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Rolling Stone

Scientists are taking the guesswork out of weed by creating the best strains and extractions — just for you

David Browne
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Scientists are working to eliminate paranoia and anxiety, well-known side-effects for those who smoke weed.

Illustration by Yuta Onoda for Rolling Stone

It was once simply understood that, if you smoked weed, there were good effects and there were bad. A strain for relaxation might also lead you to gorge an entire box of cookies; a variety that helped ease social anxiety for a party might leave you unable to mutter a single coherent sentence. But in the dawning new age of designer weed, that’s no longer the case.

As researchers have learned, cannabis is an incredibly complicated plant. Of the cannabinoids — chemical compounds that bond to special receptors in the human body — the most well-known are THC, which gets you high, and CBD, which can relax or alleviate pain. But there are also minor ones like THCV, which can lower your appetite, or CBN, which can aid in sleep. Increasingly, cannabis producers are also focusing on terpenes, oils that not only give off that pungent aroma but can also change how the cannabinoids affect you. “We separate the plant and then rebuild, based on what we want it to be,” says Ryan Littman, CEO of the cannabis extraction company Herbology. “We start with one specific symptom — does it make you hungry or help you sleep? — and build things up.”

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At one time, making concentrates was dangerous. “People essentially had a canister and a PVC pipe and were blasting oil in their garage,” says Mehran Moghaddam, founder of cannabis-oil company Kurvana. “There’d be explosions.” Those early days have given way to advanced extraction machinery, breaking cannabis plants down by any number of methods. They can be dismantled by soaking in alcohol, or broken down into a liquid by way of multi-tentacled CO2 machines. Another method uses butane to extract by way of heat in a vacuum. These concentrates are then made into tinctures, tablets and everything in between.

And yet designer weed isn’t just made in a lab; it can also be grown. At Flowr, a cultivation company in Canada, Deron Caplan is using a 62,000-square-foot facility to grow weed to target ailments like insomnia or opioid addiction. “We have the ability to control the breeding process,” says Caplan. “We can produce it the same every time.” According to Dr. Philippe Henry of the Canadian cannabis tech company VSSL, alleviating anxiety remains one of the leading goals of designer strains. “Sometimes people have tried it and had a panic attack,” he says. “So it’s about targeting those people and saying, ‘It’s OK to smoke weed.’ ”

For entry-level users in particular, concentrates may be key. “One day you’re going to walk into a CVS and want something for pain or a hangover, and you’ll find Advil, Tylenol and one of our projects,” says Chris Emerson, CEO of the San Francisco-based company Level, which offers varying formulations of THC, CBG and other cannabinoids as quick-dissolve pills and sublingual strips. “That day is coming.”

But beyond staving off a headache, designer weed also has more serious potential to help offset effects of Alzheimer’s, diabetes or even cancer. “It’s all in its infancy, but with research, we’ll be able to call on some of these cultivars and pit them against whatever symptom of disease,” says Dr. Lyle Oberg, Flowr’s chief medical officer. Oberg feels weed’s anti-inflammatory aspects, especially once refined, could ward off or lessen the chance of seizures or help with psoriasis. “A lot of this stuff has been limited because there isn’t even testing methodology to do the studies we want to do,” says Moghaddam. “So definitely in the future, we will be a lot more specific with some of those claims — but with good science behind it.”

Music, Film, TV and Political News Coverage

New Designer Strains in the Cannabis Industry

Saturday May 16, 2015

D esigner-brand cannabis strains are making their way onto dispensary shelves all over the state of Colorado this year. It should come as no surprise that many celebrities have plans to ‘cash-in’ on the emerging marijuana industry. There are many branded cannabis strains procured by horticulturalists, however, these products contain no endorsements by public figures — until now. Bethenny Frankel, Willie Nelson, Snoop Dogg and even the family of Bob Marley are backing exciting new green ventures.

Skinnygirl Marijuana

While most of these designer marijuana strains are branded by familiar names in the pot revolution, one unlikely housewife is planting her roots in the cannabis movement with a rather unique strain. “Real Housewives of New York City” star, Bethenny Frankel, is releasing a special hunger-suppressing strain called Skinnygirl Marijuana. According to a Skinnygirl insider interview with US Weekly, “it will be a specially engineered strain of pot designed to not give you the munchies.” Skinnygirl Marijuana will be offered in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington — the four states where recreational Cannabis is currently legal.

Willies Reserve

This year on 4/20, 81-year-old country music superstar Willie Nelson announced his plans to create his personal brand of marijuana. “Willie’s Reserve” will be grown and sold in Colorado and Washington. He is working with some of the best growers in the United States to produce his premium strain of cannabis. Nelson has been capitalizing on stoners for decades with classic hits such as “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die” and “I’ll Never Smoke Weed With Willie Again.” You can expect to get your hands on Willie’s Reserve at dispensaries in Colorado later this year.

Rap-star Snoop Dogg is investing in Eaze — a green startup company based out of California. Eaze is one of the first marijuana companies to receive funding from international investors. The innovative company “promises to deliver medical marijuana to your doorstep in less than 10 minutes.” While Snoop Dogg named Nancy Botwin’s cannabis strain “MILF Weed” in the television series “Weeds,” and many strains have been named after the rap legend over the years, Snoop has yet to release his own brand of pot. Eaze may be Snoop’s way of ‘eaze-ing’ into the business end of our pal, Mary Jane.

Marley Natural

Bob Marley infused his spirituality and love for “kaya” into his reggae music, making him one of the world’s best-selling artists of all time. The family of Bob Marley and private equity firm Privateer Holdings hope to earn their place as one of the world’s best-selling Cannabis strains with their new line of products. The family plans to offer Bob’s favorite Jamaican cannabis strains under the name “Marley Natural” by late 2015 in regions where the herb is already legal. Rita Marley, widow to Bob Marley, said “my husband believed ‘the herb’ was a natural and positive part of life and he felt it was important to the world. He looked forward to this day.”

References:

US Weekly: Bethenny Frankel Planning to Launch “Skinnygirl Marijuana,” a Strain of Pot That Won’t Cause the Munchies!

Associated Press: Willie Nelson Becomes Latest Celebrity in Marijuana Business

Time: Snoop Dogg Just Invested in a Weed Delivery Startup

New designer marijuana strains are gaining popularity. Celebrities like Willie Nelson, Snoop Dog, Bethenny Frankel and Bob Marley are creating their own strains to cash in on the ever-evolving marijuana industry.