Published: Dec 24, 2014, 5:05 pm Comments (12)
Ben Holmes gently lowers the turntable needle onto the album, and Traffic’s “Medicated Goo,” begins to play.
Steve Winwood’s wistful tenor sweeps through the Centennial Seeds laboratory: “My own homegrown recipe’ll see you through.”
“Everyone stole from Stevie Winwood,” Holmes says, his foot tapping as he injects a syringe of dark, syrupy liquid into his gas chromatograph.
No one is stealing from Holmes, a self-taught scientist, engineer, farmer and cannabis seed geek who next month will take a rare step to apply for a patent on a laboriously created cannabis superstrain.
Cannabis seed developer Ben Holmes uses THC to calibrate a gas chromatograph before conducting tests at his Centennial Seeds lab in Lafayette. (Craig F. Walker, The Denver Post)
If it is awarded, the U.S. patent on Holmes’ medical-grade Otto II strain will be the first to protect a cannabis plant and a first step in establishing plant-breeder rights for growers who only a few years ago were considered criminals.
“This industry came up in stealth, born in basements and crawl spaces,” Holmes said. “But now, with companies forming and making larger investments, the desire to protect intellectual property is becoming paramount. Bleeding-edge stuff, right here.”
Indeed. Gone are the days when pie-eyed longhairs haphazardly hurled pollen into jungles of pot plants, hoping to meld two strains.
Today’s top breeders are geneticists, taking years to weed through carefully engineered generations of cannabis to elevate the most desired traits.
Some of these new superstrains are high in cannabidiol, or CBD, one of several dozen cannabinoid chemical compounds in cannabis and the plant’s major non-psychoactive ingredient. CBD has been credited with relieving some epileptic seizures, prompting widespread calls for additional research.
Other more utilitarian superstrains are resistant to mites or the crop-killing powdery mildew that plagues grow operations across Colorado.
Some superstrains are simply super stony, with sky-high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis.