Why does cannabis potency matter? 29 June 2009 – Of the many people worldwide who use cannabis, also known as marijuana, very few understand the increase in its potency over the years. Cannabis Learn the best ways to improve the potency of homegrown cannabis buds and the main pitfalls to avoid when aiming for maximum THC levels! You can toss it, and lose out on all of that hard work, or you could process the plant materials
Why does cannabis potency matter?
29 June 2009 – Of the many people worldwide who use cannabis, also known as marijuana, very few understand the increase in its potency over the years. Cannabis has changed dramatically since the 1970s. New methods of production such as hydroponic cultivation have increased the potency and the negative effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the most psychoactive of the chemical substances found in marijuana. It is important to understand cannabis potency because of its link to health problems including mental health.
The amount of THC present in a cannabis sample is generally used as a measure of cannabis potency. One of the most comprehensive studies, conducted by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) in 2004, concluded that a modest increase in aggregate cannabis potency had occurred, possibly attributable to the use of intensive indoor cultivation methods. The authors of the study noted that, nonetheless, THC content varied widely.
While a United Kingdom Home Office study in 2008 found little change in cannabis potency: samples of sinsemilla cannabis from 2008 had a median potency of 15 per cent, compared with 14 per cent for samples from 2004/5. Long-term increases have been reported in the United States, with an average potency of 10 per cent reported in 2008.
There are several methodological factors that influence the ability to generate comparable data and infer trends with respect to cannabis potency. Important variables to be considered include the phytochemistry, the type of cannabis product, cultivation method, sampling and stability.
As detailed below, each of these factors can affect the measurement of cannabis potency.
Plant part used: The secretion of THC is most abundant in the flowering heads and surrounding leaves of the cannabis plant. The amount of resin secreted is influenced by environmental conditions during growth (light, temperature and humidity), sex of the plant and time of harvest. The THC content varies in the different parts of the plant: from 10-12 per cent in flowers, 1-2 per cent in leaves, 0.1-0.3 per cent in stalks, to less than 0.03 per cent in the roots.
Product type: There are three main types of cannabis products: herb (marijuana), resin (hashish) and oil (hash oil). Cannabis herb comprises the dried and crushed flower heads and surrounding leaves. It often contains up to 5 per cent THC content. However, sinsemilla, derived from the unfertilized female plant, can be much more potent. Cannabis resin can contain up to 20 per cent THC content.
The most potent form of cannabis is cannabis oil, derived from the concentrated
resin extract. It may contain more than 60 per cent THC content. The increase in market share of a particular product type can influence the reported average potency values. For example, the rise to an average 10 per cent CH content in samples seized in 2008 as reported by the United States Office of National Drug Control Policy is attributed to the fact that high potency cannabis (presumably indoor-grown) has gained a 40-per-cent share of the market.
Cultivation methods: The cannabis plant grows in a variety of climates. The amount and quality of the resin produced depends on the temperature, humidity, light and soil acidity/
alkalinity. Accordingly, herbal cannabis grown outdoors varies considerably in potency. Intensive indoor cultivation of female plants and clones, grown under artificial light,
often without soil (using hydroponic cultivation) and with optimized cultivation conditions, produces cannabis of a consistently higher potency.
Sampling: Most data on cannabis potency are derived from the analysis of seized samples. This means that those samples must be representative of the entire seizure so that inferences and extrapolations can be made.
Stability: THC is converted to cannabinol on exposure to air and light. This process reduces the THC concentration, especially in old samples which have not been stored under suitable conditions (that is, a cool, dark place). It is believed that claimed increases in the potency of cannabis preparations confiscated in the United States over a period of 18 years may not adequately take into account the issue of the stability of THC in older samples.
Only through careful examination of these factors can we make a more systematic, scientific and comparable assessment of cannabis potency in different places and over time.
7 tips to increase the potency of cannabis buds
The same cannabis seeds, grown by two different growers can produce dramatically different THC levels. Grow environment, the absence or presence of several common stress factors and the cannabis genetics will largely dictate the total cannabinoid content as well as terpene levels and yield. There are some tried and tested methods to improve the potency of cannabis buds. It’s equally important to avoid some common pitfalls made by less experienced home growers. Our top tips are below.
Best ways to improve homegrown cannabis potency
Some of the best ways to increase the potency of homegrown cannabis may require you to change existing grow room habits or equipment. If investments are required, then remember that a high-value crop like cannabis will soon repay the grower with harvests that will reach new levels of potency.
1. Ensure optimal LED lighting levels and exposure
Indoor homegrown cannabis
A good quality LED will last years and suffer very little noticeable loss of intensity even after several years of use. Buy wisely from a competent manufacturer and they will supply a chart showing the expected PPFD levels at various hanging heights above the canopy.
Outdoor homegrown cannabis
Some licensed outdoor growers do position greenhouse-style LED light bars around their prized outdoor plants during bloom to maximise potency. Though in reality few outdoor growers can implement such luxuries. In reality the best an outdoor grower can do is to cut back surrounding vegetation so their cannabis plants can enjoy all-day sunshine.
Greenhouse homegrown cannabis
Supplemental greenhouse LED light bars are highly recommended for any greenhouse cannabis grower. Fitted with integrated light sensors, the LED bars will automatically adjust their brightness according to ambient natural light levels. You can expect to increase the potency of cannabis buds as well as improve yields.
2. Choose cannabis seeds with the highest-THC potential
Even the world’s best cannabis growers can’t get high potency buds from genetics with low-THC or medium-THC potential. Note that some growers deliberately avoid the highest THC strains if they simply feel uncomfortable with the most potent cannabis buds. Thats why many cannabis seed suppliers offer strains with low, medium and high THC potential.
Dutch Passion have grouped together the top 15 (or so) strongest feminised seeds and autoflower seeds into a special High-THC seed collection. If you are only interested in growing the very strongest Dutch Passion strains click below!
Highest-THC feminised photoperiod cannabis seeds
Sugar Bomb Punch®
Sugar Bomb Punch is a cannabis cup winning indica strain. She shows great plant-to-plant consistency. In recent lab tests every single Sugar Bomb Punch plants showed THC levels in the 20-25% range.
Mokum’s Tulip is a hybrid cannabis seed with outstanding genetics from Gelato x Sherbet. This strain delivers numbing potency levels, up to and around 25% THC is possible when these elite USA genetics are created with love and care.
Amsterdam Amnesia is a sativa cannabis strain with legendary genetics. The Amnesia high is so powerful many forget what they were doing. If you love an energising and euphoric sativa strain there are few any better!
Highest-THC autoflower cannabis seeds
Auto Skywalker Haze®
Auto Skywalker Haze has hit the headlines for all the right reasons since her release with several independently recorded lab results with 25-30% THC levels. Autoflowering cannabis seeds just don’t get much better than this. Curiously even the feminised seed version of Skywalker Haze can’t yet quite match the same THC levels as the autoflowering version.
Auto Cinderella Jack®
Auto Cinderella Jack is another autoflower seed that has produced 25% THC levels. This hybrid autoflower strain is notably easy to grow in a wide range of conditions with heavy yields and potency levels that are so strong they are recommended only to experienced consumers.
Auto Orange Bud®
Auto Orange Bud uses classic original ‘Orange Bud’ cannabis genetics to deliver a knockout blow in a sweet citrus wrapper. The mouth watering flavours of clementine and citrus fruit fuse with a skunky goodness. Wonderful euphoria follows along with a soaring high.
3. Maintain your plants health from seed to harvest
Ensuring a stable, steady grow environment sounds far easier than it really is. To allow your cannabis plant to thrive you need to ensure she can grow steadily free from stress, environmental battles and pests. Keeping your plant in the nutrient sweet spot with neither over feeding nor underfeeding is a great foundation.
Use of slow release organic nutrients such as those from BioTabs is highly recommended to avoid the yo-yo effect; cycling from over-feeding to under-feeding the plants. Maintaining steady temperatures free from extremes of heat and cold is also another essential.
4. Harvest your cannabis buds at the right time
Home growers often know how they like their cannabis ripening. Many feel that ‘commercial’ cannabis and street weed tends to be harvested a week or two earlier than preferred. Home growers can select the precise moment of cannabis harvest for them.
Our expert guide explains all you need to know about timing your cannabis harvest and how the buds look at various stages from early harvest all the way through to late harvest.
Tip: Many growers believe that adding a couple of days of complete darkness at the end of the bloom period helps their plants to increase resin (and therefore THC) levels.
5. Do not neglect or rush the bud curing process
One of the more overlooked stages of the cannabis bud production process, a good curing maximises the delicious taste and preserves optimum potency levels. Once your buds are perfectly cured you may wish to put them in an air-sealed jar or possibly the freezer where they will remain in peak condition for a year or more.
6. Use a supplemental UVA/UVB light
Many top growers supplement their LED grow light with a UVA/UVB light. These mimic the UV wavelengths seen in natural sunlight and allow the cannabis plants to gain and extra couple of THC percentage points. Terpene content also improves in the presence of UV supplemented light.
7. Try cold conditions in late bloom
Many licensed growers as well as hobby growers are great believers in introducing cool conditions in late bloom, just before harvest. Licensed growers often do this with cold air. This usually requires onsite air-conditioning in order to drop ambient temperatures sufficiently.
The effect is claimed to increase THC and resin levels. Often this will introduce autumnal hues to the buds and leaves. Hobby growers can replicate the effect by adding ice cubes around the stem.
Debunking common myths about homegrown cannabis potency
There is plenty of misinformation about homegrown cannabis potency, and plenty of bad advice too.
Not true. Licensed growers have worked hard on continuous improvement programs that show that small incremental improvements can be made through optimisation of environmental factors. There are some fast, quick wins too – anyone upgrading from HPS to LED will automatically notice new quality levels.
CO2 availability is often a bottleneck that can limit yield rather than potency. The carbon in the carbon dioxide gas is used as a chemical building block for new growth, therefore increasing the CO2 concentrations can improve yield (assuming no other factors are limiting growth). Note that high CO2 levels only make sense with high PPFD levels
Not necessarily! Much depends on the outdoor conditions and the cannabis seeds being used. Whilst it is true that the indoor grower can produce ideal conditions many indoor growers routinely make the same errors (such as over watering and over-feeding, the 2 most common mistakes). A skilled outdoor grower using fine-quality outdoor cannabis seeds may well produce more potent cannabis buds than a less skilled indoor grower using poor genetics and practices.
Definitely not true! In fact Dutch Passion have recently seen autoflower strains producing higher THC levels and higher total cannabinoid levels than their photoperiod siblings. Several of the Dutch Passion autoflower seeds will produce plants capable of THC levels in the 25% range.
Not proven. Many growers feel that a little stress can improve potency. It is perhaps easier to say that bending, cutting, SCROGing, super cropping etc can improve yield by maximising light use.
Everything that you need to know about smoking seedy weed
It can happen to the best of us, especially when it comes to outdoor crops, as it really doesn’t take much for one lonely male to pollinate hundreds of females within a several mile-wide radius. Cannabis seeds can appear when we least expect them to, and that’s why it’s so extremely common to get a crop or a bag from your local dispensary that has these annoying pieces scattered throughout the flower.
This is one of the reasons why so many cultivators take such strict steps to avoid contamination by wearing full-body gear and even PPE that is completely sanitary and disposable, but once you’re past the point of no return, and left with a pile of weed seeds in your buds, there are only so many options. You can toss it, and lose out on all of that hard work, or you could process the plant materials along with the marijuana seeds into oil or some other concentrate, but for those who have invested their last few dollars, or prefer the enjoyment that pure flowers can offer, one question remains.
Many people wonder if cannabis is safe to smoke when it’s full of a bunch of seeds, and if it is, in fact, safe as far as the lungs are concerned, whether or not there are any other potentially adverse effects that they should be privy to. Since this is such a common problem, we feel the need to answer these questions in-depth, so that consumers know what they’re getting into when they’re inevitably faced with this scenario.
Is it risky for your health to smoke cannabis seeds?
Marijuana seeds consist of completely non-toxic plant matter, so they are entirely safe, as far as we can tell, to smoke along with flower, which means that if you find them in a bag, they aren’t going to make you sick, but unfortunately that doesn’t necessarily translate to a truly enjoyable experience, as you will soon find out.
Adverse effects on taste
Cannabis seeds are incredibly annoying when they get lodged in a joint roll or stuck in your grinder, but the absolute worst thing about them is that they taste terrible when they’re smoked, which can completely ruin the normally delicious flavors of your weed. This might sound strange at first, after all, the materials all come from the very same plant, but those yummy trichomes and terpenes that you’d normally bask in simply don’t exist in weed seeds.
Unfortunately, what they do have is a whole lot of fibrous material, so when these bits of the cannabis plant are burnt, they leave behind a distinctive and shocking level of taste that many compare to charred popcorn. It’s certainly not going to be enough to hurt you, but they could leave you coughing or with a burnt tongue feeling, and both of those things can significantly impact the flavor of your herb in a bad way.
If you’re one of the truly unlucky ones that have a crop that gets hit really hard with a foreign dose of pollen, then the weed seeds that develop could seriously reduce the quality of your cannabis, and it’s not just the taste that is impacted. Since cannabis seeds are a fair-sized, they take up a whole lot of room and add weight that otherwise wouldn’t be there, which results in a double whammy as far as potency is concerned because they also don’t contribute any cannabinoids to the harvest.
That’s right, those heavy, irritating cannabis seeds might look pretty and be attached to a fully matured plant, but they have absolutely nothing in common with the flower materials that surround them. To put it more simply, if you had one gram of two identical plants, with one that had been pollinated, the bud would weigh more, but it would have far less for cannabinoids like THC or CBD, which are the elements that influence how you feel right after taking a bit hit off of a joint.
In their absence, your buds won’t be nearly as strong or effective, which means that you will need to smoke way more to get the same results, so you’re also going to find that you go through a whole lot more weed than you’re probably used to with better quality product, and you still might not be satisfied once all is said and done. Now, of course, this isn’t the case with all seedy cannabis as there are various levels of seed production to consider, but it will greatly reduce the potency of what could have been a stellar harvest.
So now that you know what smoking seedy weed can do, it’s time to highlight one of the only real dangers of applying heat to cannabis seeds. These little balls seem nearly indestructible, and carry a wood-like texture that might have you believe that they’d burn away slowly just like a chunk of wood, but the way it works is much more like popcorn kernels which explode to produce the light and fluffy snack.
Sadly, marijuana seeds aren’t nearly as fun to watch heat up, especially when they’re in a joint or well-packed bowl, because they can and often will explode, and that can result in flying hot coals and joints that get ripped wide open due to the incredible amount of pressure. These things might not be overly dangerous, but they are something that every cannabis consumer should be aware of, as they tend to hit sensitive areas like the eyes or mouth, which can be quite painful.
The best ways to deal with weed seeds in your flower
Now that you know everything there is to know about smoking seedy cannabis, it’s time for us to discuss some of the different ways that you can choose to deal with the problem. Some are certainly more effective than others. However, all three of these solutions will work to at least reduce the effects that cannabis seeds can have on the experience of getting high.
1. Remove them manually
If you have a really bad case of seedy weed, then this might not be the best option, as it can be time-consuming to do, and even if you do manage to remove every single one, they will leave behind dried up shells that will still produce that lingering taste we talked about earlier. The best way to use this is by hand, using your fingers to gently shuffle through the bud and pinch any seed casings which should make them fall right out.
2. Make the flowers into a cannabis concentrate
If removing the marijuana seeds sounds like way too much work, and you’re open to trying or using other more potent cannabis concentrates like cannabis oil or cannabutter, then the best choice might be to toss the whole pile into the solution. Cannabis seeds might taste awful when they’re smoked, but that quality doesn’t carry over when they’re included in plant materials that are used to make concentrates. They strain right out, and you’re left with only the best element, which is why this is a preferred method of dealing with seedy weed for many cannabis consumers.
3. Use an electric grinder to break them down
If you aren’t willing to budge on the idea of a freshly packed bowl, and you’re really not interested in dedicating a whole bunch of time to the removal of the cannabis seeds, then you are left with only one option other than tossing it out, which would be a waste. Using an electric grinder will help you to avoid clogged or broken manual grinder, and it will reduce the cannabis seeds into dust so that you won’t see any sparks flying that may cause burns when you smoke them, but unfortunately, this method isn’t typically ideal, because it still leaves the strong taste that can ruin the natural flavors of your buds.