Frostier buds might be the most potent according to UBC

Published Dec 11, 2019 10:00 a.m. ET

For many years, cannabis enthusiasts picked up tidbits of knowledge on how to assess the quality of marijuana buds, and one of the tips that’s held strong is to look for sticky crystals. This white dust has often been associated with the THC content within the buds, but prior research had many wondering how true the well-known tip really was. Now, we have the evidence that shows the truth, and it seems that old school cultivators and consumers had this one right all along.

A team of researchers from the UBC facility used a combination of chemical profiling and microscopy to investigate the potency of cannabis buds that displayed certain characteristics such as longer, brighter hairs, and more of that sparkly white crystal layer which is sticky to the touch. They found that marijuana plants with these features are generally higher in CBD, THC, and aromatic terpenes than those without them.

Measuring trichomes and terpenes using hemp

The team used a strain of hemp called Finola that produces fair levels of trichomes, terpenes, and cannabinoids like THC and CBD. Though the hemp species genetics might not align with the recreational pot that is so widely available today, it is from the Cannabis Sativa line, which makes this relevant research transferrable. Finola is a fast flowering hemp plant, and it was selected for its ability to display many of the characteristics that recreational consumers look for to determine potency.


That dusty white layer of delight that makes enthusiasts want to dive right in, consists of the trichomes. Trichomes are the powerhouse of the cannabis plant, and they produce just over 500 phytochemicals, including CBD, THC, terpenes, and terpenoids. At one time it was believed that all the crystals were individual THC particles, but we know today that they were only partially correct.

While the plants that boast the highest saturation of trichomes are most certainly the stronger strains with most of the euphoria-inducing element THC, that layer is rich with many other chemicals, alongside the terpene fragrances that so strongly emit from cannabis.


What else they uncovered

Not long ago, the majority of cannabis plant breeding was performed by amateurs with little to no knowledge on the biology, chemistry, or needs of the species. Even today many cultivators essentially work blind in hopes of combining the ideal genes for the best results, but what if all of the risk and uncertainty could be avoided?

New technology allows for a more precise splicing of genes and a nearly guaranteed outcome, which leaves only one problem, and that is determining which genes would be most influential to achieve the goal of creating the perfect, most potent weed strains. Well, after this last dive in the cannabis plant’s chemical profile, researchers found exactly that, which leads them to believe that we aren’t too far off from being able to create a strain that contains a combination of qualities that you could ever dream of.

Does the near future hold the perfect pot plant?

All the involved research at UBC are excited by the results of their work, but they also remain humble and cautious, stating that several more years’ worth of research is necessary before these methods will be ready to be implemented worldwide inside of the cannabis industry. So, while we might not quite be there yet, it looks like we are too far from technologically advancing enough, to design our own personalized weed strains, and that is an exciting prospect for all cannabis enthusiasts.

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