This isn't really a secret in the worlds of marijuana and botany, where the same plant seeds can produce different phenotypes or varying traits that result from genetics interacting with a surrounding environment. But the trials of choosing phenotypes, or "pheno hunts," are usually private, unknown to the public.
Most cultivations avoid ever-changing marijuana characteristics by cloning a favorite strain to achieve more consistency, but those growing and breeding new cultivars typically start from seed, assign numbers for the strain phenotypes, and then choose their favorite to be grown commercially and possibly cloned for future harvests. So, for example, if a breeder had three phenotypes of Purple Kush, they'd be labeled Purple Kush #1, Purple Kush #2 and Purple Kush #3. Occasionally breeders will leave the pheno number attached to the name to signify differences from the original strain, like Gorilla Glue #4 or Northern Lights #5.
Some local dispensaries, such as KrystaLeaves and Den-Rec, sell numerous phenotypes of the same strain, offering five or six versions of their favorite cuts for their customers to try. Now Veritas Fine Cannabis, a branded wholesale cultivation, is taking a more formal approach, enlisting you, the consumer, as a middleman to help pick one of three phenotypes for future statewide strain drops.
"When we work in the garden, there's a real disconnect between the decisions we make, our opinions and our preferences and what the general public might do," explains Veritas grower Andrew Mahon. "Pheno hunts usually come down to what those guys in the grow decide, so the intent here is to open up that process."
As part of the new Veritas Pheno Hunt series, a limited number of boxes that feature a gram of three different phenotypes of a strain (and a grinder, lighter and joint papers) will be available to curious consumers. The guinea pigs try them, then vote for their favorite phenotype online, with the winning cut becoming a regular in Veritas's more widely available rotation of strains.
Mahon thinks that many consumers could have different flavor preferences from those of growers, who tend to lean toward more classic cannabis attributes of Kush strains, which carry more earthy, skunky flavors. Meanwhile, new or novice users flock toward strains that taste more like fruits or pastries than weed.
"Within a given strain, we don't know which flavors the public would want in terms of potency and effect," he says. "In general, those who I work with have a little more of an experienced palate and tend to go more old-school — more of the Kushy flavors, [but] it always surprises me how popular some of the fruity flavors are with people."
The first hunt will feature phenotypes of LA Kush Cake, a hybrid of Kush Mints and Wedding Cake. Future Pheno Hunts will feature Tart Pops, a potent mix of Skunk, Tangie, Zkittles and Purple Punch, with Mahon keeping his eye on more classic varieties as well, to see if consumers will come back around to older, more original strains. However, it's all about jumping in at the right time.
"I think the industry gets bored and is constantly looking for something new," Mahon says. "Can these strains survive that lull when people stop being interested in it? With that in mind, I'm actively trying to chase down some old-school genetics. There's a market for things that people haven't seen in a long time: Island Sweet Skunk, Acapulco Gold, Durban Poison."
The first Veritas Pheno Hunt collections will be available Thursday, September 10, and carry a suggested retail price of $55; dispensaries carrying the boxes can be found on the Veritas website and Instagram account.