The Rise of the First Smoke of the Day Podcast

The popular weed podcast First Smoke of the Day recently put on a “Family Reunion” in Los Angeles, inviting supporters of the show and everyone who has appeared on it. Hundreds gathered, coming from all over California and all over the country, giving tangible evidence to the passionate community that has been built around the podcast.

The podcast is the work of its two hosts, Cody and Lance. When First Smoke of the Day first appeared in 2021 it was audio-only. That’s because the topic had to do with the real underground culture of growing and selling weed. The first guests were well-known on the underground scene but would never show their face.

From the start it was clear that the podcast was all about providing a platform for those in the cannabis industry to tell their stories.

Once the podcast turned the cameras on and began to feature big players in the weed game in California and beyond, its viewership skyrocketed. 2022 proved to be a year of massive growth for the pair. The show has so far featured interviews with high-profile brand owners including brands like Doja Exclusive, Insane, Fidel’s, Fiore, Ball Family Farms, Viola, B Eazy Buds, Cookies, the Backpack Boyz, Jungle Boys, Runtz, Connected, Sherbinskis, Alien Labs, Squintz, Blueprint, and many others. The show provides a who’s-who of California weed, plus national and international guests. 

With every new episode, there is hype and excitement online. Inside the weed industry, everyone wants to get their spot on First Smoke of the Day. To be a guest confers instant clout.

The show features Cody and Lance, two weed insiders, chopping it up with industry legends. Episodes usually run well over an hour and the unscripted conversation is allowed to flow without constraints. The result is a sense of spending time chatting and hearing stories from big players like Berner, Kenji Fujishima, Ryan Bartholomew, Ray Bama, and Juan Quesada. 

The Origins of First Smoke of the Day 

What would appear to be the podcast’s almost instant success was in fact a long process that began years earlier, when Cody and Lance became friends in their home state of Florida. Cody approached Lance when he saw that Lance had tried to enter the legal weed market in Colorado, but returned to Florida when he found only corruption and onerous expenses in the recreational market.

“I was just compelled by his drive and his passion, his calling,” Cody said of Lance. “That just spoke to me. And I love good weed. And I could see he had played with a lot, in his mind, he stopped believing in the dream at the time, I could see that. But I was like, I’m a dreamer. I just can’t help it,” Cody said. 

Around 2014 the two would regularly meet in the mornings and have conversations while enjoying Lance’s freshly-cured weed. 

“The whole time having that first smoke of the day, this goes back to even before we moved to LA, we’d have these five to six hour conversations that would lead into manifesting business and dreams. What are you trying to do? Talking through these motions that then become reality 10 years later, 15 years later,” Cody said. 

The two decided first to launch a clothing and lifestyle brand in Florida, which made them feel like a big fish in a small pond. They felt like they wanted to go somewhere where they were “celebrated, not just tolerated.” The lifestyle they were targeting with their brand made more sense in California. So, they moved. 

Lance was inspired by Cody’s vision and was ready to follow his lead. 

“There are two things we knew,” Lance said. “I knew for a fact, he’s a great businessman, and his branding and marketing is 100% on point. I knew I grew great weed. So, together we’re a good team,” Lance said. 

The two came to California around 2015 during the Prop 215 era of medicinal marijuana and started Blackleaf as a weed and clothing brand. They went all in with marketing and pushing their brand, making connections all throughout the industry. 

“The whole reason that First Smoke of the Day is popping right now is because we hit the sessions hard and started popping up on the scene and meeting everybody. Literally meeting everybody,” Cody said. 

They entered their weed into competitions like the Cannabis Cup, and got a great reception. 

“It turned out to be a real thing. We felt like we were really chasing legalization and we’re fucking putting out our own shit. He’s growing it, we worked with a few breeders, I don’t want to say to create a strain but put a few strains on the map,” Cody said. They had success with strains like Dirty Sprite and Fruity Pebbles. 

“We were just letting shit happen organically. I didn’t really plan for any of it,” Cody said. 

But with the coming of recreational legalization in 2018, Blackleaf began to struggle. Their grow operation was broken into more than once, at one point putting the two in a very dangerous situation. The competition in the industry was fierce. Cody thought about taking another direction in business, and handed Blackleaf off to Lance to maintain. 

“Our dream took a hit,” Lance said. “The dream that we had together.”

“You got to work through those hard times,” Cody said. “But we never crossed each other. We never betrayed each other, never fucked with each other. None of that,” he said. 

They kept their connection even through this particularly rocky period. 

“That’s what means a lot to me about our friendship is that like, we’ve been through a lot of shit. We’ve been through a lot of tests. And neither of us ever buckled. So, that’s really rare, in my opinion,” Cody said. 

It was 2018 when a “first draft” of a podcast between the two had a false start. They recorded a few episodes that they weren’t happy with, and then shelved it. 

But in 2020, Coronavirus changed things. Cody found himself stuck at home consuming all the online streaming content he could find. He realized there wasn’t enough content for the weed community. He started to hatch an idea for a podcast that would become First Smoke of the Day

“We came back around, and we went through COVID. And I know that changed a lot of things. And then I saw the need for media and the need for content,” Cody said. 

He became determined on the idea. 

“This is like my baby right here. This idea is probably one of the first times where I’m like, now, let me figure it out. Let me have the idea. Let me come off and let me create. Let’s see what I can do,” Cody said. 

He saw that there was an opportunity in the media landscape. 

“What there was out there for us is very little. I love it, though. Marijuana Mania. Shout out to Berner, I love that shit. Shout out to Strain Hunters. I love that. All those shows highly influenced me,” Cody said. 

He wanted it to be for insiders but also for a wide audience. 

“I didn’t want to make it a grow show. I didn’t want to make it a fucking hustle show. And I wanted to make it for the smokers. If you are on any level, if you smoke weed, you could fuck with our show, you’ll like it,” Cody said. 

He brought Lance back in to the picture. Between the two of them, they thought they could recreate the intense conversations they used to have as far back as Florida over the first smoke of the day, but with people that are actually in the weed scene. 

The two had a strong idea of creating community and connections through the podcast. 

“I told him, we have to just go into people’s stories, everyone loves a story. So, focus on the story. That’s the thing, everybody loves a story because you can relate, you can connect, you have that compatibility that you’re looking for. At the end of the day, people just want to connect, and they can only connect through a community of like-minded people,” Cody said. 

Once they created a platform for people in weed to tell their story, it seemed that everyone wanted their chance to appear on the show. After years of hustling in the industry, Cody and Lance had built up a reputation that was trustworthy. 

“They really fuck with us now. We put our stamp on shit. We take that shit serious. We can’t play games. My face card is 100 in the streets. It’s gold. So, I don’t waver on that shit for nothing. That means a lot to me. It’s been a lot of years now,” Cody said. 

For Lance, it’s an opportunity to give the spotlight to industry veterans. 

“We just want to shine a light on their journey and let people hear it because people don’t know what a lot of these guys or girls have been through to get where they are here. ‘Oh, he just started a weed brand.’ No, it’s like, 15 or 20 years or 30 years in the making, the guy had life in prison, wherever their journey started, it’s relatable to somebody,” Lance said. 

Cody says that a bond is formed when someone tells their story through conversation. 

“When people sit down in that seat and tell me their whole life story, it means a lot. You just gained a relationship with them because who do you know that meets for the first time that they tell each other their life story?” Cody said. 

“You feel it. You build a deep relationship and a deep respect. This comes with great responsibility, what we’re dealing with. People really rely on us to keep it real and remain that way. And we’re blessed too because, we get to keep good relationships because people trusted us. We trust them and it’s not to be broken,” Cody said. 

Cody realized that with the podcast, he could approach media content his own way, with a vision that he shared with Lance. Beyond that, he lets the episodes happen organically. 

“We don’t ever know. At eighty five episodes, I’m proud to say we didn’t premeditate any of those. It happens week by week, month by month, we just do the work. It’s been all organic. There’s no way you could really redo it this way or plan it this way,” Cody said. 

Finally by 2021 the two were back together, producing content and going fully forward in a fresh direction, yet harkening back to ideas that they percolated almost ten years prior. 

For the two, it was a moment of revelation. 

“We can do it our way,” Cody said. “I don’t have to just be another brand and try to chase the shops and do all that, because I was exhausted with that. And I was like, let me let me do this immediately, I will do content and hopefully it’ll work out because people fuck with it, then it could be big.” 

The Future of First Smoke of the Day 

Cody says that what First Smoke of the Day is and represents is still in its infancy. He and Lance plan to continue to build it up, broadening their scope, doing more international content, staging events, and building an online digital platform. 

“I know within a couple of years, there won’t be one place in this globe we couldn’t go to and get love from people who are doing this shit,” Cody said. “It just shows you how many people around the world are living this life too. And they needed a home. So, we are street family,” he said. 

Cody says he can’t help but feel that he’s just getting started. He’s pumped about the growth and success of the show over the past two years. 

“With all the shit I’ve been facing through this past year, I’m like, man, the growth is crazy and I feel unstoppable at this point. I’m at the point where I feel like, I got nothing to lose. I’m all in, this is it. I’m all in with this vision. The shit got to pop,” he said. 

“We got the wheels rolling, now it’s like to really start being able to hit the gas,” Cody said. 

While they’ve been applauded by industry greats, they are by no means done with what they started. They have much further to go, Cody says. 

“If people really knew like the struggle, this is by no means a success story right now, we’re still in the trenches, we’re digging, we’re marching,” Cody said.

At January’s Family Reunion event, Cody recieved tons of congratulations. He wasn’t ready to rest on his laurels. 

“I told everybody coming up to me saying congratulations, I told them, it’s a start. It’s a start. It’s a start. That’s where we’re at,” Cody said. 

Even the Family Reunion event is one that the guys see becoming a regular event. They see it growing beyond what was surely a successful night. 

“I think that by next year it will be really something special, it’d be something no one wants to miss if you are in this game. If you’re in the weed world, you’ll want to be there,” Cody said. 

Cody wants to expand the topics of the show to include other related content, bringing guests from the world of business or entertainment or sports. 

To that end, the crew is ramping up to post not one but three episodes a week, with a plan to eventually upload seven days a week. 

“That’s what will be a network. That consistency is just going to compound. Content is crazy,” Cody said. 

The community being built around the podcast is what Cody and Lance are most passionate about. By gathering people of a like mind, opportunities are created that, the guys say, could have broad impact. 

“There’ll be brands built, there’ll be collaborations done, there’ll be people partnering, there’ll be people funding other people’s stuff, there’s going to be real friendships and bonds made out of this community,” Cody said. “It’s going to shape the culture of cannabis, ultimately.” 

Financially, it’s a rough business. “But,” Cody says, “as long as we can create freely in the process, we’re winning. We won. We are paid. That’s the money.”

Cody has no doubts about the strength and resilience of the weed community that he’s a part of, that the show puts the spotlight on. 

”This community is strong. I don’t think people realize how strong this community is. We’re all freedom fighters. We’ve all been through a lot of shit. Even if you just smoke weed you’ve been through a lot. When we come together, we’re strong enough not to be fucked with, we’re resourceful. We’ve got real motion out here, real power, for real and it’s high up, it’s much higher up than you think,” Cody said.

The post The Rise of the First Smoke of the Day Podcast appeared first on High Times.

Gelato Deserves Her Flowers

Some cultivars climb so high in popularity that everyone tries their hand at growing them. When that happens, as it did with Blue Dream in the early 2000s, the market sees a glut (along with more than a few imposters) and connoisseurs turn away. After all, who wants to smoke what everyone else is smoking? When a cultivar reaches the peak of popularity on that bell-curved graph all strains take, it becomes pot for proletarians rather than bud for the bourgeoisie. The truth is (and here’s where things get controversial) Blue Dream made it into the joints and bowls of almost everyone reading this because it was and is a great hybrid. And guess what? So is Gelato. In fact, Gelato is likely the strain with the most impact on the marijuana we’ve smoked over the past 10 years. Heavy smokers and heady bois will tell you they are sick of it. They might even talk down its relevance. But Gelato’s proven staying power is most clearly seen through its prolific progeny of offspring, which continues to win awards, dominate cups, and define the tastes, aromas, and high that cannabis smokers all around the globe cannot get enough of. The cultivars which have broken free from the seed packs and defined the most popular tastes for weed in recent times, Runtz and Lemon Cherry Gelato, are a Gelato cross and a Gelato phenotype. Many hype strains of today come and go within the short span of months, quickly “white-ashed” and forgotten, but Gelato has shown its legacy is eternal.

The Beginning of the Gelato Era

A cross of two beloved strains, Sunset Sherbert and Thin Mint Cookies, Gelato was the first strain in cannabis culture that taught the world that cannabis plants grown from seeds made with the same parental lineage are not always the same. 

The buds of Sherbinski’s Gelato I sampled in 2017 remain burned in my mind. The tight, compact nugs came in several different phenotypes, some the most beautiful shade of pale lavender, but they were all frosted with trichomes as thick as the ice on the car window on a cold winter’s morning. Saffron orange hairs threaded through the deep sea of dankness. Like the spice composed of the stigmas of the purple crocus flower, the vibrant stigmas on these cannabis flowers made them look expensive, but worth it. With tastes and aromas evoking cake and berries, Gelato is sweet and stoney. Sherbinski saw so much promise in the strain he created with his breeding partner, Jigga, that he kept more than a few variations around. The plants were numbered, and each entered the field as the hottest and most coveted smokes of the time. Back in 2017, I loved the Mochi Gelato, a pretty purple bud with a bright citrus tang, the most. Time has shown Gelato #41, aka Bacio Gelato, is the phenotype with the most lasting impact.  

Before Berner’s San Francisco Bay Area Cookies crew set the weed world aflame starting with Girl Scout Cookies, we were all very much enjoying the gassy dank citrus of OG Kush. GSC (now known as just Cookies because, yeah, the Girl Scouts teach young girls about things like building, but not growing fire) is OG Kush crossed with the classic terpinolene-rich landrace that Ed Rosenthal bought in a South African-themed Amsterdam coffeeshop, Durban Poison

Sherbinski and Jigga pollinated an OG Kush female with Burmese Blackberry Kush pollen and created Pink Panties. When a Pink Panties plant turned out male and accidentally pollinated the Cookies phenotype Thin Mint Cookies within a garage within San Francisco’s Sunset district, Sunset Sherbert was born. In a subsequent generation that sets the scene in about 2014, Sunset Sherbert was crossed with Thin Mint Cookies, and Gelato arrived. All the Cookies-based crosses yielded exactly what we still love to see in weed: dense, chunky buds with purple coloration and deeply intoxicating aromas. The era of dessert terps began and, while we may now be in the throws of a fruity gas trend, never quit. 

Sherbinski’s Acai Gelato, Photo by Chris Romaine/Kandid Kush

Gelato’s Hybrid Hype

Expert cultivator Kevin Jodrey said with the “Gelato era” came a fixation in cultivars with purple coloration and a floral nose. As it progressed in its journey, Jodrey explained we “don’t see real Gelato being sold as much as you see Gelato hybrids.” 

Now in 2023, we remain in the time for hybrids, but it won’t last forever.

“Once we get past the hybrid, that means we’ve lost the velocity on the original and the hybrid and something new will come out,” Jodrey said. 

And, because Gelato and its Cookies companions became so associated with that purple coloration in terms of the flower, to reject Gelato is to turn back towards a taste for green-colored buds.

“Cookies by itself turns purple, but OG does not,” Jodrey said, explaining that crosses of the two produce a distribution of green and purple hues. “There’s always going to be some variation within [those crosses], but it doesn’t have that coloration that you have like, you know, with the Gelato era. It doesn’t mean that Gelato is a better flower. It just means that when it came out it was like, ‘Oh my god, look how beautiful it is and oh, it has this interesting smell.’”

When I spoke with Fig Farms breeder and owner Keith Healy in the autumn of last year, he confessed that he only smoked Gelato once he grew it himself. 

“I’m so behind the times because I just grew it like six months ago or something,” he said. “I don’t want to see anybody else’s weed because if I smoke someone else’s weed or see it, it impacts how I feel about my own stuff and people seem to like what we’re doing right now, so I want to groove on what I’m doing.” 

At Fig Farms it’s all about the phenohunt, so once Healy decided he wanted to grow Gelato he got multiple clones. 

“Just because somebody tells us it’s a Gelato, it could be not real, so we had to do the different Gelatos, found the one that we liked the best and put that one out to market,” he said. “And I was just blown away by how good it was.” 

Once he discovered it could be “really good,” he brought it into his breeding projects. But, by releasing its own version of a cultivar that’s so well known, Fig Farms shines not in originality but in another way.

“For somebody who really likes Gelato that’s a sign of how good of a grower we are,” Healy said. “Because if you see my Holy Moly! and you really like it, you might think it’s not necessarily our skills or technique. But if you see our Gelato and somebody else’s Gelato you can say, ‘Well, if the growers actually did that really well that is their skill and technique.’”

Others, like the up-and-coming underground New York City cultivator Kolektor, won’t grow a cultivar that’s gotten too popular. 

“The only thing I won’t do is I won’t grow like a cut of Gelato. I won’t grow a cut of Runtz,” Kolektor said. “I feel like the market is so oversaturated with those things, you can get them anywhere, so there’s no point in me growing those cultivars. Everybody else is doing it and I’m trying to create my own lane.”

Still, with growers with an established reputation of growing good pot, jumping into the market with a cultivar that has grown to great heights can demonstrate why they stand above the competition. At the 2022 Emerald Cup Harvest Ball, I saw the most favored cultivar of the past year, Lemon Cherry Gelato, at booths represented by growers with only a handful of plants alongside large growers who power their own brands and supply white-labeled buds. As Jimi Devine explained in our Best Strains of 2022 coverage, Lemon Cherry Gelato is a phenotype of Gelato #33 found as bag seed in a Connected pack in 2016. 

“Now six years removed from when the seed was first popped, 2022 was the year Lemon Cherry Gelato entered a new level of folklore,” Devine wrote. “Now it’ll be forever among those strains that had must-grow years like OG Kush, Blue Dream, or Ice Cream Cake. And, of course, that’s not a knock on Lemon Cherry Gelato, that’s just a result of the hype so far.”

Legendary San Francisco cultivator Champelli curated a Lemon Cherry release in 2022 and Fig Farms also released their version of the immensely popular strain. Many cultivars are still very much in the middle of remixing Gelato by pairing it with other types of cannabis. Compound Genetics, which built a reputation beginning with Jet Fuel Gelato, recently released a collaboration with Sherbinskis called Tribute, a Gelato #41 crossed with Apples & Bananas. And, as Leafly Senior Editor David Downs pointed out, Gelato crosses Melted Scoopz and Mind Fuck were the first sell out when the Cookies Seed Bank opened late last year. Downs called Gelato a “dominant varietal in weed” and named a Gelato cross, Jealousy, the top strain of 2022.

Steve Griffith, founder and cultivator at Sense, predicts a return to the gassy OG Kush, Chem, Soul Diesel type of gassy aromas and flavors as “modern breeding has been so Cookies driven for such a long time,” but is still saving room for dessert. 

“Gelato paved the way for the dessert/candy explosion that has taken over both the traditional and recreational markets,” Griffith said. “We have run a number of Gelato crosses and seen a wide array of candy terpene profiles that are unique and special. Currently, we have been testing some of Compound’s Goofiez, which contains some variation of Gelato in its lineage from both parents, Gelatti from the Apples & Bananas side and Jet Fuel Gelato from the Jokerz side. During our hunt, we found a unique outlier phenotype expressing a pungent tart profile that resembles the candy peach rings with the flavor to match. It is these wide-ranging dessert-like expressions that make Gelato so special to us.”

Calling the cultivar “destined for greatness,” Josh Vert, the founder of Royal Key Organics, agreed Gelato deserves its due.

“We’ve never worked with a pure or an originally verified Gelato, but definitely appreciate what the notorious strain lends to anything it’s crossed to,” Vert said. “From our experience with it, Gelato doesn’t yield well for concentrates on its own. It needs a partner that does. The challenge is finding a Gelato leaning profile that yields well.” 

Even noted Gelato disparager High Times Vice President of Content Jon Cappetta added a Pistachio Gelato to his Cop Lists and named a strain with Gelato in the lineage, Permanent Marker, as one of the best strains of 2022. When Cappetta and Devine went to Thailand to check out its cannabis scene late last year, they found… Gelato. Only more proof that, like the Goonies, some classic cultivars never say die. 

The post Gelato Deserves Her Flowers appeared first on High Times.

Weed’s Tissue Culture Moment Has Arrived

Whether it’s for orchids, berries, or bananas, plant tissue culture has been widely used in agriculture for nearly 40 years to produce uniform and disease-free stock. But when it comes to cannabis, this technology has only emerged within the last few years as scientists working with weed cracked the code of what the plant wants to reproduce successfully at a small scale. Joining in the fight against one of pot’s primary foes, hop latent viroid disease, cannabis tissue culture is a new path forward towards preserving the genetics of one of the most diverse botanicals on the planet. And, while cultivators have been able to get their hands on tissue culture-grown cuts for about eight years, tissue culture clones were made available to the public for the first time through Node Labs at the Emerald Cup Harvest Ball held in December 2022.

“Cannabis is a very tissue culture resistant plant. There are certain plants that are that way,” says Lauren Avenuis, CEO of Node Labs, explaining why it took so long for the technology to become viable for cannabis. “So, like avocados, grape vines, they just don’t like to go into micropropagation. They don’t like that kind of replication. And since cannabis is an annual plant, it likes to grow from a seed, flower, and die.”

The scientists working with Node, a small lab located within an unassuming red barn in rural Petaluma, California, spent years studying tissue culture before discovering the methodology that made stem cell technology for cannabis work. Now that they have, their facility houses an impressive bank of cannabis genetics. It causes a few snickers when I say it aloud, but being inside a room filled with shelves devoted to tissue culture clones, each in their own container, reminds me of being in a pet store aquarium. All the plants are growing within a clear jelly-like substance derived from seaweed called agar, allowing their whole root structure to be seen. They are tiny terrariums that hold the story of pot’s past, present, and future.

Courtesy Node Labs

Chief Science Officer Chris Leavitt walks me through the procedures at Node by explaining that plants, unlike humans, do not have an awareness of their entire body.

“[Plants] are a colony of cells that are attached to each other,” Leavitt says. “So if a stem is receiving all the like sap that it would be getting normally in the agar, it doesn’t even know that it’s not still attached to the plant. You can grow plant parts in tissue culture in a way you cannot grow outside. You can grow a dissection of just a leaf or just a stem… you can really break the rules of typical plant growing by having it in that setting.”

My tour at Node starts in the pre-fab clean room where the media, the agar, is mixed within an autoclave, a device designed for sterilization. This room is also where the other tools used for the tissue culture process, such as scissors and jars, are sterilized. I put on a second set of surgical booties before heading into the growth chamber and transfer room, where I watch the hot agar being dispensed into the same clear plastic containers I see in the bulk food section of my local grocery store. Within this room, the air quality is at ISO 8, a measure that contains a thousand specks of dust within a cubic yard that is also used in electronic and medical manufacturing. All the sterilization and air cleanliness ensure no contamination enters the lab.

“One of the things that we do here is we clean plants,” says Luis Mautner, Node’s director of propagation. “Cleaning plants is a process by which you take a plant from the outside world and you run it through a process that we developed here. We select the plants that do not have any issues associated with them like pathogenic bacteria, fungi, fusarium being one of the ones that affects the cannabis industry very much. Also, we index for HLVd, which is hop latent viroid.”

Mautner started working with cannabis after a career in tissue culture that included work with the berry company Driscoll’s and tropical ornamental plants such as peace lilies. He says the clear media is used because it’s diagnostic and shows when things should not be growing on the plant.

Next, we enter another room where shelves store cannabis plants in various stages of growth. There are also shelves containing some other plants Node is testing for research, including wine grapes and the cutest tiny Tempranillo.  

To start work with Node, clients provide 10 clone stems from a cannabis plant to form what Mautner calls a bouquet. The clones are broken down to the cellular level because cannabis has a strong affinity for endogenous contaminants within its stem, Leavitt explains. The scientists at Node cut the clones down to one part, the meristem, a type of tissue in plants that houses stem cells, or cells from which all other types of cells develop.

“What we’ve found is when you have the meristem dissection, you can avoid that,” Leavitt says.

“What you’re basically doing is taking [the cannabis clones] down to essentially the stem cells of the plant,” Avenius adds. “So you’re eliminating all of the epigenetic, all of the genetic toggles related to stress or environment. You’re getting [the plant] down to its pure expression, its genetics, and then also removing essentially all the vascular tissue. So you’re just getting a brand new pure example and sample of that cannabis plant that we can now grow into tissue culture free of any other influences and then see its pure genetic expression.”

When cut down to the meristem, the clones are only about half a millimeter to a millimeter in size. Once the plants grow bigger and start looking like cannabis plants instead of little blobs, they are tested for HLVd. HLVd is a widespread pathogen in cannabis clones that causes growth stunting and reduces the plant’s ability to produce trichomes. Leavitt explains that HLVd is like skin cancer in that it can affect one part of the plant, but not another. This is another reason tissue culture has been such a valuable tool in combating the virus because it reduces a plant to its most basic elements.

After the plants have passed the extensive screening process, they are grown to about 3 to 4 inches and are used to fill the bank, the system in which Node keeps cannabis genetics within a genetic library. 

“These two refrigerators play a huge role in the large genetics cannabis market,” Avenius says as I eye Node’s genetic bank, containing work from cannabis breeders like Sherbinski and Masonic as well as companies like Cannarado, Connected, and smaller growers like Sonoma Hills Farm, which banked its Pink Jesus

The seed bank aspect of the company ties into the beginnings of Node Labs. Node was founded in 2018 after Felipe Recalde, CEO of Compound Genetics and Node co-founder, lost his genetic library of cannabis cultivars and his home in the Tubbs Fire, the most destructive wildfire in California’s history that tore through Santa Rosa in 2017. Recognizing everyone around him had also lost their mom stock, Recalde saw tissue culture as the future for genetic preservation. He’d been experimenting with faulty kits for tissue culture since 2010. Still, it wasn’t until he partnered with Leavitt, who had been working on using tissue culture to preserve endangered species, that he saw that tissue culture could be viable for cannabis. Nowadays, genetics are stored within the lab and at a place offsite to serve as an additional backup against a disaster like a fire. 

Some of the work Node does is private client services of storing the genetics, but some companies like Connected Cannabis Co. also have certified genetics available for licensing. The consistency of the tissue culture clones one receives from Node Labs ensures that brands that operate in many states, like one of the lab’s partners Khalifa Kush backed by rapper Wiz Khalifa, can provide standardized, consistent flowers across the country. Node’s primary partnership with Compound Genetics allows the lab to grow clones to flower for clients to test. The minds at Compound Genetics grow plants from seed in their San Francisco facility and phenohunt to provide the best clone selections for their clients. The process at Node gives the genetics an authentication that does not occur if someone obtains a clone cut from a friend.  

The future of the tissue culture industry is not in creating a million plants to order, but instead holding genetics and delivering mother plants that growers can multiply through traditional propagation, Leavitt says. 

“The main functionary of [tissue culture] here is not in micropropagation. It’s not to get you 50,000 plants in one go,” Leavitt explains of the difference in tissue culture techniques in cannabis versus traditional agriculture. “It’s germplasm storage, which is the fancy term in the agriculture issue of holding genetics, genetic banking.”

Another indication of the future of cannabis propagation occurring at Node Labs is the process of in vitro phenohunts or growing seeds within the agar jelly within test tubes. Node takes a tissue culture from small plantlets the seeds produce and grows those plants out, saving time for cultivators because if they like the results, the tissue culture already exists.

Plantlets / Courtesy Node Labs

“It allows us to save a lot of time, but it also means that when we pop that seed and then we take that clone and put it out, we already have some of the advantages of tissue culture the first time we grow,” Avenuis says. “As an immature plant, it hasn’t been exposed to any viruses or pathogens. And then it has some of the unique morphology that you get from tissue culture plants. They tend to have higher vigor, higher yields, better stem strength. So you’re already seeing a better-performing plant from the very beginning.” 

Leavitt points out an example within the lab, Gastro Pop #5, a cross of Apples & Bananas and Grape Gas which was developed in-house via an in vitro phenohunt. 

“That Gastro Pop #5 over there, the plants in this lab have never seen microbial fungus and bacteria in their entire life,” Leavitt says. 

If someone finds an outstanding cultivar they are in love with, a six-month process to get a tissue culture clone could stunt the excitement, he explains.

“With that process, in vitro, we could have the excitement of smoking the joint and going ‘This is the one’ and going, ‘Cool, it’s here at the lab’ at the same time,” he says.

An in vitro phenohunt is how Sherbinski and Compound created Tribute, a cross of Gelato #41 and Apples & Bananas. Look out for future collaborations between Compound Genetics and Tiki Madman and Compound Genetics and Green House Seed Company

At the Emerald Cup Harvest Ball held in December 2022, Compound was able to offer “bare pulse” tissue culture clones of their newest offerings. These came without the agar jelly because the clones are more transportable that way. The bare pulse part comes from the fact that they are bare root or stored without soil around the roots. The bare pulse clones can be planted in a chosen medium and become a mother plant to power a grow with consistent genetics.

“We love this as the next gen of clones,” Avenuis says.

Bare pulse / Courtesy Node Labs

The whole process of tissue culture clones is an exciting new frontier for cannabis, one which I was able to experience firsthand when Recalde gifted me a tissue culture clone at a social gathering. I took the test tube, filled with a clone held in suspense within what I’ve since learned is agar, home and grew it out into a plant. At the time, I didn’t know that tiny plant contained within a test tube had the mighty makings to power a brand.

Read more about Node Labs in the upcoming Science & Technology issue of High Times Magazine.

The post Weed’s Tissue Culture Moment Has Arrived appeared first on High Times.

Jon’s Stone-Cold Cop List #32: Thai Emeralds

December was a wild one. From searching the streets of Bangkok for the heat, to the Harvest Ball’s premiere of the Dank Tank, to a whole lot of holiday parties, I’m exhausted. I usually try to take the back half of December to try and recover & prepare for the upcoming year, but it never really works out. This year was no exception. I don’t know why I still expect holidays to be relaxing.

But Thailand was wild! I’m working on a piece covering our adventure that you’ll all be able to read sometime next month, but the long and short of it is that the country has embraced legalization like I’ve never seen before. There are independent stands to buy weed in front of dispensaries, there are trucks selling weed like ice cream trucks on every block. I’m not going to pretend they’ve got the highest quality yet, but they’re throwing themselves at it, and I love to see it. There are a few picks from there leading the list this month for anyone looking to experience it. We’ve also got some gems I found while attending the Harvest Ball, which Jimi & I went to the day after we returned to the states. Talk about overbooking.

(Also P.S. sorry to everyone I saw that weekend. It was a whirlwind and I was still coming down from my plane drugs so I barely remember anything, but I’m sure I didn’t get enough time to properly hang with any of you. I won’t make that mistake again – I’m coming well rested all 2023 :))

Anyway, I was hoping to get two more of these out before the year ends as I just turned 33 last week and it felt symbolic, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. Guess we’ll start off ‘23 with #33, which is my lucky number so we’ll say we’re starting on a high note. If there’s anything you think needs to be included, or you just want to talk about one of the picks I made in this or previous lists, hit me on Twitter and let’s hash it out!

Thai Stick

Jimi Devine pictured with an original Thai Stick – Courtesy of Derek Fukuhara, High Rise

If you’ve been paying attention to the culture for awhile you’ve probably heard the legend of Thai sticks before. Some of the first Sativas proliferating the states, Thai sticks were basically Thailand’s version of brick weed back in the day. Packed and bound tightly around actual sticks and smuggled to all the corners of the world largely through the help of the military, they’re something of an urban legend today. When we landed in Thailand they were obviously the first thing we asked about, but it became clear that this was an elusive delicacy. In fact, most of the dispensary guys we asked said to let them know if we found it for their own consumption needs. While this might not be completely obvious by the looks of us, but we found it, and the guy who has been packing them for almost 60 years. I can’t give you information on how to find him, but I can tell you he’s out there, and so are modern sticks.

Dr. Dope’s Double Dawg

Courtesy of Derek Fukuhara, High Rise

I try very hard to ensure I’m not duplicating picks that other journalists have already written about, and although Jimi already mentioned Dr. Dope’s Double Dawg in his 12 Strains of Christmas piece for LA Weekly I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the best weed we found at a dispensary in Bangkok. While the game out there is still fresh, and the climate makes it difficult to produce tops, this was some real authentically Thai-grown heat. You could actually see the trichomes on this one, which was not as common as you’d expect in the developing market. That said, Dr. Dope was also a fun and frankly classy spot to hang in, worth the stop if you’re in the area!


Courtesy of Erin Coffey, High Rise

This is less of a product and more of a destination, but if you want a truly unique weed experience (especially in Thailand), you’ve got to hit up Plantopia ‘Weed City’ on Khao San Road. Basically a weed strip mall, this shopping center has a maze of dispensaries and consumption lounges for you to purchase or consume in, and a nice open air smoking patio for you to sesh with the clients of other shops. It’s wild how in Asia having 100 of the same type of stores right next to each other doesn’t seem to bother anyone, but it was surprising for me. That said, it’s a very unique place to hang – everyone gets their own flavor without compromise.

Kasta’s Nam Wah

Courtesy of Kasta

At the party I’ll detail in the last entry on this list, a local friend from the internet pulled up with some of his underground grown to show us. I’ll be honest, this was the best weed I saw that (I believe) was actually grown in Thailand, though it wasn’t through a traditional dispensary experience. He said the farm is just getting set up, and that it’s called Kasta. The group also says the cut is called Nam Wah, which is a cross between Banana OG & Mimosa from Symbiotic Genetics. They do love their sativa’s on that side of the world! Also big shout out to Bbboss for pulling up on us at the party!

Trufflez – Wockesha

Courtesy of Trufflez

Let me start off by saying that Trufflez is taking the branding game to a new level with this one. The pleather stitched mylar was not something I ever expected to see, but it also feels like a better compromise than most of the fancy bag attempts we’ve seen lately. It feels classier than a mylar – and while I’m sure it’s more expensive I’m curious to see how weed will last in this pouch long term. I’m going to do some experiments with that on my own. That said about the marketing, the weed in the bag is actually up to par. In fact, all the samples I saw from Trufflez were what I would consider real top shelf flower.

Turtle Pie Co – Purple Sticky Rice

Courtesy of my iPhone

Anytime I see something new from Turtle I know it’s going to be something that’s going to hit in the streets, but their latest, Purple Sticky Rice is hitting on a whole new level. Redefining the ‘candy’ nose most expect from some purple dank, these were some of the sweetest nugs to ever hit my nostrils. And I’m not just including this because of the Asian nod, this one’s definitely a gelato relative and we all know how the market loves that! All I’ve seen so far are the tasters so I’m not entirely sure if this one’s hit the streets yet, but when you get a chance, definitely tap in.

Life is Not Grape – IDK/IDC

Courtesy of Life is Not Grape

You’ve heard me rave about LING in the past so I don’t need to go into how great his production skills, or brand design, has been thus far. You already know that his flower is killing it all over the country, and that his hash collaborations and donuts are top tier. Well friends, have you tried his new Runtz x Gushers cross yet? Because let me tell you, I am writing home about it. With all the sweet firepower you expect from two of the most popular strains of the past decade, LING’s got something truly special on his hands with this one – do I even need to mention how god damn hard this branding is?


Courtesy of Spoomalack

I’m not entirely sure what’s going on with this one. I don’t know if he’s a brand, or if he’s just growing fire, but what I can assure you of is he’s definitely doing that. I met the new homie at Chronic Culture for the first time at their Kalya dinner (which was directly after Jimi & I got off the plane returning to the states) and every single cut he showed me was stellar, and fully rocked me upon deeper inspection (into my lungs). Not knowing if he’s a full brand, I’m not sure how available this flower is, but if you’re in the Bay and you hear someone talking about a cultivator with a weird name (I mean, what IS Spoomalack?), maybe it’s this homie. If it is, you’re in luck, young padawan. 

Flytrap’s Gumbo

Courtesy of Flytrap

These guys have been making a TON of noise down in Florida and I’ve been asked more about Gumbo than pretty much any other cultivar in recent history, so I’m pleased to report that it’s not just hype – the guys are doing something down there in the South East. I was fortunate enough to catch Superfly and El Tay on my trip back from the Bay (shout out to Jet Suite X, the trapper’s choice!), and they broke me off with some of their latest harvest and carte blanche, this is the best weed I’ve seen come out of Florida yet.

Sherbinski & Compound Genetics – Tribute

Courtesy of Sherbinski

Felipe presented this to us in the Dank Tank Jimi and I hosted at the Harvest Ball and I’ve got to say, for a guy who has said countless times he’s over gelato, their new collaboration with the creator himself, Sherbinski, just rekindled my love. This Apples & Bananas x Gelato 41 cross smells and tastes exactly how you would expect, with a natural, yet couldn’t be more dialed in with additive terps if you tried flavor. You can smell the apples, the bananas, and that sweet candy finish Gelato’s known for. And it’s smokin’ too! While not quite as knock-you-out as a lot of Gelato varietals, this one’s a nice sunset smoke.

Bonus: Thai Lasagna

Courtesy of Tropicanna Cafe

If you ever get the chance, you’ve got to try a Thai lasagna. I’ve been dreaming about these freakin’ things. When we went to visit Tropicanna, after sampling their wares the gang let us know they had prepared lunch if we were hungry. I had known one of the owners spent years living in Italy (you could tell, he had style); I didn’t realize he was half Italian. Not going to lie, I never expected to eat a lasagna and curry feast, but boy did we house it. It was the best hospitality we experienced in Thailand, in my opinion. There will be more on this in the ‘the Gang goes to Bangkok’ piece I’m working on, but for now just know I ate close to an entire lasagna by myself.

Nepotism Bonus: Phandee

Courtesy of Phandee

I’m adding this as a nepotism bonus because Oliver, one of the proprietors of Phandee, was our guide for the Thailand trip, but I am not fronting when I say this was my favorite of the shops we saw in Bangkok. While the store itself isn’t all that big, it’s part of a larger footprint that also sells food, drinks and even booze, and has a great little patio in the middle so everyone can enjoy everything together. It’s not only a good setup, it also looks insane because the outside is wrapped in this rainbow translucent glass. Or plastic, I don’t know, but I know I like it. Oliver also hosted a party at the shop for us while we were there and I’ll be honest, I was not expecting anywhere near the type of turnout we got, or the amount of people who knew who we were. It was a great time and will surely be a check-in anytime I’m in the city.

The post Jon’s Stone-Cold Cop List #32: Thai Emeralds appeared first on High Times.

Picking a Winning Phenotype

It’s easy to forget, but cannabis is absolutely an agricultural product. That means, like fresh fruits or vegetables, these flowers ripen and reach a peak point of deliciousness in the smoke. From one week to the next in the cure, one sibling plant can edge out another. Growing from seed means each plant has the same genetic make-up, but like sisters, are similar, not identical. Is the winning phenotype #48 or #49? This week it’s #49, but next week #48 could squeeze in as the top heat.

In truth, #48 probably is the winner today as I write about flowers on the autumnal equinox of 2022. The smell from this sample on my desk is so dank, I feel it in the back of my nostrils. Like gasoline on the sidewalk after that first rain, this weed smells fresh, but also distinctly chemical-like. It leaves a rainbow blur in my mind. I’m so high.


The weed I’m smoking is a tester of Gelato #41 and LD-95 from Oakland, California cannabis breeder and cultivator Fig Farms. It’s certainly not the Gelato of five years ago. Back in the equally heady days of Sherbinski’s 2017 Gelato releases, that handful of Mochi Gelato he pulled out for me from a giant plastic bag overflowing with buds tasted sweet. It wasn’t that it didn’t have any gas—after all Gelato pulls its lineage from two of the most gassy and well known strains families of modern time, OG Kush and Cookies—but that it showed off a more fruity, dessert side alongside all that dank. Out of all the various Gelato phenotypes, Gelato #41 (otherwise truly named Bacio Gelato) has proven to be the most prolific. At this point, Gelato #41—a cross of Sunset Sherbet and Thin Mint Cookies which was created in a San Francisco garage by Sherbinski and fellow breeder Jigga—has officially found its way into hearts and lungs all over the world.

“The funny thing is people know [the Gelato strains] as the 25, 33 and the 41,” Sherbinski told Jimi Devine in a 2017 sitdown interview about the success of the Gelato. “Those were just the numbers I put on the pots, they’re not the names. That would be like having kids and calling them 5, 6, 7, 8.”

The Fig Farms creation combines the Gelato #41 we all know and love (albeit Fig’s own version of the strain that they’ve cheekily named after Devine, calling it Jimi #41) with LD-95. The LD-95 part of that comes from a parent that’s all diesel and sour funk. After visiting the Fig Farms grow a few weeks back, I began shopping the two phenotypes Fig Farms is considering releasing into the market with the crew of elite strain experts I roll with. Right now, and possibility forever, the samples are designated by number: the Gelato #41 x LD-95 #48 and the Gelato #41 x LD-95 #49.

“We pollinated a bunch of stuff with LD-95 from Top Dawg,” Fig Farms breeder and owner Keith Healy explains of the OG and Chem type profiles he’s bringing to the Gelato #41. “So it should be like a strong, potent flower… you expect that to bring gas notes and fuel and so, we throw that [male pollen] at a female and we see if that actually translates. It’s almost like an experiment where you’re making a hypothesis and then you’re executing and seeing if your hypothesis is real.”

At a later kitchen table tasting of the #48 and #49 phenotypes with cannabis strain expert Ngaio Bealum, he quite accurately says these dense, heavy, and incredibly sticky nugs “have an undercurrent of skunk” but are missing a lot of that traditional Gelato sweetness. When I bust out the numbered samples for another thorough analysis at a San Francisco Labor Day backyard barbecue hosted by Leafly’s sherpa of terps, David Downs, the group is divided. That day, overlooking the Pacific Ocean in the city shaped by the 1849 Gold Rush, I was really going for #49. True guardian of the flame, Devine, however, was beyond sure the #48 was the one.

Back at Fig Farms it’s testing season and Chief Sales Officer Mike Doten brings out eight different sister variations of 6ixth Sense x Figmint.

“Each one that we’re showing you represents a single plant,” Doten says. “These are single-plant testers at this stage. Then we’ll enter them into a two-, or at the maximum, five-plant next run and that will happen in our actual production room.”

After this selection process is over, Fig Farms typically releases only about 20 pounds of the winning phenotype strain at a time. The first drops are usually 5 to 10 pounds. 

“The distributor hates it. It’s expensive to test it,” Healy explains.

But, because there’s no outside investors telling him he needs to grow only the plants that yield more in order to release larger say 50-pound batches, Fig Farms, which is run by Healy and his wife fellow cannabis cultivator and breeder Chloe, can put out what it wants. This means that strains are pretty unique. I bring this up particularly when it comes to the Holy Moly!, a strain that was the first jar to be emptied in an organic taste testing I hosted at the High Times 100 party held in Los Angeles this May.

Courtesy of The High Rise Co.

“[Holy Moly!] is just so unique and the reason why it’s so unique and rare is because nobody in their right mind would throw that in a commercial setting,” Healy says. “It’s something that you would expect somebody that has their own little tent to grow like one plant of and still be frustrated with the process.”

Holy Moly! / Courtesy of Fig Farms

The 6ixth Sense and Figmint crosses are pretty dialed in at this stage and look really similar to me, but part of the award-winning formula at Fig Farms is figuring out which one is really the best. I hone in on one tester that displays a bit more purple color. It’s a “party purple,” Doten says, and when I ask what that means he tells me “it’s not like a midnight purple or something, it’s more like the purple you’d see on a party napkin.”

“If you can produce multiple really, really good things from just a small amount of seeds then it seems to be a higher-quality cross,” Healy explains.

Looking toward the future Healy hopes to release his own seeds. Right now he’s playing with the stability Fig Farms is finding in the 6ixth Sense x Figmint and thinking about pairing that with other strains in the current lineup such as Animal Face.

“My goal with seeds, when people buy them, is that they end up with a very difficult time making a selection,” he says. 

The post Picking a Winning Phenotype appeared first on High Times.

The Story of Cannabis in Five Essential Strains

Arguing over which strains of cannabis are the best is a time-honored tradition. In good company and armed with some basic knowledge on the seemingly endless bounty of cannabis varietals now available, the quest to defend your chosen strain as the best of the bunch is often a largely subjective exercise. But a fun one nonetheless. By contrast, a conversation on which cannabis strains deserve to be considered essential in an overall survey of the plant’s long, strange history is a different matter entirely.

While there are unquestionably many candidates worthy of consideration, telling the story of weed through but a handful of its most seminal specimens is a challenge that quickly yields some obvious answers. Even if your favorite strain is not among the five examples highlighted below, it is likely that one of these featured options is a genetic cousin, forbearer, or offspring to the strains you hold nearest and dearest.

Thus, consider these selections a series of strain stepping stones that collectively offer a brief but pertinent overview of just far cannabis has come — and where it may be headed next.

PHOTO Gracie Malley

Panama Red

Before cultivators began breeding cannabis to create new crosses, consumers were smoking exclusively what is known as landrace strains. These varietals were often named for the geographic area in which they naturally grew, which is how we got Panama Red. This classic of the industry is a pure sativa that would go on to became a household name for pot fans in U.S. in the late 1960s, mostly for being widely available at a time when few strains were even on the market. Known for its lengthy flowering time (often at least 11 weeks), the desire to combine the effects of landrace strains with the shorter flowering cycles of cannabis originating from Afghanistan and other similar climates kicked off what would ultimately become a cross-breeding revolution.

high quality strains for the hobbyist
PHOTO Sensi Seeds

Northern Lights

When it comes to hybrids, the story can’t be told without including Northern Lights. A cross of multiple Afghani landrace strains, Northern Lights is revered for its potency and quick, bountiful yield. By the time we arrive at Northern Lights #5 (so named for literally being the fifth manifestation of the strain), the recipe had evolved to also include genetics from a Thai landrace sativa. The result was the addition of both a fruity taste and a more notably cerebral high for consumers. Reaching its peak of popularity in the early 90s, Northern Lights — and the #5 varietal specifically — is renowned as a sturdy, reliable strain that would also feature prominently in the next phase of the cannabis story, wherein hybrids were at last crossed with one another. And the sky truly became the limit.

Teen Marijuana Use Down, Adult Use Up
PHOTO Taylor Kent

OG Kush

The story of cannabis often takes the West Coast as its setting, and for good reason. Encompassing California and its famed Emerald Triangle, as well as pivotal neighboring states like Oregon and Washington, weed’s evolution was one that largely took place where the U.S. meets the Pacific Ocean. Perhaps no strain better exemplifies this journey than OG Kush. Forever shrouded in mysterious origins, the best guess of those eager to trace its lineage suggest it was a cutting smuggled from the West Coast to Florida and back again that ultimately yielded this iconic example of cannabis at its finest. Forever enshrined in the lyrics of classic rap songs and still namechecked today as a titan of the field, what is known is that we have a cultivator in Los Angeles known simply as Josh D. to thank for ushering the market into a hybrid frenzy that’s never truly dissipated.

PHOTO Gabe Perry

White Widow

Rivaling OG Kush in terms of name recognition is another hybrid that rose to prominence in the ’90s: White Widow. Named for its buds laden with white and crystal resin, there is no actual venom to worry about, however, a highly-potent experience is all but guaranteed from this Netherlands-born heavy-hitter. Derived from a cross between Brazilian indica and South Indian sativa landraces, White Widow has long served as a staple of Dutch coffee shops. Furthermore, the desirable effects of White Widow — often described as a mix of euphoria and energy — makes it no surprise that this strain would soon be utilized to create a host of popular offspring strains, including White Russian and Blue Widow.  

PHOTO Gracie Malley


Turning our eye back to the West Coast, the story of modern cannabis is rather perfectly encapsulated by the balanced hybrid known as Gelato. Having gone through multiple incarnations, all courtesy of San Francisco’s Cookie Farm Genetics — led by famed cannabis breeders Mr. Sherbinski and Jigga — phenotype #33 is affectionately (if unofficially) nicknamed “Larry Bird” in reference to the famed Celtics basketball player’s jersey number. Featuring a cross between two already famed hybrids (Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies and the mouth-wateringly fruity indica Sunset Sherbert), Gelato served a pivotal role in establishing the Bay Area as a new headquarters for innovative, legendary cannabis strains. Still popular today, the amount of strains that owe a debt of recognition to this modern marvel are simple too numerous to name.

As for what comes next, the answer is as simple as paying a visit to your nearest neighborhood dispensary. New and incredible advents in the strain game are arriving seemingly every day, making the strains listed above but a starting point for any cannabis connoisseur on a quest to touch (and taste) all the magic of the cannabis rainbow.

The post The Story of Cannabis in Five Essential Strains appeared first on Cannabis Now.