The ‘Superior Derivative’
Western culture is obsessed with the idea of the ‘superior derivative.’ We are always searching for the best, the one active ingredient, the fastest, largest or greatest thing. Our entire medical system is even based on the idea of eliminating ‘inactive’ ingredients to find the derivative. Ibuprofen, acetaminophen and, ultimately, our fascination with THC, are all based on this obsession.
The entourage effect, or the idea that many compounds within cannabis act in combination to create its effects, has become widely known and even scientifically confirmed. The past 20 years of legalization efforts in the US have largely been based around this argument, and Marinol’s (dronabinal, a synthetic pharmaceutical THC) poor performance further highlighted the entourage effect’s efficacy. Interestingly, the same underground industry that proved the entourage effect went on to create a legal industry, that, yet again, obsessed over finding the magic derivative. Growers and breeders, who then influence consumers, have sought after ever-higher THC percentages; there’s the ongoing argument of hydro vs. organic; and everyone has a brother, uncle, grandma or cousin that is the self-proclaimed World’s Greatest Grower.
Much like everything else in life, this issue continues to reside in a gray area. Some of the most beautiful things that’ve come to be are blends, even when they’re not recognized.
Landrace strains are a great example of this phenomenon. There’s been speculation about a ‘pure’ landrace sativa or indica in recent years, mostly based on misinformation; the idea in itself is rather ludicrous. A landrace strain is simply a local varietal, similar to an heirloom tomato. It’s not a ‘pure’ version of anything, other than hundreds, if not thousands, of years of local weather conditions producing the strongest genetic survivors. That means they are the result of season after season of open-pollinated crossbreeds. This isn’t to say there’s no inherent value in landrace strains, however. Just as heirlooms are bred to withstand certain environmental conditions or produce a specific type of fruit, indigenous landrace strains carry certain genetics key to breeding and long-term development. If left to their own devices, landrace strains can even potentially create new, useful characteristics.
Another common perception is that any combination of indoor, outdoor or greenhouse grows with hydroponic or organic methods are consistently superior. Beside the arbitrary preferences of any smoker or gardener, every environment and growing regimen is unique, and thus, so is the product. While certain methods are known for producing distinct characteristics, everything is relative and interdependent-one of many reasons why the cut you grew looks nothing like your buddies from the same plant. In medical and recreational states, many of the largest facilities have achieved their most efficient results by blending the best of both the chemical and organic worlds.
THC AND CBD
We all know THC is the most prevalent cannabinoid in a majority of cannabis varieties. This isn’t by chance. Until all too recently, most growers bred towards higher and higher THC percentages. While the cannabis community was certainly a clandestine society of its own, they still used western science to justify their means. Growers bred toward THC because they thought it was the chemical that gave us all of the medicinal and recreational benefits of cannabis.
Time and science have proven, we were wrong. CBD, amongst other cannabinoids, show tremendous medicinal uses without the psychotropic effects of THC. And just as we started to believe that CBD was the new miracle compound, we were once again pushed back toward a gray area. Cannabinoids have been proven to work best, and with the most diverse applications, when in combination with other cannabinoids, as well as naturally occurring terpenes and flavonoids. This should come as no surprise, considering what many in the community have known all along: the entourage effect is real.
In the end, the ‘best’ methods are those that consider their own shortcomings. Whether this is a way of thinking or a physical practice, being one-sided is only divisive, and ultimately self-inflicting. The cannabis industry has a unique opportunity to demonstrate the power of collaboration and progressive research to other industries. Start small, try new things, make new friends and look at everything as objective. Little steps of progress can make big changes and help educate future generations.