Years of Underground Cannabis Research Ready to Rock the Boat

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Humboldt County within the Emerald Triangle has long been synonymous with the world’s best cannabis. We’ve all heard of the regions pioneering growers. Almost taking on mythical status in cannabis folklore, Northern California’s cannabis farmers have been depicted as counter culture outsiders who bock at the plants recent normalization. Topically lucid, most rooted growers simply seek return for investing years of hard work. Many growers have stockpiled intellectual capital – knowledge of optimal growing conditions, premium strains, breeding techniques, cures for pests and diseases and so on. A plethora of cannabis expertise exists in this region. Yet most have been reluctant to share their information for fear of government reprisal or competitive appropriation. Without support from the government, security and patent protections are obsolete. If growers openly share their intellectual capital, it would be easy to abscond their lifetime’s work. This is why Emerald cannabis farmers remain underground.

That is, until now.

With the passage of California’s Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA) and the subsequent passage of local regulation – some growers are eager and poised to become professionals. Over decades of cultivating cannabis, farmers have turned unique knowledge into specialized skills. Epitomizing this crop of specialized professionals is a hidden gem within the Emerald Triangle: a scientific research group called Humboldt DNA. This team of scientists is on the verge of identifying and mitigating one or more infectious agents within the cannabis cultivar. And only recently, due to support from local government and community, are they ready to come into the light.

According Humboldt DNA’s founder, “we weren’t ready to take this public but if the county will embrace us as being business people and professionals than we’re going to be business people and professionals.”

Humboldt DNA’s story goes like this: long before powdery mildew and spider mites, cannabis seemed easier to grow. Humboldt’s renowned cannabis strains seemed to once have more vitality. Over the years, plants were loosing vigor. For Humboldt DNA, this failure to reach full potential was a problem. Humboldt DNA’s passion for the plant emboldened them to figure out why. They tested every pest management application they could get their hands on – “testing all angles” as Humboldt DNA’s lead scientist put it. While developing control methods for classic pests and mildews, they observed a range of specific symptoms unresponsive to treatments, which were hindering an appreciable percentage of their plants.

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They dug deeper. They began to look outside of their own plant stock and what they witnessed was frightening. The symptoms they observed in their nursery were also affecting other grow rooms in the area. Most alarming, they observed these symptoms were more or less doubling year after year. If not stopped this outbreak would soon affect all medicinal cannabis plants within the region, potentially leading to massive failure. Humboldt DNA realized this was (and still is) a major problem.

Humboldt DNA’s founder assembled a secret research team. Made up of a half dozen PhD’s, dozens of farmers, nurserymen, and industry professionals, their goal was to solve the outbreak of what they now term: Putative Cannabis Infectious Agent(s) (PCIA). Strong evidence and theory leads them to believe that they are dealing with one or more viruses, although additional research is needed for conformation.

Through years of testing they determined that PCIA is seed and pollen born – it is passed on through pollination and cloning. It is vectored by insects – such as aphids, root aphids, mites, thrips and white flies. They have ruled out fungi, oomycota, bacterial causes, as well as genetic drift – i.e. somaclonal variation. PCIA never leaves the plant; there are no accidental immunities or anomalies where a plant doesn’t contract the infectious agents from a parent plant. They have also discovered the mechanism by which PCIA inhibits plant growth.

They also believe they have found a solution.

Humboldt DNA “boldly predicts that [they] will pull PCIA from cannabis plants and the results will be staggering – we will see a resurgence of genetic vitality that hasn’t been seen for decades.”

This group is also tied to community. “We’re in Humboldt and Humboldt should own this… we will operate in an area where we raise the entire bar – we will grow the best – we will come out the gate, out of rec (legalization of recreational cannabis), miles ahead.”

Humboldt DNA intends on building facilities across Humboldt County, starting with a laboratory in the city of Arcata’s yet to be created Medical Marijuana Innovation Zone (MMIZ). They intend to push the Humboldt brand to new heights. They predict that the whole world will not only seek genetics from the area but it will become mandatory to source genetics from Humboldt. Their technology will stay proprietary and they are committed to staying in the Emerald Triangle – that means the money will stay in the community.

Humboldt DNA has identified six social groups that will benefit from their pioneering venture.

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Cannabis farmers will benefit from improved harvests – with higher yields and higher quality due to uninfected plant stock. Environmentalists will see fewer impacts from pesticides, fertilizers, and fungicides – as uninfected clones and seeds will greatly reduce the need for these applications. Enforcement agencies will benefit because Humboldt DNA’s genetics will only be available to compliant cultivators – this will create a natural incentive for growers to stay up to code. Academia will benefit from the value of numerous research opportunities, charting a cultivar from its infancy – a huge body of epistemological knowledge. Patients will benefit from higher quality, cleaner medicine. The government will benefit from increased revenue due to increased productivity. It’s a win-win and as Humboldt DNA’s founder put it, “the only losers are viruses and companies that sell poison.”

This group wasn’t ready to leave their covert lab but recent developments gave them confidence to make the leap. Humboldt DNA is ready to transition into a fully legitimate business. As their founder confided, “when you have the (Humboldt) planning commission and board of supervisors taking decisive action like they have, and you have someone like me, running a secret research group in the basement, who cannot do what he needs to do to solve this problem, it creates incentive to come into the (public) light.”

The embrace of local government and community has created an opportunity for Humboldt DNA to venture out of the dark. They are pioneers in a new industry. They are an example of the potential of California’s cannabis industry. They are industry leaders. But most of all they are community members. We can only hope that more will follow their footsteps.

What do you think? Does research like this indicate growers may increasingly come forward to share information?

Ed Huddon has a MA in Sociology from Humboldt State University and is a staff writer for at humboldtunderground.com.
  • Ballah

    I am absolutely seeing this here in Colorado. And I want to say, I am from Arizona, a refugee of az’s tyrannical med. Laws. I did not carry my carpet bag to Humboldt out of respect. I’ve been to Humboldt and Humboldt is 1000% more professional. These Colorado people don’t want to hear it but I promise they won’t be catching up anytime soon. BTW, beware Colorado isn’t exactly safe for outsiders. There are bushwhackers, haters and they will jump your claim. the law here is very corrupt, don’t expect any protection.
    Its like an old western, the locals are the cattle ranchers and you are a sheepherder. the sheriff is bought and paid for by the ranchers.
    And I haven’t seen a plant here that does not have this virus. not one. I will follow Humboldt DNA, they have any plans to go public?%

  • Hemp Guy

    PCIA is not a single virus, if you think so you are fooling yourself. ID the virus, develop a test and a way to eliminate the problem. I predict that the HuboldtDNA will soon market a solution to cure what they say they have found. I have my doubts about what they say, I have quite a bit of Pest and Disease experience with Cannabis, 40 years with no sprays, just bio-controls, I co-wrote the reference book for Pest and Disease in Cannabis. Good luck you will need it….

  • The caption would have been more accurate had it said that Humboldt grows SOME of the world’s best cannabis. It was far from the first place or even in the same decade that cannabis was first grown in the United States, for use as a social intoxicant/lubricant, since a friend of Ginsberg and Kerouac’s was growing for sale down in Texas in the late-50s. That honor goes to the bootleggers and their surfer friends in the hills above Santa Cruz in the middish ’60s (63-64).

    There is a great deal of concern that there are darker motivations for the tracking of cannabis genetics. This is threefold: a) the government saying you can only grow specific strains; b) genetics being used to prove criminal associations/conspiracies because of matching genetics; and c) that many of the original strains have been secretly patented and that as cannabis becomes legal the holders of those patents will pull a “Monsanto” and sue those whose genetics can be traced back to their patented strains. Are any of these accurate? I don’t know. I do know that they are possible

  • Glenn Guerra

    This is great information thank you .

  • Rod is on the gas

    “We’re in Humboldt and Humboldt should own this”.

    How many times have some new group decided to corner the cannabis production? That’s what law enforcement keeps attempting and failing.

    Genetic engineering is on the table. Who shall control it?

    The presence of PCIA in cannabis is not new. It’s a result of un-natural growing conditions, indoors, clones, poison sprays, and most of all PROFIT and POWER. How many lab rats can be safe from diseases when raised in over-crowed conditions?

    I departed the merry-go-round of PCIA by dis-associating with other growers. I start every generation from choice seed. Greed and laziness has ruined many wannabe growers, as it should.

    Respect for our cannabis doesn’t involve money nor government protections.