First off I want to start by saying, cannabis is absolutely amazing, and most people that have consumed the resin glands of this magical plant understand what I am talking about. The healing properties along with its ability to awaken the spiritual side are really special, but nothing compares to all the friends I have made over the years consuming this wonderful grass. My brethren and I are a society, an underground counter-culture growing steadily. We are unstoppable. Get used to it, it's not going to change and we're not going away. I have been incarcerated and some inalienable rights stolen all because of people's fears and prejudice over a plant. As I sit here smoking some of the best blond bubble hash the United States has to offer, I can't help but think, I have consumed this plant every day for quite a few years now, and I will continue to do so until the day I die.
Some cultures consider the flowers from the Cannabis plant a sacred gift from the gods, and its consumption has been highly ritualized over many generations. Something that is acceptable in one part of the world might not be in another. The best thing to do is sit back and observe the customs, and ask questions when unsure, it's never wise to assume. Take Jamaica and Amsterdam-- a joint is a one person thing much like a cigarette, but with American tradition a person is expected to share with the group every time. In the United States everything is backwards. Even the cultures within a region can vary wildly, making it hard to make any firm rules about what someone can or cannot do without receiving any flak for their actions.
Let’s just say I am a seasoned veteran when comes to toking up, so I feel it's my privilege to share a few guidelines on procuring the finest Cannabis. Being a connoisseur means knowing a number of things, and most of it's trivial; other than owning at least a couple clean glass pipes or a vaporizer if you really want to be taken seriously; rolling joints with only the best hemp paper; and following proper stoner etiquette whenever possible; being able to distinguish fine cannabis from the rest is the most crucial aspect of being a connoisseur. So let's get started, this is some basic information a self-proclaimed Cannabis Connoisseur without a doubt should know.
A Little Bit of History
Botanists over the years haven't agreed to which family Cannabis belongs, currently it's assigned to a special family, Cannabaceae, in which only Cannabis and Humulus, the genus of Hops, are members.
The male plant is known better as hemp and is quite useful. We have used hemp for atleast 10,000 years. Hemp fibers have been found in China dating from 4000 B.C. and hempen rope and thread was discovered in Turkestan from around 3000 B.C... The history of hemp is truly extensive. Some parts of the world its still being grown to be used for rope and clothes to food and soap. Even the late Henry Ford made a prototype completely out of and dependent of the resins and oils refined from the hemp plant. Hemp has high levels of protein, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, essential fatty acids and trace elements, especially in the seeds. This most likely explains why the seeds are crushed and eaten, and have been for hundreds of years but, because hemp has a low THC content it's usually removed from crops dedicated to producing marijuana unless the grower wants to produce seeds to preserve the strain for upcoming seasons.
Now days, new-age farmers are genetically engineering hybrids for funky, crazy new highs with super dense buds and flavors that only a real pothead would enjoy. Hybrids are quickly taking over and becoming their own species, when Indica and Sativa are combined all one can do is sink into the sofa and watch the psychic premonitions unfold while ignoring the Television completely. These hybrids are so good selling the TV like a crackhead would not be out of the question when it comes time to buy some more.
These brand name nugs come in a couple different varieties. Cannabis Indica, a short dense plant with broad dark green leaves originates in the hashish producing countries Afghanistan, Morocco and Tibet. The flowers or buds are thick and dense providing a laid back, relaxed body high that makes a person want to sit around all day and do nothing but zone out. Cannabis sativa tends to be on the tall, thin side with narrow lighter yellow-green leaves. They also take longer to mature while producing smaller, less compact buds with an energetic mind buzz that stimulates the brain into making more Alpha waves. These plants were originally indigenous to Africa, southeast Asia, and central America. There is a very distinct and noticeable difference between the two, a farmer familiar only with Indica would think something is undeniably wrong if presented with a Sativa plant although it's perfectly healthy. And once more, the Indica and Sativa plants produce two types of bud. Indica tends to be a super dense, tightly bound and firm. Sativa is lightly compacted, more loosely bound and spongy. The last species Cannabis Ruderalis comes from Russia, and there is not much difference inbetween the two sexes. It matures the fastest of the three species and has the lowest levels of THC, but because it flowers so quickly this highly desired trait is being used more often in hybrids to shorten the growing season.
More Than You'll Ever Need to Know about Marijuana
Marijuana or ganja comes in two distinct forms: Hashish and the flowers, and to complicate matters even more, there is what is called Schwag and Beasters (or Beasties).
Hashish is the resin glands of the female plant, it's collected and then smoked or eaten, and the THC content must be over 30 percent to be considered hash. It is debated which method for collection is the best, so I am going to skip describing the various methods of collecting the trichomes for information on what to look for when purchasing hash. The preferred hashish is blond to dark brown, but black is perfectly okay, it just means it was either compressed and/or heated at some point during the process. This might mean some of THC content is irreversibly damaged due to the heat but not usually enough to notice. Hash that is green in color is bad, this means a lot of the plant material was collected and the potency is diminished because it's not as pure as it could be. The purest hash is moldable at room temperature, or can even be found in a liquid form called honey oil, and this is the best someone can buy.
Hashish is the norm around the world except in the United States where it's more common to smoke the flowers. When the neighboring countries caught wind that people in the United States insisted on smoking the flower, they started sending their worst shit to make a lucrative profit. So this means as a United States citizen, Canada is sending what are known as Beasties, and Mexico offers their compressed shit called schwag. Neither of these types of weed are any good.
The beasties coming out of Canada are similar to the nugs grown inside the states but not as good. They're visually appealing, having the white covering of crystal stalks but they have no THC glands. This is because the people in Canada that are growing these buds are doing it only for the money and the product is pulled way too early. Also, the fertilizers used to make these buds enormous in size are not flushed a month prior to harvest. Medical patents that have smoked these beasties have claimed that they make them even more sick due to the unflushed chemicals. Most connoisseurs that buy these buds don't smoke them, but rather turn around and resell them to uneducated potheads for a profit. All the good bud Canada is known for is kept in Canada.
Schwag is the lowest of the low. Schwag is produced in Mexico and then smuggled into the United States. It comes as compacted bricks of weed with stems and seeds compressed inside, and sometimes all kinds of special goodies. People have found metal pieces, other types of plants, insects and some unimaginable things inside their weed to make it weigh more and because it's grown outside. And then, schwag will sometimes be smuggled into the U.S. via the fuel tank of vehicle or with live pissing and shitting animals to avoid any drug sniffing dogs. This is no bueno, and why all schwag before purchasing must be examined by its smell or odor. Its estimated 30 million pounds make this trek, or one similar to this, annually. Americans can thank the War on drugs because when it picked up strength in the '80's this new type of weed emerged. Good schwag is dense, rock hard, light green bricks, and is sticky on the inside when broken up. The seeds are big, fully formed and are black or brown. Finding a bag without seeds is impossible. Also, finding shitty schwag is way too easy; good luck finding any of that good schwag. Cleaning the weed of the headache producing seeds and stems is a bitch for the weak high that is mostly always limited to the head. And in the U.S. the punishment is the same as the higher quality marijuana making the only benefit of this shit is the dirt cheap price.
This brings me to the home-grown nuggets, the trimmed flowers cured and sold for a hefty fee. This type of reefer is usually referred to as "the Dank" because when it's freshly harvested and still wet it can be very odorous. Although these high quality buds go by a variety of monikers on the street, and the different strains go by their own brand name, they're most commonly called the chronic or kindbud. Currently there are over 250 brand names and at least 300 unbranded strains on the market, and these numbers are to increase yearly. These plants are bred to produce high-yield, high-potency pot, and can be known as Sinsemilla because the male plants are removed before pollination so the crop will not contain seeds. It would be a sin to compress this shit for easy smuggling. If a smuggler was to compress a crop of some dank sinsemilla the price would drop dramatically, and it would be considered mid-grade, what is known as "pretendies". For this reason the majority of the Maryjane grown inside the United States comes from California, Kentucky, and locally in a growers home, or in a house dedicated for this function specifically called, surprisingly enough, a grow-house. But by far the biggest producer in the U.S. is California.
I would like to take a moment to talk about something that rates high on my list of pet-peeves, people who don't praise the dude who sells them weed. It's not wise to bitch about the product, especially if it's a black market, the profit margin is already extremely low, and if the product isn't up to par --too bad-- nine out of ten times the dealer doesn't have a choice either. It's either take it or leave it. Leaving it for them means finding another source, this means they're temporarily out of business. This is a disservice to you, the customer. As a customer, if it isn't the right stuff, offer a polite acknowledgement of such refusal and move along with business, plain and simple.
Growers need to keep in mind, poor quality seeds produce poor quality plants and a healthy plant will produce healthy bud. And remember, by giving the plant the proper amounts of water, nutrition and light, the result will be monster bud and increased crop sizes. This is a good thing. To grow the bombest of the bomb, the Metal Halide lights emit light closer to the blue spectrum and are used during the vegetation stage, while the High Pressure Sodium emits light from the red spectrum and is better for flowering. And a couple fairly unknown growing tips concerning the light bulbs, the combination of both will create some killer buds, and also change the bulbs every year because although the filament has not burned out yet the light becomes less intense over time. The over-all goal when growing inside is to duplicate nature.
Big bud size doesn't necessarily mean increased potency and THC content, what it does mean, it can have larger amounts THC content due to the increased surface area. To make insane amounts of THC the plant needs to be big and healthy, for one, but also drenched in adequate amounts of UV-B light waves. So, smaller plants, the one's often mistakenly thought of as weak, could easily produce the same amount of cannabinoids per square inch as a larger plant. If the potency of the plant is low, usually the high felt (Caused by the varieties of cannabinoids) will remain the same, but will not last as long because the smaller amounts of THC will be metabolized by the body faster.
There are three types of Trichomes or tiny crystal glands found on a flowering marijuana plant; the most numerous, largest and most hairy looking is the capitate-stalked measuring 150 to 500 micrometers, then the globular-shaped and second most prevalent capitate-sessile measures in at only 25 to 100 micrometers, and the smallest yet glistening bulbous is only 15 to 30 micrometers. Trichomes don't necessarily come from only healthy plants; they can appear on the smallest and weakest of plants. These Trichomes coat the plant as a form of psychedelic protection from the variety of potential enemies. Coming from the Greek language, Trichome means 'growth of hair', and it's an awesome defense mechanism that makes the flower less palatable for animals and a sticky obstacle to over-come for insects. The gooey gunk also serves as a barrier against the elements, acting as a sunscreen and wind block. This tiny fuzz is also prized by hash makers because this is where THC and the other feel good chemicals are produced. 'An organelle called a vacuole containing phenol combines inside the Trichome with another organelle called a plastid- containing a hydrocarbon called Terpene, if this mixture is then struck by UV-B light waves cannabinoids are formed*.'
The look and feel of good bud by now should be obvious to a person with little experience, but repeating it a couple times doesn't hurt though. The most reliable way would be to inspect the amount of Trichome heads still attached to the bud. Look for milky white trichomes. While the smell and taste will differ with each strain, against popular belief the smell isn't the best indication of strength, although it is something that no good bud should go without. Remember, life is short, take some time to stop and smell the flowers. Indicas are known more for their skunk smell while Sativas are generally more earthy and taste like a pine tree, and both are known to sometimes have a sweeter and fruity smell with citrus over tones. With the advent of hybrids these guiding lines are being pushed to the point they become blurred. Soon that next sack of bud might come in any flavor imaginable because of the crazy, unrefined will of the Human race. And they haven't stopped there, the colors range from lime to dark forest green with little bits of pink fuzz or deep purple leaves, and like the smell it doesn't have anything to do with getting high. This goes for the highly admired strands of "hair" too. While on the subject, not all strains will have hair and some strains are more hairy than others. The difference depends namely on the seed or the mother plant's genetics from where the clone came.
Just Wait, There's More
Drying and curing prevent bud rot and is essential to the final steps; this also ensures the most amount of flavor and potency. When it's dried too quickly it will smell like fresh cut grass because of all the chlorophyll still inside the plant hasn't yet dispersed. Over dried bud will lose crystal glands because they're dry and break off, and the bud will crumble easy. This creates a fast, harsh hitting smoke. The bud can be re-hydrated by putting a fan leaf from a cannabis plant or a piece of bread in the container over night, but it's not suggested to damage the delicate flavor with an orange peel or anything of that nature. Under dried bud will also lose crystals, but in this case they stick to everything they touch. The bud will also be hard to burn when it's still dank. The extra water means the risk of mold and less dank for the dough. Not everyone agrees on how dry bud should be though.
Drying marijuana draws the sap and water out of the stem and into the flower as it dries bringing out its natural flavor. Drying and curing are very important steps in producing high-quality marijuana. Drying is when the buds are hung in a well-ventilated room for about a week with the humidity under 50%. The common consensus is the bud should be dried about 85% of the way. The stem will snap easily but not completely in half leaving some of the fibers intact. At this point it should be trimmed of the remaining leaves and placed in an air tight container for curing. During curing the container should be removed from the cool, dark location from where it's being stored, and opened once or twice a day for a few minutes to allow fresh air to replace the humid and stale air that has built up in the container from the plant's expiration. Curing causes terpenes to isomerize into polyturpenes giving us that mellow taste and mind-bending high that a true connoisseur has come to associate with only the highest quality of Cannabis. I find there is a distinct smell that comes from curing bud, it's a pungent sweet mixture of chlorophyll combined with the natural smell of the plant. When it's done curing, the bud should still have a slight odor, but it will not be overwhelming and the sweet aroma will be gone, after this point there is no longer a need to continue burping the container.
Taking the Higher Road
Because of the nature of Cannabis valuable traits may be lost by sexual reproduction. Clones eliminate this problem. Cannabis is heterozygous and naturally reproduces through pollination, but with a little human interaction it can reproduce asexually. The propagation of nearly identical populations can produce the desired fast growing, evenly maturing plants, but this method doesn't allow for adaptation to new stresses, and entire crops can be lost because there isn't genetic diversity within the crop. Clones come from mature leaves that have been cut off with a sharp knife, a rooting hormone is applied, and then the cutting is replanted. The leaf will sprout roots and take off like a, umm, weed. The really cool thing about clones are, they can be used to test conditions for growing, things such as the fertilizers and watering systems being used, and indoor vs. outdoor grows. Clones allow the grower to conduct more precise experiments by isolating the genotype as a variable. This allowed some people to discover everything the plant is exposed to while its growing can cause certain phenotypes to flourish. Like exposing some plants to colder temperatures can cause the purple leaves in certain strains. The soil, climate and genetics all play a role in the final product as well. This means throughout the world cannabis is going to be different. This is said to be the reason for Maui's wowie. Hawaii's Maui wowie is not a strain of pot but more commonly a reference to the kind of pokololo (crazy weed) grown on the big island of Hawaii. Therefore, the plants grown here are very powerful due to the soil and climate.
The chemical salts and humidity will also cause the plant to produce vastly different buds. A handful of clones given to a bunch of people had samples of their buds taken at harvest. These people grew their clones their way, with their set-ups and fertilizers. The clones, all from the same plant I remind you, produced flowers that differed in appearance vastly when compared. Every last nug looked different. They had a couple similar characteristics but not many; things such as the shape, density, hair and leaf amount, over-all darkness in color, and types of trichomes all differed quite a bit. The four that looked somewhat alike had been grown outside with and without fertilizer. The six grown indoors, four in soil and two in hydroponics, had nothing in common, not even amongst the other samples within the same group.
Hydroponics, in my opinion, is not the superior method everyone thinks that it is, and a plain old bucket with soil is better. The difference is not visible, but when hydro is smoked it becomes clear. Smoke a joint; if the initial flavor lasts all the way through until the roach and doesn't start tasting like tar, it was most likely grown in soil. Also, if it burns evenly down into a grey pile of ash instead of black carbon chunks, then it's most likely grown in soil. The problem with growing hydroponics is the plant is made up of nothing but chemicals, and this is not natural. It's like trying to turn a scrawny dweeb into a professional athlete using nothing more than junk food, hot dogs and steroids. That puny little guy might grow up to look the part, but on the inside he's not healthy. Yeah I know, organic might not produce as much, but if these flowers are going to be smoked, what would you rather smoke, chemicals or dirt? Remember, God made dirt, and dirt don't hurt.
And finally, I honestly believe clones are better than feminized seeds; although the clones will be a smaller plant in the end, feminized seeds are not natural as well. Feminized seeds are produced using two methods; one way involves giving the female gibberellic acid when it's about flower. The other way involves altering the amount of light the plant receives in a way it would never occur in nature. These methods cause the plant's hormone levels to fluctuate and the plant becomes a hermaphrodite. The seeds produced in this asexual reproduction can be 80-100% female. There is a downside, the Hermaphroditus is now in the genetics and passed down to the seeds, and if the new plant or any of the branches are stressed they will turn Hermie and cause low THC content. These seeds are collected and sold, but the problem with these seeds are now clear, and a better way to produce large female crops is to grow clones.
Other than with hydro, bad bud is really easy to spot. There will be no trichomes. It might be dull and dirty looking, all shriveled up without any color or smell, but this is not always true in every case. It could be funky smelling like a load of laundry left in the washing machine for a couple days. This means mold is growing, examination should lead to the discovery of spores. If the spores are contained to a small colony; remove the contaminated area, then eradicate any remaining spores on the salvaged green by exposing the bud to direct sun light or freezing temperatures for at least fifteen minutes. This works for only small amounts though, a bowl or two, if it's a larger amount of the stash that was exposed to the mold, I suggest using it for cooking and if possible avoid inhaling it.
There are many reasons why bud can go bad. Plants with bugs or mold can sometimes go into shock and finish early leaving the finished product with very little THC content. These buds then could be sold when the proper thing to do would be making hash. Overheating and improper airflow can cause big problems for healthy plants during the grow and storage. Random acts of god are less rare when the farmer knows what he is doing, but it extends past the grower and into the hands of the pot pusher. Handling is the number one reason for bad bud. Everything thing the those trichomes touch is a danger, and plastic bags create a static cling, trapping those tiny, precious psycho-active crystals forever. The flower is very delicate and any abuse could cause it to start shedding those crystals faster than you can say Tetrahydrocannabinol.
"What, did you go to weed college?"
* Feryl says re Cannabis Connoisseur: nitpicking from your friendly neighbourhood biochemist: While THC is indeed a terpenophenolic compound, it is not synthesized from molecules like phenol. Cannabinoids biosynthesis involves a polyketide condensation to produce olivetolic acid which is prenylated by GPP (a terpenoid). Terpene isn't a chemical, it's a type of chemical. If plastids and vacuoles were seen to combine, many scientists would be very very excited. Most likely, the precursor chemicals are transported together. Once together, an aromatic prenyltransferase and a flavinated oxidoreductase complete the process. Light doesn't participate in the reaction, but it would stimulate the plant to regulate it. The isomerization step during curing degrades the amount of psychoactive compounds in the plant, but probably develops the flavour. The rest of your information seems accurate. I liked the bit about the gibberelin.Good node.
Extended Reading :
THE CANNABIBLE SERIES
Cannabis Culture issue #74, Jeff Ditchfield, "Cannabis Cultivator" Collins and Brown 2009 pg.6
;Bubbleman, Jeremiah Vandermeer, "Inside the Trichome" pg.52
;The DEA's Global War on Cannabis, Phil Smith pg. 78
;Growing Tips, Bob High pg. 112
Further Resources :
History channel specials-Hillbilly: the real story and;
the History of drugs, and how they became illegal in the United States.
(Websites accessed 12/10/2009)