The Emerald Cup Awards Rocks Hollywood with Unforgettable Genetics and Guests

Last Saturday, the 18th Annual Emerald Cup Awards was held at The Montalbán Theatre near Hollywood and Vine in Hollywood in Los Angeles, California—and it was truly a spectacle to behold.

As people shuffled in, creating a continuous stream of advocates, patients, breeders, and growers, the venue filled quickly. Some attendees made their way to the dab bar and drink bar at the Mezzanine level, and others made their way up to the rooftop, which is where the real magic began.

I walked through a vine-covered corridor into the rooftop party area where vendors such as LitHouse and Fig Farms handed out generous gift bags with eighths and double pre-rolls. A sprawling 360-degree view of downtown Hollywood provided the backdrop. Musical performances by Andreas One, Jasmine Solana, and Lafa.

Courtesy of Danny Lee

As for the ceremony itself, there was a whopping number of categories—over 50—and it was hosted by a number of special guests including Ngaio Bealum, Whitney Beattie, and the clear fan favorite hosts, Swami Chaitanya and Nikkie Lastreto of Swami Select, who we also recently profiled in print.

We were impressed by the powerful sense of community. On one hand, the ceremony felt like the Academy Awards, as Rolling Stone puts it, but on the other hand, there was a strong craft farmer and hippie vibe undercurrent. For instance, when the hosts asked a question, the crowd answers back loud and clear.

“It’s our culture, it’s, it’s our community … they feel like there’s an ownership here because of my deep roots and connection to the community,” Tim Blake told High Times. “And they just feel the love. We don’t do it for the money, we do it to really do something special. You know, at the Harvest Ball last year, we gave away over 50 free booths. And people just know who we are and where we’re coming from.

“We’re not a big crew, our local people, and we love our, our community. And so it’s just a mutual love affair,” Blake added. And people feel it.” Individual, personal use categories were included, so that people without expensive licensing could participate.

Tim Blake, Courtesy of Danny Lee

The Emerald Cup and Blake are both mostly associated with the Emerald Triangle encompassing Mendocino, Humboldt, and Trinity Counties, but this year the event was moved to Los Angeles to represent a strategic move.

“In 2017, legalization came in, I knew then that for our contestants and our vendors and sponsors that the future was LA—the largest cannabis market in the world, the largest media market in the world,” Blake said. “This is where they need it, we’re gonna do their Academy Awards in the cannabis industry.”

The judges had to go from 700 entries, all top-shelf, and narrow them down to just 182 winners. In some categories this year, the process involved blind or doubleblind methods in order to prevent bias for any one farm or company.

The trophies were hand-blown by glass artist Ryan Fitt in collaboration with Puffco. The event was overseen by executive producer Taylor Blake, Tim’s daughter, who is increasingly taking in the reins of the enterprise.

It took 150 expert judges to find the winners including Alec Dixon of SC Labs, Bill and Jeff Levers, Eric Brandstand, Guy Rocourt, Jimi Devine, Maya Elisabeth, The Dank Duchess, Abdulah Saedd, and too many others to list. The crew of judges mobilized last February, and according to Swami Chaitanya, were confined to a room until they could narrow down the contestants.

Dennis Hunter from Farmer and the Felon had to return to the stage many times, as the team won award after award. I was able to snag some Farmer and the Felon seeds. LitHouse, Rebel Grown, and Fig Farms also took home several awards that night. The crowd went wild when Huckleberry Hill Farms won an award.

Since 2004, the Emerald Cup has served as “a grassroots celebration of the cannabis plant and harvest, and as an unbiased, free, and fair competition,” but Blake and the leadership of the event emphasize that it is really about people—farmers, judges, entertainers, and attendees.

Courtesy of Danny Lee

The Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award

Woody Harrelson was the guest of honor, receiving the coveted Willie Nelson Lifetime achievement award. Past winners include Winona LaDuke, Tommy Chong, Valerie Corral, and Willie Nelson himself. Harrelson was an advocate going back decades, with a proven track record of serious activism.

“So we got the information to Woody, and he checked us out,” Blake said. “And, you know, he almost thought about not taking the award this year, because Green Street lost their permit. And then The Woods couldn’t get their permit to open. We didn’t have a venue. And so what was he going to do? And in the course of one week, we found this place, and he got a permit to open his place. And he called me up and we had a long talk. And he said, you know, heck, I’m gonna come out there and join you guys. And I’ll tell you what, I was tickled pink, I told him, I said, You know what, you have no idea what this means to us. And now, seeing The Woods open up.”

Courtesy of Danny Lee

Harrelson was chosen not because of his celebrity star power, but based on his activism in the cannabis space. That dates back to Woody’s symbolic protest by illegally planting a hemp seed in Kentucky in 1996 and his vocal activism in favor of environmental sustainability, veganism, and regenerative agricultural practices.

It’s the same environmentally healthy practices that are already a part of the Emerald Cup.

“For the first time ever, we had more indoor than the sungrown entries, which is, you know, pretty big change,” Blake said. “The beverages and the edibles are just blowing up. The enhanced beverages are unbelievable and the pre-rolls had gone from like afterthought D grade trim to where it’s like just stunning representations. We did a classification system separating the terpenes into classification systems and gas and desserts and sweets and whatnot, so that we could really do an educational process not only for our judges, but for our community, and get people really to break out of that mold and looking for the highest THC and start looking for the right cannabinoid profile fits best for them.”

Courtesy of Danny Lee

Wooks, Wizards, and Warlocks

Some guests were dressed up as wizards, and another was dressed in a zoot suit period piece. Others looked as though the hippie lifestyle never faded at all since the ‘60s. Pebbles Trippet was a center of attention, being a longtime advocate, and she received devotionals from both Blake and Harrelson.

“People down here are pretty cool,” Blake said. “And they get to get dressed up for a show like this. And now people are just, it’s exciting for a lot of these hill people to have a reason to come out, come down here and get dressed up. And they’re not they’re not pitching at all. They’re excited. And they’re coming up and telling me how wonderful it is.”

I returned to the rooftop where the most fun was to be found. There, I bumped into Shavo Odadjian of System of a Down who was there to promote his flower from 22Red. I found a shrine with beautiful Hindu representations.

Throwing events such as this isn’t all fun and games when the rules become involved, but Blake is hopeful.

“This year, the DCC [Department of Cannabis Control] came in heavy at the Harvest Ball,” Blake said. “They were telling small farmers that they couldn’t display things; they were going after small farmers and people … in their booth smoking, you know, it’s like that personal stuff. So we had to continue that educational process. But it’s so critical for farmers and brands to have direct access to consumers … We need to open that up. And so it’s educating the DCC so that we set the bar and show them how to do it so that these farmers markets and all kinds of events, not just ours, can happen all over the state because it’s so critical for the consumers and for the farmers.”

Courtesy of Danny Lee

Coverage of the 18th Annual Emerald Cup Awards at the Montalbán Theatre will be provided by ALTRD.TV. You can watch all taped educational fireside chats, exclusive interviews, and the ceremony. A full list of winners, provided by the Emerald Cup, is below:


Sungrown Flower Category Winners
1st Place Farmer and the Felon – Lemon Sponge Cake
2nd Place Rebel Grown – Double OG Chem
3rd Place Farmer and the Felon x Cookie Fam Genetics – Georgia Pie
4th Place Farmer and the Felon – Double OG Chem
5th Place Full Moon Farms – Black Water OG
6th Place Canna Country Farms – #26
7th Place Rebel Grown – Natty Bumpoo
8th Place Farmer and the Felon – 92 OG
9th Place Huckleberry Hill Farms – Mom’s Weed
10th Place Esensia – Lime Juice

Sungrown – BREEDER’S CUP Category Winner
1st Place Rebel Grown – Double OG Chem

Mixed Light Flower Category Winners
1st Place LitHouse – Modified Grapes
2nd Place LitHouse – Jealousy
3rd Place LitHouse – Lemon Lava
4th Place Safier Family Farms x Peak Humboldt x Mattole Uplift Cooperative – Angel Food Cake
5th Place Healing Herb Farms – Lemon Head OG x Zkittlez
6th Place Monterey Kush Co – Matchalato
7th Place LitHouse – Paragon
8th Place Bono-Ape – Ice Cream Cake
9th Place Monterey Kush Co – Citra-Lato
10th Place Booney Acres – Strawberry Jelly Flower

Mixed Light – BREEDER’S CUP Category Winner
1st Place Healing Herb Farms – Lemon Head OG x Zkittlez

Indoor Flower Category Winners
1st Place Fig Farms – Animal Face
2nd Place Panacea – Pablo’s Revenge
3rd Place Fig Farms – Blue Face
4th Place NUG – Chocolatina
5th Place Fig Farms – Holy Moly!
6th Place Sovereign – Lemon Vuitton
7th Place STIIIZY – Blue Burst
8th Place Cure Company – Marathon OG
9th Place Source Cannabis – Quest
10th Place Atrium Cultivation – Juice Z

Indoor Flower BREEDER’S CUP Category Winner
1st Place Fig Farms – Holy Moly!

Sungrown Greenhouse Flower
1st Place Local Cannabis Co – Sherbhead
2nd Place Glass House Farms – Glass House Farms Waiting Game
3rd Place Local Cannabis Co – Ice Cream Cake
4th Place Local Cannabis Co – Orange 43
5th Place Harborside Farms – The Mac
6th Place Harborside Farms x Bloom Farms – SFV OG
7th Place Humboldt Redwood Healing x The Humboldt Brand – Sour G
8th Place Country Club Cannabis – EVB Rainbow Frootz
9th Place Ridgeline Farms – Ridgeline Runtz
10th Place Harborside Farms – Motorhead

Personal Use Flower
1st Place Parker PZ Moselle – Ohrangatang Titties
2nd Place Colin Teurfs x Dan Pomerantz – Double OG Chem 4
3rd Place Matt Jones – Cheese
4th Place Brandy Schneider – AM Lime
5th Place Mary Polson – Pink Champagne

3rd Party Certified Sungrown Flower
1st Place Emerald Spirit Botanicals – Farm Cut – Pink Boost Goddess

3rd Party Certified Mixed Light Flower Category Winners
1st Place Old Briceland Cannabis Company – Epiphany
2nd Place Old Briceland Cannabis Company – Area 41
3rd Place Old Briceland Cannabis Company – White Gummies #1

Best in Show Category Winner
1st Place Farmer and the Felon – Lemon Sponge Cake


Pre-Roll – Infused Solventless Extract Category Winners
1st Place Sovereign – Geode Joint – Modified Lemons
2nd Place El Toro Verde – El Toro Verde Cannagar
3rd Place Vital Grown x Sticky Fields x Compassionate Heart x Massive Creations x Feeling Frosty – Mendo Massive

Pre-Roll – Infused Solvent Extract
1st Place Paletas – Paletas Mother’s Milk Infused Blunt
2nd Place Sugar Daddy – Sugar Daddy Indica 2.5G Infused Blunt
3rd Place Weedwoodz – Weedwoodz XOXO

Pre-Roll – Non Infused Category Winners
1st Place Lost Paradise Organics – Gelonade 6pk Flower Pre-Roll
2nd Place Atrium Cultivation – Juice Z Pre-Roll
3rd Place Country – 1:1 Good Neighbor Pre-Roll 6pk


Ice Water Hash Category Winners
1st Place Heritage Hash Co – Whitethorn Rose Live Bubble Hash
2nd Place el Krem – Papaya Bomb Ice Water Hash
3rd Place Papa’s Select – Amarelo #9 90u Ice Water Hash
4th Place Feeling Frosty – Banana Cream Cake x Jealousy 120u Ice Water Hash
5th Place Kalya x Dancing Dog Ranch – Double Rainbow

Rosin Category Winners
1st Place Rosin Tech Labs x Luma Farms – Papaya
2nd Place Heritage Hash Co – Whitethorn Rose Live Rosin
3rd Place Kalya x LUMA Farms – Lemon Limez
4th Place FIELD – FIELD Papaya Cold Cured Live Rosin
5th Place Rosin Tech Labs – Garlic Cookies
6th Place Rosin Tech Labs – Garlic Juice #3 Cold Cure
7th Place el Krem – Strawberry Runtz – Rosin
8th Place Moon Valley Hash Co – Strawberry Banana Cold Cure Live Rosin
9th Place Doc Green’s – White Buffalo Cold Cured Live Rosin
10th Place Have Hash – Zkittlez Cold Cure Live Rosin (Headstash)

Personal Use Solventless Category Winners
1st Place Alice Reis x Flynn Abeln – Wooksauce Winery Screaming Mimis
2nd Place Brett Byrd – Modified Grapes Full spec 45-159 creme brulee consistency w/THC-A layer
3rd Place Brett Byrd – Gush Mints Full Spec 45-159
4th Place Brett Byrd – Modified Grapes Full Spec 45-159
5th Place Brett Byrd – Apple Fritters Full Spec 45-159


C02 Cartridge Category Winners
1st Place Haku – Haku CO2 Live Resin
2nd Place Featured Farms x Burzt Farms – Burzt by Featured Farms
3rd Place Wildseed Co x Cannabis Refined – Cherry Wife CO2 Cartridge

Distillate Cartridge Category Winners
1st Place LEGION – Monarch – Strawberry Banana – Cannabis Derived Terpenes
2nd Place GoldDrop x Fig Farms – Kush Mint Cookies Nug Run Vape Cartridge
3rd Place Beezle Brands – Orange Blossom Buzz Cartridge

Live Resin Cartridge Category Winners
1st Place URSA Extracts – Liquid Diamond Sauce Humboldt Jack
2nd Place Arcata Fire x Humboldt Seed Co – Raspberry Live Resin Sauce Cart
3rd Place Lemon Tree x Holy Water x Orchard Beach Farms – Kiwi tree Single Source Live Resin Cartridge
4th Place ColdFire Extracts x Turtle Pie Co – Prickly Pear Juice by ColdFire Extracts
5th Place Friendly Farms – Friendly Farms Liquid Live Resin Apple Fritter
6th Place The Bohemian Chemist – The Bohemian Chemist Cart Blanche .5g Hotsy-Totsy Live Resin Cartridge
7th Place Halara – GMO Live Diamond Sauce
8th Place Friendly Farms – Liquid Live Resin Flight #23
9th Place ColdFire Extracts – UpDog Juice by ColdFire Extracts
10th Place Oakland Extracts – Papaya Pucker

Solventless Cartridge Category Winners
1st Place Doc Green’s – Runtz Live Rosin Vape Cartridge
2nd Place Jetty Extracts – Fatso Solventless Vape
3rd Place Arcata Fire x Highwater Farms – Key Lime Pie Solventless


Hydro-Carbon Solid Category Winners
1st Place Beezle Brands x Luma Farms – Key Lime Paya Live Resin Budder
2nd Place Beezle Brands x Earthen Farms – Gary Payton Live resin Budder
3rd Place URSA Extracts – -Live Badder Modified Grapes
4th Place Cookies x ArcataX – Day Day
5th Place PaperPlanes Extracts x Land Hammer Farms – Donnie Burger #5 Live Resin Batter

Hydro-Carbon Liquid Category Winners
1st Place Cosmic x Peak x Feeling Frosty – White Runtz
2nd Place FIELD x Wizard Trees x Doja – FIELD x Wizard Trees x Doja RS-11 Live Resin
3rd Place Cosmic x Peak x Feeling Frosty – Orange Daiquiri
4th Place Terphogz – Live Resin Sauce Melon Brainz
5th Place Orchard Beach Farms x Holy Water – Kiwi Tree


Therapeutic Topical Category Winners
1st Place Care By Design – CBD Joint & Muscle Cream
2nd Place Kush Queen – Kush Queen Transdermal THC Water Based Personal Lubricant
3rd Place OM x Feeling Frosty – Sweet Dreams CBN Rosin Bath Bomb

Cosmetic Topical Category Winners
1st Place Proof – Face Serum
2nd Place OM x Feeling Frosty – Himalayan Kush Rosin Bath Bomb

Personal Use Topical Category Winner
1st Place Erica A – Deep Muscle Rub – Liniment Lotion


Tincture Category Winners
1st Place Care By Design – Refresh Drops 1:1 MAX
2nd Place Santa Cruz Mountain Tops – La Luna
3rd Place Lempire Farmaseed – LEM OG 1000mg Rosin Tincture


Edibles – Beverage Category Winners
1st Place HiFi Sessions x Lagunitas x Absolute Xtracts – HiFi Hoppy Chill
2nd Place Pure Beauty – Little Strong Drink
3rd Place K-Zen Beverages – Mad Lilly Passion Fruit Mango Spritzer

Edibles – Beverage Enhancer Category Winner
1st Place S*Shots – Berry Blast

Edibles – Gummies Category Winners
1st Place Kalya x Elephante – Papaya Rosin Gummies
2nd Place Space Gem – Sweet Sleepy Fig
3rd Place Queen Mary – Enchanted

Edibles – Sweet Category Winners
1st Place Cosmic Edibles x Kalya – Solventless Rosin Plant-Based Chocolate Chip Sprinkles Cookie Dough
2nd Place Oasis – Peanut Butter Cup Minis
3rd Place Mammamia – Capri Lemon Cake Bites

Edibles – Savory Category Winners
1st Place Potli x SF Roots – Shrimp Chips
2nd Place TSUMo Snacks – TSUMo Snacks Classic Cheese Crunchers


Alternative Cannabinoid Flower Category Winners
1st Place Pure Beauty – Terry T & Gelato 33
2nd Place Glass House Farms – Jelly Fish
3rd Place Glass House Farms – Tangelo Flow

Alternative Cannabinoid Flower Breeder’s Cup Category Winner
1st Place Pure Beauty – Terry T & Gelato 33

Alternative Cannabinoid Hemp Flower Category Winners
1st Place Flowgardens – Orange Glaze #32 
2nd Place Flowgardens – Grapefruit

Alternative Cannabinoid Edible Category Winners
1st Place Papa & Barkley – Sleep Releaf
2nd Place Granny B Goods 1:1 Canamels
3rd Place Hi Burst Raspberry Lemonade Fruit Chews

Alternative Cannabinoid Beverage Category Winner
1st Place KHEMIA – Chakra Chai

Alternative Cannabinoid Topical Category Winner
1st Place Carter’s Aroma Therapy Designs – Rasta Roll-On

Alternative Cannabinoid Tincture Category Winners
1st Place Sunrise Mountain Farms – PACIFIC – Full Spectrum CBD Rich Tincture
2nd Place PROOF – CBN Tincture
3rd Place Fiddler’s Green – Kindred Spirit – Raw Tincture

Alternative Cannabinoid Cartridge Category Winners
1st Place Chemistry – Serpentine
2nd place Kurvana –  CBD All-In-One – Banana Smoothie 5:1:5

Hemp-Derived Ingestible Category Winners
1st Place Green Truth – Trifecta Immune (CBDA-CBGA-CBDVA)
2nd Place Kurvana CBD Dream 2:1:3

Hemp-Derived Topical Category Winners
1st Place WeedSport – WeedSport CBD Muscle Stick
2nd Place Pure Dharma – Glow CBD Activated Oil Serum

Most Innovative Product – Consumable Category Winner
1st Place Holy Water x Honey Suckle Lotus  – Jelly Ranchers. Unholy Rosin/Resin Split Jar

Most Innovative Product – Industry Asset Category Winner
1st Place Huckleberry Hill Farms – Sow Your Own Magic

Breeders Hall Of Fame Category Winner
1st Place Greg McAllister

Visionary Award for Glass Artistry Category Winner
1st Place Scott Deppe – Mothership Glass

Regenerative Farm Award Category Winner
1st Place Emerald Spirit Botanicals – Farm Cut

Best Photo Contest Winner – Amateur Category Winner
1st Place Claudia Price – Pancake Stomper No. 5

Best Photo Contest Winner – Professional Category Winner
1st Place Benjamin Neff – The Heart

Best Dispensary – Northern California Category Winner
1st Place Mercy Wellness – Redwood Dr – Cotati

Best Dispensary – Central California Category Winner
1st Place Big Sur Canna + Botanicals – Carmel Rancho Ln – Carmel

Best Dispensary – Southern California Category Winner
1st Place Cornerstone Wellness – Colorado Blvd – Los Angeles

Eco-Conscious Packaging – Category Winner
1st Place Sol Spirit Farms

Environmentally Conscious Indoor – Category Winner
1st Place Moon Valley Cannabis

The post The Emerald Cup Awards Rocks Hollywood with Unforgettable Genetics and Guests appeared first on High Times.

Growing Soil for Cannabis, the Regenerative Way

Soil preparation for the garden begins in the fall at harvest time, and the process is completed in the spring. Of course, the easiest thing to do would be to run out and buy bags of different powdered nutrients, premixed fertilizers or a bottle off the shelf that has all of these nutrients in their proper proportion—and maybe even says organic on the label—but where is the fun in that?

Here at Swami Select, in California’s Emerald Triangle, we source materials as close to home as possible. We’re trying to save the planet by moving agriculture away from petrochemical ingredients and revitalizing the soil through natural inputs and regenerative practices.

Benefits of Cover Crop

Cover crop at the home of Swami Select, in Northern California’s Emerald Triangle.

The basis of fertile earth starts with planting a cover crop of legumes and grasses just before or right after harvest in October and November, or in the early spring. Cover crop seeds are available in different formulas of premixed bags, often called Organic Soil Builder or OSB. Alternatively, some nurseries let you combine your own selection of seeds. Sweet pea, vetch, fava beans, alfalfa and ryegrass are some of the most common “green manure” crops.

The advantages of planting a cover crop in the fall are many: The soil is protected from erosion during the winter rains; beneficial plants prevent unwelcome weeds, malevolent fungi, bacteria or other pathogens from growing. Best of all, the bacteria around the roots of the cover crop legumes gather nitrogen in a form that can be easily utilized by the cannabis plant after the cover crop is harvested in the springtime. This is called “nitrogen-fixing.”

The cut plant material is then used as mulch or green manure. Alternatively, the cover crop can be turned over so the roots of the plants are up. But, it is better to just cut down the above-ground part and let it lie where cut to form a mulch.

It’s also beneficial to leave the stalks and roots in the bed after harvest so as not to disturb the microbiology in the soil that has developed during the growth cycle. The stalks are then pulled out in the spring when the cover crop is harvested, but by now, the finer ends of the roots have been composted into the soil, adding organic material. In addition, fungal hyphae have developed about the root ball. Cannabis prefers a predominantly fungal environment in the soil—like the trees in the forest—rather than a bacterial environment such as the meadow grasses.

The Theory of No-Till Farming

In the practice of Regenerative Agriculture, there is either “no till,” or tilling is kept to an absolute minimum, only mixing in the amendments in the topmost layer. The theory of no-till farming rests on the fact that different microorganisms thrive at different depths in the soil.

Bacterial life is most abundant below one-and-a-half feet, and if it is turned over and brought to the surface, the bacteria will binge eat all the available nutrients near the surface. Once all of the nutrients are gone, they die from exposure. This actually depletes the soil. If every different microbial life form in living soil remains in its optimum depth environment, the soil food web is not disturbed and fertility increases.

Disposing of soil after each harvest is a bad idea. With the right regenerative practices, each year you can improve the soil and its fertility, substantially reducing the costs and benefiting the environment by doing so.

Testing the Soil

Swami testing the soil.

Early spring is the time to take a soil sample. There are basically two kinds of tests: a mineral/chemical test or a biological/microbial test. The first assays the amounts of NPK and other elements the plant needs to thrive, such as calcium, magnesium, boron, iron, copper, zinc, molybdenum, sulfur, chlorine, manganese and nickel.

The biological test surveys the microbial life, identifying beneficial and detrimental bacteria, fungi, nematodes, ciliates, flagellates, amoebas and more. This test is three to four times more expensive, but it should be done when starting a new garden site, or if there are fertility or pathogen problems. Healthy living soil is more resistant to pests or pathogens.

Contact a local testing lab and they will send you information and instructions for gathering a soil sample to mail in. It is relatively cheap and definitely worth the price—without any soil tests, you are literally operating in the dark. The test should be done annually in different parts of the garden, which will give a baseline and guidelines for how to increase fertility over time.

Reduce Costs, Preserve the Planet With Living Soil

Making wood chips for cannabis soil
Swami making his own wood chips for their garden’s living soil.

How we create living soil is by using compost, worm castings, wood chips, manure, straw and alfalfa mulch, rice hulls and coir as soil amendments or top dressings. This year, we are using homemade biochar in the mix to help reduce our water usage. During the growing season, we make compost teas to energize and augment microbial life, and we also grow companion plants or trap plants as part of integrative pest management.

Bags of compost, worm castings, manure and other items can all be purchased at a nursery or from a local farmer. There are many different kinds of manure, but you want to be sure the animals haven’t been treated with antibiotics or other medications. Compost bins and worm bins can be made at home, but for a large cannabis garden, you will probably need to purchase these items, unless you have a large farm and can produce your own animal manure and straw mulch.

Once you have the soil tests with their recommendations, you can choose what amendments to add. If you are hoping to jump-start the garden, then you can use certain mined mineral products such as gypsum, glacial rock dust, greensand, oyster shell, Azomite (which is crushed volcanic rock and contains many necessary trace elements) and insect frass. I prefer not to use bone meal, blood meal or feather meal, primarily because they attract bears, but also because I am a vegetarian and wonder about the treatment of the animals in the slaughterhouses.

I have also moved away from using bat guano, sea bird guano and perlite. Although they are all effective in the soil, each of these has environmental issues. When bat guano and sea bird guano are collected, it disturbs the hibernating or nesting areas of the animals, threatening their survival. Additionally, imagine the working conditions for those who do the collecting: shoveling bat shit or bird shit all day.

Perlite isn’t approved because when soil with perlite is disposed of (a common practice for indoor and greenhouse farms), the perlite gets in the water supply and then into the stomachs of fish and other wildlife.

After a year or two, if you are adding the right organic ingredients, you won’t have to resort to these granulated additives. If you want to go hard-core regenerative, you can skip the mined mineral additives altogether and rely on wood chips, manure and compost teas. It will just take a bit longer. Wood chips are best made from your own trees. Leaves are gathered in the fall so they have the winter rains to stimulate the microbial growth in the piles.

After the cover crop has been harvested in the spring, it is time to mix all the aforementioned gathered ingredients into a big pile. Once all the amendments are thoroughly mixed—either in a wheelbarrow, cement mixer or tractor with a bucket—each plant bed should get an equal portion of the pile.

Water it in, then top it all off with organic straw mulch. You can start with the routine of a compost tea soil drench every ten days or two weeks. When you repeat this process every year, you end up making a layered lasagna of organic ingredients. After three or four years, the beds will become truly fertile with a living soil food web. Your plants and the Earth will thank you.

The post Growing Soil for Cannabis, the Regenerative Way appeared first on Cannabis Now.

Choosing Cannabis Seeds to Start the Season

What’s the most important thing to get right in growing cannabis? This is, of course, an ongoing argument and every grower will probably give a different answer. Be that as it may, choosing the genetics is the first and one of the most important decisions you can make.

Selecting the right cannabis seeds is a process requiring several stages of decision making, and it will impact all other aspects of the grow. If you pick the wrong seeds for your environment and climate, then you could lose the whole crop to mold, frost or mildew. There are also market demand factors to consider. For example, deciding to go for all fruity cultivars because you like them even though everyone in your market area is buying gas, could mean the crop won’t sell. Alternatively, growing what everyone else grows may mean you will be competing with bigger, more established companies who offer a cheaper product. Then, it might be best to grow something unique. 

Deciding Between Regular, Feminized or Auto-flowering Cannabis Seeds

Seeds in water to “crack.” PHOTO Nikki Lastreto

The first, most basic thing you need to decide is if you will grow from regular seeds, feminized seeds or auto-flowering seeds, assuming you won’t start from clones.

There is something special about sprouting your own cannabis seeds, watching them grow and mature—they become your babies. Up to this point, I have always used regular seeds here at Swami Select. These plants are often the most robust and vital, usually producing the biggest yield. Nevertheless, this year, after a long conversation with Nat Pennington, owner of Humboldt Seed Company, he finally convinced me to use some feminized seeds. He said approximatley 90% of his sales are for feminized seeds, and in some of the cultivars I wanted, he only had fems.

Regular Seeds

Growing from regular cannabis seeds has its drawbacks. To begin, about 50% of the sprouts will declare as male plants, but they won’t do this until at least two months after sprouting. This means you must feed and water half of your plants for that long, only to have to put them down when they show male, sometime in June. And not only that, but during May and June and sometimes into July, you have to visually inspect each and every plant every day for signs that it has declared its gender and then separate the males from the females. This is tedious and costly work.

In addition, with regular seeds the chances of different phenotypes cropping up can be high, particularly in F-2 and F-3 generations of a breed. So, you might get eight green/yellow plants and two pink/purples, from the same batch of seeds. With feminized seeds, this is less likely, and a few males may still show up.

One way to avoid the extra labor of having to visually determine male plants is to contract with a gender testing company, such as Leafworks, to determine the sex of the plants. This involves meticulous record keeping, while you carefully snip the end of leaf from each plant with sterilized scissors, place the specimens on a special pad prepared by the testing lab, send the samples off, and you should get results in about 10 days. This can cost up to $15 per plant, but the savings in water, nutrients and labor costs is worth it, because the female plants can be transplanted into the garden beds in early May rather than late June and the males no longer take food and water.

For these reasons, many people opt for feminized seeds, so you don’t have to look after all those male plants, feed them, water them and inspect them, or pay for lab testing to find the males.

Feminized Seeds

After Nat Pennington explained to me that there are three ways to produce feminized seeds, I looked up some details.

  • Light Poisoning: First, there is “light poisoning.” This is when you interrupt the 12-hour dark cycle of an indoor grow halfway through with an hour of light, so there are five-and-a-half hours of dark, then one hour of light followed by another five-and-a-half hours of dark. This will shock the plant into producing “bananas,” which are little yellow croissant curved protuberances that have pollen which will fertilize the female bracts on the plant or other plants. Since the pollen is produced by a female plant, it only has X chromosomes (that is, no male Y chromosomes) so the seeds will all be females. This can also happen spontaneously in the garden, and if you don’t catch it right away, this so-called hermaphrodite plant can seed the whole garden.
  • Spraying with Collodial Silver: A second method involves spraying the plants with a dilute form of colloidal silver. Starting just before the plants will begin to flower outdoors, or just before you switch to 12 and 12 on an indoor or light-dep grow, spray the plants with the colloidal silver for several days in a row. This will cause the plant to produce the “banana” with pollen and that pollen can be used to fertilize other plants. Here’s how to make colloidal silver: 
  • Spraying with Gibberellic Acid: The third method is a little more space age. It again involves spraying the females just before they start to form the first buds, but this time it is with gibberellic acid (GA). GA3 is a naturally occurring phytohormone, produced by plants, fungi and bacteria.  GA is a pentacyclic diterpene. It is familiar for its role in increasing reproductive growth, cell elongation, seed germination, dormancy, reproductive growth, tolerance against various environmental stresses and senescence. Of course, if you are buying feminized seeds from a seed company you don’t need to do any of  this yourself.

Auto-flowering Seeds

Plant sprout. PHOTO Steve Zmak

The last option for cannabis seeds is the auto-flowering variety. These seeds flower a set number of days after planting, which is a trait that was developed in northern latitudes where there is a very short summer. Regular and feminized seeds flower according to the photoperiod, which refers to the specific number of hours of darkness needed to trigger the flowering cycle. That exact day of the year is dependent on the latitude of the grow. Auto-flowers can produce several harvests during a summer at latitudes closer to the equator  because they can finish in three months. They are available as regular or feminized. 

Weighing the Pros and Cons

A sprouting seed in Swami’s hand. PHOTO Nikki Lastreto

Each of these kinds of cannabis seeds has its weak points and strong points—so it is a good practice to consult with local cannabis farmers and breeders and ask questions at the local nursery.

Another factor in seed choice is to determine if you have enough drying space to properly dry and cure the crop come harvest time. Remember, it takes about the same square footage to dry the plants as to grow them. With limited space available, choose cultivars that are ready to cut in three separate harvests, allowing time for the first cut to dry before the second cut is harvested. 

If you are growing in full sun, this means choosing some cultivars that come in early—meaning late September or early October; some that are ready in mid to late October; and some that are ready in November. With a highly efficient drying system employing dehumidifiers and fans, however, you can add harvested plants to the drying room before the first cut comes down. Even so, it still helps to stagger the harvest over several weeks, so as not to exhaust the work force.

Next, consider your specific local climate and whether mold and mildew are problematic, then choose cultivars that are resistant to these threats. These weather-based threats also include heavy frost at harvest time and heavy rain or fog, especially in the spring or at harvest. This is a good reason to buy seeds from local breeders who can provide you with seeds suitable to your terroir.

Market Research

Finally, unless you have a signature cultivar that you always grow, consider doing some market research to see what cultivars are hot in your area, then grow a range of cultivars for a menu that is aimed at your market. To this end, it is worth considering a full menu or library of the different major categories of cannabis based on a complete terpene profile: fruity, fuely, floral or earthy, with sweet and sour traits as qualifiers. This will serve a variety of smokers with different tastes and effects which are created by the various combinations of terpenes. Alternatively, if everyone you know or sell to only likes the gassy varietals or the florals or whatever, then you know what kind of cannabis seeds to grow.

In the end, make sure you grow what you want for your head stash and do it with love. And don’t stress. Everything will come out alright, as the plant will absorb your vibe.

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Preparing for Spring at Swami Select

Although spring is quickly approaching, there is still much work to do before her arrival. In the winter months, the priority is to tend to the commercial crop from last harvest, which has been dried, wrapped in brown unbleached paper, put into bins and bucked. Now that it’s off to the processor for trimming and packaging, and eventually distributed into stores across California, we can begin to trim our personal stash. This traditionally happens at the end of a busy workday, when we settle down and listen to audio books while manicuring our own buds, a mellow close to the day.


Nikki trimming.

Our ranch, Swami Select, is at the edge of nowhere, set in the Mendocino Highlands, with a mixture of rangeland and forestland accessed by dirt roads. Hence, we have more rustic conditions than many cultivators, which calls for more preparation. Winterization starts right after harvest, when you need to prepare for the onset of the rainy season. And given our current climate conditions, one must prepare for drought as well.

In the garden areas, a general cleanup is needed. We stow away anything that could suffer rain damage. Fertilizers, nutrients, pumps, sprayers and other equipment all need to be kept dry. Brew tanks and hoses need to be thoroughly cleaned. Water lines must be turned off and drained to prevent freezing. 

Any debris from harvest will be sorted for proper disposal. In the garden itself, we keep the bare cannabis stalks with their roots in their beds through the winter, so as not to disturb the microbial life around the root zone. We’ll pull them out in the spring, when we add amendments to the beds. Then, we run them through the woodchipper to be mixed with the compost, manure and wood chips and put back on the beds.

Cover crop needs to be planted in the fall or mid-winter so it can sprout in the rainy season. This has been problematic for us because a combination of wild turkeys, the resident bird population and the jack rabbits usually manages to devour most of the seeds or eat the sprouts. We’ve tried many things: hardware cloth wire; frost cloth over the seeds in the beds; prayer flags around the fence; and finally, a last resort, chasing the turkeys when I see them. Whatever we do, the seeds and sprouts end up as food for wildlife. At least they all leave their poop behind in the garden. It has been decided that this year we’ll plant the cover crop seeds just before harvest starts, in late September or early October. The theory is that, because we are always in the garden at harvest time, the voracious critters will be scared off and the drip system for the pot beds will facilitate the seeds sprouting. 

Drought: The New Normal

Wattles around mixing piles.

In the expectation of rain, culverts and ditches need inspection and clearing, especially on dirt and forest roads. Piles of soil, amendments, compost and wood chips need wattles placed around them, and tarps drawn over (unless there’s rain). This is particularly important on steeply sloped sites. Otherwise, it could all wash away and end up in the creek. If needed, rolling dips in dirt roads should be maintained, and ditches should be armored with one-and-a-half-inch roadbed rocks.

With drought being the new normal, now is the time to monitor the rainfall and your water supply for the upcoming season. It’s important to fill the water tanks during the peak rainy periods, allowing for any bypass requirements imposed by the Department of Fish and Wildlife. This would be a good time to install additional water tanks, giving them time to fill. If you have a pond or lake, be sure the pond culvert and overflow is unblocked. After any heavy rainfall or big storm—say over three inches—culverts, ditches, roads and rolling dips all need to be checked for damage and blockage, then cleared if needed.  

Catching Up

During the long winter nights, it’s time to catch up on reading and studying, especially if you get snowed in for three weeks, as we did this winter. This is a chance to figure out what you can do better this year and to reflect on what went wrong last season. It’s also time to consider which cultivars to plant and where to find your seeds (or clones). 

To drive out of our ranch, which rests in its own valley, we spent three days cutting out the large trees that had fallen across the forest road. But we still found a silver lining: Some of it will become firewood, and the branches can be wood chipped and added to the garden beds.

By the end of winter and in the early spring you can rake up leaves for the compost pile and gather fallen branches for wood chipping. Leaves and wood chips from your own land are one of the best things you can add to your beds to build up the organic material, because they bring with them indigenous bacterial and fungal life. This increases the “terroir,” or the unique local quality of the living soil. Letting the piles of leaves and wood chips sit out for a year is ideal, especially through a rainy season. It allows the resident microbial life to flourish.

Wood chips can also be used to make Biochar, which then can be inoculated with compost teas and worm castings. Once added to the beds, biochar increases the soil’s water retention and adds indigenous microbial life. Start making the biochar during the rainy season to reduce fire risk during the process, and then it will be available to mix with the compost and amendments for the beds in the spring.

If a worm is in bin, keep feeding it through the winter. However, keep in mind that several days of heavy frost can kill all the worms. If that happens, new worms need to be added when it starts to warm up, but the carcasses wll turn into compost and become worm castings.

That covers the essentials of winterizing cannabis here at Swami Select. Next time, we’ll talk about seeds and review how to go about choosing which cultivars to grow.

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Cannabis Culture: What Does it Mean to You?

These days one is likely to hear the words “cannabis culture” in casual conversation, and especially at cannabis conventions. That got me to thinking, “What is cannabis culture today, now that the herb is legal? How is it different from the underground culture we created in the Sixties?”

The most obvious difference is that back then, because of the War on Drugs, cannabis culture was secretive. Yet that was also part of the thrill, getting away with something forbidden that was so good. As Kitty Green, a legacy grower who served time for pot, said: “It was a way of life—connecting nature and business and spirit.” 

You were either in it or you weren’t. Whether you were a grower, smuggler, dealer, driver or consumer, you were a part of this hidden society where there was a shared risk. You could get the same sentence for a joint or 50 pounds. Of course, it being the USA of the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s and even today, people of color are arrested more often and punished more severely. But the Hippies in the cities and mountains took their lumps as well.

Black Market Paranoia

As such, cannabis culture in those days bred a fair deal of paranoia, real and imagined, like seeing the flashing red lights in your rear-view mirror or hearing the whirr of helicopter propeller blades overhead. You always had to be on your guard for undercover narcs, rip offs, snitches and marijuana rustlers, so you developed a kind of sixth sense of who you could trust. 

Up in the mountains of the Emerald Triangle rustlers were such a problem that growers set up shotguns and lights with trip wires around their grows and had dogs on patrol. In the fall, as the weed flowered into maturity, the paranoia quotient soared. 

Whether you were a grower, dealer or smoker, you never spoke about pot in public, though you could somehow always tell a “brother” or a “sister” who was in the business. You also didn’t use your own phone (land line) because you figured it was probably tapped. Up on Humboldt County’s Mail Ridge, there was a large oak tree designated as a sort of drop box. People left messages, poetry—even cash—and it was secure.

The Magic of the Underground

In many ways the underground, or “counter culture,” as it was called, was a magic world. I like to compare it to the world of Harry Potter, in that we were a separate, secret “stoner” society living in and among the “straight” society without them knowing it. We were their children, their colleagues, their teachers, their favorite aunts and uncles, or that incredible musician, the amazing artist. 

At the time we joked that we were the ones our parents had warned us about. There were secret codes, and a whole new slang vocabulary developed. We felt like wizards because weed, along with the acid, gave us intimations of higher consciousness and glimpses of telepathy and seemingly the ability to read minds.

PHOTO Swami Select

In that underground cannabis culture, there was a sense of community, of looking out for one another. This was partly due to the shared risk, partly because there was plenty of money to be made, and partly because being a member of the secret world of pot was truly far out. 

Tim Blake, founder of the Emerald Cup and longtime grower, put it this way: “In the heart of the Emerald Triangle was a tribe full of love, integrity and rebellious outlaws, with a relentless love for the herb…a free-spirited bunch of rebels.”

Tim Blake and Mickey the Clown. PHOTO Nikki Lastreto

A Family Culture

If there was a police raid, the word was spread by community radio and neighbors. When someone got busted, friends would care for the children and give the family their trim shake so they could make and sell hash. If someone had their tender sprouts eaten by mice or some other disaster, neighbors would donate new starts. 

As Johnny Casali of Huckleberry Hill Farms in Humboldt, who spent nearly 10 years in prison for a few plants, says of cannabis culture: “It’s about community— the special uniqueness in all of us in the way we express ourselves, but most of all in how we support each other in all times of life—we’re always here for one another.”

The day he got home, 30 people were gathered at his ranch bringing food, marijuana and his cannabis genetics they had kept alive for a decade.

In the numerous mountain regions of California, where the cannabis is still grown, farmers would share growing tips, genetics, pest management techniques, how to make compost teas and so on. Also in the mountains, the “Hill Witches” were making their potions, salves, tinctures, edibles and topicals and trading formulas, while others were experimenting with extractions, concentrates and hash making. People were always giving away seeds, starts, flowers, hash, medicines and ideas.

Ganja Boot Camp

But it was really hard work—we called it “Ganja Boot Camp.” Because of police raids, everyone grew in the woods under the canopy cover, preferably under the bright green manzanita bushes. You had to carry 50-pound bags of soil on your back up the mountain, crawling under the bushes, trying to hide your trail. The typical plant would yield only six to eight ounces because it wasn’t grown in full sun, but at $5,000 per pound you could still make a good living. 

Harvest and trimming were kind of a work/party scene, with trimmers who were family and friends, living in the house for five or six weeks, getting paid by the pound, listening to music, gossiping, staying up until midnight. When finished trimming, you would contact your dealer via a remote pay phone and use code words to tell them how much you had to sell. They would come up with “suitcases full of cash,” as my friend Maggie tells me, smoke one joint and take the whole crop, maybe 50 or 100 pounds. Alternatively, you could “run the gauntlet” from the Emerald Triangle to the Bay Area on Highway 101, with a few pounds of trimmed weed for your contact in “the city.”

Nikki and I moved up to the Emerald Triangle in the early 2000s, but we had known growers from Mendocino for years. We’d been dealers in San Francisco since the Sixties, and when possible, would score the primo sinsemilla from the Emerald Triangle to bring back to the city and sell. Occasionally, we would come up and help trim the fall harvest. Synchronistically, we met people living and growing in the mountains who had also lived in India and traveled the “Hippie Trail” as we did.

In regards to cannabis culture, Lindsay MacEwan, Director of Procurement and Product Development at Grassdoor Delivery, says: “The culture I have witnessed is buried deep in the Emerald Triangle amongst the tight knit communities that paved the way to get the cannabis industry to where it is today.”

Now all of this is admittedly “romanticizing” the cannabis counter-culture outlaw hero, but that is how we saw ourselves—as family and as stoner warriors, and we were all over the world. With a few cannabis connections you could travel to almost any city in the US, or any country in the world, and find dope and fellow smokers.

Above Ground

In the transition from an illegal underground economy to a legal, taxed and publicized commodity, much is changing in the world of cannabis. More internationals are entering the industry, and multistate operators have dozens of dispensaries in vertical operations in many states. Big Tobacco and Big Pharma are maneuvering for advantage. Stocks are traded on the Canadian stock exchange. Cannabis brands are advertising in glossy magazines. Retailers are spending millions on store displays. It sure is different, and most of us who opted for the legal market yearn for the “good old days” of the underground cannabis world. 

People do still recognize the sense of community that held us together back then, but as there is no longer a need for secrecy, we are forming trade organizations and starting farmers markets. Cultivators and manufacturers are beginning to brand their products and launch advertising campaigns.

PHOTO Swami Select

There is a rift in the old-time cannabis community between those pursuing the legal route and those who stayed in the underground or “traditional” market. We are still neighbors, but we don’t hangout like we did in the old days. If my neighbor has decided to still be working the traditional market, that’s their business and I really don’t care, but I would rather not know about it. That is, unless they have blown it up big and thereby done environmental damage to our beautiful mountains, meadows and streams. Then I care.

For me, in today’s cannabis world, community and inclusiveness are the key words. People are realizing that it isn’t just about smoking a joint and getting stoned. It’s about all the hundreds of ways that cannabis is a healing medicine for all ages and is a part of all cultures, ages, religions and sexual persuasions.

As Moses Flickinger, founder and CEO of Africali Culture says, “cannabis culture is the legacy farmer, generations of farmers who tend, till, build and respect the land. It is the mountain life that pulls you away to solitude. It’s the international travelers who thread the culture across the globe, working the seasons in California and seeding more freedom, friendships and communities. It’s the single mother who grew medicine to provide sustenance and stability for her children when there was no other way, the Brown folks who are the reason for the name marijuana, yet get left out, or the Blacks criminalized. 

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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.

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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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The Return of The Hall of Flowers

The past two years have affected us all in the cannabis business in unusual ways, from being on lockdown, to being declared an “essential business.” And now we’re fighting for survival in a difficult market.

Those who have survived were out in full force for the Hall of Flowers cannabis B2B show at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa, Sept. 22-23. Perhaps the most overheard comment during both the days of the event was, “What a joy it is to be together again.” At last, after such a long break, dedicated cannabis business entrepreneurs were given a chance to gather, laugh, hug and share stories.

Of course, the players are the same. The last Hall of Flowers event took place in 2019, where many of the original companies, distributors, retailers and farms were clearly not present at this week’s gathering. Instead, there were several new interesting (and sometimes flashy) businesses. For the old-timers it was a bittersweet reunion, recognizing the loss of compatriots who have recently quit while also feeling thrilled to see dear old friends who have shared the pathway to legality all these years.

Outdoor Activations Go All Out

Three large halls were filled with various booths. Outdoors, there were sprinklings of large, elaborate installations – some were two levels high, offering fantastic views over the open chill spaces on the lawn below. Ispire, one of the world’s largest vape manufacturers, built a fantastic area with a second-floor lounge space, complete with fan and mister to keep you truly chilled while smoking through one of their outrageous new dabbing device designs.

Meanwhile, CannaCraft blasted non-stop music from their 2nd story outdoor area, punctuated every half hour or so by reminders to keep your mask on at all times while inside the main halls. In light of the coronavirus, many precautions were taken: All guests were required to present proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 diagnostic test within 48 hours of entry. Testing kits were available on site for anyone who did not meet these requirements. While some participants complained, the extra security did afford everyone there the comfort to share careful hugs, fist-bumps and even some joints.

Finding Success Together

The Hall of Flowers is a unique B2B cannabis event. Participating brands paid well for their booth spaces, and curious guests (who were allowed entry on the second day only) also had a hefty entrance fee. Retailers and distributors, who wandered about making new connections, did not have a cover charge.

At each booth, vouchers were passed to interested visitors who wanted samples. Vouchers could then then be turned in at the “Dispensary Hall” where several salespeople efficiently redeemed them for their chosen samples. The customers paid only $3 for each sample, plus taxes, which was actually a good deal. Samples included pre-rolls, hash, topicals, edibles, carts and more. Guests mostly left the show with large bags bursting with $3 goodies.

Almost everyone agreed this was a very successful gathering, as many deals were made, which is the main objective. Wendy Baker, owner and founder of Space Gems edibles since 2013, is one of the old-timers in the biz at this point. In her opinion, Hall of Flowers is one of the very best cannabis events, affording her the opportunity to close deals and meet buyers from all parts of the U.S.

Baker shared her large booth space with Craig Nejerdley of Talking Trees, a regular winner at The Emerald Cup. Nejerdley does it all: He grows beautiful flowers and owns a distribution company and retail shop in Humboldt County. He is a community-oriented man who wants the best for his fellow cannabis companies. As he explained, “We will all only survive if we do this together.”

And isn’t that the core of cannabis philosophy? During the past few months, while the glut of mediocre cannabis grown in giant greenhouses hits the market, prices for legacy growers and brands is dropping, and the message is clear: We must join forces.

Cannabis Enterprises, Big and Small

Hall of Flowers in person B2B cannabis event September 2021.

Collaborations are the way to go for many – Radiant Distribution has a co-op brand for legacy farmers under the name Cosmic. Several of their farmers choose to donate 10 percent of each sale to the Last Prisoner’s Project, which is also a wonderful trend to see in the world of cannabis. As Peter Pietrangeli, VP of Sales at Cosmic said, “everyone on our supply chain has contributed.”

A few visitors did say the influence of “Big Business” was annoyingly evident. “You can smell more corporate cologne than weed in there,” commented one attendee upon leaving one of the large exhibit halls. But there was plenty of smoking was going on outside: At the Puffco booth, decked out with cozy white chairs and fake palm trees, Jessica Hwang from Feeling Frosty filled pipes for passersby and clearly loved seeing their contented smiles.

But there actually was perfume inside one of the halls, at the Drew Martin x Heretic booth. Martin himself offered whiffs of what he calls, “the world’s first THC-infused fragrance.” It was divine! Innovative products like this make our industry extra exciting. Some companies clearly catered to the Y and Z generations, some to an urban-slick style, and some to sophisticated elegance.

A big surprise was the guy from Talking Terps, Hope Lord, who is creatively making bank from cannabis, while never getting near the plant. Lord designs cannabis toys and clothing, and his quirky and colorful style has taken off. “I sold 300 of these Terp Crawford toys at $200 each in one hour today,” he said. Whoa. That is a good businessman who knows his demographic.

All kinds of cannabis enterprises, both big and small, were represented. Not to be missed was the Italian booth with 3 separate companies filling the space with cannabis delights: biscotti hashish and pre-rolls, authentic Italian edibles from Mammamia, and affordable concentrates from Tutti.

Even after a long day in the hot sun and warm halls, people were still ready to party. Several events took place all over Sonoma County, catering to the many facets of cannabis fans. For a group of people who have been so separate over the past 24 months, this was the perfect chance to re-learn how to socialize in public again.

Thanks, as always, to cannabis for bringing us together.

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How to Fireproof Your Cannabis Farm and Other Fire Safety Tips

Up here in the Mendocino Highlands we had another wildfire scare last week. The Bell Fire was just about four miles away from our ranch, at the bottom of the hill off Highway 101. Thanks to the immediate response of our Bell Springs Fire Brigade and the nearby CalFire station (plus a few helicopters and planes), it was contained rapidly and only burned 50 acres. Everyone living on the many properties in the surrounding area were evacuated in a hurry. This was not only a close call, but a warning.

Last year we also had more close calls. Two fires were about 15 miles away, one to the south east and another to the north east. Depending on wind speed and direction, 15 miles is not very far away. At one point we had to evacuate for three days due to a shift of the winds toward us, plus the intensity and density of the smoke. The sky at midday was a mixture of orange and black with white ashes falling like snow. It truly looked like hell on earth.

We have been thinking about fire preparedness for several years, as this is now the new unfortunate reality we live in. Hopefully these practices can help others avoid disaster.   

Preparing a Property for Fire Prevention

First off, CalFire has a list of recommendations that apply to all properties:

  • Clear a 100 feet “defensible space” around all structures, including combustable materials leaning against or under the house.
  • Trim and prune tree limbs and branches to at least five feet above ground to break the “fire ladder” of combustible material. Trim higher the closer they are to structures.
  • Clean out gutters regularly.
  • Mow your grassy areas, preferably in late spring, but if you do it later be careful of sparks from the mower blades. Or bring in goats to eat your grasses.
  • Have water hoses at hand.
  • Keep numerous fire extinguishers charged up to date, at least one per structure.
  • Make sure the address numbers to the property are large and posted at every turnoff along entrance roads, so firefighters can find your place.
  • Have emergency evacuation essentials packed, including animal carriers.
  • Have a plan for farm animals.

Beyond taking care of all of the above there are a number of things the savvy cannabis farmer can do.

Fire Prevention for the Cannabis Farm

It is a good idea to clean up fallen branches and leaves when mowing the meadow and pruning the trees. All of the branches can then be put through a wood chipper and set aside to weather through the winter. This pile can then be mixed with the leaves, grass cuttings and other compost and applied as top dressing to the cannabis beds in the springtime after it composts for a while.

Consider automating the drip irrigation system. Or if there is not a drip system, this is a good excuse to install one. It is not that difficult to place timers and solenoids on each branch of the system and the main supply line. Then, if an evacuation mandate comes, the timers will continue watering the crop.

Inspect any electrical supply lines and fixtures for frayed wires, proper fuses and system grounding. Install smoke detectors in buildings that are in use.

Properly store petroleum products and other combustable liquids away from structures to prevent burning embers from causing an explosion.

If possible, connect your own “mini-fire hydrant” to your water system with at least 6000 pressurized gallons of available water, and keep the water tanks full. We have a 1½ inch fire hose and just installed an adapter for the CalFire 2½ inch fire hose.

Plot out an alternate escape route if you live at the end of the road and the fire cuts off that exit. Clear fallen limbs and excess brush along the exit road.

When visitors arrive at the ranch, be aware that hot vehicle engines can start fires if the cars are parked in a field with tall grasses.

To mitigate accidental fires, we have a rule that you do not walk and smoke. Cannabis or tobacco, joint, bong or bowl –  if you smoke –  stop, sit down, use an ashtray, relax and be mindful.

What If You Have to Evacuate?

If evacuation is required, there is an emergency clause in the California cannabis regulations and Metrc guidelines whereby cannabis can be evacuated with emergency documentation by a licensed distributor. However, time is often of the essence. Therefore, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) allows licensees to transport their own cannabis off the premises if they give 24 hours notice and take the plants to a secured location with restricted access. However, each county may have specific requirements, so be sure to check in about this before a fire comes near.

One idea we stumbled upon in our fire-prevention research led us to buy a small trailer and outfit it with: a 200 gallon water tank, a gasoline transfer pump and a 1½ inch fire hose. We now have a “first response” fire trailer. This doubles as a way to bring compost tea to our second garden site, and triples as a way to spray water on the dirt road next to the garden for dust suppression. We performed fire drills for the crew to learn how to use the equipment.

Having a fire alarm signal audible to everyone on the farm and talking about fire awareness with all team members is crucial. On very smoky days with air quality over 100 AQI, everyone should use particle filtration masks, avoid strenuous tasks and long exposure to smoke –  inhaling even light smoke is not healthy. We have invested in some 3M 7502 respirators which cover half the face and allow for easy breathing.

Preserving the Crop

If you are spared an evacuation there is still work to be done for the crop. If a lot of ash has fallen on the plants, a leaf blower is the first step in protecting the girls from harm. Clear water can be sprayed on the leaf tops and backs. This will rinse off the ashes without making a lye paste – which some feared might happen during last year’s fire season. A water spray rinse will help open the stomata on the underside of the leaves, facilitating better plant “breathing.”

Last year, the worst smoke for us was in September. During harvest, just to be safe, right as we cut the plants and weighed them, we dunked each separate branch in a 55 gallon drum filled with diluted hydrogen peroxide. Then each branch was rinsed in a 55 gallon drum of clean water, changing the water after every four plants. None of the cultivars smelled of fire or tested for any contaminants.

These are some of the things to do to be prepared for an emergency. It has the benefit of keeping you occupied and taking your mind off the anxiety everyone feels during fire season. It’s not just about the house, your pets and all your possessions. It’s about the crop, the girls and the very way of life that has sustained us for many years.

Be safe! Be prepared! And may the Fire Gods spare us.

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The Ganjier: A New Class of Cannabis Professional

With the dawn of the legal cannabis world several years ago, many of us in the fledgling business realized that education was key to breaking the age-old stigmas around this healing plant. The public needed to learn that we were promoting Reefer Gladness, not Reefer Madness. To accomplish this, we asked ourselves how we could best spread the word about the benefits of cannabis.

Green Flower Media in Southern California, under the guidance of CEO and Co-Founder Max Simon, landed on a great solution: They created a strong online presence with a website that featured classes available to everyone, taught by masters from various segments of the cannabis world. Through successful marketing strategies and dedication to knowledge sharing, it has become a popular destination to learn about all things cannabis.

It was in early 2018 that Max Simon, along with cultivator Derek Gilman, and longtime master cannabis breeder Kevin Jodrey began discussing the possibility of creating a special program to train students in the deeper knowledge of cannabis. They called it The Ganjier Program.

Jodrey came up with the program’s original concept, which was modeled after the wine sommelier and other gustatory-based vocations. Simon offered his observation of a real need to train budtenders and others in the business so that they could better serve and inform the public. Educating consumers about cannabis while also giving recognition to the craft cannabis growers who cultivate connoisseur-quality weed was key. They also developed an innovative, exclusive assessment tool, which gave way to a global repository for cannabis data and information, accessible by Ganjiers worldwide.

This sage triumvirate gathered various experts together in order to create a syllabus for a training program, which was formalized into The Ganjier Certification Program. In addition to Jodrey, eighteen respected names in the cannabis field were chosen for their specific expertise and acumen, including: the late master hashishin Frenchy Cannoli; Patrick King, “The Soil King;” regenerative cultivator Swami Chaitanya; KNF cultivator Wendy Kornberg; legendary cultivator and botanist Mel Frank; cannabis advocate Amanda Reiman; concentrate processor Nikka T.; attorney Omar Figueroa; dispensary owner Aaron Varney; and noted industry scientists Jeff Raber of the Werc Shop, along with Josh Dixon and Alec Wurzer from SC Labs.

Yours truly was selected due to my experience running a small cannabis business along with my expertise in sales and my ability to provide customers exceptional service.

Designing the Ganjier Certification Program

We met several times over the course of a two-year-period to hammer out the courses. Some meetings were in person, during the pre-Covid days, and others took place via Zoom. Each of us was featured in a video tutorial covering our respective specialties—content that would be used to create course material for future students. With the intent of producing an entirely new class of cannabis professionals to enter the world, we discussed, debated and deliberated over what qualities the ideal Ganjier should have.

Courses ranged from the history of cannabis to consumption methods, botany and genetics, to cultivation techniques, processing methodologies and successful cannabis sales. Artfully executed service along with the ability to accurately assess flower and concentrates also made the list.

The Ganjier Program’s final product is the multi-stage, expert-led Ganjier Cannabis Sommelier Certification. The first step is the online portion, which includes 10 courses, 31 lessons, 30 hours of video content and hours of reading material. Each student may spend as long as it takes to complete the course studies online prior to advancing to the next step of live training sessions. Eventually, students move on to the final exams to gain their full certification. The focus of the two-day live training sessions is the SAP (Systematic Assessment Protocol.)

Live Training: A Voice for Quality

The primary purpose of becoming a Ganjier is to be the voice for quality in the cannabis space, and through SAP, students  discern how to accurately assess that quality. Swami and I joined a few other Ganjier Council members at a live training recently, and it was an eye-opening and heartfelt experience for us all.

Eighteen students from across the U.S. and representing all walks of life – from experienced growers to dispensary owners, edible producers, investment bankers and canna curious consumers — joined us in southern Humboldt County for the intensive instruction. A few came from The Emerald Triangle where we gathered, but for most, this was an opportunity to visit the home of the planet’s best sungrown cannabis.

On the first day together, we made introductions and discovered a whole lot about these future Ganjiers.

“Cannabis is not addictive, but growing it is,” commented Russ from New York City. Others made comments such as, “I’ve been hiding indoors for a long time in Texas,” or “I want to promote cannabis as a wellness lifestyle.”

Instructor Kevin Jodrey told this group of students that, in addition to their mutual love for cannabis, “You’re all part of a dream, driven by courage.”

Photos of several of the Ganjier Council members were hung on the walls, including one of Frenchy Cannoli who had passed away just a few days prior. Per the suggestion of Director Derek Gilman, we all shared a moment of silence for Frenchy, as well as many stories about the great man.

Our first communal lesson was about the art of the demeanor of a Ganjier in a social setting. As Jodrey, who has owned a dispensary along with his other credentials, pointed out, “Many customers think they know everything and the budtender knows nothing.” So how does the Ganjier train budtenders to help such customers, as well as the ones who are newbies and need full advice on how to get started? Aaron Varney, co-founder of the long-running successful Dockside Cannabis retail stores in Washington, led the discussion.

We talked about the art of “active listening” so that we can understand the customer’s needs and ensure they always leave feeling satisfied. Respect plays a major role, as the well-trained budtender will always consider a consumer’s state of mind: Are they grumpy from medical pain? Are they open to suggestions, or do they know exactly what they want? There is so much to consider.

We then broke out into sets of two and did some role playing, which was both fun and very useful. Next, we took a deep dive into the SAP, beginning with the entering of sample data. Each student had the SAP app downloaded on their device and had been given some buds of the same cultivar grown by Wendy Kornberg. To establish the base of the assessment, they entered what was known about the sample, including details such as harvest date, certification, lab results and more. Close-up photos of the samples were taken to accompany the review.

In the next step, we assessed the appearance of the buds. Every student was gifted a handsome 10x jeweler’s loupe engraved with the Ganjier logo, to gain a closer look into the flowers. Trichome density was observed, along with the structure, trim and maturity of the flower. Were any contaminants or pathogens spotted? Notes were made on the app about all this and more, and a final number was assigned to each segment of the assessment. Along the way, all of the instructors at this particular training offered guidance and information.

We then assessed the aroma, which was of course very important. The Ganjier does not judge a flower or concentrate by the THC content, or if it is a sativa or indica variety. Rather, the SAP assessment is more focused on the terpenes. To that end, each student was given a Terpene Palate Training Kit with ten tubes of the most common terps found in cannabis. Categories such as Intensity, Complexity and Uniqueness were considered. When it came time to name the prevalent aromas of the Super Sour Diesel buds from Wendy Kornberg, my favorite student description was “a truck stop next to a pine forest.”

The Ganjier Certification Program provides deeper cannabis education for budtenders and other cannabis professionals.

The next morning began with a tour of Kornberg’s beautiful cannabis farm tucked away in the Humboldt hills. We all ventured up a five-mile dirt road to her piece of paradise where she showed us her light-deprivation garden in various stages of growth. Sample branches of rough bud were even laid out for students to try their hands at trimming. Kornberg also demonstrated how to transplant a plant from pot to soil while Patrick King spoke about “how to turn your ‘dirt’

into soil.” Several students eagerly helped Kornberg with the transplanting. I remember the smiles on their faces well. This was a precious experience indeed.

In the Classroom: Assessing Flavor and Effects

Back in the classroom that afternoon, we dove into the two final segments of the SAP: Assessing Flavor and Effects. This meant lighting up at last. Everyone rolled their own joint and got right to work assessing the flavor. Was it full-bodied? How intense was the taste? Clearly, the Sour Diesel had a gassy zest to it, and since these buds were so fresh (harvested just a couple weeks prior) we took that into consideration. The flavors students described ranged from bacon grease to smoked applewood.

Last, and certainly not least, it was the time to judge the cannabis’ effects. We decided this cultivar offered a balanced and clear mental effect, while the physical component was definitely stimulating. As Moses from Mendocino said, “It’s go-go-go.” King expressed how he had smoked a different cultivar during lunch which had made him sleepy, but now he was wide awake. Even after a considerable amount of time, people felt anxious and expressed sentiments such as, “I just want to go take a hike!” These are classic effects from Sour Diesel, and so we decided to categorize it as “Common” under the uniqueness category, which is not a bad thing. If a Ganjier is also a store buyer, for example, they may need to sample several varieties in a day, so we discussed how to take time in between to receive the full effects.

Now that everyone was fully high and educated, we wrapped up the two-day live training with comments from the students and teachers.

“I am so happy to be a part of this pioneering class,” said Chris from Michigan. “I got some real nuggets of wisdom to take away,” declared Erika from Missouri. Many expressed their joy of forging new friendships with both fellow students and instructors and how “getting my hands in Wendy’s soil” and “smoking a Swami joint” were real highlights.

The final step for the students to achieve their Ganjier Certification is to take a three-part test. This includes multiple-choice questions based on their previous studying of videos on the app, performing a service role play with an instructor, and finally assessing a sample with the SAP in full detail. When one student asked how best to prepare, Swami suggested “Study, study, study and smoke, smoke, smoke!”

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