Following the Spirit

Cracking open a jar of Pink Boost Goddess is an olfactory wandering into a field of mint and not-quite-ripe strawberries. Terpinolene, a terpene found in the Jack and Haze strain families, provides a hint of orange rind alongside a woodsy floral aroma from the terpene ocimene. For Katie Jeane, this particular type of cannabis has continued to be a guide. Jeane has cultivated Pink Boost Goddess for the past seven years through her farm Emerald Spirit Botanicals and appreciates the insight it provides.

“What I’ve found is it helps me to go, in my life, into these kind of trickier, more challenging places and gives me a larger perspective to be able to find solutions,” she says. “That is unique for me, that this medicine offers that, and it offers it from a joyful place.”

Jeane, a former preschool teacher from Mendocino County, was called to work with the cannabis plant by her internal spirit guide. Following her “soul path” and listening to the insight she gained from beyond everyday consciousness led her to initially begin growing cannabis that was high in the cannabinoid CBD. After working with different cultivars (Dancing Sun, Equinox, Crystal Hope, and Harmony Rose) to bring them into a balanced 1:1 THC to CBD ratio, she was looking to explore other cannabinoids with unique medicinal properties and came across THCV.

High Times Magazine, October 2022

THCV, or tetrahydrocannabivarin, has shown promise in animal studies for its ability to decrease appetite and speed up metabolism. These qualities mean the cannabinoid may help treat conditions like diabetes and obesity.

“THCV has been shown to restore insulin sensitivity in diet-induced obese mice models and [reduce] obesity by modulating the metabolic processes,” a 2020 study in the Journal of Cannabis Research reads.

Additional studies have also shown THCV has neuroprotective qualities and might be a promising therapy for delaying the progression of Parkinson’s disease. Unlike THC, which brings on the “high” associated with cannabis, a 2015 study in the Journal of Psychopharmacology shows THCV has a much more muted psychoactive effect.

“Because we were working with CBD there wasn’t necessarily this relationship to getting high like THC has, but [THCV] brings in gifts that cannabis has to offer in a different way,” Jeane’s son and business partner Joseph Haggard says. “I think what it’s doing for people is it’s bringing in a subtle difference in their cannabis experience. They’re not necessarily aware of what they’re missing, but they just like what it’s adding.” 

Family Shot by Dorit Thies for Grupo GreenLit LLC

Cannabis interacts with the endocannabinoid system so that our bodies can achieve homeostasis, or balance. Both Haggard and Jeane believe the best way to use cannabis as a medicine is through balanced cannabinoid ratios.

“When you look at the endocannabinoid system—which is a system inside our body which is responsible for balance—it’s responsible for homeostasis,” Haggard explains. “And so if we’re going to feed that endocannabinoid system—and that’s what we’re doing by using cannabis we’re essentially supplementing that system—we want to be supplementing that system with balanced cannabinoid ratios. That’s kind of our intuition.”

Cultivating a Goddess 

Pink Boost Goddess is a cross of Black Garlic, Boost, and an unknown Goddess. The cultivar was created by Linda Lu and came to Jeane as a seed from friends. The first plants Jeane grew only had a small amount of THCV, but throughout the years she has bred the plant to show higher ratios of the cannabinoid.

With her plants now expressing as much as 11% THCV, Pink Boost Goddess has been recognized for its unique attributes. It won first place in the third-party certified sungrown category of the 2021 Emerald Cup and took home the highest THCV content award and regenerative farm award that year. In 2022, Pink Boost Goddess won the Emerald Cup’s sungrown category again and was honored with a Gold Ribbon in the California State Fair Cannabis Awards unique category.

Pink Boost Goddess is a medium-sized plant with long branches that Jeane describes as “dancing arms” with a quality of flexibility and movement. The leaves are relatively narrow, and the buds have magenta and pink pistils and are generally ready for harvest after eight weeks of flowering. 

Pink boost
Pink Boost Goddess on harvest day / Photo by Joseph Haggard

“Of course, it’s really good medicine for many people, but it’s like a special gift to me, a special medicine,” Jeane says of her long-term relationship with the cultivar and her belief that the plant is repaying her for all the years of love and support.

Founded in 2015, the Emerald Spirit Botanicals farm is located in the Noyo River Watershed near Willits and is where Jeane lives with her son and his wife Catherine and Jeane’s other son, River. The area of the farm where the male plants are kept is called both the “vision quest garden” and “origin.”

“It’s in the forest in native soil. It’s more shady. [The male plants] don’t get as much water and care and whatnot; they’re much more in the wild,” Jeane explains. “In that place they’re much more connected, without interference, to the earth. Sort of like when you go out on a vision quest, you’re more connected to those rawer elements.”

For Jeane, keeping her male plants in this wild environment is a way for them to tune in to natural rhythms and “receive the gifts from the future or receive the gifts that need to come down for the future or to go out to the future.”

“The medicines are evolving on the planet,” she says, “and the medicines need to be evolving on the planet because we are evolving on the planet and the medicines are here to help us.”

In accordance with honoring the medicinal properties of the plant, cannabis and other crops on the farm are grown with regenerative farming practices that align with natural systems and work to improve the environment.

“I definitely feel cannabis is a medicine and it needs to be respected and, you know, I want it to be honored and for me, it’s honored when it’s able to be in its natural environment which is in the earth and having sunlight shining on it,” Jeane says. 

Garden Bliss / Photo by Joseph Haggard

For Haggard, growing outdoors is “harmonized with the larger cosmic rhythms that create the seasons.” He says growing the male plants in the way they do at the farm allows them to develop the resilience and vitality of wild plants, important attributes to bring to the seed lot for future plantings.

“There’s this belief that the more that you work closely with a plant, there’s a consciousness within the plant and that plant gets to know you over time,” he says of his mother’s long-term work to refine Pink Boost Goddess. “And as you’re growing and breeding and working with it because you’re taking care of the plant, the plant, energetically, wants to be taking care of you.”

This story was published in the October 2022 issue of High Times Magazine.

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Canada Destroys a Record Amount of Cannabis

For the first time since Heath Canada began tracking it after legalization, they report that over a quarter of their domestic cannabis crop was destroyed in 2021. Over 425 million grams, a full 26% of the unpackaged dried flower produced last year was destroyed, along with all the resources that went into growing it, leading to an environmental nightmare for a supposedly green industry. 

Glut of Unsellable Products Leads to Astronomical Rate of Product Destruction

In addition to the unpackaged dried cannabis that was destroyed, more than 140 million grams of unpackaged extracts (17%), edibles (4%), and topicals were destroyed (4%). If that wasn’t bad enough, more than 7 million packaged products were also destroyed (on average, 3% of the total). The percent of the crop destroyed has gone up every year that Health Canada has data available, with last year seeing a dramatic increase from 19% to 26%, but experts suspect that is still an undercount. “The 425 million grams destroyed is likely only a fraction of the cannabis that was grown but has no market, tons of product remains in inventory in various formats,” says Stewart Maxwell, a crop consultant and founder of Elevated Botanist, adding “I have seen fresh frozen product offered on the market that is several years old.”

Tammy Jarbeau, Senior Media Relations Advisor for Health Canada, told High Times that the reasons for product destruction “include, but are not limited to: crop losses; post-harvest disposal of unusable plant material (e.g., stalks); recalled products; and elimination of unsold or returned products.” Maxwell noted that when it comes to packaged products, “any typo on a label can cause a recall,” which may be a contributing factor to the millions of packaged products destroyed. While, thankfully, “Producers must have recall insurance,” that costs tens of thousands of dollars per year. Unfortunately, Jarbeau was clear that, due to how they collect their data, Health Canada does not know “the amount or percent of cannabis destruction that can be attributed to recalled products.”

Quantities of Unpackaged Cannabis Destroyed (January – December 2021)

Cannabis classQuantity destroyedQuantity destroyed as a percentage of total unpackaged production for the class of cannabis
Dried cannabis425,325 kilograms26%
Cannabis extracts40,454 kilograms17%
Edible cannabis97,959 kilograms4%
Cannabis topicals3,940 kilograms4%

Quantities of Packaged Cannabis Destroyed (January – December 2021)

Cannabis classQuantity destroyedQuantity destroyed as a percentage of total packaged production for the class of cannabis
Dried cannabis3,576,232 units3%
Cannabis extracts1,118,148 units3%
Edible cannabis2,421,823 units5%
Cannabis topicals15,359 units1%

Source: Health Canada

The Root Cause Of Oversupply – Speculative Investment

The huge increase in crop destruction last year is quite paradoxical, as it came at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic drove up cannabis sales in Canada. So, while sales were very good, they were not good enough to deal with a severe oversupply in the market. Jarbeau called the destruction “a part of normal business practices” and attributed the escalating rate of destruction to “the increase in number of the federal license holders since 2018.” Maxwell had a more pointed view, “The glut of product on the market is entirely a factor of overproduction driven by investment hype.” At the onset of legalization, many large companies “were able to raise billions on promises to dominate a brand-new industry,” using square footage of cannabis canopy as a selling point, which Maxwell says led to “an exponential overbuilding of cultivation facilities.” Making matters worse, that cannabis was not very good and didn’t sell, which led to “many of these facilities were shuttered,” such as the Aurora Sky facility in Edmonton

An Environmental Catastrophe with Incalculable Costs

Maxwell says that based on the typical cost of goods sold, “the cost of the product destroyed is in the billions,” but that doesn’t take into account the cost of the facilities themselves and other resources spent to grow the cannabis. “This overproduction is an environmental catastrophe and the energy required to cultivate this glut is incalculable,” says Maxwell, “When facilities costing tens of millions of dollars are built, then closed without ever producing product of any quality, the destruction of capital and energy resources is astounding.” 

When asked if they collect information on the water, fertilizer, and other resources used when growing cannabis, Jarbeau told High Times that “Health Canada does not collect this information from license holders.” That means there is no way to accurately know exactly how much of and which resources were destroyed along with those 425 million grams of cannabis. This is one area where data collection can be improved both in Canada and the US to better understand how cannabis can be most efficiently grown.

Can Remediation Be Salvation?

You may be wondering, with billions of dollars of cannabis being destroyed every year, who is left in the red? Maxwell says that “Cannabis producers, and their investors are the losers here, and consumers are the winners.” Costs have dropped consistently both in Canada and around the US, where “it is now possible to purchase an ounce of decent weed for just over a hundred bucks.” According to Maxwell, that plummeting price has “almost entirely disrupted the legacy market,” and even growers using artisanal methods to produce premium flower “struggle to achieve profitability due to the glut of product on the market, excise tax issues, and the regulatory cost burden.” 

Anyone familiar with the cannabis industry has likely heard the term “remediation” before, meaning, to remedy something, which can range from methods of reducing contaminants in a product (pesticides, heavy metals) or reducing the THC content of a hemp product to ensure it legally can be sold as hemp. Remediation is a way for cannabis producers to salvage a batch of products that otherwise would be unable to be sold, and would be a massive waste of money and resources. 

Unfortunately, it does not appear that remediation is an option here. “To my knowledge, there is no avenue to direct excess cannabis flower to other product streams,” says Maxwell, “The product must be destroyed as per Health Canada guidelines,” which include incineration, composting, or mixing with kitty litter. “It may be possible for cannabis to be used in other applications,” says Jarbeau, “however, depending on the activity, it could still be subject to the requirements under the Cannabis Act and its regulations as well as requirements under other Acts and regulations.” Those regulations and requirements can be pretty burdensome, to the point where attempts to remediate products might not even be worth it. One bright spot Jarbeau mentioned was that “Certain cannabis plant parts (e.g. mature stalks stripped of their leaves, flowers, seeds, and branches) … are exempted from the application of the Cannabis Act,” and could be remediated into other uses without a license.

Bigger Than Canada, Bigger Than Cannabis

Unfortunately, the problem of widescale product destruction is not unique to Canada or to the cannabis industry. While Canada destroyed 26% of their unsold or unsellable cannabis flower last year, the US destroyed nearly 11% of our hemp crop because it tested “hot,” above the 0.3% THC limit. While 11% is the average, it is much worse in some states, like Tennessee, where the Department of Agriculture reports “42% of crops are being found non-compliant.”

While the reasons are different, the end result is the same, millions of pounds of cannabis and hemp plants being destroyed rather than used to make products, with investors, farmers, and other businesses left in the red. And remember, it isn’t just the cannabis being destroyed here, but all the water, fertilizer, and other resources that went into growing it. On a deeper level, in many cases it is someone’s dream being destroyed as well, with legacy farmers being forced out of the industry they created while being offered insultingly low prices for artisanal quality flower. 

Now that 2022 draws to a close, Health Canada will be compiling their data from this year, and if current trends hold, Canadian cannabis businesses will be destroying around 1/3 of their unpackaged cannabis crop next year. 

Follow Up After Hearing Back from Health Canada

“I didn’t realize that that number represented total cannabis waste destroyed,” says Maxwell. “Cannabis waste is regularly destroyed during the growing process and at harvest. The weight of this waste varies dramatically based on water content. Sometimes waste is destroyed right away, and the weight is mostly water weight. Other times the waste is weighed, then stored until there is a large amount, then weighed again, the discrepancy is justified in documentation as due to water loss, and the dry waste is then destroyed. As you can imagine, with all of these variables, it is not possible to determine which portion of the total waste would be saleable (but unsold) flower, as compared to stem and leaf waste. I would estimate that for every gram of saleable flower, 2 or more grams would be destroyed as unusable byproduct.

“It would be much more interesting to know the ratio of finished saleable product produced, relative to the annual consumption in Canada,” Maxwell adds. “This would give a much better insight into the scale of overproduction. I would estimate that the vast majority of finished product that is destroyed is excess product rather than recalled product. I hope this helps.”

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First Medical Cannabis Crop Harvest Begins in North Carolina

According to The Charlotte Observer, the cultivation site is located in the eastern part of the state in The Qualla Boundary. In addition to beginning its first harvest on Nov. 18, the tribe also plans to open the largest medical cannabis dispensary in the state sometime in 2023, which will be located in an old building previously used for bingo. “I’m really proud of my tribe taking this step, one with the betterment of this community in mind,” said general manager of Qualla Enterprises LLC, Forrest Parker.

The cannabis business is expected to create 400 to 500 new jobs (with “several hundred” applications already received for various positions), which will increase the EBCI’s total employment number to 7,500. “Most special to me is the employment opportunity,” Parker said. “We can teach them skills they can use for the rest of their lives in what is a very well-paying industry.” Over the summer, the EBCI employed about 40 people to work on cultivation, with about 80% of them members of the tribe.

The EBCI’s Tribal Council approved Ordinance No. 539, which legalized medical cannabis on tribal land in August 2021. Far beyond the state’s progress on medical cannabis legislation, the Tribal Council saw cannabis as a benefit for medical patients. “The Council’s approval of a medical marijuana ordinance is a testament to the changing attitudes toward legal marijuana and a recognition of the growing body of evidence that supports cannabis as medicine, particularly for those with debilitating conditions like cancer and chronic pain,” said Principal Chief Richard Sneed.

According to the EBCI cannabis website, the tribe will control all aspects of production. “It all begins as a seed…and develops into the plant that is the basis to all cannabis. EBCI Farms will be the source for all of its products that are sold to the public. Everything from seed to sale begins here,” the website states. Currently, the business plans to produce cannabis flower, pre-rolls, edibles, concentrates, and topicals.

“It’s a vertical market. We have to plant it. We have to cultivate it. We have to harvest it. We have to process it. We have to package it and move through all of that network of product and get it there. It’s a lot of people,” Parker told ABC13 News.

The ECBI also has its own Cannabis Control Board, which consists of five healthcare and law enforcement experts, to manage the tribe’s cannabis regulations. Current rules dictate that non-tribe members may purchase up to one ounce of cannabis per day, but not to exceed more than six ounces in a month. This also extends to a limit of 2,500 milligrams of THC in products per day, but not more than 10,000 milligrams in a month.

The New York-based Oneida Indian Nation announced in September that it would launch a seed-to-sale cannabis business sometime in 2023. Also in New York, the Saint Regis (Akwesasne) Mohawk Tribe partnered with actor Jim Belushi to open a dispensary on Oct. 27, called Belushi’s Farm Akwesasne.

Additionally, the Seneca Nation of Indians announced that its building a cannabis dispensary in the city of Niagara Falls, New York, which is slated to open in February 2023 as well. “After extensive research and planning, the Seneca Nation is excited to create a new, Nation-owned business in the growing and competitive cannabis market,” said Seneca Nation President Rickey Armstrong Sr.

There are many tribe-owned and operated cannabis dispensaries throughout the country already, including Mountain Source Santa Ysabel operated by the Iipay Nation Tribe (located northeast of San Diego), to the Paiute-owned NuWu Cannabis Marketplace in Nevada, and the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe’s Joint Rivers dispensary in Washington State.

The Indigenous Cannabis Industry Association (ICIA) hosted the National Indigenous Cannabis Policy Summit on Nov. 15-16 in Washington, D.C., which covered a variety of topics in relation to create solutions to common challenges that tribes face in the industry. “The Summit brings together Tribal leaders, elected and government officials, business, healthcare, veterans groups, and advocacy organizations to provide solutions to the most pressing challenges and opportunities growing for Indian Country,” the event website states.

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With Demand Outpaced by Supply, Oregon Weed Retailers Lower Prices

Harvest and sales numbers both plunged last month in Oregon, and the result could be cheaper cannabis for consumers.

That is the upshot of a report by local news station KOIN, which cited the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission’s data showing “that in October 2021, nearly $94 million went to the state’s cannabis industry,” while last month, the industry received only about $79 million in total sales.

The station reported that the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission also “reported 5.3 million wet pounds harvested by all producers” in October of last year, while last month, “that number fell to 4.1 million.”

“The September/October time frame is a harvest ‘window’ for outdoor cannabis grows in southern Oregon,” Mark Pettinger, spokesperson for the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission told the station. “The actual harvest time is based on when cannabis farmers get their crop in the ground. Late rains pushed out the planting time this year. Also, the lengthy sunny and warm weather this fall probably affected decisions about when to harvest.”

“On the demand side, cannabis sales saw some significant spikes during the pandemic when consumers had fewer choices on how to use their discretionary income. Also, there was a fair amount of federal stimulus money that probably accounted for some of those increases. Since legalization in 2016 Oregon cannabis sales had been experiencing steady year-over-year increases,” Pettinger added.

Indeed, after cannabis retailers across the country saw a dramatic bump in sales in the age of quarantine, the industry has careened back to earth in recent months, particularly as inflation continues to tighten consumers’ pocketbooks. 

KOIN reported in August that the “pandemic boom may be coming to an end for Oregon’s cannabis industry,” with the state experiencing a steady decline in revenue from April onward. That downward trend followed two consecutive years in which the state topped $1 billion in sales.

“In June, sales totalled $82,723,244. It’s only the second time sales have dropped below $84 million since the start of the pandemic,” the station reported at the time. Experts said there are several factors contributing to the decrease in dollars sold, a few of which include consumer trends, the role inflation is playing on the market and the price at which retailers can sell their products.”

Oregon marijuana consumers who are feeling the pinch of inflation may enjoy some relief from this trend. As KOIN reported, the drop in prices “may benefit consumers who want the same quality of cannabis for less money, but buyers and sellers in the industry are put at a disadvantage.”

“The way that all states have set up their system is that whatever you grow and produce and do product manufacturing for and retail, it all has to be contained within the state,” Beau Whitney, a cannabis industry consultant, told the local station. “When you have an ‘everything contained in the state’ mentality, there’s not enough consumers to go around to handle all of that supply right in the state… when there’s oversupply and not enough demand, then prices go down because firms will get desperate. They’ll want to sell their product.”

“What cultivators have done is they’ve stopped cultivating,” Whitney added. “They’ve reduced the amount of square feet or acres that they’re deploying for further cannabis cultivation because if they grow it, but they can’t sell it, then what’s the point? It’s just like throwing money down the toilet.”

Oregon voters legalized adult-use cannabis by approving a ballot measure in 2014. Legal pot sales began the following year. 

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Artificial Intelligence Designed for Cannabis

Eteros Technologies USA, Inc., a global leader in cannabis harvesting equipment, recently acquired Bloom Automation, creating the first agricultural technology (Ag-tech) company focused on the post-harvest cannabis market. 

Founded in Canada in 2016, Eteros Technologies is now the premier manufacturer of cannabis automation equipment globally. As the parent company of the Triminator and Mobius brands, Eteros seeks to provide post-harvest processing solutions for all levels of cannabis production. The acquisition of Bloom strengthens Eteros’ ability to deliver on that goal by bringing computer vision and artificial intelligence (AI) to cannabis producers.  

Tapping Into The Potential of Cannabis and Ag-Tech

Although Ag-tech has been one of the fastest-growing sectors in conventional farming and is expected to top 15.3 billion in 2025, Ag-tech in cannabis is still in its infancy. Eteros hopes to change this with the acquisition of Bloom. 

“As competitive as the cannabis market is today, this is only expected to increase as the market matures. In cannabis, there are so many areas where producers use manual labor because they need human intelligence,” said Aaron McKellar, CEO of Eteros. “At Eteros, we see a tremendous opportunity to implement Bloom AI into harvest automation to gain a competitive advantage. By combining Bloom’s technology with Mobius, we can equip operators with a powerful new data set to help them make better decisions and enhance their level of automation.” 

This Ag-tech integration comes at a critical time for cannabis cultivators facing price reductions of up to 62% in mature markets like Colorado. These price reductions are forcing cultivators nationwide to evaluate their harvesting methods. Although many of the processes have been mechanized previously, Eteros believes that integrating Bloom technology, which uses a sensor array and AI-driven algorithms to collect data, will improve the precision, accuracy and efficiency of existing automation. 

Additionally, the technology will enable an entirely new wave of processing capabilities, including defoliation, harvest weight predictions, pathogen identification and foliage density assessment, which was one of the main drivers for the acquisition. 

“Our mission has always been to bring AI and robotics to all areas of the cannabis industry. By joining Eteros, we can seamlessly create intelligent automation across a broad ecosystem of new and existing products,” said Jon Gowa, the CEO of Bloom.

With a shared vision for empowering cannabis farmers with actionable data, Eteros and Bloom expect to quickly begin offering turn-key AI automation across a broad spectrum of applications. 

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How to Harvest Sungrown Cannabis

Up in the Mendocino Highlands, harvest typically starts in late September or early October, depending on the cultivar. Some girls want to come in early, and some may stretch it out until early November. Here at Swami Select, we had an Ethiopian Sativa one year that finished after Thanksgiving—not what you want because of the increased likelihood of fog, rain or frost that late in the season.

This is the tensest time of year, because there are still so many ways that you could lose some or all of the crop. In the old days, the paranoia was palpable as October arrived. While the crop ripened, every day that you waited to cut increased the chances of getting busted by the cops or being robbed by “marijuana rustlers.”

Potential Threats

Franklin putting up the frost cloth. PHOTO Nikki Lastreto

We still need to be vigilant for other threats such as russet mites, aphids and latent hop syndrome. If the rains start in September, or the mornings bring heavy fog, mold and powdery mildew may develop. For the latter, foliar spraying with hydrogen peroxide can help, but the best preventative is spraying with a fermentation of horsetail starting in June.

Frost can also be a threat. The later into October and November the harvest extends, the more likely a heavy frost will hit, especially in mountain valleys. Most hardy plants can survive one early morning frost if it is only in the mid-twenties, but two or three frosts will kill many plants. Be prepared to cover each plant with frost cloth and they will survive.

These days in California and Oregon, outdoor crops face an additional threat from wildfires, which means you need to have an evacuation plan for your crew, plus a survival plan for the crop. An automated irrigation system will keep the girls alive if you need to bail.

If the crop gets dusted with white ash from the fires, use a leaf blower to blow it off the leaves and then spray with diluted hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). If the smoke at harvest is dense for days, after cutting and weighing each plant, dip each branch in dilute H2O2 and then dip in clean water; then hang to dry outside before bringing the branches into the drying room. 

Yellow leafing the plants is paramount, and on the day before harvest, pull off most of the sun leaves from the plants you will take. As the days get shorter, keep cutting back on water, unless it’s super-hot, and stop feeding or using compost teas a week to ten days before harvest.  

The Science (and Art) of Harvesting Cannabis

Swami talking to plants at harvest muscle testing. PHOTO Nikki Lastreto

Assuming that you’ve done all the preparations mentioned in the previous article, you now must devise the exact procedure of harvest. This involves several steps: 

  • Deciding the exact moment to cut each plant. 
  • Whether to take the whole plant or make two or three cuttings. 
  • How to transport the cut plants to the drying facility. 
  • For legal growers in California, how to weigh and record the wet weight immediately after cutting.  
  • How to keep track of each individual plant and not lose its Metrc tag.

Every farmer has their method of deciding when to cut. We harvest in the dark— very early in the morning—so that we finish that day’s cutting before first light. This ensures the maximum saturation of all the aromatic compounds in the plant, because they off-gas during the day.

When it’s clear that the “girls” are close to harvest, as our crew is yellow leafing, I literally ask each plant individually if it’s ready to come in. With no judgement preferences as to who should be cut next, I use kinesiology (aka muscle testing) to determine who gets cut the next day. 

Strong muscle resistance is “Yes” and weak is “No.” I touch a leaf on a plant and ask: “Are you readyto come in tomorrow?” Strong response. Then I ask again: “Do you want to come in tomorrow?”  Strong response. Then a third time I ask: “Would you rather stay for a few more days?” Weak response. The answer to the first two inquiries is “Yes!” and to the third is “No!” so I mark that plant for harvest and write down the number of its bed on a list for the morning’s harvest. If on the contrary, the answers are “No,” No,” and “Yes,” then I leave the plant for a later day.

The crew starts at about 5 a.m., donning warm clothes and gloves. With head lamps on and clippers in hand, we take the whole plant, full branch by full branch. That is, unless it’s a very small plant and then we just cut and hang the whole thing. The stalk is left in the bed until springtime.

Harvest Day

Some farmers cut just the top 10 to 12 inches off each branch and leave the rest to mature for another week or two. We don’t do that because it’s difficult to keep track of two cuttings at different times to report to Metrc.

We usually cut about 20 plants on each harvest day and cut for three days in a row. To transport them to the barn we use a 6×12 foot trailer, which I hook up to the car and park next to the garden gate the night prior. 

When we arrive at the garden in the morning, we split into two teams. One goes around to the designated plants and cuts away the trellises by clipping the nylon zip ties and pulling away the horizontal bamboo sticks. The other crew picks the plants closest to the garden gate, cuts away the trellises and proceeds to harvest the whole plant. When the first crew is finished cutting away the trellises on the designated 20 plants, they switch over to harvesting also. 

Transporting the Harvest

cannabis plants after harvest
PHOTO Nikki Lastreto

We have 20 clean blue tarps, one for each plant. In the dark, the tarp is laid on the ground next to the chosen plant with the cut branches gently laid on the tarp. When finished, we use carabiners to hook the tarp grommets together to make a large pouch. For legal growers, the carabiner is the place to attach the blue Metrc tag, which must stay with each plant until it becomes a batch. 

The tarp is carried to the trailer, and when full, we drive the trailer to the back of the barn, unload and go back for more. To prevent any crushing of the plants, we are careful not to pile them up too high in the trailer.

The carabiner holding the tarp together also easily goes over the hook on the scale for weighing the whole wet plant, required for legal California cultivators. We attach a 4×6 beam between two trees, hang the scale in the middle and use a small ladder to reach the scale. Besides the weight, we note the Metrc number, the bed number, and the cultivar of each plant.  

Drying Time

Swami cleans cannabis plants
Swami cleans cannabis plants before drying. PHOTO Nikki Lastreto

After weighing, the tarp is carried into the barn and the plants are hung on nylon netting hung from the ceiling, and the blue Metrc tag is attached to the netting.

By the time the last plant is in the barn, the sun is just starting to come up and we head to the house for a hearty breakfast of pancakes or cheese omelets. After breakfast, we return to the garden and gather up the bamboo trellis sticks to save for next year.

Stay tuned for the next article about proper drying and curing methods. Happy Harvest!

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The Croptober Crisis: Drying and Curing Gone Wrong

But Jim? Aren’t we supposed to be celebrating the bounty of the annual harvest? Sure. There will be a bunch of places and moments to do that. But today we’re dedicating it to the ones that will mess it up.

Some folks will do everything right all summer only to ruin their pot after they chop it down. Usually, it’s because of a lack of preparation for that moment. Sure maybe sometimes the power goes out or something like that but the vast majority of shitty pot in 2022 will be traced back to human error.

First, we should set the standard we’re speaking from when we describe a perfect dry and cure following the harvest. In the best-case scenario, you get an audible snap when you crack the stem 2/16ths of an inch away from the base of the bud structure but the surface of the flower is still covered in sticky glorious resin. When talking about good pot, you move backward from there because the best pot in the world has to start with that dry and cure. But we are not talking about the best weed in the world, that is for sure.

Even if you didn’t have a sense of smell, you’d be able to tell a ton about the quality of cannabis just from how it was handled in post-production.

So who is screwing it up? How are they screwing it up?

The Growers

Imagine having dirt under your nails for five months only to ruin it in the playoffs? That will certainly be the harvest tale for some. Likely it will start with them spending too much time in the field and then boom, they were halfway through August without a real plan, and now a month later whatever they’ve come up with won’t be up to the task. The pot will be too hot or too dry. The cure will get messed up and you end up with a bag that smells like lawnmower clippings with a dash of OG.

With how competitive east coast markets have become, this inferior product will be less acceptable than ever. Not even Billy in Ohio will smoke it. The middle-of-the-pack cannabis from places from Maine and Oklahoma is certainly better than the worst outdoor from California. In recent years some growers who always grew an inferior product have blamed the marketplace, but in reality, many never dried and cured their pot right. They were creatures of habit that wouldn’t change their ways and it cost them.

The Distros

It’s certainly not always the grower’s fault. Sometimes cannabis is ruined by the distribution company.

When California legalized weed it mandated distribution companies. Some people started their own to fully vertically integrate their companies from seed to sale. That means they grow, distribute, and sell cannabis.

Starting a distro wasn’t a realistic option for every small to medium-sized farmer. They were forced to pick companies that would get their product to shelves and pray it wasn’t screwed up in the process.

I have been a big fan of one NorCal brand for many years, but all my homies in Los Angeles were like, “Jimi this is not heat fam.” It was a direct result of the distro screwing it up on the long and hot eight-hour drive from the heart of Mendocino to L.A. Once you cook the terps off in a hot truck they’re gone for good.


Dispensaries aren’t cold enough. I don’t want to be comfortable, I want the weed to be comfortable. I’ll wear a sweater. If that hurts your business plan because you use your employee necklines to flip product you’ve got a whole host of other issues at your establishment I’d imagine.

Every dispensary in my dream reality has a thermostat that reads 55 and a barometer that reads sixty. This gives the pot that comes through the doors the best shot at staying awesome for as long as possible. Even with these primo climate control conditions, you’re still going to want to shoot for that golden zone about 20 to 60 days after harvest.


Why did you leave that bag of heat in the sun fam? Why didn’t you just buy a little tent to dry in where you could dial in the climate conditions? Your closet tech was wack last year? Why did you think it would be any different in 2022? Don’t let this paragraph apply to you, there is still time.

The post The Croptober Crisis: Drying and Curing Gone Wrong appeared first on High Times.

First Legal Weed Crop in New York Inches Toward Harvest

An historic crop is beginning to sprout in the Empire State. As New York inches closer to the launch of its adult-use cannabis market, the state’s inaugural cultivators are readying the first batch.

A report from the Associated Press on Wednesday put a spotlight on some of New York’s first legal recreational cannabis growers, who were awarded cultivation licenses back in April.

The AP highlighted “growers like Frank Popolizio of Homestead Farms and Ranch, where a small crew north of Albany earlier this month dug out shallow holes for seedlings before packing them in by hand.”

“It is an opportunity. There’s obviously going to be a demand for it,” Popolizio told the Associated Press. “And, hopefully, it benefits the farmers. Been a long time since there’s been a real cash crop.”

Popolizio is a recipient of the first roughly 200 licenses awarded to cultivators for New York’s forthcoming recreational cannabis market.

The state legalized recreational cannabis for adults last year, when former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that ended the prohibition and paved the way for a regulated cannabis market that is expected to launch by the end of this year.

But under Cuomo, the new marijuana program was slow to take shape, with key regulatory positions going unfilled for months.

After Cuomo resigned as governor last August amid allegations of sexual misconduct, he was replaced by Kathy Hochul, a fellow Democrat who made the launch of the adult-use cannabis program a priority. 

Within a month of taking office, Hochul completed a pair of appointments to the state’s Office of Cannabis Management, saying at the time that “New York’s cannabis industry has stalled for far too long.”

In April, the New York State Cannabis Control announced that it had approved the first 52 adult-use cannabis cultivation licenses, with the state’s established hemp farmers getting first dibs.

“New York’s farms have been the backbone of our state’s economy since before the American Revolution, and now, New York’s farms will be at the center of the most equitable cannabis industry in the nation,” Hochul said at the time. “I’m proud to announce the first adult-use cannabis cultivation licenses in the state, and I’m proud of the work the Office of Cannabis Management and the Cannabis Control Board are doing to get adult-use cannabis sales up and running as fast as possible without compromising our mission to uplift communities and individuals most impacted by the past century of cannabis prohibition.”

Hochul’s office said that those farmers “must adhere to quality assurance, health, and safety requirements developed by the [Office of Cannabis Management],” including participation in “sustainability and equity mentorship programs that will help build the first generation of equity cannabis owners across the entire supply chain.”

In its report this week, the Associated Press noted that giving a “head start for hemp growers is an unusual way to gear up a marijuana market,” citing an expert who said that “states typically rely initially on their existing medical growers.”

“But New York’s move is a potential lifeline for farmers growing their crop for CBD during a slump in prices,” the Associated Press reported. “They have a chance to make much more money growing what is essentially the same plant, but with higher levels of THC — the compound that makes people feel high.”

As for the recreational dispensary licenses, the state said earlier this year that the first 100 of those will go to applicants with previous pot-related convictions, or family members of individuals with pot-related convictions.

The state’s Office of Cannabis management said that the initiative is “something that has not been done before.”

The post First Legal Weed Crop in New York Inches Toward Harvest appeared first on High Times.

After Harvest: From Drying to Selling Cannabis

The joys and challenges of being a small farm cannabis cultivator are myriad. Beginning in the spring, when we first “crack” our seeds in preparation for planting, the thrill is there. Each delicate little sprout is carefully placed in living soil, and for the following seven months, we have the supreme joy of watching those tiny shoots develop into glorious big girls, laden with luscious buds.

Naturally, there can be setbacks along the way, whether from climate, bugs, disease, predators or basic human errors. Generally, the pleasure overrides the problems. By autumn, the time comes to harvest the crop and begin the drying and curing process.

Drying and Curing Cannabis

Just when you think you are in the clear because the harvest is in the barn, now is when the conscious cultivator must really be aware. All too often we hear of farmers losing their entire crops to mold or mildew due to improper drying and curing. We also see many supply chain problems.

Once the cannabis is properly cured at the farm, it’s sent off to the processor for trimming and packaging, and it’s no longer in the cultivator’s control. During the long journey from garden to consumer, any number of issues can cause even the highest quality flowers to degrade.

Nevertheless, the first step after harvest is the proper drying, curing and bucking down of the cannabis. At the Swami Select farm, located in California’s Emerald Triangle, we hang our cannabis branches upside down on nylon netting for at least two weeks in the dark in our timber frame barn. The temperature and humidity should both hover just around 60 degrees to ensure proper drying. If it’s wet outside, we use dehumidifiers to maintain the humidity levels. We also have a fire burning in the wood stove when the outside temperatures dip too low, which also helps to control the humidity.

When the tiny stems break instead of bending, it tells us that the buds are dry enough. Then we gently take the branches down off the drying nets and place them on long sheets of unbleached Kraft paper, which are rolled up like burritos open at the top. We keep them stored in the barn, and after a few more days of careful observation, we roll up the top of the “burritos” so they are enclosed. When fully dried and ready for the curing process, we place the rolls into non-scented contractor bags and store them in the barn until ready to be bucked down.

Bucking Cannabis

A “turkey bag” of bucked cannabis.

Swami and I do our own bucking here at the ranch. Bucking means cutting the full buds off of the branches and removing any large fan leaves—the ones that you would never want to smoke because they have no “sugar” on them. We leave the smaller sugar leaves around the buds to protect them until the final trim when they become “trim shake.”

Once bucked down, the buds are placed in turkey bags (also known as “oven bags”) and then into large tubs which are labeled with the Metrc numbers of the plants inside. We are required to weigh the buds of each plant when they leave the ranch and report the weights to Metrc. We also have to report the weight of the stems and leaves that are cut away and put on the compost pile.

Processing and Packaging Cannabis

Loading up the Distro Van at Swami Select.

Finally, the time has arrived to send the girls off to school, or that’s what it feels like. After eight or nine months of carefully tending our precious plants, a large white unmarked van will show up at our ranch, and the tubs full of bucked flowers will be driven away. At this point, we have little control over their journey through the supply chain and pray the flowers are in good hands and not mistreated by the time the consumer receives them.

We used to trim and package it all at home, but now, because of Department of Cannabis Control regulations which prohibit commercial cannabis operations in residential dwellings, as well as city and county zoning ordinances and building codes, most farmers can no longer perform their own trimming and packaging. Instead, the flowers will be trimmed by a professional crew at a processing center that typically packages them as well.

When specifying hand-trimmed bud, many farmers complain that no matter how much they instruct the trimmers to only hold the buds by the stem to keep the trichomes intact, many ignore these instructions. Some processors use a machine to buck or remove leaves and then do a hand finish in order to claim that the cannabis is “hand-trimmed.” However, this treatment can knock off the trichrome heads as well. Packaging is also a delicate operation which involves properly weighing out and placing the buds into their final jars or bags for sale.

Once the flowers have been packaged, the distributor will keep them in storage while waiting for test results and order placements. To maintain the quality of the flower and prevent it from becoming too dry, the temperature/humidity parameters during both the operations and storage phases are critical. How many storage areas, on a boiling hot California summer day, for example, are truly kept at 60 degrees or cooler? Not many is what we’ve discovered. How many delivery vans are refrigerated properly? It’s rare to find a processor and distributor who will give the flower the same love and care as the farmer would have.

Maintaining Control of Your Craft Cannabis

Nikki gives instruction to the Seed2Soul Trim Crew.

Even with a perfect curing operation, once the flowers leave the farmer, there’s not much the farmers can do to protect them. Hence, by the time consumers purchase their flower, it may no longer be at optimum quality. This dilemma is a very real problem.

So, what is the solution? For starters, farmers must keep as close an eye on their processor/distributor/retailer as possible to ensure proper trimming and packaging techniques, as well as monitoring transport and storage conditions. This can be a real challenge considering many farms are miles away in distant rural communities.

The other option is to invest in a microbusiness license which allows growing, processing and packaging at the farm, as well as a being your own distributor with a retail location or non-storefront retail delivery license. But this is an expensive proposition; it requires commercial buildings and extensive security measures and ADA access, as well as a delivery vehicle and driver. Several small farmers are considering alternative ways to form collectives to make it more possible.

The old days of just growing great weed, trimming it at home, and driving a few pounds in turkey bags down to the city are long gone. But that doesn’t mean that craft farmers, who insist on the highest quality, cannot still maintain control. It is a challenge, but well worth it.

The post After Harvest: From Drying to Selling Cannabis appeared first on Cannabis Now.

What to Know to Harvest Cannabis Like a Pro

The first rains have come and gone, the mornings are getting frosty, cannabis harvest is in full swing and it’s all hands on deck! The cutting down of the girls can extend for four or five weeks depending on the weather and how many different cultivars are being harvested. Preparation beforehand is the key to a successful harvest because improper drying and curing can ruin a good crop.

An important thing for every cannabis farmer to remember is that it takes almost as much square footage to dry cannabis as it does to grow it. So, if your number of plants has increased, so must the drying area. At Ganja Ma Gardens, we hang the full smaller plants and cut branches from the bigger ones, placing them on nylon netting hung vertically in our barn. Hauled up out of the way in the off season, this netting can be reused for many years.

The barn is at the edge of a Douglas fir forest which shades the building and helps keep the temperature from fluctuating too much. The trees also perfume and purify the air. It is a timber-frame barn built of wood, much of it harvested from fallen trees on our land. Cannabis drying in a wooden barn is rather like fermenting grapes in a wine barrel.

What Month Should You Harvest Your Cannabis Plants?

We always choose a few cultivars that mature early, (starting in late Sept./early Oct.) some that are ready for harvest in mid-Oct., and others that ripen late in the month. We like staggering the harvest because it requires less drying space.

The big question is: What is the absolute best day to cut a particular plant? 

The key indicator is the look of the pistils – the little hairs that protrude out of the flowers. When the plant is ripening, these pistils are a pale whitish to translucent yellow-green, curving upward at the very top of the bud and around the bracts. When the majority of these pistils are rusty-brown and crinkled looking, the flowers are near their peak.

Swami inspects the plants with a headlamp during early morning harvest.

To make the final decision for the day of harvest, I have my own special way of asking the plant herself if she is ready to come in. On the day before the cut I go around to each plant that looks ready and, while gently touching a leaf, ask her: “Are you ready to come in tomorrow? Do you want to come in tomorrow? Should I leave you to be cut on a later day?”

If she says yes to the first two questions and no to the third one, she will come in the next morning. If she says no and no, leave me to a later day, I won’t cut her.

At this point you must think I am crazy, talking to my plants, or rather, listening to them. My technique involves kinesiology, something I learned years ago from a favorite acupuncturist. By trying to pull my index finger apart from my thumb as I ask the question, my body gives me the answer. If I can’t pull my fingers apart with all my strength, the answer is “yes.” If I can’t hold them together no matter how hard I try, the answer is “no.”

Once the plants for harvest are selected, the team goes out and pulls off any remaining yellow or brown leaves. Yellow leafing has been an ongoing process starting in early September, but this final clean up helps to reduce the drying time in the barn.

What Time of Day Should You Harvest Cannabis Plants?

Harvest starts before first light at five thirty in the morning when the terpenes and cannabinoids are at their peak. We usually take about 20 plants a day, so with our 200 plant count there will be 10 harvest mornings.

For the cut, the team is all bundled up, wearing headlamps, gloves, long johns and overcoats. It’s cold and dark – only 25 at times. Occasionally, frost sparkles on the trellis poles. A heavy frost can damage or even kill a plant, especially if there are two or three frost days in a row. We lost about 10 plants last year, so if the weather report issue a frost advisory, we cover each plant with a piece of frost cloth, supported by bamboo trellising.

Plants at Ganja Ma Gardens with frost protection.

For trellising in the garden, bamboo poles six feet long are attached horizontally with zip ties to eight foot vertical poles, which if kept dry, can be used for many years. If the frost cloth is used, that comes off first. If there is no frost cloth, the first step at the crack of dawn is cut the zip ties on the bamboo poles holding up the heavy branches.

A clean 10 x 12 tarp is placed on the ground next to the plant and the cutting begins. We harvest the whole plant at once, cutting each branch off the trunk and placing it gently on the tarp. If it is a very small plant we cut the whole thing, trunk and all, with loppers or a pruning saw. The corners of the tarp are then hooked together with a carabiner through the grommets, the Metrc label attached, and the tarp is carried to the trailer parked outside the garden gate. When the trailer is full it is pulled to the barn and each plant is weighed in its tarp, then carried into the barn for hanging.

How to Dry & Weigh Your Cannabis Harvest

For legal cannabis in California, each plant needs to be weighed immediately after cutting and that weight needs to be reported to Metrc. This little dance needs to be choreographed into your harvest plan. The scale needs to be checked and certified each year by the County Agricultural commissioner, so make sure your annual scale certificate is up to date.

Figure that each batch harvested on a particular day needs at least 10 days and often two weeks to dry. Of course, the actual drying time depends on the inside and outside humidity and temperature. This is where fans and dehumidifiers come in.

The rule of thumb is harvest at 60 degrees and 60% humidity. If you are caught harvesting in the rain, its best to first hang the plants to drip off outside the final drying area before hanging. In this case, set the dehumidifier to drop the humidity to about 45% for the first day or two.

Plants hanging to dry in the barn at Ganja Ma Gardens.

After two weeks of drying, you can tell it’s time to take down the plant if a little twig holding a bud snaps instead of bends. For take down, a sheet of brown kraft paper, about six feet long, is cut from a 40 inch wide roll and laid on the floor under the hanging plant. After taking down 15 to 20 branches, we roll up the paper like a burrito, fold over one end and tape it with packing tape.

Be sure to tape the blue Metrc tag to the roll, write the plant name and number the rolls for each plant with a Sharpie. We keep all the paper “cannabis burritos” in the barn, even if some plants are still hanging. The bags stay in the climate-controlled barn until the buds are bucked down off the branches.

Soon the whole floor of the barn is filled with standing paper cannabis burritos. This makes it easy to estimate the yield of a particular plant just by counting the number of brown paper bags for each plant. Bucked buds are then stored in Ostrich Bags – giant turkey oven bags – which are also kept in the climate controlled barn in the classic yellow-top black-bottom tubs awaiting trimming. You may need to “burp” the tubs from time to time so that all the branches inside end up with the same residual moisture content.

Harvest is a stressful time with early rising and lots of hard work, but there is nothing quite like the feeling you get when all the girls are cut and hanging in the barn. Seven months of work has come to fruition. Then you get to roll up a fatty of the new harvest and sample the first nugs of the new crop! Mind you, it is still not really fully cured for another month or so at least, but I can never resist firing one up as soon as it is dry and trimmed.

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