Recently, I was fortunate enough to meet with Malek, the HIGH TIMES Cannabis Cup multi-award-winning breeder of The Vault Genetics, who is also the grower for a dispensary in Denver, CO called MMJ America. Together, the companies have grown and introduced several award-winning strains in Denver over the past two years. In 2013, MMJ America won second place in the Indica category with the Larry OG, but came back in 2014 and took the first place spot with the strain. During the 2014 Amsterdam Cannabis Cup alone,The Vault Genetics took home three Cups home: first place for Colorado Bubba, first place for Larry OG, and first for the Kong 73u Nederhash in collaboration with @Kushie_Kandy & @Miss__Greenthumb! I congratulated him, asked if he could answer a few questions and smoke a few joints over an interview that covered the Amsterdam Cannabis Cup, his new seed line, what's in the works for the future, and a few other random cannabis topics.
Where are you originally from?
I was born in Hollywood, CA, but when I was much younger, I moved to Houston, TX way before I could have any memories of it. I am Lebanese by descent. I pretty much grew up in Houston all the way to 25. When I was 25, that's when I came out to Colorado. That was about early 2010.
How did you get started growing weed?
Well, I always interested in it. I was always a fan of smoking it, acquiring it, and just learning about it. It always interested me in finding really good weed and enjoying different kinds of good weed, and the progression of the weed. Where I'm from, it would be hard to find good stuff, because it was mostly schwag out there.
In 2009, I went to the Amsterdam Cannabis Cup. I went to go check out a few grow seminars and to acquire some seed packs with the intent to come back and grow. I was talking to all these dudes from California, Canada, Europe, and I was living in Texas at the time. By then, I'd grown a handful of plants a friend of mine had given me. The plant was White Russian; an AK-47 cross. All I had was a little "Ebb and Flow" system. It was very unsuccessful.
So going to Amsterdam to check out the grow seminars really helped. When I was talking to these guys from California, Europe, and Canada, I was telling them what I was about to do out in Texas—putting up thermal shields, venting hot air from the rooms, and cooling those rooms, and so on. These guys were like "Dude, you're fuckin' crazy! Why are you wasting your time in a place where it's heavily illegal?"
By that time, Colorado started to blow up big, and I already had a friend out in CO around 2009-2010 tell me this was the place to be. So in early 2010, I finally came out here. I popped up a little four-light grow in my basement, and I was a caregiver for only five people at the time. I had about 30-40 plants growing for those five patients. I started off with Foxfarm Organic. Doing a little bit of an organic vegetative, and organic bloom. I purchased some nice clones from various dispensaries. No mites, no bugs, no mold or mildew, no problems.
When 2011 came around, I was shopping at Broadway Wellness a lot. I met one of the owners, Steve, and told him I wanted a job. He ignored me several times. I kept sending in my resume multiple times before he asked me how many lights I was running. I was only running four. I really didn't know what to expect. He got me an interview, and I got into Broadway Wellness. They were probably around a 400-light grow. At that time, I just started helping them out and asked them if I could work in veg. I ended up working the flower room. I only worked there for about six months.
My buddy ended up getting hired as MMJ America's lead. He soon got me an interview there, because he knew I wanted to go somewhere bigger and better. Soon, I got hired and started off as a helper in the garden. When I first got to MMJ America, they weren't even harvesting four times a year. Once I started, I bumped them up to six times a year. Before I got in, they were yielding substantially less, and I immediately increased the yields in each room, easily. Now, compared to when we first started, I can get around a gram per watt now. It took me a little while to get to that point to understand the plants' environment, proper feeding schedules and not wasting time.
When did you start Vault Genetics?
In 2013 after we won second place with the Larry OG. We contacted Swerve, and I felt like it was necessary to reach out to someone to try and get a push, or a start somehow. His genetics and seeds were a good place to start. So when I reached out to him, he helped, and we started the Vault Genetics. We did out first fun of regular seeds in 2014, got them packaged, sold and tested all last year.
Which strains does The Vault Genetics carry?
The first round was all started from a Chem 91 x SFV male that pollinated a variety of The Cali Connect's females they were growing at the time such as Original Sour Diesel, OGiesel, Headband, Buddha Tahoe, Cali Dreamin', and several others. There was a couple different phenos, and a large variety between the different phenos. The feminized line is going to come down soon. Skywalker OG reversed to everything from Lemon Skunk, Colorado iBubba, I have a Larry OG in there, a Kosher Kush, Purple Urkle, Lavender, a landrace Lebanese strain that makes good hash and is good for breeding… and several others.
There are a lot of different Bubbas out there. Which are the ones you are growing and breeding with? Which pheno?
I can't guarantee you what it is, but what I have been told it was the "Katsu Cut." It's the one floating around Colorado. Haven't really seen it outside of CO. In CA, their Bubba is different. Even when I was in TX, that Bubba must have been coming from the West Coast, because it wasn't the same Bubba we have out here [in CO]. This pheno has something like a Flo, or Purple Thai to it. Where it came from, who crossed it in there, I don't know. Amsterdam, I don't really know. The Green House in Amsterdam, their Bubba Kush is apparently Bubblegum crossed with one of their Kush strains. I really can't tell you much about this Bubba, other than how I acquired it.
Which other Cannabis Cups have you entered?
I have only done Denver 2012, '13 and '14; and Amsterdam '14. In 2012, we entered a Hawaiian Bubba, and Larry OG and didn't place that year, but in 2013, we got second place with it. In 2014, we came back and got first place with the Larry OG winning in Denver; and Amsterdam, first with Kong 73u Nederhash in collaboration with @Kushie_Kandy/@Miss__Greenthumb, and first with the Colorado Bubba in Amsterdam '14. I was lucky with the Bubba, because I had three batches to choose from. Both of the winning strains came from the commercial warehouse. Not even in a small room; right alongside with all the other strains in the big room.
How long were the Bubba and Larry you entered curing for?
Almost a month. I think the extra long cure takes away from the taste. I know people who do a 2-6 month cure. I don't go that long because I feel that it loses flavor in 4-6 weeks. I feel 2-3 weeks, almost a month I've noticed the herb is really tasty. When you see the buds start turning amber, it's just too old.
What are some of the more higher yielding strains you've grown?
Jack Herer was over 500 grams in a five-gallon bucket at MMJ America. It was about 526 grams; one pound Larry, per plant. About 2.6 Pounds a light. Top notch section. Screamin' Haze Yields fat, Flo dumps, and Blue Dream always.
How many strains do you guys carry?
MMJ America has over 100 strains.The Vault Genetics only have 10 crosses for regular seeds, and now with the feminized line, we will have another variety to test out. Figure out what works and what doesn't. We are working in bigger rooms so we can do more crosses. They're all crossed to Skywalker in that room right now.
One whole room of strains hit with Skywalker pollen to all your genetics?
Yeah, that will be the first round of all of our crosses for the feminized line.
Will any of your genetics be on the shelves at MMJ America?
Yes. As far as seed-form, they are already there for sale; $50 a pack all regular seeds, but the feminized will be out in the next few months.
How about in flower-form?
Yes. Some already hit the shelves, and are available for people to come in and purchase, but it's going to be the only round for a little while; pheno hunting right now.
How did you source your genetics? Are they ALL from The Cali Connection?
The Bubba, one of my friends has been growing for years and he brought it in-house about three years ago. It's been one of our favorites to smoke. Everything else pretty much came through Swerve from Cali Connect. He's been hooking me up with good clones and seeds for like the past year and a half now.
Will you be focusing on more popular genetics, or will you be looking for those ol' skoo, heirloom/landrace strains?
We are crossing the Durban Poison with a few things. We got Durban x Skywalker. As far as older strains, we crossed the Skywalker to the Lemon Skunk, the Flo, Bubba, Lavender, possibly a Chocolate Kush which is Chololope x OG-18, and a few others, so pretty much a lot of classics were focusing on.
Any sativas in your seed line?
We don't have a straight sativa, but we do have the Cali Dreamin' cross which is Blue Dream x Kali Mist. The seeds we tested from it didn't lean towards sativas, it was much more of a sativa-dominant hybrid. Unfortunately the SFV x Chem '91 Male is what hit the Cali Dreamin', so a good SFV-hybrid is the best I got from them.
The XJ-13 you also entered into Amsterdam – will you be breeding with that, as well?
Yeah, we will give it a try. We will see how it takes. I really tried to use the Larry, and I got very few seeds back from that. Just enough to test with.
Do you plan on working with other seed companies or doing a collaboration with anyone in the future?
We do have a Lemon Skunk cross coming out soon. Skywalker OG x Lemon Skunk. That's one done right there. We did Skywalker OG x DJ Short's Flo. Its not necessary a collab, but I did meet up with DJ Short. I met Arjan, he's supposed to come out and check out the garden. I'm very open to work with everybody.
Everyone has a preference; which strains do you like?
Larry, Bubba, Lemon Skunk, Flo, I do like a lot of purple strains like Purple Urkle. I don't smoke a lot of sativas, but I do enjoy a Trainwreck we just got, and our XJ-13. I'm really enjoying Cookies, now that I learned it. I'm going to try and cross it now. I like Hazes, too. When I'm in Amsterdam, it's always nice smoking on the Hazes.
Do you not like sativas because they take long?
I understand they have a lot of good flavor for oils, and they're great for extraction, and they have lots of terps… it just doesn't get me as high. It doesn't get me what I'm looking for.
If people want access to the Cannabis Cup-winning clones, will they have access to them?
As far as I would consider, yes, but I would have to ask the owner(s), and it would probably depend on certain contingencies if we are going to give it out to the public, or trade with other people.
Pros and cons on feminized seeds?
Obvious pro is, if you don't have time to pick out males, or the knowledge to understand how to pick them out, feminized seeds should help you. But the reality is that you should know that because it's common knowledge. If you don't have the time for it, that's the biggest pro of feminized seeds is that you don't have to waste time picking out males.
The con would be a possible herm in your grow. With feminized seeds, it just seems to happen more often because it's a trait that's passed on frequently. You lose the ability to breed back to that strain or another strain. A lot of much older strains aren't as available today because they won't take the whole feminizing process well. If they end up losing all the old males, and didn't feminize, the strain was lost.
What's your opinion on storing pollen?
As long as you are able to keep it in a cool, dark and dry place… make sure you get all the flowers out of it when your storing pollen so you don't have any moisture. I tried to store a couple once, but I wasn't successful.
Will all of the feminized strains that you put on the market be tested and stabilized first? Will they be tested for pollen sacs, and active pollen?
I can't guarantee that. I have tested seeds from everybody, and I really can't tell you I got a line of seeds out and never got a herm. Ever. Especially in a fem line. The herms from regs weren't as common. I call it "dual-sexing" sometimes. I will guarantee that I will test them, and do my best for as much viability as I can, but to guarantee to not see a herm would be a false statement.
What's your opinion on feminized seeds compared to regular seeds. Do you feel that the regular females grow differently from feminized females?
Definitely a few herms in the fem lines. I don't care whose fem line it is, every fem line I've tried, I have seen herms. Now do all those herms flower have pollen? No. Not necessarily. It's a case-by-case scenario.
What are your plans for 2015?
Definitely come hard at the Denver Cannabis Cup. We're hoping to get a U.S and a Medical Cup. As the seed company, were trying to expand and get the feminized line out. Also, trying to get MMJ America developed a little bit further. New grows, hopefully in new states, with the potential to open nationwide.
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