would be funded to oversee the new market. Two will be at BfArM, the medicines and medical devices agency where the current Cannabis Agency is located, and eight more will be directly under the Ministry of Health. The distinction is one of bureaucratic semantics as BfArM is an independent agency under the rubric of the health ministry. Yet this is Germany, land of bureaucratic hair splitting.

Yesterday, the Health Ministry also announced that it would start the first of five hearings today with the process lasting for the duration of June. More than 200 people are expected to take part—drawn from medical, legal, and business verticals, along with government officials and “international experts.”

The Ministry was told in a typically German and blunt fashion by the Bundestag budget committee last month that it was tasked with introduction of a bill that would be passable by the end of the year—or they would lose a million euros allocated for their PR budget.

The Impact of German Recreational Reform in Europe

While nothing is ever definite except death and taxes, it is highly likely that German recreational reform will pass by the end of this year. When the actual market starts is another question. Like Canada, or on a state level, Colorado and Washington State, sales could be delayed until the start of 2024. 

There are also other critical elements of legalization to be decided, such as decriminalization. Sales will be a large topic and range from how brick and mortar dispensaries will be set up to the ever-thorny issue of online sales. Clearing both previous convictions as well as pending legal cases is also a priority. There are about 200 criminal cases pending against legitimate CBD businesses, and over 185,000 against individuals, mostly for non-violent and personal cultivation and possession.

Beyond domestic impact—which also includes the creation of a regulatory structure for commercial cultivation, processing, packaging, and distribution beyond sales—there is another issue now front and center in this discussion and impacts the conversation across Europe. Namely where the richest country in the E.U. will source its recreational product—particularly until domestic cultivation is harvested. No matter how much new cultivation is initiated by all three medical bid winners, they will not be able to produce enough to supply the domestic market (nor should they be allowed to try). This also seems to indicate that feeder markets, including those cultivators now sourcing medical grade flower from countries including Portugal and Greece, are primed to step into the breach.

This in turn is also likely to drive further reform in most, if not all, other E.U. countries—especially those now on the brink of reform anyway. Portugal and Luxembourg have already announced progress on recreational reform since Germany announced an expedited schedule this spring. They are unlikely to be the only countries in Europe who will act. This is a valuable export crop not only for developing world countries, but many in Europe as well. Spain is one of them.

What Will Be the International Impact?

Beyond the immediate states of Europe, the impact of Germany going full Monty recreational will be massive. Its population is twice the size of Canada.

Apart from the domestic market and the inevitable topic of exports, it is also inevitable that political reform here will drive the issue in other places—starting with the U.S. (at minimum). 

If the Germans can do it, and within five years of federal reform of the medical kind (which also has not happened yet in the U.S.), there is little to hold this conversation back anywhere else.

What this also may well presage is further talks at the UN level, where reform has been punted for several years now. Removing cannabis from a Schedule I drug is now closer than it has been since before international prohibition which began to be implemented globally after WWI.

Quite ironically, the country which lost both of the global conflicts of the last century may well go down in history as the revolutionary force on the winning as well as the right side of history when it comes to cannabis.

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Morocco’s Cannabis Agency Meets for First Time

One of the most interesting things about watching the German transition to medical cannabis reform was the speed at which the internal controls were launched once the political decision to proceed was made. This included the creation of a cannabis agency—even if it was a subdivision of BfArM—the German federal agency in charge of medicines and medical devices. This was set up almost simultaneously as the final vote authorizing legalization happened in the Bundestag in March 2017. Morocco is clearly following a similar path.

Last May, the Parliament voted to make at least medical cannabis legal and try to capitalize on the foreign income that could be earned in Europe from exports. This March the government formalized that decision.

Now the government has formally launched the agency rather than just approving its existence on paper. The group met for an inaugural kick-off last week. The topics on the agenda were approvals of the organization chart and this year’s budget.

The agency will control all stages of the production chain—from cultivation and certification to marketing. It will also have to set up processing and manufacturing cooperatives—exclusively comprised of local growers.

The Impact of Cannabis in Morocco

Morocco will be entering a global legal industry that is estimated by multiple sources to grow over 20% this year. Yet while the formal guidelines and controls are new, cannabis cultivation is nothing new to this part of the world.

What will be interesting to watch is the impact of Moroccan sourced medical grade in Europe. Not to mention where it ends up.

Here is why.

Formal, E.U. GMP certified cannabis has to meet specific pharmaceutical spec before it can be classified as a “medicine.” This starts with indoor cultivation. Yet it is precisely this standard which will be so hard for most cultivators in Morocco to actually meet.

Does this mean that the Moroccan experiment is doomed before it starts? Not necessarily.

The idea behind the legislation is to deter illegal cultivation in the Rif Mountains and set up legal channels to create not only jobs but valuable foreign income from exports. Yet few farmers can afford to build the infrastructure needed for the same—and foreign investors are hard to come by. This is a similar problem that faces the rest of the developing world as countries examine whether the industry will be a boon or a curse.

This also means, by definition, that as a result, most of the crop coming out of Morocco, even “legally” is highly likely not to make the strict European medical grade.

What gives? Is this an economic development project doomed to fail?

There are several answers to this question, most of which are very positive.

The first is that while Moroccan medical cannabis flower may not be authorized to enter the German market directly as a pharmaceutical, the path to this as well as other E.U. markets (including Eastern Europe) may look similar to medical cannabis already being sourced from other parts of the world, starting with Latin America. This includes being recertified in a third European country, like Portugal (and for a price) before it is allowed to cross any more E.U. borders, including Germany’s.

While this is a highly controversial practice, don’t expect it to disappear any time soon, particularly given the transition to recreational now in the offing aus Deutschland.

Beyond this, there are also countries in Eastern Europe, starting with the Czech Republic, which are not so rigorous in their import requirements for “medical” cannabis.

Then there is the extract market. It is going to be challenging for the entire industry to certify that the biomass used to create medical extracts is GMP. It is hard enough for flower now.

And don’t forget, there is the pending discussion about Germany’s recreational market.

A New Recreational Grade of Cannabis?

While it is likely that German legislators—if not the three established companies which obtained authorization to cultivate as of the formal cultivation tender—would want Deutschland’s new recreational cannabis to be sourced domestically, it is unlikely that they will be able to meet that demand. They cannot even meet the needs of the medical market.

What is likely, however, is that foreign “GMP” product, including that grown outside and then submitted to a GMP process downstream (starting with drying and curing) may cross the German border only to then be channeled into the recreational market.

Given all the twists and turns so far, this would be far from a surprise.

However, this also means, in effect, that Morocco, along with other African countries on the brink of “medical” cannabis reform or implementation of such policy, is actually taking a bold, brave step into the unknown. And further doing so at a time when the medical cannabis certification process is taking an interesting path.

The winners, in the end, are likely to be consumers.

One thing is for sure: The quality of the formal global market, including what is likely to emanate from Morocco—no matter what its actual certification—is going to be a lot higher than it is now.

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How to Know Which Plants to Grow

There are more cannabis cultivars available now than ever before through seed banks and nurseries in Europe and North America.

Growing from seed has its advantages, but also some issues. Seeds are easier to transport and store than cuttings (clones) from a nursery. Unlike clones, cannabis grown from seed is not genetically identical. The degree of homogeneity varies from breeder to breeder. Although plants of the same variety will be closely related, only skilled breeders can create a uniform crop. Starting plants from seed results in decreased uniformity in the canopy, which is undesirable because it can reduce yield in larger operations. Home growers and those with smaller farms may not mind the decreased uniformity in the crop.

Large-scale farmers are more likely to prefer uniformity, so choosing varieties from a nursery that takes cuttings from mother plants or from tissue culture will help provide those identical genetics that drive uniformity in the canopy.

Whether growing from seeds or from clones, choosing the right cultivar is paramount because they differ not only in their effects but also in how they grow.

Cultivar vs. Strain

The word “cultivar” is derived from “cultivated variety.” Although in popular culture cannabis cultivars are referred to as “strains,” the term “strain” is more appropriately used when referencing viruses, bacteria, or fungi. The use of “strains” in the cannabis industry is widely accepted and understood, however. This book uses “varieties” to refer to groups of related plants and the term “cultivar” to refer to specific varieties that are named landraces or the result of a dedicated breeding program.

Cultivars that do best in outdoor gardens tend to need more light than cultivars that grow better indoors. Some cultivars have very little branching, while others prefer to spread their branches and leaves horizontally. Some are heavy yielders with large colas that will need support as the flowers approach final maturity.

While some varieties may finish in 50 days, it can take as long as 12 weeks before the plant can be harvested. Choosing the variety of cannabis best suited to the grower’s goals can be a daunting task; however, it almost always is a pleasurable one. The right variety is the variety of cannabis that meets those goals, whether they are the plants’ medicinal properties, style of growing, taste, aroma, or any other trait desired by the breeder. There is no single perfect variety of cannabis other than the variety that works perfectly for the grower.

Choosing Cultivars

Choosing which cultivar to grow is one of the most important decisions to make when designing a garden. The two most important factors are the quality of the effects and suitability for the growing environment. 

Strain: Blueberry Muffin bred by Humboldt Seeds

Find cultivars that produce desired flavors, aromas, highs, or medicinal qualities. Each cultivar has a genetic blueprint that determines how the plant will react to its environment, and therefore each cultivar will respond differently to different climates and garden setups.

New cultivars are the result of the intense competition among seed breeders hoping to find the next big thing.

How cannabis has been bred and for which traits has changed over the years as well. In 1964, THC was isolated and its molecular structure was described. It was understood that THC was driving all of the plant’s effects, which drove breeders to narrowly focus on THC content.

New cultivars were also bred for many other characteristics such as yield, flavor, aroma, medicinal effects, size, and maturation length, but no other aspect of the cannabis flower has been selected for more than THC potency. Popular varieties from the ’60s and ’70s usually had a THC potency that ranged between 6 and 12%, but ordinary Mexican tested in the range of 2 to 4%. 

Breeders selected for a wide variety of desirable traits in new varieties. At first they concentrated on increasing potency, decreasing ripening time, and decreasing the growth-to-yield ratio. Later they developed more of an interest in terpenes, which provide the odor as well as “personality” of the high, as well as for cannabinoids other than THC, such as CBD and CBG. Outdoor environments have come into favor due to legalization, as well as a proliferation of autoflowering varieties, homogeneity, and a more scientific approach to obtaining intentional results and micro-adaptation to specific outdoor environments.

Cannabis is particularly easy to breed because it is dioecious, meaning unlike almost all other annual plants, plants are either male or female. This makes it easy to control pollination; separate all males from the females and only use pollen from selected males to pollinate females. Cannabis is wind-pollinated, so a male in proximity to a female plant will pollinate it. Flowers can also be hand pollinated. For this reason, it is relatively easy for a grower to experiment with breeding.

Compare cannabis breeding to tomatoes. Not only does each tomato plant carry both sexes, but tomatoes have “perfect” flowers, meaning each flower carries both sexes. To breed them, the stamen from the designated female must be removed before it matures, which requires tweezers and a sharp eye. Then pollen must be collected from the candidate male, which is painstaking.

As a result of the ease of breeding there are literally thousands of companies producing cannabis seed for commercial sales, so obtaining seeds has never been easier. They are available over the internet as well as in dispensaries. Many of these companies advertise in magazines that feature cultivation articles.

Clones are also available. Just as many people prefer to use tomato starts rather than germinate seed, clones provide a head start and save 10–15 days of cultivation. Another advantage of clones is that they have identical genetics and respond to the environment in a uniform way.

The “ideal” environment for one variety may not be optimal for another. Having cultivars that are genetically identical optimizes large-scale production, since all the plants will thrive under the conditions that the cultivator provides. Creating many microclimates to accommodate the different varieties is expensive and difficult to do if the commercial grower’s goal is to increase yield without compromising quality.

Home gardeners’ preferences tend to be more varied, and their cultivar selections reflect that diversity. Home gardeners have different goals in mind, which is why growing from seed or having many different varieties in the same garden is perfectly acceptable. Home gardeners may be less interested in crop yields than they are with crop quality. They tend to grow different varieties so they can harvest at different times and choose from a selection of cannabinoid potencies, qualities of the high, tastes, and aromas.

It is true that the heterogeneity of maturation times and types of cannabis grown in the same garden often result in smaller yields than from a homogeneous garden. Heterogeneous gardens require more individualized attention to the different cultivars, resulting in more individual care. Most home gardeners don’t mind, especially when they see the fruits (or flowers) of their labor.

Plant Size

The height and spread of the canopy are two varietal characteristics to consider when choosing which cultivar works best in the garden. This is particularly important whether the garden is indoors or outdoors. Sativa-dominant cultivars tend to grow taller and stretch farther than indicas. An outdoor garden with abundant sun and plenty of room for plants to spread out works well with strong sativa varieties such as Sour Diesel, Lemon Skunk, Vanilla Frosting, Lemon Tree, Runtz, Orange Creamsicle, or Lemongrass. These tall cultivars thrive in outdoor gardens with no height restrictions, and the extra intensity of direct sunlight keeps the plants from stretching too much. If they are pruned early in vegetative growth, they will bush out more rather than grow tall. The higher light intensity promotes shorter branching and thus denser buds.

Strain: Ayahuasca Purple bred by Barney’s Farm
Strain: Ayahuasca Purple bred by Barney’s Farm

Indoor gardens typically have size restrictions. Tall varieties can potentially grow close to or into the lights, causing damage to the plants and undesirable flowers that are light and airy. Shorter varieties such as those associated with most indica-dominant and many hybrid varieties are ideal for smaller indoor grows. Cultivars such as Do-Si-Dos, Wedding Cake, Grease Monkey, Lava Cake, Northern Lights, or Super Skunk have indica characteristics and thrive in indoor climates. However, an indoor garden does not mean it has to be relegated to only growing indicas. There are plenty of sativas and hybrids such as Sour Diesel and OG Kush that thrive in even the smallest of indoor settings if they can be grown with either the SOG or ScrOG method.

Maturation Speed

Cannabis varieties have different rates of maturation once they are set to flower. Typically, this ranges from seven to 11 weeks. The time it takes to reach maturity affects the choice of variety in a couple of significant ways. First and foremost, quicker-maturing varieties allow for more harvests per year. If a grower is looking to maximize yield, and streamline production, quicker plants are a big plus. The other significant reason is that late-season varieties are inappropriate to grow in areas with short growing seasons.

Outdoor growers consider maturation speed depending on the weather in autumn, which can be cold and moist, but varies regionally. Gardens in climates that remain warm through the fall may work best with varieties that have longer flowering times. Finishing the flowering cycle while temperatures are still hot outside can cause the flowers to be less dense and lose a lot of their terpenes (aroma and flavor). Flowering later when temperatures are cool will delay ripening. Conversely, outdoor growers in climates that experience early frosts should plant cultivars that are ready to harvest early in the fall. A lot of the autoflowering varieties flower quickly and still have a lot of the original qualities that make them so great.

Yield

Once the size and maturation speed of the varieties have been decided, maximizing yields is often the next decision that needs to be considered when choosing which cultivar works best for a garden. High-yielding crops provide more medicine after harvest. These varieties are vigorous growers and will usually have higher cannabinoid potencies as well.

Maturation speed has a negative correlation with crop yield. In other words, the faster the maturation time, the lower the yield tends to be, and vice versa. Slower maturing varieties have more time to develop flowers, and thus the yields tend to be larger. However, a quick maturation time and low yield are not mutually exclusive. If it is a necessity to have a quick maturation time, the resulting smaller plants can be more densely planted to fill out the given canopy with more buds.

Examples of heavy yielders are Blue Dream, Sour Diesel, Big Bud, Critical Kush, Super Silver Haze, and White Widow.

Flavor, Aroma & High

The quality of the flower is more important than the yield for many growers. The flavor and aroma of cannabis comes exclusively from the terpene profiles of the varieties. Some cultivars have very distinct noses. The decision to grow a specific variety based on flavor and aroma is a personal decision that is best decided by the end user.

Some people prefer fruity cultivars such as Strawberry Cough or Blackberry Kush. Others prefer a sweet flavor from varieties such as Durban Poison, GSC, or some of the “cake” varieties such as Wedding Cake or Ice Cream Cake. Sour Diesel, Chemdawg 4, and Hindu Kush all have gassy noses due to a relatively high concentration of limonene. Flavor and aroma preferences are personal, but they are also very closely related to the high that comes from smoking/vaping these varieties as well.

The high from cannabis comes from the interplay of the different cannabinoids and terpenes found in the plant. With hundreds of active ingredients, there are practically endless terpene and cannabinoid combinations. Finding the high that works best for different situations is part of the fun of exploring cannabis. Terpenes such as a-pinene and limonene are bronchodilators and tend to give an uplifting energetic high. B-caryophyllene and linalool are smooth muscle relaxers and are generally found in varieties that provide a relaxing, calming high. Cannabinol (CBN) is the only cannabinoid that is regularly mentioned in lab testing that is also a smooth muscle relaxer and can cause that calming high. Many consumers use cannabis to ease anxiety and will look to cultivars with higher than average cannabidiol (CBD) content, such as AC/DC, Cannatonic, Sour Tsunami, Harlequin, and Ringo’s Gift.

Mold Resistance

Cannabis is susceptible to gray mold (Botrytis cinerea) and powdery mildew, which is caused by a number of fungal species. Both of these fungal infections thrive in stagnant, high-humidity environments. Gardens with humidity controls or naturally low humidity and substantial air movement around the plants are less susceptible to mold and fungi. However, cannabis is grown all over the world, and there are a number of regions where high-quality cannabis is grown in high-humidity environments. Cultivars that are grown in high humidity gardens need to have some level of mold resistance.

Cultivars derived from varieties and hybrids from Thailand, Vietnam, and other countries in Southeast Asian where it is humid have a higher resistance to mold. Varieties such as Pineapple Thai, Super Lemon Haze, Voodoo, and Juicy Fruit have Thai ancestry and are less prone to fungal infection.

Cannabis Grower's Handbook by Ed Rosenthal

This excerpt of the Cannabis Grower’s Handbook by Ed Rosenthal was originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now.

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Organic, Vegan, Non-GMO? Applying Nutritional Terms to Cannabis Products

Nutritional terms are something we see every day, so much so that they’ve almost begun blending into the background. Organic, non-GMO, vegan, all-natural, raw, superfood, sustainable, and so on, are words you see and a large percentage of labels on consumable products. We tend to think about food in relation to these terms, but they’re prevalent in the cannabis industry as well. For example, organic weed products can sell for two or three times more than conventional items, but the process of creating organic, non-GMO, vegan weed products is complicated and costly.  

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Common nutritional terms and their meanings  

Let’s start with a few basic terms you may hear when discussing food and other comparable products. The original “organic ideal” was to eat only local, seasonal, sustainable produce, but all these terms have different meanings (although a lot of overlap exists) and sometimes it can be a challenge to incorporate all these components into the final product. The term organic refers to the production of consumable goods without using fertilizers, pesticides, or other artificial agents. Any exceptions are listed in the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances.  

Local refers to foods grown within a certain radius that are consumed relatively close to where it was produced. The exact range varies from a few miles to about one hundred, depending on the product and local regulations. Seasonal means the food was grown “in season” and eaten when ripe, not imported produce. Sustainable, in the broadest sense, it refers to how well something maintains itself over a longer period of time. In food, it means the produce was grown in a way that does not deplete the earth around it of natural resources.  

Then we have non-GMO, which can get a bit complicated in terms of application. “GMO” stands for Genetically Modified Organism, and is an umbrella term used to describe any plant, animal, or other organism whose genetic material has been alerted in some unnatural way. Non-GMO implies the final product does not have any ingredients that were modified in a laboratory, but roughly 70% of products on supermarket shelves are, in fact, GMO.  

Vegan is self-explanatory but for the sake of being thorough, vegan items are made without using any type of animal byproducts or animal testing. The cutoff on what exactly is vegan and what isn’t can vary for some people. For example, some vegans still consume honey while many do not. Same with eggs. Some have certain parameters for when they’ll consume such products. For another example, I have chickens at home, 8 hens, no roosters. So, all the eggs produced by my hens are non-fertilized, not viable, and would go to waste if not consumed by someone.  

Similarly, raw food is completely unprocessed, similar to non-GMO, and “natural” has been deemed by the FDA to mean that “nothing artificial or synthetic (including all color additives regardless of source) has been included in, or has been added to, a food that would not normally be expected to be in that food.”  

Organic, Non-GMO, vegan cannabis products? 

An upcoming movement within the cannabis industry, #whatsinmyweed focuses on the connection between shopping for cannabis vs shopping for food items. In both the cannabis and food industries, consumers are spending 60% to 109% more on organic, non-GMO, raw, natural, (healthy) options. It makes sense to see this crossover considering both cannabis and food are consumable products, and if we’re promoting cannabis as a substance for wellness, it makes no sense for it to be loaded with pesticides, heavy metals, mold, and other contaminants that are detrimental to human health.  

Longtime cannabis industry operators can vouch for this, stating that craft organic options are selling for more, and at a much higher rate, than bottom shelf strains. This can be seen in the B2B sector as well, with cultivators struggling to sell bottom and mid-shelf flower. The price for that quality, in some markets, has dropped to as low as $100-$200 per pound, and that’s IF a buyer is even found.  

“The organic side is really coming into its own,” said Liz Geisleman, CEO of 710 Spirits, a Denver company that sells organic and conventional solvents to extractors nationwide. “Organic cannabis is coming fast and furious.” 

And it’s not just artisan buds that are fetching those higher prices. Edibles, topicals, and many other product types are switching to healthier alternatives as well. These days, you’re more like to be able to find gummies that are flavored with natural fruit juices rather than artificial flavorings, or sweetened with real cane sugar as opposed to corn syrup. Obviously a gummy, is a snack and not something we can consider a health food, but eliminating bad ingredients, even if it’s only little by little, does still make a difference in the long run.  

“Being organic, it’s a bit of a slower approach,” said David Bernard, vice president for growing operations for The Green Organic Dutchman in Mississauga, Ontario. “But once the systems are in place, you have a really healthy method of producing cannabis, and as the years go by, the margins increase.” 

Production standards  

When it comes to creating organic cannabis products, naturally, it all starts with the way the plant is grown. But with no true production standards in place, and very little in the way of organic certifications, what exactly constitutes “organic cannabis”? It’s important to note that just because cannabis products can’t get a UDSA organic-certified label, business owners can still choose to abide by those standards in their cultivation and production practices. The problem at that point, is trusting whether the companies advertising “organic” products are self-regulating and actually committing to those standards. 

Luckily, there are some exceptions for this lack of oversight. Organic recognition for organic marijuana (more than 0.3% THC) from the USDA is obviously not going to happen until its federally legal, but hemp (less than 0.3% THC) is legal as per the 2018 farm bill, and can in fact, sport the organic label. Additionally, at the state level, we are seeing more of a push for organic standards in cannabis production, as demand continues to grow, and local governments try to thwart the still-thriving black markets.  

Take California, for instance, where the state’s Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) recently released information for the new OCal Program, which is meant to establish regulatory framework to create “comparable-to-organic” standards in the cannabis industry. In Maine, the Organic Farmer & Gardener Association has launched a Certified Clean Cannabis Program (MC3) that would offer third-party verification for cannabis companies who claim their products are organic. Georgia (medical), Washington, and Massachusetts are working it implement their own standards and regulations as well.  

Organic extractions 

The next step in the creation of organic cannabis products, beyond flower, is extraction and processing. Certain extraction methods, careless manufacturing, or even using the wrong cleaning agents can ruin a product and strip of its organic label.  

cbd extraction
Photo courtesy of Green Mill Supercritical

Choosing an extraction method is key, and hydrocarbons like butane are out of the question. So that leaves: CO2, organic ethanol, or solventless (such as cold-press extraction); all of which have their ups and downs. If we take solventless extraction, those methods are intrinsically organic, but they’re slow and it’s difficult to scale how much you’re going to get at the end.  

Organic ethanol is another option, but not a very cost-effective one. Organic ethanol can cost anywhere from two to ten times as much conventional ethanol, so that’s not an option for man companies. “It’s not really cost effective at this point to use organic ethanol,” said Smoke Wallin of Vertical Cos., a multistate marijuana operator in Agoura Hills, California, and CEO of its hemp-derived CBD spinoff, Vertical Wellness. “The market is there,” he said. “The future play for processing is going to be significant growth on the organic side.” 

Wallin’s company, and many others, are opting for CO2 extraction simply because it’s the most affordable option that still falls under the umbrella of organic. During CO2 extractions, pressurized carbon dioxide is used to draw out naturally occurring phytocannabinoids and terpenes from raw cannabis flower.  

Final thoughts 

The way it’s looking now, the future of cannabis is in the high-end, artisan-style, organic, non-GMO, natural products. This pattern has already been seen in the food industry. Since the USDA began requiring companies to print nutrition facts on their products, consumers became increasingly conscientious of what they were putting in their bodies; it’s no surprise this mindset eventually spilled over into other industries, like cannabis.

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Wildwood Flower Farm’s Sustainable High

Approximately four hours and twenty minutes northeast of Seattle in Washington’s Okanogan County, Melissa Beseda reflects on the successful conclusion of another cannabis cultivation season. After months of hard work as the plants grew and matured, she and Isaac Ekholm, her partner in life and business, have completed the harvest on the Wildwood Flower Farm and are now preparing for the impending arrival of their first child.

Ekholm began growing cannabis for his father who uses it medically to treat symptoms of multiple sclerosis. His labor of love quickly became a passion for cultivating top-quality cannabis. After the passage of Washington’s recreational cannabis legislation in 2012, Ekholm applied for a license as a cannabis producer and processor and founded Wildwood Flower Farm in 2016.

After witnessing how cannabis could positively impact people’s lives, Beseda joined him on the farm the following year. Together, they’ve been sustainably growing cannabis on a 30,000-square-foot plot of land ever since, with a crew of lovable and loyal animals to share in the work.

Wildwood’s Melissa Beseda and Isaac Ekholm tend to their outdoor garden.

But since the coronavirus pandemic, the couple brought in two cannabis harvests without outside help, sharing the propagating, tending and harvesting duties throughout the season. Beseda says that she and Ekholm work well together and their interests and abilities complement each other nicely, all to the benefit of the operation. “His vision for the farm and ability to foresee opportunities and threats to the business have given this bootstrapped farm a competitive advantage,” she says. “His ability to focus on the overall strategy of the growing season while managing the intricacies and demands of the day-to-day operations is what has made us successful. He’s what keeps us on the rails.”

Beseda serves as the nurturer and sometimes taskmaster, working hard to care for everyone on the farm (including the animals), “while at the same time whipping them all into shape and ensuring it all runs smoothly,” she says.

The furry and feathered members of the family have their own duties on the farm. A flock of chickens and turkeys keeps the perimeter of the growing area free of bugs and weeds, and the ornery tom turkey keeps a watchful eye behind the garden, serving as the designated security guard. The farm’s two cats, Peggy and Squeakers, are pest management masters, protecting the cannabis plants from attack by voles and gophers.

“Since we had them, we haven’t lost one plant to rodents,” Beseda says, adding that even the herd of eight goats plays an important role on the sustainable farm when they’re moved to the growing area after harvest time to help prepare the land for the next season. “Goats are great for soil regeneration. Their hoofs aerate the soil, their foraging keeps the weeds under control and their manure goes into our compost, which will enrich the soil for years to come.”

Goats are part of the Wildwood Flower Farm family and help with soil regeneration and maintenance.

Working together, the team of humans and animals keeps busy through the growing season, tending the plants and nurturing them to harvest. In 2021, the couple cultivated several strains of cannabis including Jungle Cake, Sunshine Queen, Magenta Hash Plant and a South African landrace sativa that’s also serving as parent stock for breeding experiments on the farm. After harvest, they trim and bag the best cannabis flower to be sold under the Wildwood Flower Farm label, with the rest of the crop going to wholesalers and manufacturers to be packaged as flower or processed into oil.

Ekholm and Beseda say they have embraced sustainable and regenerative farming values, using only OMRI-rated pesticides that are gentle on the environment. They’re also enthusiastic for integrated pest management practices including the use of beneficial insects and predatory mites and are careful to enrich their farmland with compost and other natural amendments.

“We invest in the long-term health of the soil and our environment,” Beseda says. “We try to close the loop as much as we can with our inputs: All of our plant waste is composted and will amend the soil for the next crop. Every year the soil seems to get better and better.”

Taken together, these sustainable practices give the cannabis plants at Wildwood Flower Farm a nurturing home to grow and ripen. The extreme northern latitude—only about 50 miles from the Canadian border—means the growing season is compacted compared to other cannabis growing regions, but the long days during the growing season provide ideal conditions to fuel vegetative growth.

Strains from left: Sunshine #4, Sunshine #4, Magenta Hash Plant

“While we tend to have a short season up here in North Central Washington, our long summer days are hot, dry, and clear—the perfect environment for growing cannabis outdoors and in greenhouses,” he says. Ekholm and Beseda say they use these methods in concert with light deprivation techniques to ensure long-flowering cultivars finish in time. It’s difficult and time-consuming work, but it’s all part of the farm’s mission to “grow and share high quality, sustainably-grown flower with a commitment to our community, our future employees and the environment,” Beseda says.

Although cannabis is the primary commercial driver for the operation, Wildwood Flower Farm also grows other crops including alfalfa, elderberries, peppers and a few stone fruits. While growing these plants is largely in the experimental phase and the results are generally used for the farm or in their on-site home, Beseda says that they’re exploring ways to tap into a distribution chain that will allow them to make their other crops profitable, too.

“We love growing most types of plants and raising most types of animals,” Beseda says. “Seeing how things all come together on a small farm like ours has been very rewarding and always interesting. There’s a constant desire to see what inputs we can provide on our own and to find varieties of plants that thrive in the environment we live in.”

That environment, it seems, is also perfect for nurturing the family that serves as stewards of the land. Looking back at the past year, Beseda says her pregnancy and her baby developed in concert with the crops on the farm.

Melissa Beseda pregnant in cannabis field
Melissa Beseda, expecting her first born, works on the cannabis farm every day.

“My first trimester lined up with the bulk of our planning and prepping for the season,” she says. “The baby’s rapid growth in the second trimester coincided with the plants’ most rapid growth during the height of the summer, and the return of my energy helped us power through the light deprivation part of our season. The plants began slowing down and ripening up, just as I began slowing down during the third trimester and the baby began ripening up.”

This story was originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now.

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Isle of Man to Build £100 Million Cultivation Facility

Isle of Man doesn’t get spoken of much because it’s a tiny little place. However, there are some pretty big plans underway in this tiny little place. If all goes to plan, Peel NRE will make Isle of Man the building site for a massive medical cannabis cultivation facility.

Will Isle of Man become the new cannabis cultivation center of the world? Hard to say just yet, but its size and location make it a great place for the UK to produce medical cannabis. We’re a news platform focusing on the emerging cannabis and psychedelics fields. Stay current by signing up for the THC Weekly Newsletter, and also put yourself first in line for deals on a collection of cannabis products from vapes and edibles, to smoking paraphernalia. Also, it’ll get you premium access to deals on cannabis flowers, vapes, edibles, and much more! We’ve also got standout offers on cannabinoids, like HHC-O, Delta 8Delta 9 THCDelta-10 THCTHCOTHCVTHCP, HHC and other Cannadelics, which won’t kill your bank account. Head over to our “Best-of” lists to get these deals, and remember to enjoy responsibly!


Isle of Man

When looking at a map, it’s clear that between England and Ireland, there’s a small island. This small island isn’t technically a part of either England or Ireland, and is self-governed, while also being a British Crown Dependency. This is an odd contradiction, because Isle of Man is actually not a part of either the UK, or the British Overseas Territories, but there is a dependency relationship on the UK, which keeps it from being an entirely sovereign country.

For this reason, Isle of Man is not a part of the Commonwealth of Nations, but is a member of the British-Irish Council. This can create gray area when it comes to passing legislation. Technically, the Queen-in-Council (the ruling monarch in the presence of an executive committee) has the final word, but generally legislation doesn’t change without consent from the island nation itself.

Isle of Man does have its own legislative assembly, and has plenty of power to self-govern on local matters, so long as the crown approves. The head of this government is called the chief minister, and the reigning monarch is considered the Lord of Mann. The Lord of Mann is represented on the island by a lieutenant governor. Isle of Man doesn’t have its own military, and depends on the UK for defense measures.

The island has been inhabited by people since 6,500 BC, and has been a center for Gaelic culture since the 5th century AD when Irish missionaries settled on it. As of a 2021 census, there are approximately 84,000 people living on the island, with over 26,000 residing in the capital city of Douglas. The island is about 32 miles long (52km), 14 miles at its widest point (22km), and covers about 221 square miles (572km2).

Isle of Man cultivation facility

In February, 2022, the company Peel NRE, released an outline for a massive medical cannabis cultivation facility on the Isle of Man. This cultivation facility would be adjacent to a new research campus, also to be built in the Braddan area. The plans are only a proposal for now, and the company requested opinions from the public about its plans.

According to Chris Eves, the finance director for the project, the cultivation buildings will be atmospherically-controlled, and will produce highly potent cannabis specifically for the medical industry. He explained in terms of timing, that there was “never a better time to grow the industry than the post-pandemic era”. He went on to explain that there would be comprehensive security measures involved for both the research and cultivation facilities.

He also pointed out that the creation of these facilities would mean jobs for locals. These opportunities for employment, as well as education, are all in the vein of both high-tech, and scientific research. Currently, interviews are being held to find operators for the facilities, who will need to apply for licenses upon hire.

How did this come about?

The Isle of Man plans for a medical cannabis cultivation facility are pretty extensive. So how did this all come about? And why there specifically? We’ll start with why there specifically. As it happens, Isle of Man is the home to billionaire John Whittaker, the chairman for the Peel Group, which is a property company based in England. ‘Peel NRE’, the company making the plans, is a part of the Peel Group. Thus, this project is being conducted where the Peel Group operates most, in the UK.

The reason for this to happen now, apart from it being a good time post-pandemic to get in on it, is that laws recently changed in the country. Isle of Man never legalized use of cannabis for residents, but it did legalize the cultivation, production, and exportation of products in June of 2021. According to Laurence Skelly, the Enterprise Minister, this move makes for a “significant opportunity for economic development”.

medical cannabis

He went on to say, “The new regulatory framework and guidance will offer stringent and flexible licensing of a broad range of cannabis products, which ranges from outdoor grown industrial hemp to indoor grown medicinal products.” As of a 2019 public consultation, about 95% of the residents of the island are onboard with growing medical cannabis there. According to the new legislation, the Gambling Supervision Commission is the body responsible for regulating this new industry.

The country isn’t trying to leave out its own population, and the Health Department is currently going over ways to allow the import of cannabis medicines, as well as providing medications for those who hold prescriptions from UK doctors. Whether this part will actually go through is less sure. What is for sure, is that the governance of the Isle of Man, definitely wants to get in on the weed cultivation and exportation game.

For now, this project by Peel NRE is only meant to grow for the pharmaceutical market. There is no global market for exporting recreational cannabis at the moment, so any country that wants to get in on the industry, must do it with medical cannabis until that changes. With more countries becoming legal for recreational use, that change will likely happen soon enough, but isn’t relative until it does. It’s expected that later this year Peel NRE will officially submit a planning application. This project, assuming it goes through, could create one of the biggest cannabis cultivation facilities in the world.

The UK and cannabis

Isle of Man straddles the line of being an independent nation and a dependent state to the UK. As it legislatively is tied to the UK, the UK’s position in the cannabis world is important. In both the regular UK and the Isle of Man, cannabis is illegal for recreational use, but legal (to some degree) for medicinal use. Though Isle of Man is only now getting that part together, the UK legalized medical cannabis in 2018 with a doctor’s prescription.

What’s interesting about this, is that the UK is also one of the biggest global exporters of legal cannabis. Part of the reason for this, is that the UK is home to GW Pharmaceutical, which is one of the biggest cannabis pharma companies in existence. In 2016, for example, the UK produced 95 tons of medical cannabis, excluding hemp products. This amounted to 44.9% of the global total for that year. It exported 2.1 tons of this, which amounted to 67.7% of global exports for that year.

On the other hand, while that sounds like a lot, it barely compares to the exports of two other countries. Morocco holds the largest illegal export market, which exported approximately 36,000 tons of cannabis resin in 2017. China holds the largest legal hemp export market, though specific numbers are not reported on.

Isle of Man cultivation

What is known, is that just domestically, the hemp market is expected to bring in over $1 billion annually, and that when it comes to cannabis oils, China topped the list in 2019, exporting 33.4% of all cannabis oil exported on a global level. The cannabis industry is a dynamic place, though, and these numbers outdate themselves quickly.

In recent years, things have shifted on the international stage, with numbers for exports increasing, and Canada taking the lead for legal marijuana exports. In 2020, Canada exported some 15.6 tons of dried cannabis flower and about 7.3 kilos of oils and extracts. It is still expected, however, that the UK exports the most actual cannabis medicine in the form of Epidiolex and Sativex, as they are products of GW Pharmaceutical.

Conclusion

It’s not uncommon for towns and cities to sprout up around large factories or other businesses. Sometimes entire towns exist of employees to an operation. Since Isle of Man is small, it could very well turn into a cultivation country, with the majority of residents involved in the cannabis industry. We’ll let you know more, as the story unravels.

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Face of the Farmer: Sunshine Cereceda, Sunboldt Grown

Stepping out of the unregulated medical marijuana market in California and into the world of legal, adult-use cannabis, with licensing and high taxes to follow, has been no small feat for most farmers in Northern California’s hail from the Emerald Triangle, which includes Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity counties. Considered by many as the cannabis capital of the world, this is where many of the cultivars we enjoy were first developed.

One such Southern Humboldt County farmer, Sunboldt Grown owner Sunshine Cereceda, was comfortable in the medical marijuana space, using the cooperative model where patients supported farmers. There, she developed and branded cultivars of her own, like Loopy Fruit, Wanderlust, Delphina and Redwood Summer.

Cereceda saw the writing on the wall with issues of legalization for the small farmers to the north, and her message is the still the same: Farmers need to brand themselves, their farms and their cultivars in order to effectively compete and be known.

They also need to do away with the middleman—or the “Bro Distro”—as Cereceda dubbed them. This refers to the old-school method of moving material and product on just a handshake, with the small farmer at home often getting the short end of the deal. It worked to a point back in the day, but today trust is being exploited by what she calls “corporate sharks.”

“Cannabis has always sustained us, even through the hard times, so why is it not going to get us through now, after all these years?” Cereceda asks. “In my mind, the small cannabis farmers need to change their mindset. They need to do away with all the bad habits developed in the past unregulated markets in order to move forward.”

Cereceda went on to explain that in the days of prohibition, they were functioning without a future. But now, small cannabis farmers can leverage their own history as they legally build their businesses. 

“Rookies and bad habits built the industry during prohibition. From my roots in activism, I understand the challenges of the messenger,” she said. “But we have this product that’s already branded from our region—we’re known as rockstars in the industry. There’s no stronger cannabis community in the nation. We’re just in transition. It’s a learning curve, to say the least.”

Born Into Activism

Cereceda’s mom brought her to Southern Humboldt from her birthplace of San Luis Obispo, CA, when she was seven years old. 

“I was raised by an activist,” Cereceda says. “My mother organized and protested nuclear energy and weapons. She was there during the Diablo Canyon rally in 1978 with [CA Governor] Jerry Brown—she was one of the organizers.”

Part of her mother’s advocacy included protecting the redwoods, and Cereceda followed in her footsteps, majoring in geology at Humboldt State University. “I studied geology mostly because it’s Mother Earth, and I wanted to understand the earth” she said. “I thought it was all about plant life, but then I realized it was the rocks and the earth itself.”

The degree led her to work on road inventories for Humboldt Redwoods State Parks, followed by a gig with Pacific Watershed Associates. 

Watershed stewardship is an important issue in California and is directly tied to the health of the forests and rivers. For decades, the watershed was largely ignored by small and large-scale cannabis operations from both the unregulated medical and illicit markets during the days of the Green Rush. They would reroute water coming down the mountains to suit their needs, with unpermitted roads crisscrossing the hills, making it nearly impossible for literally hundreds of hill farmers to come into compliance today.

It’s important to note that the erosion of the roads is also a direct result from the timber industry, now expected to be corrected and paid for by the farmers.

“During a town hall meeting prior to legalization, water experts were brought in to let us know that, even in a drought, we could gather enough water to care for our crops using rain-catchment systems,” she said. “Cannabis farmers have taken the lead in responsible water use for agriculture in the state.”

For the Love of Farming

Responsible agricultural practices are key in sustainable and regenerative farming, which is what the Emerald Triangle is known for. But it’s not enough to compete in an overregulated market, where the farmer feels the brunt of taxation—not only on the farm, but also on the shelf, as retailers bump their losses down to the farmer at check-out.

“Farmers are at the end of the line in a capitalistic system, and we carry the tax burden as it gets kicked down from retailers and brands that buy bulk and package it themselves,” Cereceda says. “I’m lucky that I have good retail partners, but that took time and consistency to establish. If you’re still using your Bro Distro, you’re losing a big chunk of income.”

With the promise of distributors and umbrella brands representing farmers a clear disappointment—garnering a mere $400 to $500 per pound—Cereceda says it’s time for farmers to represent themselves in the marketplace and build a brand.

Doing all the work herself with her team, from seed to shelf, including packaging, Cereceda said she’s been able to get $1100 to $1200 per pound.

“Farm management skills [and] managing workers—it takes a lot of years and a concentrated effort to be good at it, and that all adds to your bottom line” she says. “You can’t just get a license and think it’s all going to work out alright with your output. Historically, we pay for our operation out of each harvest, but that’s like working paycheck to paycheck with no guarantee your next crop will be moved. Our distribution right now is weak.”

Reducing risk plays a big factor in succeeding in the regulated market, and Cereceda says the more a farmer opts out of their own work, the less they’ll make. It’s just common sense.

“How about growing what you can move yourself?” she asks. “This is capitalism, count your blessings. This is how it works. The middleman will take all your profits if you let him. And your Bro Distro isn’t much better. It takes one year to grow a crop; it takes several years to grow a business.”

One distributor Cereceda speaks fondly of is Berner, CEO and co-founder of Cookies, with longtime Southern Humboldt Farmer, Kevin Jodrey in the mix.

“Berner is underrated,” she says. “He’s doing a great job supporting farmers and has gotten more customers off the black market on the streets and into shops than anyone else. He allowed so many black-market growers back in the day to prosper growing his genetics—they got brand recognition for his cultivars. Can’t say enough good about Berner.”

Berner is a stage name for San Francisco Bay Area hip-hop artist, Gilbert Anthony Milam, Jr., who branded his Cookies cultivar during the medical market in California. Cookies was made legendary after the Scouts of America forced him to shorten the name from Girl Scout Cookies to Cookies.

Branding a Life

small cannabis farmers

Showing the face of the farmer—telling their stories in today’s social media marketing mindset is everything.

The once shy Cereceda is now posting photos of herself on social media from the farm, holding her colas in the forest, telling the stories of how they were created and named—sharing her charmed farm life with the world.

Typically, it takes years to create a cultivar. It’s not uncommon for each farmer to have specific stories surrounding the work, the detailed variations of the flower, and the cultivar’s name, which often involves a sentimental or meaningful story from the farm.

Sunboldt Grown’s website beckons, “Taste the Redwoods,” noting all cultivars are grown in the loamy ancient soil, taking on nuances, just as in viticulture in the South of France and the growing of grapes for wine taking on the essence of lavender or rosemary nearby.

The plants are grown in the flood plain deposits of the Eel River, with no additional water needed. This is called dry farming, and the farmers refer to themselves as “terroirists” (from the French word terroir, meaning earth or soil), who allow for the place to be expressed in the flower they grow.

Cereceda’s crops are also grown by the cycles of the moon, not uncommon among farmers. In fact, the historic Farmer’s Almanac still provides lunar cycles as a planting guide. The almanac explains that just as the moon’s gravitational pull creates the tides of the oceans, it also promotes plant growth by creating more moisture in the soil. 

Sunboldt Grown cannabis

“Wanderlust was inspired by sailing on the ocean,” Cereceda says. “The word implies an urgency to be moving, to not settle in one place.”

From its website, Wanderlust is a hybrid of Blue Dream and Agent Orange, with flavors of lemon-lime zest and fresh Douglas Fir needles, finishing with a splash of orange juice. The smoke is medium-bodied with a dense, velvety richness. A ten-week strain, its delicate flower is sensitive to the cold.

“Redwood Summer is named after the campaign and initiative from 1990, to stop the clear-cutting of all old-growth redwoods,” Cereceda said.

The backstory to the Redwood Summer campaign is heartbreaking and personal to the region. Earth First! began the movement. It was led by Judi Bari during the Timber Wars that continued into the 1990s and ended when Bari and her partner Daryl Cherney were seriously injured after a pipe bomb was planted in their car. The cultivar is a tribute to Bari and the movement that continues to educate and protect the old growth forests.

Delphina was created by crossing Purple Nepal with Rebel Moon (NorCal Diesel). Cereceda uses this cultivar to make old-school, solventless, bubble hash as it yields high-quality resin. A sweet and savory aroma, it’s spicy, and the smoke is likened to breathing in the forest floor, delivering a deep state of relaxation and euphoria.

“Delphina is a Greek woman from Delphi, Greece, where the Earth Goddess Gaia was first celebrated,” she said. 

According to author Darian West, the Oracle of Delphi was considered the most influential woman of the ancient world from 800 BC until 393 AD, when her last recorded entry predicted the end of the Roman Empire, declaring, “All is ended.” Delphina proclaimed Socrates the wisest man in the world, predicted the rise of Alexander the Great and foretold the death of Nero.

Farmer as Influencer

Small cannabis farmers have a hard time getting out of the illicit market. For the most part, they can’t afford licensing; can’t move product; distribution is weak; taxes are high; and ordinances are unreasonable and/or ill-informed to begin with, causing undue hardships.

“Everyone is codependent in this space,” Cereceda says. “The handshake deals don’t work anymore. The days of your best buddy distributing for you are over.”

For the first time in history, cannabis farmers are feeling the brunt of growing the world’s most illicit and beloved herb on the planet. Just as with food farmers, they aren’t getting a living wage, with no subsidy from the US government to bail them out when times are hard, or the price per pound is too low to pay the bills.

“Everyone is borrowing on us, and we’ve been way too complacent about it for far too long,”’ Cereceda says. “On the other hand, this product—this cash crop—is from Mother Earth, and the fact that we’re doing as well as we are up here is just amazing to me. We need to own our right to be here and work smarter.”

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom Adds Tax Cuts in Revised Budget Proposal

Newsom announced the revision proposal on May 13, which aims to set aside $150 million in order to “temporarily reduce taxes” and simplify the tax structure, while $21 million will go toward local governments to help expand cannabis’s retail footprint.

Newsom said in response to a question from a Bloomberg reporter that he is “…addressing the persistent issue that is exactly what we anticipated would be a persistent issue—and that’s dealing with the black market, going after the illegal growers and the illegal operators,” Newsom explained. “Trying to level-set, trying to be flexible in terms of the cost pressures related to the current tax structure, and the lack thereof, in the black market.”

“This is [the] beginning of a process from my humble perspective, in terms of my thinking,” Newsom continued. “This will be a multi-year process to get that black market, get it on the retreat—not the ascendancy—and to get the retail and responsible adult-use market on steady ground.”

In conjunction with Newsom’s statement, the Department of Cannabis Control also released a statement from Director Nicole Elliot. “We have heard from many of you who have said that the current cannabis tax framework is overly complex,” Elliot wrote. “We know that current tax policies disproportionately burden cannabis farmers and small businesses and create instability throughout the supply chain, ultimately undermining the societal benefits of a taxed and regulated market.”

She summarized some of the changes in the proposal, which includes setting the cultivation tax to zero starting on July 1, strengthening tax enforcement policies, altering the deadline for collecting excise tax, and more. “I share this information because I wanted you all to know about the work the Governor’s Office is doing to support our collective efforts,” Elliot concluded. “Creating a sustainable, safe, equitable, and legal cannabis market in our state is no small feat—it is a labor of love, and it takes all of us working together to help make this a reality.”

The Reason Foundation, which promotes libertarian values, recently analyzed the possible results of altering the current cannabis tax. Ultimately, the organization recommended to repeal or suspend the current cultivation tax, reduce retail excise taxes, or pursue other methods to garner interest from local governments. “Tax costs are a significant component of retail prices and this analysis shows that a reduction in taxes can make legal products more price-competitive with illegal products and lure more consumers into the regulated market. This overall market growth will quickly displace the lost revenue resulting from a reduction in tax rates,” the Reason Foundation concluded.

Newsom initially unveiled his budget proposal for the 2022-2023 fiscal year in January, stating that he strives to make positive changes. “It is my goal to look at tax policy to stabilize markets; at the same time, it’s also my goal to get these municipalities to wake up to the opportunities to get rid of the illegal market and the illicit market and provide support and a regulatory framework for the legal market,” Newsom said. He shared that $595 million of cannabis tax revenue became available to fund substance abuse treatment efforts, environmental remediation illegal cultivation sites, and public safety activities.

In June 2021, Newsom proposed a $100 million package “to be provided as grants to cities and counties to help cannabis businesses transition from provisional to regular licenses.” Seventeen cities and counties were chosen to receive this grant.

Meanwhile, in late April, Assembly Bill 2691 was approved to allow small cannabis business owners to take their products directly to consumers at cannabis farmers markets and other special events. According to Assemblymember Jim Wood, who introduced the measure, this will help small cannabis businesses navigate through the various challenges of high taxes and competition with larger businesses, and will help increase visibility among local consumers.

The post California Gov. Gavin Newsom Adds Tax Cuts in Revised Budget Proposal appeared first on High Times.

Are You Smoking Irradiated Cannabis? And is ‘Nuclear Weed’ Safe? 

If you’re buying legal weed, regardless of what state or country you’re in, there is a very strong possibility that you’re getting irradiated, or ‘nuclear’ pot. That might sound weird and scary, but it’s more common than most people realize, and not just in the cannabis industry, but in agriculture and healthcare as well.  

When it comes to safety, nuclear weed is actually (believe it or not) perfectly fine, despite some possible changes to the flavor profiles. Safety is actually the core reason for blasting weed with radiation in the first place, to kill and possible contaminants without sacrificing quality. But marketing irradiated cannabis products, on the other hand, has been an uphill battle for producers and retailers.  

The cannabis plant is so interesting and complex, and we’re learning more about it every day. To stay current on everything important happening in the industry, subscribe to the THC Weekly Newsletter. Also, it’ll get you premium access to deals on cannabis flowers, vapes, edibles, and much more! We’ve also got standout offers on cannabinoids, like HHC-O, Delta 8Delta 9 THCDelta-10 THCTHCOTHCVTHCP HHC, which won’t kill your bank account. Head over to our “Best-of” lists to get these deals, and remember to enjoy responsibly!


What is ‘nuclear weed’? 

So, let’s start with the basics. What exactly is ‘nuclear’ cannabis? In short, it’s cannabis that has undergone irradiation to sterilize it and kill and mold or possibly harmful bacteria. A lot of people hear the “radiation” part and are immediately put off; but there is a big difference between irradiation treatment and being exposed to radiation.  

Simply put, radiation refers to the number of photons that are being emitted by an independent energy source. By and large, there is no one specific definition for radiation, but can be used to describe various, single-source phenomena that are related to the release of energy. That said, when talking about “exposure to radiation”, it’s usually energy and often at dangerously high levels. With irradiation, on the other hand, the exposure to energy is calculated and intentional.  

Industry reports claim than an estimated 80-90 percent of cannabis available at retail locations throughout Canada has been irradiated, and roughly the same numbers (slightly less) apply here in the United States. Irradiation has been used for a long time in other industries, one common example is for sterilizing medical equipment. Irradiation is also an EPA-approved method of decontaminating produce, like most things you buy from supermarkets. Theoretically, weed shouldn’t really need to be treated with radiation. Ideally, a successful grow should be free of contaminants anyway, but we know that is not always the case. 

One of the most promising uses for irradiation to eliminate mold and bacteria in flower – which for consumers, can be a gross inconvenience at best, or a major health concern at worst. Weed is not commonly advertised as being “nuclear” or “irradiated” because most people don’t even want to hear any of the details behind it. But for many consumers, those with weakened immune systems and underlying health conditions, nuclear weed is all they can smoke.  

George Terry, the executive vice president of sales at Rad Source Technologies, one of the top suppliers of irradiating devices for the U.S. cannabis industry and the maker of the irradiation devices at EOS Farms, says he has clients in 23 states already. According to Terry, “For an immunocompromised patient like a cancer survivor, irradiating cannabis could be the difference between a safe smoke and a life-threatening fungal infection.” 

Eliminating pathogens vs preserving terpenes  

Many researchers claim that irradiation has no negative impact on the therapeutic components of cannabis, but that’s because they were mainly focused on how the treatments impacted cannabinoid content (THC and CBD primarily), but they seemed to glaze over the fact that up to a 38% reduction in terpene levels was documented.  

In a study conducted by internationally acclaimed cannabis researcher Dr. Arno Hazekamp, he explains that some patients who have been treated with irradiated medical cannabis noticed “a change of taste or effect”, while others were “concerned over the potential changes in chemical composition as well as the quality of the product.” As per his data, it was discovered that irradiation reduced “the content of terpenes such as myrcene and linalool” while another found no indications of “changes in cannabinoid profile”.  

Dr. Hazehamp explains that “such opinions may be hard to substantiate because the same cannabis is usually not available to consumers in both its irradiated and non-irradiated form to allow direct comparison, meaning there is no ‘baseline product to quantify the magnitude of change, and not to mention the fact that cannabis effects are somewhat subjective to the consumer.” 

He makes an interesting point there, but his own data does, in fact, substantiate the consumers’ claims because there is a notable drop in terpene levels. He mentioned myrcene and linalool specifically, both of which are very prominent in many cannabis strains. An up to 38% drop in those two terpenes would absolutely equate to a change in flavor profiles, as well as possibly a loss in some medicinal benefits.  

Importance of terpenes  

Terpenes are a very large and diverse class of organic compounds that are produced by a wide variety of plants. In cannabis, they are secreted by the same glands that produce some of the more dominant cannabinoids including THC and CBD. Their role and effects are quite different, however. Terpenes are aromatic plant oils that, when combined with other plant compounds, create a never-ending palate of scents and flavors. In nature, terps serve as a defense mechanism by deterring herbivores and by attracting predators and parasites that attack herbivores.  

Chemically, terpenes are hydrocarbons, and they differ from terpenoids, which typically have added functional groups such as oxygen. The words “terpenes” and “terpenoids” are often used interchangeably but this is incorrect. Terpenes are also the major component of rosin, which a sap/waxy-like substance that is produced when cannabis buds are placed under high heat and pressure. Climate, weather, age and maturation, fertilizers, soil type, and light cycles can have an impact on the development of terpenes.  

As far as cannabis goes, terpenes are the key to differentiating the effects and flavor of a strain. Some terpenes are relaxing, like those found in lavender, while others are energizing. Some smell fruity, some are piney, some are musky. There really is no limit to the variation. So far, over 100 different terpenes have been discovered in cannabis plants alone, and each strain typically has its own unique blend and composition of terps.  

Terpenes have long been known to hold great therapeutic value, and some of the more common ones have been studied more extensively, considering they’re found in many different types of legal plants. More research is needed to determine the extent of their medicinal effects when combined with other cannabis plant compounds. 

Final thoughts  

Again, the idea of irradiated, nuclear cannabis buds can sound unpleasant, understandably, but when you begin to unravel the science behind it, you realize it’s not that bad and you are then able to really appreciate its role in the industry. If you’re a relatively healthy, recreational cannabis smoker, it’s fine to prefer things more natural. But for immunocompromised patients or those with certain pre-existing conditions, nuclear weed opens up a whole new world of therapeutic possibilities for them.

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