California’s $14 billion a year cannabis economy has created all-star marijuana strains with as much cachet as marquee athletes. A combination of genetics, local variation, effects in the field, and marketing have promoted ten such California hits to such great heights, they have their own baseball cards.
Technically they’re Berkeley Patients Care
Center Collective “trading cards”: a shimmering, 10-piece set spanning OG Kush to Blue Dream, featuring luscious close-ups, and an intercontinental tale of a flowering industry.
Cannabis breaks down into two, broad species, sativa and indica, says dispensary general manager of eight years David Bowers, but growers seek maximum power, and inimitable style through a mind-boggling array of strains.
“It’s survival of the fittest, really,” he says.
The reigning Southern and Northern California all-star and #1 trading card ‘OG Kush’ came from a powerful Colorado varietal called ‘chemdawg’ several years ago, says Bowers. Strains emerge through deliberate and accidental genetic variation. Hit strains are then cloned and sold from seed at international seed banks.
When plants travel, genetic expression can vary. On the East Coast, chemdawg became Diesel, while on the West Coast, starting in Los Angeles, it became OG Kush. Bowers says OG Kush can be grown inside or outside, but it’s finicky like Barry Bonds, requiring precise moisture, temperature, and nutrients. Pound for pound and in its prime, though, OG Kush is some of the strongest on the market. Those seeking pain or nausea relief, or even multiple sclerosis suffers have benefited from OG Kush, he says.
“Extremely psychoactive … can be almost too strong for some patients,” notes the trading card. “Very distinctive tangy lemon with a pine forest aroma that sticks to back of your nose. Extremely skunky and pungent. Long lasting after taste.”
The nine year-old BPCC is known for its elitism. It doesn’t dispense mid-grade or low-grade product and rigorously id’s product. The card line began in Spring 2010 as a way to educate forgetful patients on what they had just bought.
“Consumers want to get rid of physical pain, restore appetite, or find mental relaxation and different strains help,” Bowers says.
Identification is a dark art at best, though.
Half“Quite a bit” of the growers for BPCC incorrectly identify the strain they’ve grown. To date, no California dispensaries perform expensive, time-consuming genetic analysis on medicine. Dispensary buyers don’t necessarily get a degree. Bowers read up on the popular literature and web sites, like the Cannabible and Sensi Seeds, and relies on experience.
“A lot of the literature is conflicting,” he says. “It’s more an art than a science.”
The industry is heading toward more empiricism, though. Harborside Health Center in Oakland determines potency at the molecular level with flame ionization. Medical Marijuana Inc. vice president David Tobias in Orange County says medical cannabis will get to the point where people can take exactly what’s right for them, instead of something that leaves them either zonked out, or unable to sleep.
“I know a lot of dispensary owners and they’ll suggest different things that are not good for me,” Tobias says.
Strains also rise and fall over years, Bowers recalls. Recently, Oakland’s Grand Daddy Purple took over the market until “everyone was growing the same strain at the same time”, gridlocking the supply chain.
What was once the reign of Champagne and Old Blueberry has become the market of Blue Dream and Romulan. Blue Dream is a hybrid that smells “sweet and refreshing like fresh baked blueberry doughnuts.” It’s “strong and long lasting medication for day or night”.
If BPCC can educate people just a little, the cards are worth it, Bowers says. A second line of ten is underway and Bowers intimates a breakthrough in weed technology on the horizon.
“We’re trying to make them scratch and sniff.”