Categories
BLOG

33 thc weed

The Quest to Grow the World’s Most Powerful Pot

It’s a glorious time to be a pothead in the US. Not only is the legalization movement gaining support across America, but we’re also smoking way better buds. In place of the leafy, stem-filled weed that prevailed decades ago, we now have access to meticulously crafted cannabis flowers tinted white with THC crystals. These days, the weed is prettier, more fragrant, and gets you much, much higher than it ever did before.

This didn’t happen by accident. Growers have been hard at work, diligently crossing high potency strains to increase the amount of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the central psychoactive and therapeutic chemical in cannabis, in their plants.

In 1978, your average weed had a THC level of 1.37 percent, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse; in 2008, the average was 8.5 percent. However, in recent years, as state-level marijuana programs have developed, the suddenly-not-illegal-anymore cultivation community has been able to share information and fine tune their methods, resulting in some of the highest THC levels ever seen. Dispensaries all over Colorado boast strains with 20 to 25 percent THC, and now a Denver area grower who goes by RB-26 claims to have achieved the first strain to consistently test at 33 percent.

In 12 consecutive tests conducted by the California testing company SC Labs, RB-26’s Gorilla Glue 4 and Chiquita Banana strains tested between 30 percent and 33.5 percent THC, numbers that raise equal amounts of excitement and skepticism. Any smoker would love to try a strain that is a third THC by weight, but is that volume even possible? According to RB-26, it’s just a matter of growing methodology.

“I’m an extremely data-driven person,” RB-26 told me at his Denver home. “I log everything in little journals, and I’ll do tons of tests if I change anything in the room.” Over the last two and a half years, he has been refining a cultivation process that he claims has an edge over any other.

RB-26’s Gorilla Glue 4. Photo courtesy of RB-26

While many grow operations in Colorado pack hundreds of plants into open warehouses as large as 20,000 square feet, RB-26 breaks the space into several smaller grows. “It costs a lot more to segment your rooms like that, but it affords you tons of different benefits, like pest management,” he told me. “If you have contaminants or bugs in your huge room, well, I’ve seen that wipe out a huge room over night. When you segment, you might lose a 12-light room, but that’s [it].”

It’s also easier to control factors like temperature and humidity in these smaller environments. RB-26 maintains a lower overall temperature than most growers—72 to 77 degrees as opposed to high 70s or low 80s. “Heat is one of the biggest stressors of plants and as your temperature rises, you’re going to be degrading terpenes [aromatic plant compounds] and oil production, and that directly affects potency,” he said.

Keeping the grow free of contaminants is also a major factor. Before entering RB-26’s grow, you have to trade in your clothes for a sterile suit and your shoes for a pair of crocs. “Worst case scenario, you’re bringing in pollen, which could pollinate flowering plants and ruin the whole room,” he said.

RB-26 said his experimentation in this controlled setting is what led to the super high potency weed he’s now producing. Gorilla Glue is a particularly high yield strain that was bred by a ICMag.com thread user “Joesy Whales.” RB-26 managed to push Gorilla Glue to an even higher THC content. “It all starts with your genetics,” he says. “There are definitely some strains that are just low testing strains. I don’t believe that every single strain can hit 30 percent.”

Related: T. Kid explores the world of butane hash oil

Others in the industry don’t buy that any strain can hit those levels.

“Anything at 33 percent THC is kind of hard to believe, physically,” said Kayvan Khalatbari, co-founder of Denver Relief, a Colorado dispensary that produced R-18, the third-strongest strain ever tested by High Times at 27.34 percent THC. Khalatbari said current testing methods are far from reliable. “These labs that are set up to test cannabis do not have access to the baseline standards that they need to test appropriately, so they use their own baselines.” As a result, testing is inconsistent across labs. Even though this one of these very tests named his strain among the strongest ever, Khalatbari disputes the accuracy. “I think they’re wonderful for marketing, and to give you an idea of cannabinoid ratio,” he said, “But to take them as gospel is incorrect.”

To cross reference his stellar consecutive test results from California’s SC Labs, RB-26 also had his marijuana tested by CannLabs, a Denver-based facility that has tested thousands of strains for cannabinoid content since 2010. CannLabs spokesperson William Livemore described the testing process—called liquid chromatography—to me in an email: “We measure out a quantity of the flower and use a specific solvent to pull the cannabinoids from the flower into the solvent… and measure the quantity of cannabinoids present compared against a calibration curve.” Based on CannLabs data, the average current THC content in Colorado is 15 to 17 percent, up from 10 to 15 percent in 2010. RB-26’s Gorilla Glue 4 tested at twice the average. According to Livemore, “Anytime we test a sample over that is over 30 percent TCH-A, it is tagged for retesting to make sure we have accurate measurements.” After a dozen tests, Gorilla Glue 4 remained as resinous and THC-rich as RB-26 had planned.

“I think CannLabs is about as reputable as you get in Colorado,” Khalatbari told me, “But they’re not without their flaws. [Denver Relief] sent an [R]-18 sample to them not long ago that tested at 13 percent, and that same sample tested at over 20 percent in another one we sent them.”

Despite consistently high marks, the flaws of the testing process forced me to rely on the traditional method of testing THC potency in a marijuana strain: I smoked it. With a sample of Gorilla Glue 4 from RB-26’s personal stash, I rolled a joint and got high with Danny Danko, cultivation editor of High Times, at the Denver Cannabis Cup.

Danko said of Gorilla Glue, “It’s one of the strongest strains we’ve tested here at High Times, consistently testing over 25 percent THC and higher.” Before we lit up, he took a look at the buds. “It’s just super-duper frosty, covered completely with glandular trichomes and you can just tell that its going to reflect in the potency levels because that’s where all the essential oil is.” After a few puffs, Danko briefly reviewed its flavor profile, “Just from the taste of it you can tell how potent it is. It’s just very thick smoke. It’s similar in some ways to OG and Sour Diesel, but a little bit fruitier. It has that fuel flavor and some sweetness to it. One of those hybrids of the last five years that have really been changing the strain game.”

Whether or not it’s breaking any records, RB-26’s Gorilla Glue is at the stronger end of an already powerful strain. His buds could easily compete against Cannabis Cup entries, and likely will when he enters them at the next event in San Francisco. As for hitting the 33 percent THC mark, Khalatbari questions the importance of that measurement altogether. “What really is the difference between 33 percent and 28 percent on the effect that its providing you with? That’s like saying there’s a big difference between 55 proof alcohol and 60 proof alcohol. With THC, once you get into the upper 20s, it’s all the same thing.”

Follow RB-26 on Instagram and read his weed blog, Culti-vated.

Update: An earlier version of this article said that RB-26’s 12 consecutive tests of Gorilla Glue 4 were conducted by CannLabs. Although his Gorilla Glue was tested by CannLabs, the 12 consecutive tests were done by SC Labs.

Get a personalized roundup of VICE’s best stories in your inbox.

By signing up to the VICE newsletter you agree to receive electronic communications from VICE that may sometimes include advertisements or sponsored content.

A Denver grower who goes by RB-26 claims to have achieved the first strain to consistently test at 33 percent THC. That's some STRONG weed.

Strains & Products

Top 7 Strongest Cannabis Strains in 2020

Like most other industries over the last 50 years, the cannabis trade has changed and evolved dramatically to adapt to technological advances, consumer tastes and market forces. Gone are the days when weak Mexican brick weed dominated the bowls and joints of U.S. consumers. Those days have been left behind due to a surge of scientific advancement in growth techniques, cultivation, product analyses and consumption. The result is a thriving industry with options aplenty when it comes to production and consumption. It has also resulted in cannabis with very high levels of THC.

Although it is difficult to be certain, most researchers agree that in the 1970s the average THC content in the vast majority of marijuana consumed in the United States was around 1 – 3%. That level of THC crept up to around 4% in the early nineties and ballooned to around 13% in 2013. In 2017, the most popular strains of cannabis being purchased legally in Colorado averaged between 17% and 28% THC content.

So why is the market dictating that the strongest weed is also the most popular? How are they making such potent cannabis? In this article we’ll explore the advancements that have been made in the industry and some of our favorite high-power strains.

“Bigger is Better” Mentality

This is probably the main factor that has made the strongest strains the most popular. Similar to the rise in popularity of high alcohol beers, strong red wines or insanely oaked chardonnay, consumers tend to think that the item with the most of something will be the best. In the relatively new world of legal recreational cannabis, many consumers aren’t aware of t nuances such as CBD percentage or the entourage effect that might make a particular strain a better fit than one with a ton of THC. After all, why purchase a strain with only 14% THC when you can get one with 28% THC?

Pricing

The highest THC strains have a better price point for growers and retailers. The strongest types of weed can sell for much more than those with only slightly lower THC levels. Think about how much commission a realtor will make on a house that sells for $100,000 vs. one that sells for $1,000,000. Which one would they prefer to sell?

Supply & Demand

The market regulates itself and keeps the most potent weed as the most popular. There are fewer low-THC seeds available because those strains are not as popular. Therefore, there are fewer low-THC strain clones available. It then becomes more difficult to grow those types of strains which means it is not as profitable to produce strains with less THC.

Medical Benefits

Some medical marijuana patients need high THC/CBD levels for relief of certain types of pain, symptoms of multiple sclerosis, nausea, insomnia, etc. Understanding where to buy these strains is particularly important, although this can easily be solved with a little research and a few calls around to local MMJ dispensaries.

How Cannabis is Grown to Yield High THC Levels

With strains containing high THC levels are all the rage at dispensaries across the country, growers are working hard to keep up with the demand. Those looking to grow the strongest weed strain possible need to know the genetics of their plants. Genetics determine how much THC the plant will be able to produce. Once a grower selects a strain with a high THC content, they can then breed it with a different strain that also harbors high THC dependability. The result of this crossbreeding will be a hybrid that exhibits the traits from its two mother plants (look, taste, smell) but also an increased percentage of THC content.

That content is most commonly determined by sending a sample to an accredited third-party lab that uses high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). This process involves dissolving the sample in a solvent, diluting it and then heating it so it can pass through separation columns and then on to a detector. Of course, different labs have different equipment and specific practices so there can be minor discrepancies between labs. Samples can also vary in THC level based on physical aspects like the location where the sample was procured, soil pH levels, weather, etc.

Highest THC Strains

What’s the strongest weed, you ask? Well, that’s pretty much impossible to say since there are so many strains in the world. Having said that, here are seven strains that regularly show up as the most potent weed on the dispensary shelf and – perhaps more importantly – would also grace a list of the best kinds of weed. These top marijuana strains are strong, but they also have plenty of terpenes that make them smell great, taste delicious and provide a well-rounded cannabis experience. Sometimes the strongest pot in the world is not the best pot, but these strains are definitely some of the best weed in the world.

For a much larger list of cannabis strains, check out our strain guide!

Ice Cream Cake

A sugary flavor topped with notes of vanilla dominates this tasty hybrid of Wedding Cake and Gelato #33. THC levels consistently clock in around 27% – 29% and provide users with a sedative high that is pure bliss.

Chiquita Banana

A sugary flavor topped with notes of vanilla dominates this tasty hybrid of Wedding Cake and Gelato #33. THC levels consistently clock in around 27% – 29% and provide users with a sedative high that is pure bliss.

White Tahoe Cookies

The result of a hybridization of The White, Tahoe OG and Girl Scout Cookies, this Indica-dominant strain hovers around 27% THC. Its effects move quickly from a mellow buzz to an even and mellow ride. It’s a beautiful strain with sharp green buds covered in a haze of white trichomes.

Godfather OG

This whopper of a strain is popular in the medical community for its soothing high and pain relief properties. A cross between XXX OG x Alpha OG, Grandfather OG reeks of pungent pine with a hint of grape. This top marijuana strain finished first in the Indica category at the 2013 Cannabis Cup in California and in 2016 it broke the previous Cannabis Cup record of 32.13 percent THC with the test revealing a staggering 34.04% THC content.

Ghost Train Haze

Ghost Train Haze is a Sativa-dominant strain developed by crossing Neville’s Wreck with Ghost OG. It routinely tests with levels above 27% THC and is ideal for a creative prompt or an energetic boost. Citrus and pine dominate Ghost Train Haze’s flavor profile.

Bruce Banner #3

The Hulk is another Sativa-dominant plant that is widely loved for its uplifting effects and fruity flavor. The result of a marriage between OG Kush and Strawberry Diesel, THC levels tend to hover in the 26% – 29% range.

Emperor Cookie Dough

Cannabis consumers in search of medical relief flock to this intense yet balanced hybrid created in Canada by combining Girls Scout Cookies and Emperor OG. THC levels can be astronomical; if this isn’t the highest THC strain it is certainly in elite company with levels around 35% not uncommon. Bonus? It tastes delicious.

Have you tried any other super-potent strains? What were some of your favorites? Let us know in the comments below!

Like most other industries over the last 50 years, the cannabis trade has changed and evolved dramatically to adapt to technological advances, consumer tastes and market forces. Gone are the days when weak Mexican brick weed dominated the bowls and joints of U.S. consumers. Those days have been left behind due to a surge of scientific advancement i