JV. Welcome Doc. We’re pleased that you took a little break from strain hunting to do this with us. Where are you hanging your hat at the moment?
In the Ottawa – Montreal area these days. I have so much genetic stock to work with already, I don’t need to look for anything right now, or ever, really. I have frozen seed samples that go back to the early eighties, so there’s always something to do but if something really interesting comes along, we’ll look at it and decide if it’s worth pursuing. I love a road trip!
JV. You’ve been around longer than most breeders and have seen many changes in the cannabis seed industry. What are some of the most significant and how have they affected your work?
You’re right! We’ve been around now for over twenty years as a seed bank alone. Probably the biggest change in business that I’ve seen, was the overwhelming demand for feminized seeds and the introduction of S1 seeds of highly desirable “elite” cuttings. We fought that for a while but the market demanded feminized seeds and you cannot turn your back on that kind of demand, or you won’t be in
business very long. The problem we saw with the feminized seeds, at the time…and to this day really, was the many, many, feminized plants that were being sold that, in the end, produced too many hermaphroditic plants, so we started looking for ways to feminize that wouldn’t produce hermaphroditic plants. We developed our own feminization technique and often, the complaint we get, is that our seeds produce plants that are too hard to get male flowers on, so that people can make their own seeds. From our standpoint, that isn’t a problem but more an assurance to our customers that the resultant plants from our seeds are pretty much hermaphrodite free; though statistically probable, the fact is, we’ve never had a proven hermaphrodite plant in our femmed lines.
JV. When I first started covering this industry, the seed game was dominated by European breeders who had much greater freedom. Recently that’s all changed with North American breeders multiplying daily and getting a lot of attention. Do you expect this trend to continue and will we see a reversal of fortunes where American seeds are incresasingly sought out all over the globe?
It is worth remembering that many of the first strains introduced in Europe and the Netherlands in particular, were from California, Orgegon, Washington State, Mexico and so on. Our friend, Dogless Jim Ortega had a hand in some of the first plants introduced to Amsterdam as a matter of fact.
Quality seeds will always be in demand and there are few things worth more than a seed that produces quality, trouble-free plants. Off the top of my head, I cannot think of anything more valuable. How many cuttings can you take off a single mother plant? People sometimes complain about the price of seeds but given the fact that people can make literally thousands of clones off a single plant and keep a mother for years, a single feminized Cannabis seed can yield unlimited numbers of clones, so a single seed can have incalculably high value. People often ask us to sell them a single seed or “gift” them a single seed, or a “sample” to “check” the quality of our genetics, well, what they’re asking for in essence is, for us to give them an unlimited supply of elite genetics for free, or for the price of one seed.
JV. A byproduct of prohibitionist times was the need for privacy and reliance on the internet for discussion and promotion. This contributed to a lot of bashing as critics could be anonymous. You however have a ton of support online with fans often commenting on the uniqueness of your gear and the reliability of your service. Tell us a bit about that.
Well the truth is the same as it ever was; eventually ’the cream rises to the top.’ Quality plants, from quality seeds, quality service, honesty, are an undeniable force over the long haul. If it weren’t for word-of-mouth…one customer telling their friends about us and then those customers telling their friends and so on, we probably could never have stayed in business all these years. I am proud to say, the comment I hear most often from customers and potential customers, is their friends said if they wanted to lay their hands on some superior genetics, we were the only place to go.
It comes down to trust really. People know, if they’re buying Blue Dream from us, as one example, they’re getting real Blue Dream and not some cross based on Blue Dream but actual Blue Dream and the very best Blue Dream we could find after extensive searcing and sourcing. Those growers that know about us, trust us! If we’re not sure of what we’re selling, we won’t sell it at all and we won’t even consider putting it on our list. This is true of all our ‘elite’ line, like OG Kush, Chemdawg, Bubba Kush, Sour Diesel, Trainwreck…the list goes on. In fact, we were the first seed company to my knowledge, to offer Bubba Kush, OG Kush and Chemdawg in seed form and we have carried those strains in a unbroken, unchanged line, for over thirteen years now. Oh, we see a lot of pretenders and “flavour of the day” “cuts” this OG cut, that Chemdawg cut, but we haven’t seen any cuts that were better than the originals we carry, or we would have adopted them because we want the very best for our customers. The reality is, most of the OG Kush or Chemdawg “cuts’ available today, came from our seeds. At any rate, we simply want the very best for our customers and that’s all we offer.
Another thing we won’t do is “up sell” people. When someone calls asking our advice on what to grow, at their particular skill level or growing technique, we tell them the absolute truth, based on their criteria, even if it means selling a cheaper seed. We want to give the customer exactly what they want and eliminate the guesswork as much as possible.
We’re not really profit-driven and little influenced by trendiness either, so I don’t have the impulse to produce a whole bunch of strains to make the most money possible and we prefer to be responsible to our customers, ourselves, so we don’t wholesale much either and then, only to a few trusted individuals. As long as we’re making a decent living, doing what we love, we‘re not overly concerned with money or for that matter, popularity, in the larger sense. We have in the past, raised prices to slow business down.
Some people hate on us because they say our prices are too high, well, in my opinion that’s just hogwash. Firstly, our detractors have probably never grown one of our strains to see the difference quality makes. If we and other seed sellers were able to charge what really excellent genetics were actually worth, our prices would be much higher and so would every one else’s. The fact that there are so many people selling seeds and cuttings these days, keep prices low but unfortunately the desire for cheap seeds has meant that unscrupulous people have taken advantage of that desire, so sell junk strains hat dumb down overall quality and encourage fakes…and there are a ton of fakes and low quality, bad performing plants out there; the majority I’d say. I’d estimate about seventy-five percent of all the strains on offer today are poorly reworked knockoffs of a handful of serious quality strains and a bunch of random crosses meant solely to get the uninformed buyer’s money. Simple as that. I often say, the most expensive seeds are the ones you pay little money for but then, spend four months, or more, of your time growing them out, only to discover they’re hermaphroditic nightmares, or are not what you paid for, or are low potency, or all finish at widely different times, or all of the above. Sometimes, you actually do get what you pay for but you’re not going to get it at a bargain basement price, hell, these days you’re lucky to get quality even when you pay a premium price, for anything! It’s a sorry state of affairs. My motto is, “treat people the way you’d want to be treated yourself.”
We get a certain amount of online hate from people who say we’re rude on the phone etc., which is also, horse feathers. Myself and our staff, have spent hours and hours on the phone and by email, patiently helping new growers and other customers with growing or plant issues. We support our seeds. Some people, no doubt, get pissed off when they call me asking for help with the strain they bought somewhere else and I tell them to put their question to whomever they bought the seeds from. Polite people get all the time and all support they need and then some; people who call to let me know they know it all, or are rude themselves, get hung up on, or told to fuck off and then get hung up on. I unapologetically have a very low tolerance for rudeness, con artists, know-it-alls or bullshit.
JV. What are the factors that influence what type of genetics you work with? It seems like you pride yourself on offering stellar versions of some of the more popular strains like your Bubba line, the OG Kush, Chemdawg and others.
I’m an old guy and have been a smoker and grower now for about fifty years. I like to think that I can recognize quality and performance in a plant. My desire is to make the best plants available to the most people. A lot of seed sellers carry one hundred fifty, two hundred or more strains. A lot of them are re-named, re-makes of classic strains or outright fakes. A lot of them are produced by amateurs who unconciously “select” for “undesirable traits” and who have little real understanding of the selection process or even the desire to know, beause they just want to sell some seeds and make a quick buck. I want our customers to get exactly what they pay for, in a plant that performs exactly how it should, has excellent potency, taste and smell, given proper care.
JV. What makes your versions better? I know you’ve payed top dollar for exceptional mothers. Is that the reason?
Yes, we’ll spare no expense if we really want a strain and know what we’re buying. Oh sure, you can go out and buy a plant that might be the “real deal” elite cutting but people who actually possess the really elite cuts, don’t usually let them go cheap, or let them go at all. For many, it’s a business decision and demands a business price, I respect that. Additionally, I personally will travel anywhere to get the “right’ genetic. I went to Africa to get Malawi, Manchester, England, to get U.K. Cheese for example. Sometimes “Dogless” Jim Ortega does leg work for us too and has done so for many years. Our Good Dog strain is a tip of the hat to Jim who provided half the genetics for Good Dog. Blue Dream and Girl Scout Cookies came from Jim as well. There are few if any, more well-connected, knowledgeable, honest and decent people out there than Jim. So yes, top dollar, verified cuttings and careful work on making either feminized or dioecious versions of seeds. We also test every batch of seeds and if the germination rate is below ninety-five percent, we feed them to the budgies. We include at least one extra seed in every pack, so we feel confident the customer is getting his full complement of starts. We sell only fresh seeds, never old stock. I think elsewhere in the industry, older seeds are sold to re-sellers at a discount, for resale, whereas we destroy old stocks by feeding them to the birds. We visually inspect, under magnification, every single seed that goes into the customer’s package as well.
JV. How long does it take you to get a variety stabilized and ready for market?
Usually at least a year for S1s from elite cuts and in the case of new plants ‘The Dope’ for example, took thirty-two generations over eight years.
JV. This issue focuses on the often neglected male plant and the role it plays in the breeding process. Do you tend to use the same trusted males for your projects or is it different in each case?
Wow! That’s the most amazing and surprising question. Are male plants actually neglected by breeders these days? That’s astounding and irresponsible if true. Of course the male plant is every bit as important from a breeding perspective, as the female plant. Males plants are as potent as female plants, so anyone wishing to to produce a potent plant better be aware that it may be the male that passes on potency to their progeny. I would have never thought for a moment that people would think otherwise. You can not properly have much hope of ‘fixing’ a desirable trait in your plants, if you don’t have some notion that your male and female plants have the same, or like-desirable trait, at the same place on their chromosomes. Even with perfect selections there’s a certain amount of randomness and crosses or remakes where the genetic profile of given plant(s) is not known or understood, are truly random pollinations and probably not of much value.
JV. How many varieties are you currently working with?
We are currently working on a couple. We rarely introduce more than one strain every six months to a year, with the exception being the Iranian outdoor line of crosses. We know the Iranian characteristics very well and felt safe releasing several one season and several more the next and they have all panned out as expected, producing mid-August to mid-September finishing plants that most often appear, taste, smell, like whatever we breed it to, so for example, Iranian Diesel, smells, tastes, looks like and yields a lot like Diesel. Of course it isn’t “classic” Diesel but there is always some trade offs and the trade off is plants that reliably finish months before a plant like Diesel and a lot of people wouldn’t even know it wasn’t Diesel. This is true of the entire Iranain line. Iranian OG is a lot like OG, Iranian Chemdawg, a lot like Chemdawg but of course real Chemdawg, real Bubba Kush finish times are October/November and many outdoor growers have an earlier killing frost than that.
JV. Your Iranian line is legendary for its fast finish while maintaining potency. What is the story behind her discovery?
Let’s not confuse the Iranian line of crosses with Iranian Autoflower. Iranian Autoflower, properly handled, can be harvested anytime after July first and the Iranian line of crosses ( I- OG, I-Chemdawg, I-Bubba Kush, I-G13, I-Haze, I-c99, I-Diesel) are not autoflowering, just early, with the aforementioned mid-August to mid-September harvest date. Back to Iranian Auto.
Making selections on several thousands of plantlets, the would–be Iranian Auto stuck out amongst others and was selected to be finished to see how it might turn out. That particular plant performed in such a way as we felt we might have an early finishing plant. We grew out some cuttings of her and thought we had an early finisher, so we made seeds and called it Iranian Early Season. On the subsequent growing out, we discovered it was autoflowering. Now, some people, who have never grown Iranian Autoflower, maintain it’s not an autoflower but how can you argue with a plant that flowers outdoors during the longest, most intense sunshine days of the year, with peak flowering and best yields occuring during the longest days of June and harvests in early July? Indoors, Iranian Autoflower does flower under 24 hour photoperiods eventually but the flowering response is weak and yield is compromised, so we recommend to flower her indoors, to do so at a 13-11, 14-10 photoperiod for best yield.
JV. You have some pretty potent offerings among your stable. Is that a trait you’re always after?
Personally, I prefer happy, creative plants, so I am always looking for that but many of our customers are looking for other traits, like raw potency, or biggest possible yield, or bag appeal. I couldn’t, in good conscience, release a plant that yielded big but was of poor quality otherwise, so there are limits on what I’d allow on our list. G13 is probably the biggest plant we carry but it also has serious potency, some people say it it lacks taste. I disagree, because I have never seen a strain that properly dried and cured didn’t have a good taste but that is, in my mind, the limiting factor when discussing G13. You get big, big yield, big league potency but in some peoples eye’s lacks knockout taste. Well taste is the trade-off, because I’ve never seen a “perfect” plant either. Hard to argue with OG Kush potency, or Bubba Kush taste and happy social buzz but lower yield is the trade off with those two.
JV. You’ve hunted down strains all over the world. Tell us about some of the more exotic places.
OMG! That’s a story-and-a- half! And I’d love to tell all of it but it is too long, with too many twists and turns and the purest, fortuitous, luck and probably karma, that led to our acquiring the Malawi “Cobs” in Africa. Sure, there were so-called Malawi Cobs available in Johannesburg and Capetow
n for example, but dried up, old stock that was probably fake to start with, low potency at any rate, so I had to go to the source. After much bargaining, a black man from Johannesburg, Abdi, took me to the heart of Soweto to meet the Rasta leader there. This Rasta guy was smoking whole chillums full of the saddest smoke…but it was remarkable because he was inhaling two to three grams of smoke in one hit! What a pair of lungs! Anyway, what he was smoking wasn’t nearly good enough to be real Malawi unfortunately; he must have been getting some satisfaction from the huge hit he was getting I suppose but it wasn’t nearly good enough smoke to be what I was looking for. So the trip to Soweto was a wash. I won’t go on much but suffice to say Abdi and another guy and I made the trip to Malawi, where they let me off, agreeing to return to pick me up the following day at the same place. I followed a path for what seemed like an eternity that led to a village and it was like in the movies! At the time and probably still, there are stone age societies in Africa and this was one of them. I was welcomed by the village and later around the fire had to drink what turned out to be some kind of hallucinogen. I became terrified and had convinced myself these people might eat me! but stayed put and the following morning there were fresh, real Malawi cobs on the end of my hammock. Comparing the “Cobs” that I had picked up before, it was obvious they were fakes and these were real, just by the look of them. The ones I had bought earlier were poorly and hastily constructed compared to these ones; a common ploy to sell stuff to tourists all over the world.
Anyway, I broke one open and smoked a bit and it was all, I remember, pure sunshine, I felt great and my eyelashes sparkled gold. The rest of my trip to Africa was great fun and the Africans I smoked the real Malawi with were astonished at the quality of the smoke I had compared to what they were smoking.
We carried Malawi for a time but there was little interest, so we dropped it from our list. Having said that we’d done some work with Malawi over the years and right now I am considering introducing a Chemo Malawi seed. It’s a tough one, because it’s quite leafy compared to many strains but the effect is sublime. Several hours of very clear, very up, hilarity and good vibe. Very strong. It might be worth all the ridicule we’d undoubtedly get for putting out such a leafy plant but hey, over the long haul, customers vote with their buying habits, so we’ll probably buck the trend on this one and offer it to the public at some point.
JV. Who are some of the breeders you admire, both in North America and around the world, and why?
I don’t really know any personally. I pretty much stick to myself, though there are some local people who I know do some interesting work and of course Dogless Jim Ortega.
JV. What is your personal favorite strain, your go to girl?
It has always been Bubba Kush or Chemdawg but lately the Iranian Haze or Blue Dream and particularly the Chemo Malawi, mentioned above, is rockin my boat. The Iranian Haze is an interesting one. Generally Haze doesn’t “do it” for me. I smoke a Haze and I might just as well smoke a cigarette but the Iranian Haze kicks my ass with its potency and a Haze-dominant plant that finishes mid-August too mid –September…well that’s just amazing in my book!
JV. A question we always ask, what about other breeders’ creations; which strains do you wish you had created?
Well, to me, all the people who selected and bred real Thai sticks over the centuries are my heroes. Probably the most refined plant I know of. We’d love to be able to offer that but with the odd Thai flowering traits, ridiculously long season, low indoor yield, that’s never going to happen. The closest thing that might make our list I think, is a Santa Marta Columbian Gold we’re working on that stays short, has a reasonable finish time, with large colas along all the requisite potency and taste.
JV. What is the perfect Dr. Greenthumb strain that you haven’t created yet? What would its characteristics be?
Perfect strain? Is there such a thing? It would have that unforgettable, lingering Bubba Kush taste and smell, yield like Chemdawg or G13, finish in five or six weeks like Freedom 35 and have pronounced, strong, even potency without being over-the-top like Chemo, with rock hard buds, black/blueish or reddish colouration and little trimming. We try to attain as many of those characteristics as possible in everything we do.
JV. As the rest of the world keeps demonstrating that legalization is desirable and just while Canada reverts backwards do you see a day when you’ll be plying your trade elsewhere?
No, it’s in Canada or nowhere, though admittedly, we have talked a lot about moving to the South of France, not because of the political or legal climate but because of the actual climate here. Blowing out the driveway every day, or sometimes even twice a day, at minus thirty degrees celcius has lost it’s “charm” over the years.
JV. What can we expect in the near future from Dr. Greenthumb?
Sameness. As I said previously, I’m a old guy, I’m old school and set in my ways, so I expect things to stay pretty much the same with us. We have a reputation for reliable plants that are what we say they are and perform the way we say they will; that’s our business and that will not change. I think our customers like that.
JV. If you could share one tip, trick or lesson about breeding or growing, what would it be?
Over the years, we’ve fielded literally hundreds of thousands of questions about plant problems. Ninety-nine percent of those problems can be traced back to Ph. issues. Nutrient disorders can look like disease and disease can look like nutrient availability issues; most of the time it’s a nutrient disorder caused by improper ph. No matter the growing technique, get yourself a quality Ph measuring instrument and keep it calibrated. Generally-speaking Ph. for water is 5.7 or one point either side. Be there! If it’s a “soil” grow, collect a sample of the outflow from your pots and check it regularly. It doesn’t matter what ph. your inputting, if it doesn’t have the proper outflow ph., sample it regularly, so you know the ph. in your soil or media. Always water/feed your pots enough so you have some outflow, ten to twenty percent is acceptable; this means you are always flushing out some dissolved salts that will accumulate, can cause a salts build up and throw your ph. off. Flush every so often and especially between vegetative growth and flowering. Look at the many thousands of photos online, of sick plants in mid-to-late flowering that are burned by
salts buildup. Fix it. Better yet, prevent it. Stop killing your plants with kindness! Keep it simple until you know what you’re doing. The other thing I’d say to all growers is read “Blackman’s Law”
The other thing we see a lot of these days, is our customers will get one hundred percent germination rates on their seeds but then they put the tender young sprouts into a media that is too “hot” and kill them. The one we see most often is Fox Farm “Happy Frog.” Happy Frog is a complete media with all the nutrients required to finish your plants but is too hot for starting most seeds. Fox Farm “Light Warrior” is specifically formulated for starting seeds and works well. Both these media are popular in hydro shops but unfortunately the folks who work at the hydro stores aren’t aware of, or aren’t making their customers aware of, the difference. At any rate, if you’re going to pay top dollar for superior genetics, go to Walmart, Lowe’s, your local garden center and buy yourself a three dollar bag of ‘Seed Starting Mix’ to protect your investment. Once the plantlets are a couple of weeks old you can transplant into any number of media types.
JV. Thanks for your time. Any last words?
Yes! Let every adult household that desires it, have some Cannabis growing in the back yard, in the basement, or in a closet, to spice your food, relieve pain, bring calm and / or pleasure to your all too short life. As an adult, the state has no right to tell you how to live your life, or what is good for you.