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The Hype and The Heat

Kevin Jodrey of Wonderland Nursery explains the history of lab testing pot and why THC isn't as important as you think.

Few people in the weed world have had a front seat for the evolution of the “Cannabis Buyer” quite like Wonderland Nursery founder Kevin Jodrey. 

For years, Jodrey helped backbone The Emerald Triangle’s starter plant supply from his Humboldt operation–where most of the biggest-name Cannabis genetics of the generation would make their way for protection or distribution to the wider masses. Eventually, Jodrey would even help now-State Treasurer Fiona Ma come to an $8 billion valuation for Humboldt’s underground Cannabis economy in 2008. 

But through all of Jodrey’s adventures, consumer demand would dictate much of the path–even predating the OG wave of the early 2000s when it first got to the hills, then onto Blue Dream and Cookies. Not only did what consumers want change over the years, what dictated that demand changed as well. 

There were no real lab testing numbers at a commercially viable level until Steep Hill Labs opened its doors in 2007. But 15 years later, the almighty THC percentage has become a market-driving equation, even if the labs are essentially running different races until the state-mandated standardized operating procedures drop in 2023. 

“Well you had in the early 2000s… I still call it like, ‘the Dutch explosion.’ And so you get into that, but prior to that in the late ‘90s is when you first really started having lab analysis come out,” Jodrey told the Leaf. “And with the lab analysis, it started to quantify potency via a number. That hadn’t happened up to that point.”

Jodrey says there was certainly some proprietary and unpublished testing going on, but the first strain he cites as widely having its test results shared was White Russian. It was 19.8 percent and at that moment, believed to be some of the strongest Cannabis on the planet.

“And so all of a sudden, this number starts to become something that people started to talk about. And then lab analysis comes in,” Jodrey said, referring to Steep Hill.

As Jodrey and his peers first started to take a look at Cannabis analysis, it seemed like an excellent way to optimize your production process. The theory many in the early days had was that even if the science being peddled was less than refined, as long as the THC number was heading in the right direction, they were in good shape. And you could read between the lines on the test results and gauge the effectiveness of any adjustments. 

Part of what they found between the lines was unconverted CBG. 

“CBG became this… little key to unlock more potency, because if you saw high levels of CBG, you knew you hadn’t converted completely. So we’re using all this to steer and drive and build higher CBD varieties, higher 1 to 1 ratios, higher THC,” Jodrey said. “But there wasn’t such an extreme emphasis on just the numbers–it was a part of the total process and you still had extreme diversity.”

The CBG made it easier for the team to narrow down the potential for CBD strains with a higher medicinal value, in addition to those absolute hitter high-THC cuts.

Testing would permeate deeper into the dispensary scene at the start of the 2010s. In those early days, a combination of budtender insight and data may have been the norm, but it seemed to quickly push towards the modern era of buying based on numbers. 

“And then pretty soon, it started to go into like THC frenzy–where once we started to break into the 30s, it started to become so powerful a data point that everything else started to be pushed to the side,” Jodrey said.  “And it’s really the undoing of experience, because the bottom line is that a simple cannabinoid doesn’t dictate shit.”

Jodrey argues that when we start to look at these snapshots that the tests represent as the whole picture, it’s similar to looking through the keyhole of the Louvre and saying what you see is the museum’s entirety. 

“And I think that’s really the undoing of Cannabis… that you’re skewing populations to drive towards a percentage at the expense of other things,” Jodrey said.  “And you’re seeing dissatisfaction in many consumers. There’s never been so much exquisite pot put on the shelf that people aren’t happy buying, or you wouldn’t have the trap hitting as hard as it is.”

Jodrey emphasizes that this all makes no sense to him, and believes his task through this is to help people build better genetic libraries that aren’t offset by crazy numbers. He also notes that in some rare cases, the brand is bigger than the herb. The clout those farms have built up over the years allows the THC number to dip a pinch lower without affecting perception of quality in the consumers’ eyes.

In lieu of more education, consumer shopping habits won’t change much–but Jodrey and others like him will continue to hunt down things they find exotic, regardless of what the lab test says.

@kevinjodrey | @wonderlandnursery

Photos by @bneff420

This article was originally published in the March 2022 issue of All Magazines.

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