In California's competitive marijuana growing industry, popular strains such as "OG Kush" and "Blue Dream" can generate big profits, while inventing a hit new strain is a lifetime goal. This month, the Berkeley Patients Care Collective honors a few more of Northern California's weed celebrities with the release of its second series of medical cannabis collector cards.
Following the success of its first set of ten cards in 2010, the collective released the first of ten in its "Series Two" last week, starting with the strain "MK Ultra," available to patients while supplies last. Nine more cards will become available at a rate of one every two weeks, and eventually patients can purchase all ten for $10 at the collective on Telegraph Avenue. Series Two features MK Ultra, Purple Kush, Morning Star, Durban Poison, Peak 19, Ogre, Purple God, Sage & Sour, Blue Moonshine, and Blackberry Kush.
The front of each card showcases a high-resolution photo of the strain's sticky bud, along with an inset photo of the microscopic trichomes on the plant. Owner David Bowers said all photos were taken at the collective from what came in the door, representing some of the most popular, most available strains in the Bay Area.
On the back of the card, the collective traces the strain's history, describes its effect, and the ailments it has been known to treat. For example, MK Ultra is "named after a covert CIA human research program begun in the 1950s, this strain is a cross between the infamous 'government grown' G-13 and OG Kush.
"Flavor: A spicy and pungent lemon pepper up close, but smells like a skunk from far away. Very strong lung expansion. Effect: One of the strongest and heaviest varieties available. Starts out with a powerful euphoria followed by long-lasting physical relief. Medicinal Recommendations: Chronic Pain, Insomnia, Muscle Spasms, Nausea, Appetite, MS, Anxiety, PTSD, Glaucoma, Migraines, Gastrointestinal Issues, AIDS, Cancer, Epilepsy, Alcoholism, Arthritis, Anorexia."
Bowers said the first set of cards reaffirmed the impact of specific strains on different ailments. "It really made people understand and inspired to know more about strains that are good for them," he said.
The collective's experienced staff determines the type of strain when growers come into the collective with a fresh crop. A good wholesale buyer can identify a strain from across the room, Bowers said, but morphology, smell, and texture can also help. Buyers also use data from overseas seed banks, such as Green House in Amsterdam.
However, strains change over time and location, and growers constantly alter them to gain notoriety, leading to a new problem — the names of the strains. The counter-culture roots of pot growing in California must now contend with the new mainstream legitimacy of the plant.
On Sunday, January 30, fellow Berkeley dispensary operator Debby Goldsberry of Berkeley Patients Group publicly called for a clean-up of medical pot's image by ending product names like "Cat Piss" and "Train Wreck." When "God's Pussy" won the High Times San Francisco Medical Cannabis Cup last fall, one prominent doctor suggested penalizing potentially award-winning strains for crass nomenclature.
"There are some really bad names out there," Bowers said. "It comes from a culture where these guys just come up with names off the top of their heads. Growers want to create a strain that people remember. Unfortunately, people can be really turned off to medication that could be really good for them. They say, 'Cat Piss, I'd never buy that.' But it's one of the best sativas out there."
Bowers said growers have toned down names over time, and he believes names will settle down even further. But others remain quasi-historic genetic landmarks. For example, "Durban Poison" came from South Africa in the Seventies and has been an underground Bay Area staple ever since. "It's clear, energetic focus doesn't have a big physical side effect, so it's incredibly popular with certain patients. It changes their life," Bowers noted. "It's rare enough that the people that have it are kind of lucky to have it and hold onto it."
Bowers said the Berkeley Patients Care Collective makes sure to highlight the educational aspects of its collector cards, given their troubled history. Back in 1998, then-California Attorney General Dan Lungren ordered In Line Trading Cards of San Francisco to stop a "Classic Hemp" series of trading cards, such as "Acapulco Gold," that were on sale in convenience stores. In related news: Amsterdam officials recently released scratch-and-sniff cannabis cards as part of a law enforcement campaign.
Seeds & Stems
Oakland City Attorney John Russo said he won't help the city council draft a pot farm permit plan, alluding to its possible illegality. The pot farm proposal went back to the Public Safety Committee this week as unregulated pot production continues to threaten public health and safety. Farm proponents say Oakland is being singled out. Mendocino County permits large pot grows, as do the states of Colorado and Arizona. ... And while President Barack Obama said changing drug policy is a legitimate topic for debate, news surfaced last week that a New Mexico border patrol agent is suing his employers, claiming thay he was fired for discussing that topic. The American Civil Liberties Union is representing Bryan Gonzalez, who was investigated and allegedly fired after he had a private chat with another border patrol agent wherein he questioned the drug war. The ACLU said the border patrol violated Gonzalez's First Amendment rights. "As far as I know this the first of its kind," said Micah McCoy of ACLU New Mexico.