- High-CBD strains have arrived on the cannabis market and they are here to stay. The benefits of this substance are becoming increasingly well-known and it is changing how we use marijuana. But where has the so-called “CBD wave” come from? From some laboratory with cutting edge technology? Maybe it is the result of intense scientific research? No, dear friends. As with so many other great inventions in the history of mankind, sometimes the biggest discoveries happen in the most simple and humble of ways.
- So let's head to Girona, that famous traditional city in Catalonia, to interview the founders of Reggae Seeds - the seed bank which is responsible for the vast majority of high CBD-strains on the market.
Where did the CBD wave originate? How did your strains come about?
It came out of my "bat cave", from my indoor crop and the New York City Diesel species. At the first Spannabis event, we bought a packet of seeds from Soma Seeds. I tried them straight away and I was fascinated. It was a completely different plant, a strain that I found at a time when I'd already gone as far as I could with Skunks and the usual Dutch varieties. Later on, when I was selecting these NYC Diesel species, I noticed there was a male plant that looked good and I used it to pollinate other varieties that I already had (Reina Madre, Blue Heaven, Russian, Morning Glory) and that´s how the CBD wave started.
It seems like it was love at first sight for you with NYC Diesel… Why were you so attracted to it?
Because of everything about it. I liked its productivity, its structure and particularly its special flavour. It had an oily orange aroma which was so different from anything else I'd tried before and believe me, I'd smoked quite a few joints.
What was the process that took you from those first NYC Diesel seeds to the high-CBD varieties of Reggae Seeds such as Juanita la Lagrimosa, Kalijah, Dancehall, etc.?
Everything happened really fast. All the hybrids came about all of a sudden and the indoor greenhouse was full of different species. With the exception of the Reina Madre elite clone, all the others were my own selections, from my own seed bank. We use elite clones when we need to, and always work with species from our selections.
So as I was telling you, everything began with that male NYC Diesel plant that brought in the CBD. Although to be honest with you, I wasn't even aware of the high levels of cannabidiol that the plant had at that time. I just let myself be guided by what I liked, how much I appreciated the effects of that cannabis and the flavour. At that time, I didn't know what CBD was or which effects it produced. Like practically everybody else, I knew about THC and I liked the way that plant made me feel. After years of being a user and having developed a quite a good eye, I was looking for the effects of CBD even though I didn't know it at the time.
"It had that oily orange aroma which was so different from anything else I´d tried before"
You got Juanita la Lagrimosa tested at Spannabis, confirming your suspicions that it contained a high percentage of CBD, but you didn't do this until 2010 - six years after you started working with varieties that are high in CBD. Why did you wait so long to get your product certified?
Well, perhaps we didn't think we had such a good strain and it wouldn't take off like it has. We weren't in a hurry because we're an artisan seed bank and we´re very relaxed people. I was bringing up my three kids and I didn't have much time... And well, there are other things in my life, business isn't everything. There is a path in life. We all have our own philosophy and choose how we want to travel along it. I think you have to do what you feel. It took us six years because things worked out that way.
What makes NYC Diesel so different from the typical potent strains?
That's exactly it - it wasn't so potent. Back then, I was smoking from when I got up to when I went to bed and I didn't want to be spaced out all day. When I was on a night out, or if I had free time and fancied a laugh, I did like that intense effect of THC which helps you switch off from reality a little bit. But on a day-to-day basis, it wasn't something that I wanted.
That's why I liked the effects of NYC Diesel so much. It didn't stop me from going about my daily activities and I also loved the flavour it had. It blew my mind. I'd been used to strains like Skunk, Widow, Norder, some types of Haze and so on, and I thought I knew about all the aromas and flavours, but then this plant arrived and it took my breath away. It was a tremendous discovery for me.
"My friend told me that I looked like I'd been crying. We had a laugh about it and I said: Juanita la Lagrimosa"
How many hybrids did you make with the original Diesel before you ended up with Dancehall?
We made two hybrids. First we crossed NYC Diesel with all of those from the indoor crop: Reina Madre, Blue Heaven, Soma's Diesel and Russian. Then I chose the ones I liked best. I was looking for the one that was fastest and had the best characteristics overall. The ones I picked were NYC Diesel crossed with Reina Madre, and NYC Diesel crossed with Blue Heaven. I gave the first one to a friend from Mallorca who was starting his own process of selection and I kept the cross with Blue Heaven, which would later be called Kalijah.
When my friend from Mallorca came over with the selection that he'd made, he brought two phenotypes with him. The first one reminded me of Reina Madre because it was very productive and its flowers were quite open, but the aroma was not so strong. The other one ended up as Juanita la Lagrimosa. So in order to start growing the Reggae Seeds strains, I focused on the regulars. I crossed Juanita with a male Kalijah plant and the result was Dancehall.
Juanita la Lagrimosa is a strange name…
Yeah, Juanita is a plant that has a very thin resin pod. You only need to touch it and your fingers will get wet, whether it's dry or green. We were rolling one of these joints and I realised this. My friend told me that I looked like I'd been crying, we had a laugh about it and I said "Juanita la Lagrimosa", and that's where the name came from. We didn't know it at the time, but this variety already contained a high percentage of CBD.
We've noticed that the Diesel strain is still dominant in Dancehall. Did you notice it yourselves?
Yes, even the third generations of that male Diesel plant have its characteristics. It has turned out to be very potent and dominant genetically speaking. Everything goes that way in my seed bank - Session is Diesel through and through, Dub also has touches of Diesel, etc. That male plant shaped both the structure and the aroma, but it wasn't very spectacular in terms of appearance. It only had four open flowers. Small but deadly.
Today, the descendants of your species are found all over the world. Was that something you expected to happen? How do you feel about it?
I wanted it to happen. You could say it was a hope, a dream. I guess that´s what any breeder wants, don't they? But to go from there to what we have now… At this moment in time, we could say that 95% of CBD species on the market have come from my house, and I´m extremely proud of that.
The mere fact that people can enjoy and acknowledge the work I have put into these strains is satisfaction enough. I'm really happy to have been able to expand the range of cannabis varieties available in the world. It gives you joy, the way any parent feels when their child does something good in the world.
Thanks to your strains, many people with illnesses from all around the world will be able to benefit from the medicinal properties of CBD. Did you ever imagine that would be the case?
After we found out that our varieties contained CBD, I passed the Dancehall 24 and Juanita la Lagrimosa clones on to anybody who asked for them - seed banks, clubs, users… and especially sick people. I think that there's nothing to discuss in that regard and there´s no other alternative. All of us know that developing a serious illness is one of the worst things that can happen to you in life and that is the only thing we should be thinking about. This is what makes me feel most fulfilled - it is the power to indirectly help people who need it by making sure they can get hold of CBD.
Which one is your favourite and why?
Well, my favourite is Ana, my partner. I'd better say that first so I don't get into trouble. (laughs) I'm joking, my favourites are Kalijah and Juanita because of everything they represent, because they are the cornerstones of Reggae Seeds, but Dancehall is also the apple of my eye. You´re putting me on the spot there…
Do you think that the public are gradually coming round to the benefits of smoking high-CBD marijuana for recreational purposes?
Little by little. There's still not a great deal of understanding. Most people think that CBD is counterproductive for species that contain THC because it reduces its level, or that it is best used for medical purposes.
Let´s go back a few years, before CBD became fashionable… Did you come up against the typical complaint of "it doesn't get you high"? Did you ever doubt your strains?
I never doubted them. The only person who has to like our strains is me. I'm quite a good judge and I was determined not to be influenced by anybody else. But it's true that lots of people would say to me "your marijuana is really good but it doesn't get you high". Meanwhile, I was watching how friends would come over to my house after smoking cannabis which is high in THC and they would hardly say a word. When they were smoking a joint containing Juanita, they'd suddenly start getting animated and joining in with the conversation.
I think that instead of not feeling the effects, it was actually a case of them not being understood. We're too used to strains with lots of THC and we can't imagine any other kind of cannabis. I always say that my varieties are like a cocktail. THC would be like pure alcohol that creates an explosion of intoxication, terpenes would be the botanicals used to make gin for example, and CBD would be the soft drink that we add as a mixer.
The mixer changes everything. Being drunk on ethanol and having a couple of mojitos are not the same thing. The pleasure of taste is completely different and the effect changes too, it's much clearer. It has less THC, that much is true, but that´s not the only point; it´s the effect that this combination of substances produces.
"We're too used to strains with lots of THC and we can't imagine any other kind of cannabis"
What ratio of THC to CBD do your prefer and why?
It depends on the situation, but I think that 1:1 is the one we use most. It´s the most balanced ratio - you still notice the THC and you have all the benefits of CBD. We like 1:3 for making oils and extracts. There's also a time and a place for smoking just THC, like when we're chilling out with friends or at a party. We like using all kinds of ratios.
Has CBD expanded the range of possibilities surrounding cannabis use?
Yes, every species and every effect has its place. Sometimes people have told me "smoking doesn't agree with me". I'm sure that there is a variety out there that they would actually enjoy, because there is a big difference between them. You can't lump every kind of cannabis together and say that they produce one certain effect. It would be like saying every kind of alcohol is beer.
Is this the future of recreational cannabis use? Will the time come when we can go into a shop and buy a specific type of marijuana with a particular ratio, and come away knowing what is in the product for sure?
Yes, people are becoming more and more demands with regards to what they smoke. It will eventually get to a point where the user demands to know exactly what they are going to be consuming. There's a long way to go because there is still a lot of drug trafficking. Doing things quickly and cheaply without any respect for the plant means that the end product loses quality and we can´t guarantee any minimum standard.
If you could choose, what type of flavour would you like the CBD strain to have?
None in particular and all of them specifically. I'd like to be able to find any kind of strain and for it to be high in CBD.
Is this just the beginning of a new era? Is there still a lot to explore in this regard?
Definitely. It's a new era and there's so much to explore. It´s very early days but research is being carried out not only into CBD, but also THC.
Do you think that CBD will change how marijuana is used?
Yes. It will change it a great deal. I think that lots of people would like to smoke cannabis that is high in CBD but they don't know it yet. The substance remains a mystery. THC is there and that's the base of course, but marijuana that combines THC with CBD produces a much more bearable, sustainable effect which is more compatible with daily life.
What do you think about autoflowering varieties with CBD? Do you think they are interesting? Why?
Just as I wasn't a big fan of feminised versions for a long time, I don't really like automatic strains either. Let´s just say I'm a bit old school. I was originally against feminised varieties and I've had to eat my words in the end. The same could happen with automatic varieties. I'm pleased that there are automatic strains which are high in CBD and I believe that they have a place in the cannabis world, but on a personal level, I've yet to try an automatic variety that leaves me satisfied, that has the soul of feminised or regular plants.
At Dinafem, we have been creating hybrids and selections for innovation purposes. Is there any species in particular that you would like to see crossed with CBD one day?
I'd like to see all of them, out of curiosity. I would like to find a plant that is high in CBD without being so dominant - something that only passed on CBD and not other genetic features when it was crossed with another variety. This means that we could enrich all the current varieties of cannabis with CBD without changing their characteristics.
At Dinafem, we've been using Reggae Seeds to breed and select new strains, which has resulted in our range of high-CBD varieties. What do you think of the result?
I still haven't had the chance to try them. I hope you can come and visit us and bring a few seeds with you. I think what you're doing is great. I'd also like you to make a high-CBD version of your species, because you've got plenty of them; not just making hybrids with famous clones, but also some home-made ones. But here I am, waiting for you to bring me some samples from your catalogue so I can try them out. If you take too long, we'll have to come and pay you a visit.
Talking of visits, we had a great time when we came to see you last time... When are you going to invite us back?
You're already invited. We had a great time too and we all got along fantastically. You're always welcome to our home. We still need to go for a walk along the river, and I've found a beautiful route that´s really green.
We already know we'll be smoking Dabs with a ratio of 1:2 or 1:3, but... What are you going to feed us?
Dry bread with over-salted anchovies. I'm kidding. I'll rustle up some of Jimi´s recipes that will make your mouth water. Here's a little preview to make you come and visit: Jamaican chicken, polenta with samfaina (traditional Catalan rataouille) and gazpacho. I'm a passionate believer in enjoying the pleasures of life, which includes eating well.
As CBD is becoming more and more well-known, at Dinafem are trying to educate people to appreciate its qualities. A fair percentage of people are already using it. Place your bets... What do you think will happen in the future? Will the use of high-CBD cannabis spread and turn marijuana into a mainstream product, or will it be relegated to a limited section of the market - people who are already smokers but want a milder effect?
My hope is that CBD reaches more people than strains with high levels of THC have done. I don´t just mean in the field of medicine; I think that the public will gradually understand that adding CBD does not mean removing THC, but improving the quality of the effect by making it more bearable and helping the user to interact better socially. I came across CBD intuitively. Before I even knew what I had in my hands, I preferred varieties with CBD simply because I like their effect more.
Can you imagine housewives smoking varieties that are high in CBD instead of taking anti-anxiety medication, for example?
Yes, that´s why marijuana still isn't legal. They don't want people to stop taking anti-anxiety pills and antidepressants because their use is so widespread among the population and the pharmaceutical companies are making money from it. Once cannabis has been legalised and can be bought at an establishment after a quality certification process, and when it can be regulated appropriately and responsibly, I think the public are going to prefer that over tablets and chemical drugs.
Will CBD help to get cannabis legalised?
Of course. I think anything that normalises cannabis for people who had demonised it previously is a positive thing. CBD is proving to offer lots of benefits for both recreational users and the medical industry, and this is changing the perceptions that many people have of marijuana.