Breeding with high CBD and low THC

13 Sep 2019

CBD Charlotte’s Angel

Who would have thought that a cannabis variety with under 1% THC would have been so popular? CBD Charlotte’s Angel has been selectively bred to have CBD levels of around/above 15% and THC levels below 1%. You can’t get high after smoking/vaping her. It’s a variety with a surprising number of medical and other uses. And it has become Dutch Passion’s best selling CBD variety, even more popular than established varieties with a 1:1 THC:CBD ratio.

What is the point of a ‘zero’ THC cannabis variety?

So far there are 4 main types of person/grower that enjoy the so-called ‘zero THC’ varieties, sometimes referred to as ‘cannabis light’. Although it is worth pointing out that THC hasn’t been completely eliminated, but it is present only in quantities usually between zero to 0.7% THC. The 4 main categories of grower that cultivate these varieties are:
  1. Private medical growers that want a personal supply of CBD rich cannabis to use as buds, or for concentrates.
  2. Large scale growers in places like Switzerland that grow commercial quantities of CBD rich (low THC) cannabis. The buds are sold extensively in herbalists, tobacconists, head shops etc throughout Europe. These growers have often switched from hemp-grown buds to a traditional cannabis variety with buds which look and smell identical to ‘normal cannabis’. One criticism of CBD rich hemp buds is that they lack the quality appearance and structure of cannabis buds. Buds from a low-THC cannabis variety look, smell and taste much better than hemp buds.
  3. Tobacco users looking to reduce consumption. Many people report that a smoke of a ‘cannabis-light’ style variety removes the craving for a cigarette. It’s a way for tobacco users to reduce consumption without too much pain.
  4. Heavy cannabis users who need to take a tolerance break from cannabis find that a smoke/vape of a cannabis light variety removes the craving to get stoned. This allows the heavy cannabis user to reduce consumption or stop it all together for a while without too much discomfort. And after the tolerance break, cannabis will seem just as powerful as it was in the good old days! This was an unexpected property but a useful one.

How do you breed cannabis with virtually no THC in it?

Experienced cannabis breeders will know all about selective breeding. It’s a technique used by breeders and genetic specialists in plants and animals. The other name for selective breeding is artificial selection. It’s ‘artificial’ because you may be focussing only on one trait of a plant, such as THC levels. In the case of CBD Charlotte's Angel, two high-CBD parents were used. The parents had different genetic origins. One was Dutch Charlotte, a CBD rich variety with low THC. This variety was originally made by crossing a CBD rich hemp with a low THC cannabis variety. The other was Red Angel, a high CBD medical variety. Seeds and further selected crossings were made over several generations. Each time, the lowest THC individuals were crossed and more seeds produced for the next generation. This type of work is impossible without regular, routine laboratory analysis at each stage of breeding.

What do low THC cannabis varieties look and grow like?

Using sight and smell you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a high THC plant and one with 0.1% THC. The difference is at a molecular level in the composition of the cannabinoids synthesised by the plant. The feminized CBD Charlotte’s Angel takes around 11 weeks to bloom, she is grown and fed just like any other type of feminized variety. Some professional growers select mother plants from the lowest THC plant grown from a large number of seeds. From a single mother plant they can subsequently produce huge crops with identical cannabinoid profiles from one crop to the next. And the Auto CBD Charlotte’s Angel is grown just like normal feminized autoflower seeds. She takes around 12-13 weeks from seed to harvest under 20 hours of daily light throughout the grow. They can both be grown outdoors and in greenhouses.

Selective breeding and cannabis light.

By crossing a low THC female with pollen from a low THC male you will get a crop of seeds. If you grow all these seeds, or a random selection from them, most of the offspring will draw genetic similarity from the parents. And some will be even lower THC than either parent. So, over many generations and several years you can progressively reach lower and lower THC levels until they are consistently under 0.7%. Breeding-with-high-CBD-and-low-THC

The outliers. Unusual and rare genetics.

Nature often has a mind of her own, and cannabis breeders are well aware of this. Even when you have a pair of similar parents, the occasional seed can give rise to some unusual genetic oddities. These are sometimes referred to as outliers, because the plants produce results that lay outside the normal range. Sometimes this is a good thing. In a professional and scientific setting, with access to lab analysis, data comes quickly. If you have a plant with an unexpected cannabinoid profile you can keep the genetic line for later use. Some of the high CBD parent varieties used for CBD breeding were found this way.

THCV. The next unusual genetic to arrive?

CBD made quite an impact, especially for medical cannabis growers. In the early days of CBD rich seeds few had any real idea about the various uses and popularity which would spring from CBD. So we wonder what people will make of the first THCV (tetrahydrocannabivarin) rich cannabis seeds which Dutch Passion hope to release in 2019. The THCV rich line was noticed some time ago, along with some other highly unusual plants with elevated levels of some other minor cannabinoids. Selective breeding is underway to get levels as high and stable as possible. Recreational smokers can expect a similar effect to THC, with more of a euphoric start to the high and less paranoia. The THCV rich variety is also THC rich, but the Dutch Passion breeders would be interested in finding a low THC, high THCV variety too.

What else are the breeders looking at?

Interest in CBG (Cannabigerol) is also gathering pace. Some CBG rich research varieties already exist and work is ongoing to see how high CBG content can go. CBG is regarded as a ‘mother’ cannabinoid molecule from which THC and CBD are produced. There is also some evidence that CBG is also involved in terpene production. Because CBG is used as a building block to create other cannabinoids the residual levels of CBG in the final buds are usually quite low, below 1%. However in a CBG rich variety the CBG is present at levels of 3-4% or more. It will be interesting to see the full cannabinoid analysis of the CBG rich variety. Will the additional CBG content result in enhanced levels of other cannabinoids? And if so what will be the effect of the final smoke/vape quality? There are still plenty of questions for the breeders of new cannabinoids. Recreational smokers will be interested to find new varieties with different highs. Medical cannabis users will be interested to know what medical benefits will come from THCV and CBG rich varieties. Dutch Passion are reluctant to speculate too much in this regard at this stage. Whatever the eventual medical benefits, they will come out soon enough once the seeds become available. By Tony, Dutch Passion Seed Company -