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The first known use of marijuana as medicine traces back to around five thousand years ago, when a Chinese botanist prescribed it as a cure for malaria, beriberi, constipation, rheumatic pains, lack of concentration and several female-specific ailments. It was used medicinally throughout the ages by various civilizations, until the stigmatisation that came with prohibition as well as improvements in modern medicine in the mid 1900’s.
Fast-forward through a few scientific breakthroughs to the 1990’s and the use of medical marijuana once again became increasingly popular in the Western world. It was even purchasable in pharmacies with a simple prescription. Despite decades of criminalization all around the globe, the world is waking up to the vast medicinal value of this fascinating plant and legislation is following suit. Nowadays, it is becoming legal to use as medicine but also to grow your own from seed at home.
The most important rule when it comes to buying cannabis seeds in South Africa is to always buy from a reputable business that sells well known brands. When it comes to seeds, you get what you pay for. You can expect to pay around R150 to R300 per seed, which is a small investment, if you factor in the expected yield from the plant and the price one would pay per gram of flower.
A word of caution: be weary of buying bulk, unbranded seeds. They are often sold at a lesser price and contain low-quality seeds that have been put into nice packaging. The SA market is already becoming flooded with cheap, unstable “bag seeds”, for which unsuspecting buyers are paying an unjustified amount of money. At MCDSA, we choose to endorse seeds sold by Overgrow – the appointed South African distributors of Humboldt Seed Organization and Dinafem, the leaders in Californian and European genetics. They deliver seeds discreetly and in their original packaging.
Purchasing seeds is a somewhat controversial area in terms of the law. The constitutional court made it clear in a landmark judgement that the personal and private growing and use of cannabis by consenting adults would be decriminalized. Accordingly, the proposed Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill will soon be approved by parliament and legalized. Sharing of marijuana plants, as well as seeds, seedlings and flowers, will also be allowed, up to a certain limit. The exchange of any plant materials for remuneration in any form, however, remains illegal.
In short, limited governmental foresight has effectively creating a paradox. Growing one’s own supply is perfectly legal, yet obtaining the necessary seeds to do is illegal, without the kindness of a friend or stranger willing to gift seeds. The foundation for future commerce has been laid, but for now there appear to be questionable, gaping gaps in the law that border on complete contradictions. We endeavor to keep our readers informed and up-to-date on all cannabis laws by constantly revising our article on Current Legislation in SA.
Importing seeds from abroad may seem like a cheaper alternative, but more often than not these seeds are confiscated by customs. Many overseas companies offer discreet shipping, meaning your seeds will be packaged in a CD case, mug or rolled up t-shirt. However, customs officials have become wise to this and X-ray the parcels. It is likely that your seeds will be intercepted and you will be contacted by customs.
Keep in mind that most cannabis seeds bought from overseas companies are sold as souvenirs. There is no guarantee and, therefore, once detained, there will be no recall and no refund. Local seed banks have taken the risk of importing seeds. One of the reasons we suggest buying from Overgrow, specifically, is because they use specialized zero-humidity refrigeration storage to keep seeds fresh. By following our trusted recommendation, you will be able to track your parcel and there is a recall option, if your seeds don’t perform.
Genetics play a key role in determining the physical characteristics of all species and the plant kingdom is no exception. Plant breeders generally seek to understand and master genetics in order to favourably impact the outcome of the harvest, influencing factors such as growth characteristics, yield size, disease-resistance, colouration, chemical profiles, and overall size and quality of the fruit or flowers.
Breeding any plant, cannabis or other, involves the same basic process. Normally, a female must be pollinated by pollen from a male. This happens naturally, when males and females are grown together or via hermaphroditic plants with both sex organs (self-pollination). However, in order to promote favourable traits, breeders cross-pollinate strains by carefully selecting the female plant and the male pollen in order to create genetic hybrids.
“Stability” is a word often used in the same breath as genetics. We say a strain is stable when it has a high level of predictability – when we are able to predict the characteristics of the plant. We say a strain is unstable when it exhibits greater variability. The more unstable a strain is, the less we are able to predict what characteristics its offspring will portray. Why do we want seeds with stable genetics? Simple: when you purchase cannabis seeds of a specific strain, you want to know that your seed will produce a plant that displays all of the characteristics true to that strain.
Seeds that result from hand selecting and cross-breeding male and female parents are called first generation hybrids. These “F1 hybrids” will be the most stable of the hybrids to follow. The offspring are called “F2 hybrids” and those that produce the desired traits will be bred again. This occurs either through inbreeding (crossing two F2’s that display sought after qualities) or back-crossing (crossing an F2 offspring with an F1 parent). As the process continues, F2’s become F3’s, F4’s and so on. One can even create “polyhybrids” by crossing two F1 hybrids of separate lineages.
Breeding is a patient practice, often occurring over three to four generations and involving technical processes like “squaring”, “cubing”, “trait fixing” and “selfing”. Though there are many trade secrets, the overall goal is always the same: to achieve stable, homozygous genetics that repeatedly display favourable traits. Keep in mind that the environment in which a plant grows plays a major role in how the plant turns out, with significant regards to the production of therapeutic compounds, such as cannabinoids and terpenes.
All modern-day strains can be traced back to a handful of marijuana plant types. In fact, botanists can trace the entire cannabis lineage back to an original strain from the Hindu Kush mountainous region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Over time, humans have transported and cultivated marijuana all around the globe. Strains that have become indigenous to particular geographic regions and have not been crossbred with other varieties are known as landrace strains. They have remained untouched by anything other than nature.
Landrace strains are often referred to as “old-school” genetics. According to the Collins English dictionary, a landrace is “an ancient or primitive cultivated variety of a crop plant”. True to their name, these strains are the tried and tested, true legends of the cannabis world. Most are named after the country or region in which they have adapted to grow naturally, such as “Afghan Kush” or “Durban Poison”. Descendants from landrace strains are often proud to bear part of the region’s name, such as “Purple Afghan Kush” or “Lemon Thai Kush”.
Importantly, the landrace classification is by no means an indicator of quality. It simply describes a strain’s genetic purity and indigenous upbringing. Landraces are closer to the original wild species than anything else we have available today and are thought to be important for breeding purposes, as have been “chosen” or moulded by nature. “New school” genetics describe strains that have arisen in more recent years. They are the result of cross-breeding older genetics to create favourable qualities, such as heavy yields and resistance to mold.
The classification of strains can be a little cloudy. According to contemporary botanical definitions, Cannabis sativa refers to the modern-day, low-THC “hemp” plant, while Cannabis indica describes what we refer to as “indica” (Cannabis indica ssp. afghanica) and “sativa” (Cannabis indica ssp. indica) today. In other words, what we currently describe as sativa and indica strains are technically subspecies of C. indica, while hemp is a separate variety, as are ruderalis and hybrid strains (discussed further down).
According to Jean Baptiste Lamarck, a renowned French biologist from the late 18th to early 19th centuries, C. indica and C. sativa adopted distinct characteristics in terms of their appearance and the effects caused when ingested. He noted that the physical characteristics of indica were evident in shorter and stockier plant structure, as well as shorter, wider leaves. In contrast, sativa plants tended to grow taller and slimmer, with longer and thinner leaves. An important consideration is that Lamarck would have been describing distinct sativa and indica strains of far purer genetics than the mixed hybrids we know today.
In terms of the effect caused upon consumption, sativa strains are believed to be uplifting, mood enhancing and more apt for social settings, whereas indica strains are thought to be calming, sedating, and good for stress relief and pain. However, we now know this to be untrue, as the genetic makeup of a strain is not a reliable indicator of its effect. When it comes to aroma, modern-day marketing strategies lead customers to believe that indica strains emit musty, earthy and skunky odors, while sativas smell sweet, fruity or spicy. Aromatic and flavour differences result from variations in terpenes and flavonoids, which are distinct plant compounds from cannabinoids (like THC and CBD).
Indica is believed to have evolved in the Middle East, in places such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Tibet, whilst sativa is understood to stem from warmer parts of the world, such as Southeast Asia as well as Central and South America. Being larger, sativa plants require more time to grow, yet allegedly yield less than indica varieties. The bottom line is this: there exists little scientific evidence behind the claimed differences and perceived effects of these two strain varieties. While genetically pure “indicas” and “sativas” may have had distinct effects and differences many years ago, most available strains nowadays are hybrids.
There is debate amongst botanists, but ruderalis is thought to be a unique sub-species of cannabis. What we know for sure is that it is a wild or “ruderal” type of marijuana that thrives in even the harshest conditions. This strain type was first officially and scientifically identified in the wild regions of South Siberia in 1924 by Russian botanist Janischewski. He then started referring to all cannabis varieties that grew wild, with no human intervention and in extreme weather conditions, as ruderalis.
These plants tend to be smaller and stockier than sativa and indica varieties, along with wider leaves. The main feature that sets ruderalis varieties apart is their ability to flower automatically as soon as they mature, after a set number of days, regardless of the photoperiod (amount of light) that they receive. Hence, modern “auto-flowering” strains have been bred with ruderalis genetics for speedier yields.
A hybrid is simply the result of any two strains that have been bred together. They usually contain a mix of indica and sativa genetics (plus ruderalis for autoflowering varieties) and, depending on the lineage, an offspring can display characteristics of both parent strains. There is no set rule when it comes to breeding hybrids. Any sativa, indica and ruderalis strains can be crossed at the will of the breeder. The resulting strains are described as either balanced, or indica- or sativa-dominant, meaning they predominantly express the characteristics of one parent over the other.
Hybrids offer a great opportunity for medical marijuana patients, who need to use products throughout the day, and seek tolerable and “balanced” effects. In fact, medical cannabis products make use of strains with varying cannabinoid ratios – from high-THC to balanced to high-CBD. Notably, thanks to the emergence of hybrids, high-CBD seed varieties that contain just enough THC to enable the “entourage effect” are now readily available.
Regular seeds operate in the way that nature intended, untouched by human interference. When planting regular seeds, you are taking a fifty-fifty gamble. Half of your crop may turn out to be flower-producing females and the other half may grow into pollen-producing males. For the everyday home grower, seeking hefty yields of resinous bud, males are an obvious issue. For breeders, however, males are a vital part of the process. Hence, without regular seeds, breeding would be impossible. Regular seeds have another advantage in that they tend to make superior cuttings, which are hardy and tolerate stress well.
Feminized seeds have been bred with a modified genetic makeup to ensure that each seed produces a female marijuana plant. In other words, every plant will produce harvestable, sticky, resin-covered buds, without fear of pollination by males. The allotted space for growing will be maximised, as every seed all but guarantees the production of sensimilla (potent, seedless marijuana). Growers that have no intention of breeding usually prefer feminized seeds, as they are guaranteed a viable crop, without the worry of hunting out the males. Nowadays, reputable suppliers ensure stable feminized genetics, eliminating the fear of hermaphrodites when cloning mother plants.
Auto-flowering plants are considered “day-neutral” and are triggered to flower by an independent mechanism. This variety does not flower according to the periods of light and darkness to which it is exposed. Instead, flowering is dependent on the age of plant. As mentioned earlier, autoflowering genetics descend from wild cannabis ruderalis populations that evolved naturally in Eastern Europe, Russia, China and elsewhere in central and northern Asia.
As with other marijuana types, the botanical classification of C. ruderalis is contested. Some botanists classify auto-flowering cannabis as a species in its own right, while others argue that it is a subspecies of C. indica or C. sativa. Many growers consider auto-flowering seeds for outdoor grows, as they lead to much faster harvests, need less specific care and can withstand harsher environments. They do, however, tend to produce a smaller yield due to the shorter growth phases.
It is no exaggeration to say that high-CBD cannabis is the foundation of the medical marijuana world. CBD (cannabidiol) is a highly-therapeutic marijuana plant compound that is non-psychoactive, meaning that it does not cause the famous “high” or intoxication normally associated with the plant. Research into CBD has discovered that the human body has what is called an “endocannabinoid system”, which regulates basic bodily functions, such as mood, appetite, pain, memory, inflammation, neuroprotection, movement, temperature, digestion and sleep.
CBD works by activating or blocking neurochemical receptor sites (CB1 and CB2) in central nervous system and throughout the body, in order to help deal with symptoms like chronic pain, stress and nausea. It is a proven anticonvulsant for the treatment of epilepsy and seizures, and even has the potential to fight cancer. Dinafem Seeds is known for their stable, high-quality, therapeutic CBD strains, like Dinamed CBD. These were deliberately created so that people can safely grow medical cannabis at home, with the assurance that every successfully germinated seed will grow into a plant with a high CBD concentration.
Of course, high-THC strains and those with balanced CBD:THC cannabinoid ratios have their place in the medical world too. You can read more about all marijuana compounds in Medical Cannabis 101 or focus on the medical marvel that is CBD Oil.
Growing indoors relies on the use of powerful artificial lights to replicate the effect of the sun outdoors. In the early stages of life, seedlings are happy to start with lower light intensities – often a metre distance below an HPS light or closer to fluorescent lights. The artificial lights normally remain ‘on’ for 18-24 hours per day. During this stage, the plants are in a “vegetative” state: growing roots, leaves and branches, but no buds. Once switched over to a 12 hour light, 12 hour dark cycle, the plants will enter the “flowering” phase.
Growers often prefer indoor cultivation to growing outdoors as they have far more control over the environment. An indoor setup can be basic (soil, pots and a light) or incorporate more sophisticated and expensive equipment like air purifiers, dehumidifiers, hydroponic systems and CO2 generators. Plants are less exposed to the elements (such as wind, cold and humidity) and generally less susceptible to pests and mold (if conditions are managed properly). The main advantage to an indoor grow, however, is the ability to grow quality cannabis all year round, irrespective of the season.
Outdoors, plants follow a dedicated growing season, determined by regional weather. Generally, the natural grow cycle is as follows: (1) seeds that have fallen and planted themselves into the ground begin to germinate in the spring time, (2) marijuana plants vegetate right through the summer, so long as there is plenty of sunlight, (3) as autumn nears and days get shorter, the plants enter the flowering phase - females produce flowers and males produce pollen, (4) males pollinate females in order to produce seeds, (5) the plants dies off in winter, dropping seeds to the ground, which await spring time. The annual cycle then repeats itself.
Of course, the cycle is made more efficient with human intervention. Outdoor growers often begin sprouting seeds indoors earlier, in order to get a head start on the season, with the hope of a heftier yield. Some growers prefer to use feminized seeds, but this can come at considerable cost. Many growers use regular seeds, meaning they have to sex out males in order to avoid pollination and the resulting seedy buds. Supplemental lighting and phase-appropriate nutrients are commonly employed.
There are pros and cons to both methods. Indoors, setup costs can become pricey, as can electricity bills. Though it is stealthy and the ability to control the environment can result in huge yields. Outdoors, it is easy to let nature take its course and costs are limited. Yet growers do need to worry about factors like nosy neighbours, theft, pollination, and various pests and fungi.
While cannabis laws have relaxed enough to allow for plants to be grown as a hobby at home, the limits are tight and the consequences of breaking them immense. The line between growing legally and potential jail time could be as little as a couple of plants. Recreational users, who do not overindulge, have good reason to be happy. Those needing marijuana for medicinal purposes, however, most likely would not be able to maintain a necessary supply.
While we at MCDSA do encourage South Africans to embrace the legality of growing your own at home, we acknowledge the need for safe and effective medical-grade cannabis products. Whatever your medicinal needs, we have you covered with tinctures, capsules, topical balms, suppositories and vape concentrates, as well as an exclusive pet range. Please visit our Product Guide for more information or contact us below to get started.