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Come see us at Booth# 514
We want to help you “Know Your Grow”
Cannabis Grow Cycle
Cannabis plants are highly sensitive to changes in light and temperature. Understanding the optimal growing conditions for your particular region is crucial especially for outdoor cultivators. In this article, we will focus on the Northern Hemisphere growing patterns, particularly New Mexico.
During the grow cycle, cannabis goes through four main stages: germination/seedling, vegetive, flowering and harvest. The stages of growth can vary slightly depending on the specific climate, strain, and cultivation techniques. For optimal plant health, it is important to understand the stages of plant growth. Indoor cultivators typically experience a faster vegetative state and a longer flowering state while outdoor cultivators typically experience the opposite. Outdoor cultivation allows for nature to aid with the transition between these stages as the light cycle naturally changes. Cultivating indoors relies on the growers to manually change the light exposure for each stage.
Spring – Germination/Seeding Stage
At the onset, one of the biggest decisions a cultivator must make is what they want to grow. In New Mexico, the cannabis growing season begins in the spring, around the end of March into early May. This is when temperatures start to rise, and the risk of frost has passed. This is the optimal time for outdoor growers to start germinating seeds or transplanting seedlings into the ground.
Cannabis seeds come in many forms such as regular, feminized, and auto-flower. Feminized and auto-flower seeds contain only the y chromosome which provide a strong probability of obtaining female plants. Regular cannabis seeds, however, contain both the x and y chromosomes. This means the plant has a 50/50 chance of producing a male or female plant.
Male plants produce high amounts of pollen and very few cannabinoids while female plants produce the impressive cannabis flower that consumers see on the shelves. Pollen from a male plant will contaminate any female plant it comes in physical contact with. This is detrimental to crops of feminized plants because the plant will go through a change called hermaphroditism. To avoid this concern, growers often turn to cannabis laboratory DNA testing. Through the analysis of plant DNA, laboratories provide growers with the information they need to better understand the crop they’re working with.
Summer – Vegetive Stage
he summer season provides the ideal conditions for cannabis vegetation. Cannabis plants thrive in warm temperatures between 70°F to 85°F (21°C to 29°C) during the day. They also require long days with plenty of sunlight, as cannabis is a photoperiodic plant, meaning it relies on light cycles to trigger each growth stage. During the vegetive stage, cannabis plants experience an increase in stem, root, and foliage production. The perfect blend of light, water and nutrients provides the plant with everything it needs to build a strong structure.
Indoor cultivators have an advantage when it comes to determining how long the vegetative stage lasts. Indoor operations are able to grow plants as big and tall as they want before making the decisions to manually change the light cycle. Once the light cycle is changed, the plant will start the transition into the flowering stage. Outdoor cultivators don’t have this advantage as they rely on natural lighting throughout the entire process. The plants typically have a longer vegetive stage as they obtain a full spectrum of light during this stage. The plants will remain in this stage until the amount of natural light in a day starts to decrease. Depending on the strain of cannabis and growing techniques, the length of the vegetative stage determines the overall yield and quality that will be produced during the flowering stage.
Fall – Flowering Stage
As fall approaches and the days become shorter, cannabis plants naturally start to transition into the flowering stage. The flowering stage is often the most critical period for cannabis testing, as it is when the plant produces cannabinoids, terpenes, and other compounds. The exact timing of the flowering stage can vary based on the strain, but it typically occurs after the fall equinox when the days get shorter, and the nights get longer. Indoor cultivators transition plants into this stage by changing the light cycle to 12 hours of light and 12 hours of dark. This lighting change mimics the natural change of seasons that is seen outdoors.
During the flowering stage, the plant will produce white hair pistons and sticky resin on the leaves. The pistons grow and develop trichomes which hold cannabinoids and terpene profiles. The final potency of the cannabis flower is determined by how long the plant spends in this stage. Cannabis testing can be performed multiple times during the flowering stage to track the development of these compounds, as their concentrations tend to increase as the flowers mature. It is important to test for the presence of pesticides and other contaminants during the flowering stage as well. This ensures that the final product is safe for consumption.
Winter – Harvest/Curing Stage
Depending on the strain and environmental conditions, the harvest time for outdoor-grown cannabis usually begins in late fall to early winter. It’s essential to monitor the trichomes on the cannabis flower to determine the optimal harvest time. Outdoor harvests are typically completed before the onset of frost or adverse weather conditions. Indoor harvests eliminate the threat of freezing temperatures; however, cultivators need to pay close attention to the development of the cannabis flower. Harvesting too early won’t allow the plant to fully mature resulting in a lower potency product. If harvested too late, the key components of cannabis, such as THC and CBD, will start to degrade.
Once harvested, the plant goes through a final process of curing and drying. Improper storage of harvested cannabis plants or cannabis products can create conditions conducive to mold growth and mycotoxin production. Factors such as high humidity, inadequate airflow, and warm temperatures can contribute to the growth of mold and the production of mycotoxins. Implementing good agricultural and manufacturing practices, such as maintaining proper humidity levels, ensuring proper ventilation, and implementing quality control measures, can help minimize contamination during this point. Regular testing of cannabis product during this stage allows for cultivators to closely monitor the further development of their yield.
Cannabis is a versatile plant that can thrive in various environments, but it requires specific conditions to maximize its growth and potency. Indoor and outdoor cultivation have distinct factors that contribute to the overall health and quality of the cannabis plants. In regions with colder climates or where growing outdoors is not feasible, indoor or greenhouse cultivation provides more control over the growing environment, allowing for year-round cultivation regardless of the external seasons.
Testing cannabis during different parts of the grow cycle help to ensure the overall quality of the product. By assessing the plant and its components at various points, growers and producers can monitor the development of desired compounds, detect any issues or deviations, and make informed decisions on how to proceed.
Written by Veronica Martinez June 2023
As of 2021, roughly 550 chemical compounds have been discovered in cannabis plants. Over 100 of these compounds have been identified as cannabinoids. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is a commonly known cannabinoid that provides the psychoactive effect most users experience. Cannabis plants with a higher percentage of THC affect a users’ moods and awareness. Through decades of research, cannabis cultivators have been able to breed cannabis plant strains to increase cannabinoid percentages.
Federal and state law have specific regulations regarding how THC is measured and reported. According to the Farm Act of 2018, cannabis plants containing a total of less than or equal to 0.3% THC are legally considered hemp. Hemp containing < 0.3% THC has a minimal psychoactive effect. Materials harvested from hemp plants are crafted into items such as rope, textiles, paper, and CBD health-associated products.
What does potency on a label mean?
or the purposes of regulation, potency is defined as the quantity of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) per gram of sample. Testing laboratories provide results that translate to the percentages consumers see on packaging labels. The NM state assigned definition of potency is specifically the THC percentages and not necessarily what end consumers experience as their overall effect of product potency. However, the labeled potency of a product helps to inform the consumer’s expectations.
Results from tested cannabis products are required for the labeling of all commercial products. Cannabis potency labels are a clear indication of what THC levels were at the time of testing. THC percentage, however, is just one aspect of a consumer’s experience. Even under perfect conditions, cannabinoids degrade slowly from acidic forms to active molecules, and then eventually to cannabinol (CBN). Through this natural process, the percentage of cannabinoids in cannabis products fluctuates over time.
How is THC Percentage calculated?
THC percentage is an identifying measurement of how much THC is found within cannabis products like flower, edibles, and topicals. For instance, if a strain of cannabis flower contains 15% THC, this means 15% of the dry weight of the flower is made up of THC. This is equivalent to one gram (1000 mg) of cannabis flower containing about 150 mg of THC.
To calculate the total THC, the acid form of the cannabinoid is multiplied by the difference in molecular weight between the acidic and non-acidic form. Tetrahydrocannabinol Acid (THCA) is the inactive form of THC found in the raw state of cannabis plant. When THCA is exposed to heat, a chemical change occurs and the psychoactive form of the cannabinoid, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is produced.
How has THC percentage changed overtime?
Studies show THC potency has slowly increased over the years. This increase can be attributed to various factors, including selective breeding, advancements in cultivation techniques, and the rise of indoor cultivation. Cannabis growers and manufacturers are creating products that are more potent than previous generations have seen.
In the 1960s, the THC content in cannabis typically ranged from 1-2%. During this time, the growth of cannabis predominantly consisted of landrace strains, which were native varieties found in different parts of the world. Cannabis plants were being harvested and every aspect of the plant was consumed. These strains generally had lower THC levels compared to the modern hybrid strains available today. Modern cannabis cultivators have shifted their focus to only harvesting the flower product of a cannabis plant. By harvesting the most enriched portion of the plant, consumers and cultivators experienced a drastic change in potency and overall effects. In recent studies, researchers found that THC concentrations increased exponentially from 1970 to 2017. The average THC content increased substantially, with many strains surpassing 15% THC and some even exceeding 20% or more.
Comparing cannabis potency over time raises awareness of various factors affecting its measurement. Parts of the plant contain varying THC content: roots less than 0.03 %, stalks 0.1-0.3 %, leaves 1-2%, and flower 10-12% for example. Sinsemilla is cannabis flower from seedless female plants specifically tended to boost the trichome-rich flowering head increasing the THC percentage. Increased potency is facilitated by advancements in cultivation techniques, such as the use of artificial lighting, nutrient optimization, and the selection of high-THC genetics. Today in 2023, live resin and other cannabis concentrates have been documented to contain as much as 95% THC in a single product.
While THC percentages have generally increased, there is still a wide range of cannabis strains available. THC levels can vary significantly depending on the specific strain, cultivation methods, and environmental factors. Additionally, the emergence of CBD-rich strains and the focus on other cannabinoids and terpenes has led to a diversification of cannabis profiles beyond just THC potency.
THC percentage in cannabis has indeed changed significantly over the last 50 years. Due to advancements in cultivation techniques and selective breeding for higher potency strains, the average THC percentage in cannabis has increased. By the early 2000s, it became more common to find cannabis strains with THC levels ranging from 10% to 20%. In some cases, certain strains have even tested above 30% THC. Even though THC levels have increased, cannabis strains with lower THC and higher cannabidiol (CBD) percentages have also gained popularity in recent years due to the growing interest in therapeutic benefits and medical applications.
Written by Dana Neverdousky, MT(ASCP) and Veronica Martinez June 2023
I am extremely excited and proud to share that BK Labs Inc is now a licensed testing laboratory for cannabis products in New Mexico. We are now able to test all cannabis matrices: flower, concentrates, chocolate, beverages, gummies, etc.. Our testing is performed by an experienced team that is committed to fast, accurate, and reliable results for our customers. The team is passionate about being a collaborative partner in providing Botanical Knowledge for growers, manufacturers, and personal and micro-businesses. We want to work with our customers to support them in producing the best product and providing accurate and detailed information about their samples. BK Labs will partner with clients to help them understand current results and their results over time.
For those who have been following the blog, I hope the posts have been informative and help communicate the passion we have for the importance of testing cannabis for the market. The health of the industry and end consumers is supported by appropriate and rigorous testing. Ensuring the best information, especially for medical patients, is a cornerstone of why we do what we do.
Please reach out to us to find out how we can support your business. We want to work with you to
“KNOW YOUR GROW”
I especially want to recognize my co-founder and CTO/COO, Adrian Rubio, and the terrific scientific team of Dana and Veronica.
Written by Elizabeth Skerry, June 2023
– An Introduction to the Psychoactive and Medicinal Properties of Cannabis –
What are Cannabinoids in Cannabis?
Cannabinoids are a group of chemical compounds that are found within the cannabis plant. The most well-known cannabinoid is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis. However, there are many other cannabinoids that have been identified, including cannabidiol (CBD), which has gained popularity for its potential therapeutic benefits. It is estimated that over 500 chemical compounds have been discovered in cannabis to this day. More than 100 of these known compounds consist of various forms of cannabinoids.
Research has shown that the body has its own endocannabinoid system (ECS), which plays a role in regulating various physiological processes such as pain, mood, appetite, and sleep. THC interacts with different parts of the brain, which can lead to feelings of euphoria, stress relief, or increased appetite. CBD does not produce psychoactive effects and may have anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving, or anti-anxiety properties.
While there is still much to learn about the potential benefits and risks of cannabinoids, some studies suggest they may be useful in treating conditions such as chronic pain, epilepsy, anxiety, or insomnia. However, more research is needed to fully understand their effects and potential uses.
How are Cannabinoids different than terpenes?
Cannabinoids and terpenes are distinct chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant that contain different properties and potential therapeutic benefits. They both interact with the endocannabinoid system; however, the mechanisms of their interactions are still being studied. Some studies suggest that terpenes can alter the activity of cannabinoids, either through direct influence on cannabinoid receptors or via other mechanisms.
Terpenes primarily contribute to the odors and fragrances of the plant and have been found to have potential therapeutic benefits, such as anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. Cannabinoids, on the other hand, contribute directly to the overall intensity of a consumer’s experience by interacting with cannabinoid receptors. Cannabinoids help influence the uptake and output of hormones and other chemicals in the brain as well as how our body responds to stress and pain.
Why is it important to test for Cannabis Cannabinoids in New Mexico?
As of May 2023, the state of New Mexico requires potency testing for only four of the known cannabinoids: THC, THCA, CBD, and CBDA. These four cannabinoids are generally prevalent in the highest percentages in the Cannabis plant. Tetrahydrocannabinol Acid (THCA) and Cannabidiol Acid (CBDA) are the precursor forms of THC and CBD. When these acidic cannabinoids go through a process of applied heat, called decarboxylation, THCA and CBDA are converted to their more active forms: THC and CBD.
THC is the cannabinoid responsible for cannabis’ psychoactive effects. The THC molecule binds to the cannabinoid receptors in the brain and causes the euphoric high associated with its use. Unlike THC, CBD is not intoxicating or psychoactive. Proponents of CBD oil and other CBD products speak of its medicinal value treating conditions such as chronic pain, inflammation, epilepsy, autoimmune diseases, depression, and anxiety.
The potency of a product often refers to the overall content of cannabinoids that may contribute to psychoactive and medicinal effects. Testing for a wider range of cannabinoids allows for consumers and manufacturers to obtain an a more complete understanding of the components a cannabis plant provides. According to 16.8.7 New Mexico Administrative Code (NMAC) – Quality Control, Inspection, and Testing of Cannabis Products:
“Potency testing: Potency testing requires determining the quantity of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), cannabidiol (CBD), cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) per gram of sample and the calculation of THC potency and CBD potency, according to Table 4, Potency Testing Requirements, below.” (16.8.7 NMAC)
More cannabinoid testing is available than simply THCA, THC, CBDA, and CBD. Because of the variety and abundance of cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, it is beneficial for producers, manufacturers and consumers to know the contents of their cannabis products. By testing for different components, such as cannabigerol (CBG), cannabichromene (CBC), and cannabinol (CBN), producers, manufacturers, and ultimately consumers have detailed information to achieve a satisfying experience.
Written by Dana Neverdousky, MT(ASCP) & Veronica Martinez: May 2023
Understanding Nutrients: Macronutrients vs Micronutrients
Knowing the conditions your cannabis plant is growing in is crucial during the process of growth. Cannabis, much like other vegetation, relies on soil, water, and air to provide the nutrients needed to grow strong and healthy. The growth cycle of a cannabis plant contains three stages; seedling, vegetative, and flowering. Each requires a specific ratio of macro- and micronutrients.
Macronutrients are required in large quantities and are pivotal in the development of cellular components like proteins and nucleic acids. Nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), calcium (CA), magnesium (Mg), and sulfur (S) are the main elements of macronutrients.
Carbon (C), hydrogen (H), and oxygen (O) are also considered macronutrients; however, they are categorized as a non-mineral class of macronutrients. Plants absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O) from their environment. The amount of air and water, as well as the type of soil, that is available during this process is crucial. The water and CO2 obtained during this process is then turned into the carbon “backbones” of proteins, sugars, DNA and other biological molecules. The oxygen is then released into the air and the newly formed biomolecules support the plant’s development.
Micronutrients are needed in smaller quantities and are necessary for enzyme activity, photosynthesis, and the uptake and transport of other nutrients. Iron (Fe), zinc (Zn), boron (B), copper (Cu), manganese (Mn), and molybdenum (Mo) are the main elements of micronutrients.
Nutrient complications in the growth cycle will produce excessive amounts of stress and lead to adverse effects. Depending on the amount of excess nutrients or nutrients needed, the overall yield and end quality of the product are affected along with the health of the plant.
Macronutrients are classified as either primary or secondary. Primary macronutrients, nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K), are the main sources of everything from root development to flower production. Secondary macronutrients, calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg) and sulfur (S), are needed in smaller quantities but have just as strong of an impact.
Nitrogen’s primary role is to aid in protein development and the metabolism of energy, which is crucial for plant growth. Nitrogen also enhances the development of amino and nucleic acids which increase the production of proteins, DNA and RNA. It is also a key component of chlorophyll which produces a green pigment in plants and allows for energy to be converted through photosynthesis. Nitrogen is mainly needed during the vegetive stage where the plants primary focus is on the production of stems, branches, and foliage. If excessive amounts of nitrogen are present within the flowering stage, it can lead to abundant foliage growth which takes away vital nutrients needed for flower development.
Phosphorus is critical for multiple essential processes including root development, enzyme activity, energy transfer, and flower formation. It is also involved in the process of photosynthesis by helping transport energy from the leaves to the rest of the plant. Phosphorus is needed during the flowering stage to help support strong and healthy flower formations. Phosphorus deficiency results in the leaves of the plant turning dark green and purple. Deficiency in this area results in reduced flower production and poor root development. Excessive amounts of phosphorus can lead to levels of toxicity, causing a build-up of salts in the soil. This interferes with the plant’s ability to absorb water and other nutrients.
Potassium is the third primary macronutrient, mainly involved in the production of branches, stems, and flowers. Potassium helps regulate water intake, the development of plant tissues and helps build stress tolerance. This provides more resistance to periods of drought or other environmental stress. Potassium is necessary throughout the entire growth cycle to help support the development of a healthy plant. Deficiencies will cause the leaves of the plant to become yellow or brown around the edges and growth to be stunted. Lack of healthy plant tissues results in lower quality products and increased susceptibility to diseases and pests.
Calcium provides essential components for root health and the growth of vegetation. The main responsibility is to provide structure for plant cell walls and help contribute to the overall stability of the plant. Calcium is also responsible for stimulating enzymes and preserving membrane permeability. This creates strong root structures and proper access to nitrogen and sugar all throughout the plant. Being one of the secondary macronutrients, calcium is needed in a lesser amount than the above components but holds just as important of a role.
Magnesium and sulfur are core components in chlorophyll and are necessary for photosynthesis. Magnesium encourages the absorption and transportation of phosphorus while also performing as an enzyme activator. Magnesium activates more enzymes than any other nutrient. Sulfur improves nitrogen efficiency and allows for the metabolism of nitrogen. Disease resistance, formation of proteins enzymes, and amino acids are also enhanced due to sulfur.
Each of the macronutrients work in unison to provide the plant with the support it needs to survive in its’ environment. Understanding elements like nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, is essential to understanding plant growth and the overall health of a plant. Deficiencies in any of these areas will result in adverse effects and harm to the plants’ health.
Micronutrients, or trace elements, are necessary for enzyme activity, photosynthesis, and the uptake and transfer of other nutrients. Iron (Fe), zinc (Zn), boron (B), copper (Cu), manganese (Mn), and molybdenum (Mo) are the main micronutrients. Even though they are needed in smaller quantities, their contribution to plant health and development is significant.
Iron is crucial for chlorophyll production, photosynthesis and electron transport. Zinc aids in the development of plant growth hormones as well as increases in cellular numbers and cell expansion. It is also necessary for the development of chlorophyll as it helps to resist diseases and maintain responses due to stress. Boron is an essential element for seed and flower development. It also focuses on the production of cell walls and the growth of strong roots.
Copper stimulates enzyme activity, protein synthesis, and respiration. Copper also assists in the metabolism of carbohydrates and proteins as well as the absorption of iron. Manganese encourages enzymes to properly function as well as the metabolism of carbohydrates and nitrogen. Manganese also builds stress tolerance and is crucial for seed production and root growth. Molybdenum is the main component in the process of nitrogen metabolism and the production of amino acids and proteins. Molybdenum interacts with enzymes to help convert nitrate into nitrite then nitrite into ammonia. This allows for the plant to properly absorb iron even further.
Trace elements such as these are necessary throughout the entire grow cycle. Each element works together to build a solid foundation for exponential growth. They are mainly known for enzyme activity, photosynthesis, and intake of nutrients. Even though they are needed in smaller quantities, micronutrients are big components of any strong and healthy plant.
Plant development and health rely on a combination of all the above macro- and micronutrients. These components contribute to enzyme activity, the ability to metabolize energy, uptake water and nutrients and the overall growth of the plant. Deficiencies in any one of these areas result in detrimental amounts of stress and will affect the plants’ health and end quality. Understanding the role nutrients play is necessary throughout the entire growth cycle. By considering the specific ratio of nutrients a plant needs, growers have the opportunity to optimize their plants’ health to the fullest extent.
Written by Veronica Martinez May 2023
When growing a cannabis plant to obtain cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD, it is necessary to ensure that the plants are female. Female plants produce female flowers, which in-turn produce a greater number of cannabinoids in their flowers than male plants produce. Cannabinoids, and THC in particular, are the primary psychoactive phyto-chemicals in cannabis plants.
A grower would waste resources, including time and space, growing a single male plant because of the inferior flower produced. Worse still, a male plant can destroy an entire crop, as it would likely fertilize all of the female plants, end their flowering cycle, thereby halting cannabinoid production. In short, male and hermaphroditic plants can wreak havoc on a crop. That is why it is critical, for the grower to know the sexes of their plants.
What factors produce male and female plants?
Cannabis plants like many other plants and complex organisms exist as two sexes. In the wild, two sexes in a species allow the species to preserve genetic diversity, and that genetic diversity allows it to survive and adapt to changes in its environment. For the grower, some of these adaptations can result in loss of potency in their crop. So, it is to their advantage to reduce the genetic variation in their plants and compensate for the loss of hardiness by optimizing growth conditions.
The genetics of a plant come from physical structures in their cells called genes. Those genes in turn are made of DNA. Many genes strung together make up a chromosome. Like humans, cannabis plants have X and Y chromosomes. These are just designations. A human X chromosome looks nothing like a plant’s. The designation of a male plant is XY, and a female is XX.
Hermaphrodites also exist. Most often they are female plants that grow male flowers, or they are genetic hermaphrodites with varying multiples of X and Y chromosomes with a mix of physical characteristics beyond flower growth.
In the wild, pollination by male plants will consistently produce about a 50:50 mix of male and female plants. Luckily for the grower, there are simple and practical solutions to selecting for almost purely female crops.
How can we mitigate the introduction of male plants in a crop?
The simplest way to ensure plants will be female is to buy feminized seeds or clones of female plants, the latter being the most effective. In localities where cannabis production and consumption are legal, many supply stores and dispensaries will carry both products, and provide a wealth of information on their cultivation.
Starting with feminized seeds or female clones is not enough. The process of making feminized seeds is only 99% successful, and female plants, as previously mentioned, can become hermaphrodites. A gambler of course, would call 99% fantastic odds. However, remember that a single male or hermaphrodite can ruin an entire crop. This can be catastrophic for a commercial grower or a hobbyist. Male and hermaphroditic plants must be culled from the onset. Luckily, plants can be sexed much like other plants and animals. If a grower can risk the wait, they can allow the plants to mature naturally and see the different, and often subtle, characteristics of each plant. Once the plants begin to mature, males will grow sturdier, woodier stalks and have relatively sparse leaf growth. Females will have more tender stalks and tender more succulent leaf growth.
After 6 weeks, the plants will become sexually mature. Flower buds will begin to develop earlier for male plants than females and time to flowering also depends on whether growing indoors or outdoors. The males’ flowers will appear as small balls on short stalks and relatively separate. Females’ flower buds will have a translucent filament called a pistil coming out of them. It is critical to see these subtle differences once the plants become sexually mature. Cull all males and hermaphrodites, as soon as possible.
Regarding hermaphrodites, these plants can develop spontaneously from female plants that have been stressed. A malfunction in the irrigation or lighting system can stress the plants. If the growth substrate, like soil, has become depleted or infected it can stress the plants. The plants should be inspected for the appearance of male flowers on some of the previously female plants. Insect infestation or detection of a disease also causes stress and will call for inspection.
Alternative to identification of plant sex by physical characteristics, otherwise known as plants phenotype, plants can be genetically tested. With genetic testing we can find the plants genetic makeup, or genotype. Various tests exist and can be purchased or ordered at increasing price points. Small scale growers can send in plant material in the form of small cuttings or a rub on a small testing substrate. The sample can be sent, where it is legal, to a facility that will perform genetic testing. Larger scale growers may opt to perform their testing in-house, and purchase relatively expensive equipment and supplies. The amount of testing and the secrecy of strain development may make this a cost-effective choice. As with buying seeds or clones, this is only a good start. Plants must still be observed for stress and male flower development throughout the plant’s productive life.
For more information, please visit our website or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any inquiries
Written by Adrian Rubio, M.S. May 2023
Brief History of Cannabis Chemistry
Cannabis use has been documented as far back as 10,000 years at a variety of archeological sites around the world. Used for medicinal and spiritual purposes, cannabis plants are known to affect humans in numerous ways such as pain relief and euphoria inducement.
As alchemists in apothecaries gave way to pharmaceutical chemists, their scientific investigation of medicinal plants actively pursued the discovery of natural chemical properties. One of the first was German pharmacist assistant Freidrich Serturner who isolated morphine from resinous gum of opium poppy in 1806. Another German scientist Dr. Albert Nieman successfully published his 1860 work elucidating the isolation of the alkaloid cocaine from Erythroxylum coca leaves.
Known attempts to identify and isolate ingredients within cannabis plants are documented as early as 1840 in Europe. Experiments proved unsuccessful for many years. In 1933 British scientist R.S. Cahn came close with Cannabis indica resin experiments but published incomplete cannabinol chemical structures. Then, in 1939, Roger Adams had a breakthrough while heading a team of graduate students working on a natural products project, with permission from the U.S. government, only two years after the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act.
Early Discovery of Cannabinoids
In 1942, Roger Adams (left) won a patent for his method of isolating CBD and was also the first researcher to identify THC.
Roger Adams, and his University of Illinois team, identified cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabinol (CBN) from plants. CBD was isolated, but its chemical makeup could not be immediately described, as certain technologies were not yet developed. Adams and his team did determine there were parts of the cannabis sativa plant that did not contain psychotropic qualities.
Adams actively pursued identifying the psychoactive cannabinoid he believed to exist. In his laboratory, he synthetically created tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) molecules from other cannabinoids. Unable to isolate and identify the molecule within the cannabis plant, Adams’ name is often not attributed to this discovery.
In 1946 British scientist Lord Alexander Todd resolved the structure of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active component of cannabis, using chromatography and spectroscopy instead of the older methods of crystallization and distillation for purifying compounds as Adams used.
Raphael Mechoulam: Father of Cannabis Research
Publishing the paper “Isolation, Structure, and Partial Synthesis of an Active Constituent of Hashish” in 1964, the person most associated with the discovery of THC is undoubtably Raphael Mechoulam. At the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, Dr. Raphael Mechoulam with his colleagues, Dr. Yehiel Gaoni and pharmacologist Habib Edery, succeeded in the very first isolation and elucidation of the active constituent of cannabis, Δ 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (delta-9-THC) from Cannabis sativa L.
Mechoulam, lead scientist at the Laboratory of Natural Products, School of Pharmacy, The Hebrew University in Jerusalem, showing the stereochemistry of CBD in 1970.
From a 2011 interview Mechoulam explains why the discovery of THC was so difficult:
“If you look at the other illicit drugs that are throughout the world, morphine came out of opium or poppy plants, and cocaine came out of cocoa leaves – and these were discovered 150 years ago. Morphine was isolated in the early 19th century, and cocoa and cocaine in the middle 19th century. And surprisingly, THC – the active component of cannabis – was not known, which seemed very strange.
And I know why it was not isolated: because the techniques were very complicated. See, morphine and cocaine are so-called alkaloids, namely a natural product that contains a nitrogen [atom] on the molecule, and it can give us salt; it precipitates as a salt. And so you have salt: Cocaine is a salt, morphine is a salt – very easy to prepare. It turned out that THC does not have a nitrogen, and it is present in a mixture of compounds…[others] didn’t have the techniques to isolate them in the past. So a few people tried here and there, actually some very good people – one of them [Lord Alexander Todd] got the Nobel Prize for something else. But they never succeeded in isolating the pure substance, and so they never knew whether they had one compound or many compounds, and so on.”
Mechoulam and his team used Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) in the discovery of the chemical structure of both CBD and THC. Without NMR spectroscopy development, in the 1940’s and 1950’s Mechoulam’s work may not have progressed as far as it did.
During his life Raphael Mechoulam authored over 450 papers. In a 2018 interview, he expressed three highlights of his extensive career “The identification of THC in the 1960s, the identification of the endogenous cannabinoids in the 1990s, and our work now on the third phase of cannabinoid research – endogenous anandamide-like compounds of importance in numerous areas.”
I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.
I may not complete this last one
but I give myself to it.
“Well,” Professor Mechoulam said, “it is as if in some way he is describing what is going on with the cannabinoids. It started with a small circle, and expanded, and the expansion is going on and on and on.”
Mechoulam accomplished this expansion and beyond based upon this sentiment from his obituary.
“Beyond his scientific achievements, Raphi was known for his commitment to promoting scientific curiosity and discovery, and for his generosity in mentoring and supporting other researchers in the field, including many members of our ICRS society. His work inspired, and continues to inspire, a generation of successful cannabinoid researchers. As such, he will be not only remembered for his specific contributions to Cannabis and cannabinoid research, but also for his far-reaching impact on the scientific community and more broadly our global society.”
Raphael Mechoulam (Hebrew: רפאל משולם , Bulgarian: Рафаел Мешулам)
5 November 1930 – 9 March 2023
Written by Dana Neverdousky, MT(ASCP) and Veronica Martinez April 2023
Cannabis Culture: What is 420 and where did it come from?
As of April 2023, New Mexico marks one full year of recreational cannabis alongside 16 years of medical cannabis. The acceptance of cannabis is slowly increasing with new and returning users looking at cannabis in a way they never did. In this article, the origin of the unofficial cannabis holiday that is 4/20 is discussed alongside influencers that helped make this everlasting mark on cannabis culture.
4/20: The Unofficial Cannabis Holiday
The origin of this “stoner holiday” traces back to the fall of 1971 where five high school classmates, known as the Waldos, would get together, get high, and go on what they called ‘safaris’.
After school, the Waldos, Steve Capper, Dave Reddix, Jeffrey Noel, Larry Schwartz, and Mark Gravitch, would meet in front of their high school’s Louis Pasteur statue at 4:20 pm. With several of the Waldos being involved in after-school sports, 4:20 pm was the perfect time to meet. Just enough time after practice to shower and get ready to blaze through their adventures. They would smoke in front of this statue then pile into Capper’s 1966 Chevy Impala and go anywhere the smoke trail took them.
One afternoon the Waldos were hanging out when their friends Bill and Patrick McNulty came up to them saying they had a treasure map of a hidden crop of cannabis. The McNulty brothers were visiting their brother-in-law, Gary Philip Newman, at the Point Reyes Lighthouse when Gary told them about his secret crop of cannabis. Being newly admitted to the Coast Guard reserves, Gary knew he would have to ditch this crop sooner rather than later.
In early spring of 1971, Newman took on a ranching job up at Nunes Ranch in Point Reyes, CA. Here he planted a secret cannabis crop adjacent to the ranch. He would tend to this crop after his daily duties, making sure that everything was growing right. One thing that Newman didn’t take into consideration was that Nunes Ranch was sitting right next to federal property. In the fall of 1971, Newman was accepted into the U.S Coast Guard service. Fearing that he would be severely disciplined by the reserves, he drew up a map of where this alleged crop was and handed it to the McNulty brothers. Being close friends of the Waldos, the McNulty brothers headed straight to them, eager to begin their newest safari.
Though they never did find this mysterious cannabis crop, they made some lasting memories along the way. The Waldos even created their very own 420 banner.
When did 420 become bigger than just an inside joke?
Reddix’s brother, Patrick, was good friends with Phil Lesh (Grateful Dead’s bassist). At the time, Phil was in search of a manager for a couple of his side bands and Patrick was just the man he was looking for. His brother Dave was also hired along as a roadie. The father of Mark Gravitch, one of the Waldos, handled real estate for The Grateful Dead band. Mark became quite familiar with the band mates and would watch over their houses and pets while the band was on tour.
Becoming quite comfortable with the band, Mark and the rest of the Waldos were put on the backstage access list anytime the band was touring. Never coming empty handed, they brought all the 420 one could need. After the band’s gig, the Waldos and Reddix brothers would smoke out the fellow members and any other roadie along the way. Using the term 420, they would very generously hand out joints.
What started out as an inside joke between friends now grew into a whole community. More and more people started using the code word 420 when referring to cannabis. Smoking it, rolling it, or packing it, cannabis users all over knew exactly what 420 was.
In 1991, the Waldos created the very first 420 flyers and handed them out during a New Year’s Grateful Dead concert. The banner read as the following:
“Meet us to celebrate 420 on April 20th on the top of Mount Tamalpais on Bolinas Ridge.”
Steve Hager, editor of High Times, got wind of this banner and wrote an article for High Times Magazine. Hager was the first writer to interview the Waldos and publish 420 in print, birthing the popularity of this new key phrase.
In 1998, the Waldos contacted Hager asking him to come to California and tell their story. During this time, the term 420 was huge within the cannabis community. The origin of this code was in question, and no one knew exactly where it came from. Some thought that 420 was a local police code used to identify ‘smoking marijuana in progress’ while others believe it was the total amount of compounds within the cannabis plant. Both are incorrect. It wasn’t until the Waldos spoke up that the exact origin was known. Hager published another article shortly after visiting with the Waldos and even went on ABC News stating, “I found the guys that started it all!”
What once started out as a secret code name had become popular enough to be considered an unofficial holiday to most cannabis connoisseurs. In a 2021 interview, Capper told the Huffington Post:
“I could say to one of my friends, I’d go, 420, and it was telepathic. He would know if I was saying, ‘Hey, do you wanna go smoke some?’ Or, ‘Do you have any?’ Or, ‘Are you stoned right now?’ It was kind of telepathic just from the way you said it. Our teachers didn’t know what we were talking about. Our parents didn’t know what we were talking about.”
The use of this code grew exponentially. What started out as a group of five high school teenagers in California looking for a secret cannabis crop, turned into much more than anyone of the Waldos would ever expect. Their influence made an everlasting impression on the band The Grateful Dead and eventually landed across country, in the hands of the New York editor of High Times magazine. The Waldo’s made a wonderous contribution to cannabis enthusiasts worldwide. Allowing a secret code name to be used by anyone, any time any day.
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Written by Dana Neverdousky, MT(ASCP) & Veronica Martinez: April 2023
Cannabis vs. Marijuana vs. Hemp
What’s the difference?
Related words like hemp, marijuana and cannabis can seem interchangeable. It is often misunderstood that they come from the same plant. Their chemical components and physical attributes are what differentiate them.
How is Hemp different from Marijuana?
In the United States, the level of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the legal defining line between hemp and marijuana. Cannabis sativa L. plants, which contain 0.3% THC or less, are hemp and plants exceeding the 0.3% THC limit are marijuana. The Farm Act of 2018 removed all hemp and hemp derived products from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act while Marijuana remains federally illegal under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act.
The first distinguishing definition of Hemp vs. Marijuana can be found in “The Species Problem in Cannabis: Science & Semantics” published in 1971 by Ernest Small. This text describes the need for the classification of the Cannabis plant.
“Drug strains have been thought to contain an excess, usually substantial, of Δ9 trans-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9 THC) in comparison with the amount of cannabidiol (CBD)…. non-drug strains have been held to have the reverse ratio. The former compound is considered psychotomimetic (psychosis-imitating), whereas the latter is not…. In examining the above cannabinoid ratio to decide in which phenotypic group a strain belongs, some investigators add the amount of cannabinol (CBN) to the amount of THC. The former seems to be an oxidation product of Δ9 THC (4) and is not considered to be psychoactive” (Small, 77)
Where did the term ‘Marijuana’ originate?
The exact origin of the word marijuana is uncertain. However, the term marihuana is speculated to have originated at the end of the 1800’s. Mexican immigrants in the United States allegedly began using the word after hearing Chinese American immigrants calling the plant ma ren hua, which translates to “hemp-seed-flower”.
Historically the Mandarin word ma (麻) translates roughly to mother or hemp when spoken with a rising tone inflection. Chinese medical texts and literature from 200 CE discuss individual terms for ma, including máfén (麻蕡), máhuā (麻花), and mábó (麻勃), each referring to specific parts of a cannabis plant. Máfén (麻蕡) and mábó (麻勃) often refer to the spike-shaped headings of the plant while máhuā (麻花) refers to the flowers of the plant.
Pairing the Chinese word Dà, meaning big or great, with Má forms the word Dàmá (大麻), the term today we know as marijuana.
Where did the term ‘Hemp’ originate?
The Old English term hænep, meaning hemp/cannabis sativa, is the origin for the Modern English word ‘hemp’. Hemp is described as the fiber-type materials of the cannabis plant.
Other languages such as Old Saxon refer to this plant as ‘hanap’, in Old Norse as ‘hampr’ and in Old High German as ‘hanaf’. These terms are all derived from the Proto-Germanic word “hanapiz”, which was infused by the Greek word, ‘kannabis’.
Are these plants biologically the same?
Just as the terms marijuana and hemp are not considered the same, the question of biology is also complicated. All hemp and marijuana plants are part of the Linnaean family Cannabaceae and genus classification Cannabis.
The Cannabis genus may be divided up into three species – Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. There is debate within the taxonomic community regarding species vs subspecies based upon phenotypic versus genotypic traits. These external appearance and inward genomic differences are documented indicating that the plants are not always biologically alike.
With the legal differences between hemp and marijuana, a manufacturer must choose their testing laboratory with care. States have different licensures for laboratories to be approved to test hemp or marijuana. The State of New Mexico Cannabis and Hemp Bureau is available to help aid producers and manufacturers in identifying an appropriate laboratory to suit their needs.
Addendum: There has been much consideration of the origins of the word marijuana and why this term should be deleted from our vernacular. This blog post is not attempting to convince or change anyone’s mind about word choice. In 2022 New Mexico legislature passed HR 3617 replacing all statutory references of marijuana and marihuana with cannabis.
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Written by Dana Neverdousky, MT(ASCP) & Veronica Martinez: April 2023