Facebook   Twitter   Instagram
Current Issue   Archive   Donate and Support    

Blunt Talk: The Race for Cannabis Genetics


With hemp being grown in 46 states and 33 of those with legal access to higher THC strains of cannabis, a race for plant genetics with unique profile characteristics is taking place.

Cannabis genetic breeders are scrambling to stabilize and make claim to the most successful strains. Distributing seeds and clones from these genetics is one of the most profitable markets because of the current demand. If you can imagine the cannabis plant’s genetics and characteristics on a spectrum the need to gather and database trusted genetics becomes more easily understood. To meet the variety in customer demand as well as varying legalities within this fast paced sector, cannabis genetics is showing to be the most important factor in growing, buying and consuming.

Hemp farmers who hope to profit off of CBD products and smokable hemp flowers are seeking genetics low in total THC and high in CBD percentages. This is not just consumer demand but also due to legality. Cannabis high in THC is often the desire of medical and recreational consumers that seek the effect of a psychoactive high. Genetic breeders are able to enhance desired qualities and decrease undesirable characteristics. Quality in context includes: lack of seeds, increased flower size, higher cannabinoid presence, and enhanced terpene profiles.

Securing quality genetics is essential for growers as their entire profitability relies on a successful, sellable finished crop. The hyped hemp profit margins faced the reality of risk this season. In the 2019 hemp season the industry saw an approximate 70% loss from seed to sale. A high percentage of this loss was due to poor genetics. Farmers across the country have lost their entire investments because of hemp with too high THC or too low CBD. Because of the potential for significant loss, cannabis and hemp growers have realized their entire profit foundation is based on quality genetics.

While cannabis genetics have been increasingly consistent in quality and value, the race to meet customer demands has been relentless since legalization. Since cannabis with higher THC levels is generally grown inside for quality and environmental control, the ability to create consistent results can be exponentially simplified in comparison to hemp farms, which are generally grown outside. The added variables in common hemp cultivation has brought to light the need for increased consistency in trusted genetics. The rising profits of hemp products is the driving force behind the race for genetics in low THC cannabis strains.

With the increased interest in isolated cannabinoids like CBD, THC, and CBG, a resurgence in specific cannabinoid profiles is taking place. However, this time it is customer driven. This is not new science, as Dr. Raphael Mechoulam coined the term cannabinoids and was the first scientist to isolate THC and CBD in the early 60’s. The groundbreaking discovery opened an entirely new field of cannabinoid research. Cannabis contains over 100 thus far discovered cannabinoids. The biodiversity of the cannabis plant and its interaction with human cannabinoid receptors has barely been brought to light. Our internal endocannabinoid system both processes and creates cannabinoids.

The general public is just now beginning to understand how not all cannabis is the same. When cannabis was in the black market, very little conversation took place from a scientific platform. Black market consumers often had no idea of the content makeup in the pot they were buying. As legalization spreads, the educated cannabis consumer has been created. In addition, the revival of hemp cultivation has dramatically increased the need for lab testing and strain profiles for successful growth and entry to the consumer markets. In 2007, Mechoulam predicted: “I believe the cannabinoids represent a medicinal treasure trove which waits to be discovered.”

Twelve years after his statement, these treasures are just starting to get some recognition in the field and in the lab. The hype around strains of cannabis that don’t get you “high” (aka hemp) brought increased CBD percentages to record popularity levels. In addition, the legalities behind CBD have opened the discussion for lawful access and manipulation to all cannabinoids. Another controversial aspect of this race for cannabis genetics is securing strain exclusivity through intellectual property protections.

While it may seem out of the ordinary to seek patents on a plant, this is not a new practice. There are several legal techniques to secure cannabis strain as intellectual property and since hemp is a type of cannabis, these methods apply as well. No single form of intellectual protection is comprehensive. Each form has its advantages, limitations, and associated costs. The best protection includes an array of strategically considered hurdles that limit a competitor’s use of the protected strain. Cannabis genetic breeders are seeking utility patents, plant patents, plant variety protection, and trademarks in order to champion this fast paced race of ideal cannabis genetics.

Thus far cannabis and hemp producers have been focused on THC and CBD for their marketability. However, science is discovering that many cannabinoid isolates and combinations include medical and lifestyle improvement results. CBG, CBN, and CBC are beginning to get recognition among various producers and consumers as “the next big thing.” As cannabis and hemp infrastructure catches up to acres grown, end product considerations will take into context more than just cannabinoid percentages for consumable plant matter.

Cannabis plants, specifically hemp varieties, can contain up to five harvestable parts with nearly endless by-products, so genetics should be chosen based on intention. As markets open up to more than consumables, farmers will diligently ensure that the genetics they choose actually bring in the highest profit margins. This is true about the current medical/recreational cannabis containing high THC. Growers are meeting consumer demands for the highest THC content levels ever available and flowers with intensified colors and flavors by choosing genetics with those ideal qualities.

Genetics is the most important factor to be considered in cannabis cultivation since a farmer could be setting themself up for failure from the start with undesirable genetics. Whether we are talking about high THC medical/recreational cannabis flowers, concentrates, hemp flower, or fibre for textiles, it all starts with the seed. The explosion in hemp farmers and subsequent failure rate has proven that not having the right genetics for your region, the right equipment for your strain, and ideal characteristics for desired end product, can cause loss in profitability that can equal tens of thousands of dollars. Just like other agricultural crops, commodity pricing plays a pivotal role before deciding what to plant.

In the 2019 grow season many growers, especially in areas where agriculture was on a down turn, put all their eggs in the hemp basket and literally bet their farms on this crop. Because of the lack of knowledge and access to proper genetics, the failure rate was exponentially larger than it should have been. Much of that could have been circumvented by sourcing genetics from a trusted breeder. Those who can afford to go at it again in the 2020 season now know the questions to ask about sourced genetics.

For low THC, high CBD hemp, especially since the 2018 Farm Bill, the realization is  becoming apparent that utilizing established genetics is a clear necessity for any type of success. Something that high THC cannabis growers have known for a long time and have been tweaking to continuously improve quality and meet customer demands. Unfortunately, many first-year hemp farmers learned the hard way, and millions of dollars were lost in the industry all because of choosing genetics that either did not perform as marketed or were not ideal for the growing conditions and end product intentions.

A new page in hemp history is being written as the consumable markets shoot off the charts and by-product productions ramp up nationwide. While the cannabis industry continues to grow in all facets of production and sales, neither high nor low THC cannabis will be going anywhere but up. An expensive lesson to learn, growers will become just as diligent as the educated canna-consumer. Quality will continue to improve and demand will continue to increase.

Known Cannabinoids

  • Delta9-THC
  • Delta9-THC acid A
  • Delta9-THC acid B
  • Delta9-THCV
  • Delta9-THCVA
  • Delta9-tetrahydrocannabiorcol
  • Delta9-tetrahydrocannbinol-C4
  • Delta9-trans-THCA-C4
  • Delta9-tetrahydrocannabiorcolic acid
  • B-fenchyl-Delta9-tetrahydrocannabinolate
  • a-fenchyl-Delta9-tetrahydrocannabinolate
  • epi-bornyl-Delta9-tetrahydrocannabinolate
  • bornyl-Delta9-tetrahydrocannabinolate
  • a-terpenyl-Delta9-tetrahydrocannabinolate
  • 4-terpenyl-Delta9-tetrahydrocannabinolate
  • a-cadinyl-Delta9-tetrahydrocannabinolate
  • y-eudesmyl-Delta9-tetrahydrocannabinolate
  • cannabisol
  • Delta8-THC
  • Delta8-THC acid
  • CBG-C5
  • CBGA
  • CBGM
  • CBGV
  • cannabinerolic acid
  • y-eudesmyl cannabigerolate
  • a-cadinyl cannabigerolate
  • 5-acetyl-4-hydroxycannabigerol
  • 4-acetoxy-2-geranyl-5-hydroxy-3-n-pentyl phenol
  • (+)-6,7-trans-epoxycannabigerolic acid
  • (+)-6,7-cis-epoxycannabigerolic acid
  • (+)-6,7-cis-epoxycannabigerol
  • (+)-6,7-trans-epoxycannabigerol
  • carmagerol
  • sesquicannabigerol
  • CBC-C5
  • CBCA
  • CBCV
  • CBC-C3
  • (+)- 4-acetoxycannabichromene
  • (+)-3”-hydroxy-A4”-cannabichromene
  • (-)-7-hydroxycannabichromane
  • CBD
  • CBDA
  • CBDM
  • CBD-C1
  • CBD-C4
  • CBDV
  • cannabimovone
  • CBND-C5
  • CBND-C3
  • CBE-C5
  • CBEA-C5 A
  • CBEA-C5 B
  • CBE-C3
  • CBEA-C3 B
  • CBL
  • CBLA
  • CBL-C3
  • CBN
  • CBNA
  • CBN-C3
  • cannabiorcol
  • cannabinol methyl ether
  • CBN-C4
  • CBN-C2
  • 4-terpenyl cannabinolate
  • 8-OH-CBN
  • 8-OH-CBNA
  • (-)-trans-CBT-C5
  • (-)-trans-CBT-C5
  • (+)-cis-CBT-C5
  • (-)-trans-CBT-OEt-C5
  • (+)-trans-CBT-C3
  • CBT-C3 homologue
  • (-)-trans-CBT-OET-C3
  • 8-OH-CBT-C5
  • CBDA-C5 9-O-CBT-C5 ester
  • dehydrocannabifuran (DCBF-C5)
  • cannabifuran (CBF-C5)
  • 8-hydroxy-isohexahydrocannabivirin (OH-iso-HHCV-C3)
  • cannabichromanone-C5 (CBCN-C5)
  • cannabichromanone-C3 (CBCN-C3)
  • cannabicitran (CBR-C5)
  • 10-OXO-Delta6a(10a)-tetrahydrocannabinol (OTHC)
  • (-)-Delta9-cis-(as 100R)-tetrahydrocannabinol (cis-A9-THC)
  • cannabiripsol (CBR)
  • cannabitetrol (CBTT)
  • (-)Delta7-trans-(1R, 3R, 6R)- isotetrahydrocannabivarin- C3 (trans-iso-7-THCV)
  • (+)-Delta7-cis-isotetrahydrocannabivarin-C3 (Cis-iso-Delta7-THCV)
  • (-)-Delta7-trans-(1R, 3R, 6R) – isotetrahydrocannabinol-C5 (trans-iso-A7-THCV)
  • cannabichromanone-B
  • cannabichromanone-C
  • cannabichromanone-D
  • (-)-7R-cannabicourmarone
  • (-)-7R-cannabicourmaronic acid
  • 4-acetoxy-2-geranyl-5-hydroxy-3-n-pentylphenol
  • 2-geranyl-5-hydroxy-3-n-pentyl-1,4-benzoquinone
  • 5-acetoxy-6-geranyl-3-n-pentyl-1,4-benzoquinone
  • cannabioxepane (CBX)
  • 9a-hydroxyhexahydrocannabinol
  • 7-oxo-9a-hydroxyhexa-hydrocannabinol
  • 10a-hydroxyhexahydrocannabinol
  • 10aR-hydroxyhexahydrocannabinol
  • Delta(9)-THC aldehyde A
  • 8-oxo-Delta(9)-THC
  • 10aa-hydroxy-10-oxo-Delta(8)-THC
  • 9a-hydroxy-10-oxo-Delta(6a, 10a)-THC
  • 1’S-hydroxycannabinol