October 18, 2017

The science of strains

Cannabis strains? We never heard of that in the 1960s and ’70s when marijuana seemed seamless and generic. In those days, coffee was simply coffee, beer was beer, and pot was pot. Sure, casual users occasionally came upon gems such as Panama Red, Colombia Gold, Hindu Kush (Middle East) and Thai (Asia), with names rooted to their geography. But mostly the product was unbranded.

Then came newfound genetic awareness with strains in the 1980s bred with distinctive characteristics. Surges of hybridization ensued. Northern Lights, Skunk and Big Bud showed the way. Later, Sour Diesel and OG Kush took recreational cannabis genetics to new levels. Today, professionals and amateurs alike create new strains. Sativa meets indica in a myriad of ways with offspring going everywhere.

Breeding skills needed are more than a passing knowledge of Gregor Mendel and his peas. Careful selection of specific genetic traits and ability to choose males and females with desired attributes and nurse them along their hybrid path are what separate pros from amateurs.

Breeders who produce commercial and medical cannabis are an intriguing mix of farmer, mad scientist/geneticist and artist, and three of Oregon’s finest are no exception: Shane Yoakam, Ray Bowser and Adam Jacques.

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