Compiled by Danny Danko & Nico Escondido
Our cultivation correspondents from around the globe reveal the secrets of this year’s growing season, from weather patterns and strain choices to huge yields of bumper crops.
As you might guess, HIGH TIMES spends a lot of time in California. We even have a satellite office out there these days, not to mention holding two Medical Cannabis Cups in San Francisco in the past two years. Today, a few things are clear when it comes to the state of cannabis in Cali.
To start with, California is hands down the world’s leading producer of cannabis. This is no small claim, especially considering the spaciousness and political climate (or lack thereof) in our neighbors to the north and south. But Mexican and Canadian production have both taken a hit in the past decade, due largely to the lull in demand for their product in the US. There is one big reason for this: medical marijuana, plus the ensuing onslaught of US states legalizing it. Of course, California is the reason we have medical marijuana in the US, thanks to Proposition 215, which was passed way back in 1996. And California still leads the way when it comes to the production and science of cannabis, with Colorado coming in as a distant second.
While it may be surprising to some to think that California can out-produce countries such as Mexico, Canada or even areas of Africa like Morocco with its mountains of marijuana plantations, we must remember that California is the site of regular DEA raids (thanks a lot, Obama) that bust up farms containing tens of thousands of plants – and those busts have just scratched the surface of what’s really going on in the wild West Coast. It’s a safe bet that even the indoor growers over in Holland would be in awe of the vast amounts of cannabis harvested every fall in NorCal.
Okay, but quantity aside, what about quality? Well, that’s an interesting topic of debate. While Amsterdam, Denver or Vancouver can’t argue much with total production stats, they may very well lay claim to having the best strains on the planet. And with good reason: Amsterdam and Vancouver have been in the game for quite some time, and we all know they both have some truly excellent varieties. In fact, both the Netherlands and Canada can be viewed, in a manner of speaking, as the capo di tutti capi when it comes to breeding and strain hybridization (for better and for worse). But California, at least these days, is home to some of the world’s most popular genetics (OG Kush, Sour Diesel, Granddaddy Purple, Grape Ape – the list goes on and on). Some attribute this to the sheer size of the state’s population and also the fact that it’s squarely within the US marketplace, which is also a trendsetter. However, there is one other state that also has a more than reasonable place in this debate: Colorado.
So as a little experiment, we decided to put our new HIGH TIMES Cannabis Scoring System (unveiled in early 2011 at the HIGH TIMES Medical Cannabis Cup in Denver) to the test and use the results from the Medical Cups in both Denver and San Francisco this year to find out exactly who has the best-quality herb in the country. (And if you come from some other state that also wants in on this debate, email us and we’ll hold a Cup in your town!) The scoring system is completely numeric and relies on a two-page score sheet. One page goes to the judges and is completely qualitative in nature, accounting for 70 percent of the total score. The other page is completely quantitative and relies solely on the results from lab testing. So who do you think won when the results from both states were matched against each other?
Taking into consideration the differences in the judges’ personal preferences, it’s fair to assume a plus/minus differential of one or two points (meaning that, for all intents and purposes, any scores within that differential are basically equal). So, with that in mind, the envelope, please … and wouldn’t you know it, we have a tie! Toting up the average scores of the first-place winners in the three main flower categories (sativa, indica and hybrid), the results are 77.5 for San Francisco, and 79.6 for Denver.
Well, Cali, it looks like you guys will have your work cut out for you in 2012! –Nico, HT Cultivation Editor
In Colorado, 2011 was another successful year in the progress of our medical-marijuana movement (and industry), both for the state and the country. The Rocky Mountain State hosted its first-ever HIGH TIMES Medical Cannabis Cup in Denver and saw the return of the Bong-a-thon, a stoner favorite, for the first time in 12 years.
Enthusiastic participants were lucky to attend one of the top marijuana events in the world at the Medical Cannabis Cup this past April. A panel of expert judges from within the local medical industry had a week to agree on the best sativas, indicas and hybrids, as well as the many different solvent and non-solvent concentrates. In the end, it was clear that this event rivaled any of the other primo pot competitions out there and made a huge statement about the quality of herb in CO (we’re looking at you, Cali).
Not only did Colorado host some great ganja events in 2011, but it also continued its progress in setting the standards for the medical community across the country. A state that was once referred to as the “green-rush state” a couple of years back because of the almost total absence of regulations is now on its way to becoming a well-oiled (and regulated) machine – a machine that continues to create legitimate jobs for an entire industry, produces tons of revenue for the state, and earns local business owners a living in this tough economy.
Mother Nature has blessed the central state with a good deal of rain and sunshine week after week in the summer of 2011. This allowed gardens to flourish in what is sometimes a tricky growing environment, largely due to the brutal, impromptu storms. Even though greenhouses are not a large part of the medical growing scene yet, more and more of them are popping up across Colorado, making what was already a pot-enriched state more bountiful with the popular flower.
Some of the strains that seemed to dominate the past year in Colorado include a few Chemdog crosses, such as Snowdawg (which took home the first-place sativa honors at the Denver Cup) and Whitedawg. Other popular strains include Banana Kush, Island Sweet Skunk, Durban Poison, and the ever-popular Skunk/Northern Lights hybrid that floats around the state under various names, depending on who you’re talking to.
With the medical movement getting stronger and stronger every month, and with great events and organizations like SAFER (Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation) doing their share, there’s no doubt that Colorado will continue to be a large part of the Global Harvest Report and the source of great medical-marijuana success stories in the future. Keep growing, Colorado! –Felix Green, HT Cultivation Correspondent
Lawmakers continue to stall the inevitable medical-marijuana bill in New York State, but patients did get a bit of good news recently when Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that he was softening his stance and willing to review the issue further. If the state does pass legislation, growers and investors are poised to set up shop here in “New Amsterdam” (a.k.a. New York City), as well as all over the rest of the state. Now that gay marriage has passed, city residents and upstate tokers alike have turned their efforts to getting marijuana-law reform passed as soon as possible.
New York smokers have been appreciating an influx of new strains along with old standbys such as the notorious Sour Diesel. A few extreme sativas have entered the market, with Nigerian Silk, Vietnamese Dalat and Dr. Grinspoon leading the way. These varieties produce an electric, uplifting high that’s truly appreciated on the busy streets of the Big Apple.
A brutal heat wave followed by near drought-like conditions did some serious damage to the outdoor grows upstate. Smart farmers set up strong greenhouses and watered by hand, sometimes twice a day, to keep their plants happy and healthy during the tough dog days of summer. Those that made it through August were able to appreciate a mild fall and a nice harvest come early October to salvage what could have been a disastrous season.
New Yorkers entered the Thanksgiving season with plenty to appreciate – and much to look forward to in the coming months as well. –Danny Danko, HT Senior Cultivation Editor
Cannapharm legally cultivates medical cannabis under federal guidelines here in Canada. One of the hottest strains in their line-up is a rare (and, at one time, very tightly held) Kush variety known as Tuna. This particularly hard-hitting Kush strain has only occasionally surfaced outside of some very select circles over the last 10 years in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland.
It’s rumored that the strain gets its name from its incredibly strong aroma, as well as the fact that at one time it was only available in tin cans (you actually had to use a can opener to get your buds out). Sounds like overkill? Well, it wasn’t at all—if you’ve ever had the pleasure of handling some Pharm’d Tuna, you already know that penetrating odor and can certainly agree that these crystal-laden buds are worthy of increased protection in handling to preserve all of their connoisseur qualities. And Cannapharm grows all of their Tuna using the Advanced Nutrients line, so you know it’s as potent as it’s going to get.
Cannapharm has been able to bridge the gap between quiet success and widespread availability with this amazing strain, and they proudly offer it to Canadian patients who are authorized to purchase it as per Canada’s Medical Marihuana Access Division. Each package of medical-grade, high-potency Tuna buds even has a special embossed security sticker assuring the purchaser that they’ve in fact received the real deal.
Tuna grows tall and lanky and requires a serious amount of veg time to achieve enough stature to offer respectable yields per plant. These buds are grown in soil to help bring out the complexity in their aroma and flavor while delivering the potency that Tuna tokers seek. Flowering time is typically eight to nine weeks, with at least a two-week flush period to help remove any excess nutrients from the growing medium and plant, delivering nothing but nature’s medicine for those fortunate enough to get their hands on it.
Patients who prefer the strong effects of strains like Bubba Kush and OG Kush have turned to the Tuna for its potency, and they report that it’s especially helpful for those who have developed high tolerances for their medicine and who enjoy the euphoric feeling along with the stronger physical effects. –Erik Biksa, HydroponicsAccess.com
“Sustainable” and “underground” are probably the two words that best describe the Hawaiian grow scene. Hawaii has some of the craziest rules of any of the 16 medical-marijuana states, and many essential cultivation products must be imported, which means that the demand and price for supplies here are both high. Growing in Hawaii just isn’t as cheap or as easy as it is for the rest of the country: The Hawaiian grower is typically a very determined and dedicated individual who grows a higher grade of pot for his (or her) own personal use, plus a small circle of friends and workers.
The laws of Hawaii allow you to cultivate medical marijuana, but you cannot purchase the plant in clone form or seeds anywhere on the islands. Also, there are no dispensaries here because the sale of marijuana is prohibited. So if you really think about it, all you can do is grow it!
A large influx of imported California buds seems to dominate the Hawaiian market. Popular strains like Sour Diesel, Blue Dream and Bubba Kush are easy to find, and so are lots of high-quality extracts. While traveling Hawaii, it’s not uncommon to come across some proper bubble hash or even some great Nepalese temple balls that rival any non-solvent hash. With real estate at such a premium on these islands, it’s no surprise that it’s much easier to import than grow.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t people here taking the risk to grow indoors and out. The main island of Hawaii is where most of the large outdoor grow operations are based, mainly because of logistics: It’s really the only island where you can hope to keep it “off the grid” and away from helicopter recon missions. Native strains like the Blood, Maui Wowie, the Death and the Widow seem to account for the majority of the pot being grown by old-school Hawaiian farmers and families.
Personal growers still hold their own in the islands, especially when it comes to unique and flavorful varieties.
Next time you’re in Honolulu (or on the island of Oahu), hopefully you’ll be fortunate enough to come across some tasty Raspberry deliciousness – all-medical, usually all-organic, and one hell of a smoke. Aloha! –Felix Green, HT Cultivation Correspondent
There are several new things to report in Holland this year. For starters, the Kushes have finally been making their way onto the menu in various coffeeshops. They first began turning up after the introduction a few years back of the OG 18 and LA Confidential. One of the more notable new arrivals this year is the White OG from Karma Genetics, which won third place at last year’s Cannabis Cup. This is one of the few new strains popping up sporadically on several menus this year. There have been a few other Kushes appearing in shops like the Bluebird, the Katsu, the Grey Area and the Hunter’s. The problem is that they sell out as quickly as they come in – and when they do arrive, it’s always in small amounts.
The Amnesia Haze is very prevalent these days, appearing under multiple names on menus across town. You can find it as Super Silver Haze, Bubblegum Haze and even just plain Haze. Most of the Amnesia being grown originates from the Hy-Pro cut. Hy-Pro is a nutrient and seed company in the south of Holland. The owner created Amnesia Haze in the late ’80s (or early ’90s) as well as a nutrient line. Both the nutes and the Amnesia have won countless prizes in Dutch and world competitions over the years. What’s nice about the nutrient line is that it’s inexpensive and it works, delivering huge yields and buds with a phenomenal taste. It’s also incredibly simple to use—for soil there’s a one-part formula, and for hydro a standard two-part A and B mix. They also have an excellent foliar feed and rooting stimulator.
As far as tech goes, things usually stay relatively the same around here, as most Dutch growers have a hard time breaking their old habits and adopting new technology in their grows. That said, there are still some new tech advances that are slowly being incorporated into grow shops and growrooms. These would include the introduction of CO2 as well as the new digital ballasts (and the bulbs that go with them). I know that for American growers, CO2 is nothing new, but it’s taken quite some time for it to be more widely used here in Holland.
One last notable change was seen in September and October with the introduction of feminized autoflowering seeds to the local outdoor grow scene. The benefit with these seeds, of course, is that the plants finish early, which in our northern climate can be quite handy, as it tends to get cold in the beginning of October. The reports on their yields have also been good, so it’ll be interesting to see how the finished fruit tastes come harvest time. –Harry Resin, HT Cultivation Correspondent
The day when people will be able to smoke a carefully grown Manga Rosa on a pearly white, sandy beach while looking at the emerald green ocean and enjoying a caipirinha may not be too far off. Brazil, like Mexico and Colombia, is a raging battlefield in the War on Drugs, but the times seem to be a-changing. In 2006, a clumsy law tried to decriminalize personal use, and although it’s possible to smoke a joint with relative safety on beaches, in public squares and in the streets, a crooked and murderous police force keeps on killing, arresting and extorting users, growers and dealers, relying on an overly conservative judicial system to support its corruption.
But the public debate has been blown wide open thanks to the initiatives taken by the Brazilian Marijuana March – bigger, stronger and more widespread every year – as well as the many public authorities and major media conglomerates that have come out of the closet on this subject. In May of this year, the brutal repression of marijuana activists by the police in São Paulo sparked an angry backlash and forced the Brazilian Supreme Court to rule on a petition in favor of the Marijuana March, which had been ignorantly prohibited by many municipal courts in previous years. And now it seems that we’ll be able to legalize the medicinal and religious use of marijuana, as well as home growing, sooner than we once thought.
The history of marijuana has ancient roots in Brazil, starting with the hemp sails on the first Portuguese ships that arrived here, as well as the seeds brought by the African slaves those ships carried. Those seeds found the perfect growing conditions in these lands, but marijuana was heavily frowned upon by the racist social order that profited from slavery. But marijuana continued to develop clandestinely throughout our history, relying on the contributions of slaves and indigenous people who have added, through their breeding practices, unique features to the plant. But for the ruling elite, marijuana always remained a threat and was finally prohibited in 1830 for the first time (though it kept being sold in drugstores nationwide until the beginning of the 20th century).
This cultural history – including the fact that marijuana is a part of many native religions in Brazil – has resulted in a unique genetic heritage used to create such strains as White Widow, Bahia Black Head, El Niño and Leda Uno. In the northeast of the country – one of our primary cannabis-producing regions – you will find the aforementioned fabled Manga Rosa strain, a gentle sativa with a very cerebral high and a pinkish tone to the buds. However, it’s generally cultivated for the local markets, which means that the strain doesn’t often find its way to the southeast of Brazil, where São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are located. Those cities have their weed supply coming mainly from Paraguay: It’s called prensado, which refers more to the packaging method (in which the buds are pressed together in a brick) than its genetic heritage, which is very hard to trace. Growers who venture to plant this seed usually find that it’s a sativa made for the outdoors, which often makes growing her inside a tricky enterprise.
The indoor grow scene is widespread in Brazil, with Internet forums such as Growroom.net (which has over 40,000 active accounts) providing a solid database for the amateur grower. “The climate in Brazil is good, the land is well-suited, and there’s lots of sun for outdoor growing. But for safety reasons, most growers choose to go inside and take care of their plants without worrying about nosy neighbors,” notes William Lantelme, the founder of Growroom.net. One thing’s for sure: With today’s information and technology, Brazil is quickly catching up to the other big marijuana-producing nations. After all, we have the space and the manpower to make it happen. –Pedro Noguiera
As is usual in Australia, extreme weather conditions over the summer months wreaked havoc not only with the quality and yield of our outdoor crops, but also their very existence. In the past few years, terrible bushfires sent most of Australia’s top-quality herb up in smoke – and not in the good way. This year, the extreme flooding in the state of Queensland washed away numerous large-scale grows.
Consequently, the void has been filled by some of the country’s more pioneering indoor growers. This year, real efforts were made to deliver a product akin to what one finds in the US and European markets (a notion that was previously nonexistent amongst Aussie connoisseurs). Success was achieved with quality strains such as the Super Lemon Haze, which proved extremely popular not only for its potency, but also its sweet scent. Alaskan Ice was also a rare find, but an extremely pleasant and welcome one to the locals.
Given the failure of a large chunk of our outdoor crops, one would have expected the prices to skyrocket, as we’ve indeed experienced in recent years. Strangely, however, this year the prices have actually fallen, with quarter-ounce bags now costing around Au$75 ($79 US).
The outlook for “mul” (our slang term for “weed”) is looking better than ever in Australia. Even though the weather has been unkind, the ingenuity and tenacity of the Australian grower is starting to prevail, producing high-quality cannabis that can truly hold its own in the global marketplace. –Conrad McGilligan
This year’s harvest south of the border may as well be known as “Harvest Season of the Dead.” It certainly seemed to be the Day of the Dead here all year long, with 30,000 to 40,000 narco-muertos having occurred in Mexico since President Felipe Calderón of the PAN coalition took office and began his anti-crime campaign. The country is bristling with huge weapons in the hands of young men dressed like storm troopers. Random roadblocks and checkpoints outfitted with heavy machine guns mounted on pickup trucks Somalia-style are everywhere, but the beat goes on and Americans are still smoking plenty of Mexican sinsemilla nuggets. The small farmers are the ones being hurt the most, and the bulk of the nation’s soldiers have been deployed in the indigenous regions. Hardball tactics are being used against the most peaceful and benign of farmers, while over in Sinaloa, home of a powerful cartel, the largest marijuana farm in the history of Mexican drug enforcement was discovered this past July. Mexicans are wondering why the Obama administration continues to fund such blatant human-rights violations.
It is difficult – almost impossible – to harvest, cure and dry any plants before the rains stop in early November. The first colitas we can smoke arrive around Christmas time, but the best are harvested in late spring before the next rainy season begins. Photoperiod – the varying length of the day’s natural sunlight – is not as much of a factor here because of our proximity to the equator. The rainy season is the bigger factor: Rain in Mexico is a good thing, and last year we were blessed. The original landrace sativa (think Oaxacan or Acapulco Gold) still grows wild, but the producers now plant a criollo variety that produces 2- to 3-foot-tall spikes. The plants look like they’re from Afghanistan, with broad leaves and dense tops, more ruderalis than indica. The smoke is dark and hashy, and sticky oil clogs the big joints we roll. The product is sold in rolled-up newspapers, thick tubes called huatos, and the supply is inexhaustible. A kilo of gooey buds with almost no seeds goes for around $300 or less! But genetically superior seeds are scarce, and because of the high cost of government electricity, greenhouses and indoor growrooms are scarce as well. We grow outdoors beneath the hot chili-pepper sun, and the gardens love it.
As for the future, we shall prevail! PAN and Felipe Calderón will be voted out of power, the soldiers sent home, and the light of truth and right will shine on Mexico again. Despite recent legislation that legalized the possession of small amounts of almost every kind of drug, drug use among young people has not increased. Groups all over Mexico are looking to the future of medical marijuana, with even the most conservative acknowledging that it has its uses as a light analgesic, good for combating the symptoms of stress and anxiety. (Have you ever felt those?) Here in Oaxaca, Dr. Cesar Chavez founded AMMO, the Oaxaca Medical Marijuana Association (email email@example.com for more info), and he’s lobbying the Oaxacan government to fund medical-marijuana research with the hope of supplying international markets. –Jack Chastaine
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