For someone who is new to The Joint Doctor, can you give us a brief explanation on what strains you specialize in and how they came about?
The Joint Doctor specializes in developing and producing autoflowering strains of cannabis. We were the first to develop and commercialise this new plant type over 10 years ago.
It all started out with a single variety: Lowryder, the first 100% autoflowering strain, with its own motto: “Seed to stash in 60 days!” This new “dwarf” type of cannabis was primarily aimed at home gardeners with limited space (like me, at the time), looking for an easy way to grow some personal stash, with a predictable outcome.
Lowryder also turned out to be great for cannabis enthusiasts in northern or short season areas, where it was difficult or previously impossible to grow good outdoor. Here was a multi-purpose type of weed, very quick to finish and relatively easy to hide among garden veggies or field crops! It was something that any gardener could get a quick turnover from, and even grow multiple crops in a year; perfect for a closet in the winter, since it stays very compact; and you could grow another crop or even two in your backyard garden during the summer, without the neighbors noticing, and still harvest earlier than traditional types.
Can you explain briefly what autoflowering is?
Autoflowering plants have a pre-programmed, determinate lifespan. Lowryder, for example, matures in 60 days from seed. Traditional varieties do not have a set lifespan, flowering only when they are triggered by a change of light. But autoflowers bud automatically when they reach a certain size or age, instead of waiting for cues in lighting to trigger them into flowering. This trait is likely an adaptation to short growing season in that originated in semi-wild Cannabis ruderalis. They have a predictable outcome and are very easy to grow, always finishing within a fixed time period, and are simply the quickest and most compact plants available. Outdoors, plants can easily be kept concealed because of their small size and early flowering, whether planted in fields, in gardens, on patios or even on windowsills. Autoflowering plants will produce ripe bud earlier than non-autoflowering varieties. It’s that simple.
There is also a big advantage to autoflowers which make indoor growing more accessible to the average Joe. Since no change in the photoperiod is necessary to induce flowering, you can grow them from start to finish under 18 hours of light, or even under 24 hours of light. So it’s no longer necessary to have separate vegetative and flowering spaces and timers: you can do it all in a single closet, room or grow tent. And cloning also becomes a thing of the past. There’s no need for cloning when you can just plant a seed and bring it to full maturity in 2 months.
How did the automatic craze kick off?
Automatic strains appealed to home-growers first, those willing to experiment. Then, it slowly but surely became more widely understood and other seed companies started to jump on board, as we released new autoflowering strains, buoyed by our success.
Today, autoflowering varieties make up a significant chunk of the world seed market and growers of all types have adopted autoflowering strains for all kinds of grow scenarios. Most seed companies now have a whole new section devoted to them in their catalogs, alongside Sativas and Indicas.
It’s funny but large-scale or commercial growers were the last people to start experimenting with autoflowers. Why? Because it requires them to abandon a whole set of methods. They have to un-learn some of the things they have always taken for granted. So they are slow in realizing the benefit and therefore slow to change, because they tend to only go with what’s tried and true. But it’s certainly happening now.
Tell us about your new strain Ogre?
I’m always working on new stuff. I’ve recently released an improved version of Purple Ryder. The new strain Purple Ryder #2 combines spectacular looks and awesome taste. And as you mentioned, we just released the OGRE! OGRE is an autoflowering sativa-dominant cross of Secret Citrus (AUTO) x Durban Skunk, created by good friend and skilled breeder SGS (secret Garden Seeds). It’s interesting as it shows a unique accelerated growth pattern not seen in other autoflowers that allows it to get very large, averaging 1m+ tall and wide. With a prolific branching system OGRE produces large yields with over-sized, resinous, aromatic buds, reminiscent of classic Durban Poison.
The amount of growth and yields produced in so little time makes OGRE one of the fastest-high yielding plants out there. This is due to the fact that OGRE has an extended built-in veg period. After showing sex, plants will explode in growth for 2-3 weeks before flowering sets in, growing 3-5x their original size. Ogre’s life cycle is 10 weeks from seed, a week more outdoors or in a greenhouse. It reaches a height of 75 to 100 cm (more outdoors) and will typically yield: 60-80 g., using 18 hours of continuous light from start to finish.
SGS recommends 1 gallon pots (soil-less mix) to start. Sex will show between Day 17-21. After which it’s best to transplant to 4-5 gallon pots, which will suffice until harvest. OGRE is a beast of a plant that can take some abuse and still have the ability to bounce back before flowering sets in fully. She has a strong resistance to spider mites… and is an extremely heavy feeder. It’s an awesome plant for greenhouse production. If planted in late spring, it will flower in the full sun of mid-summer to pack on all the weight it can and still finish way before any traditional types.
Another thing about the OGRE: unlike most other autoflowering strains, the whole plant ripens evenly from top to bottom. She produces well-structured buds, not too airy nor too dense, that are a joy to trim, and have a pleasing scent with hints of licorice, citrus, and mint, with a definite creeper effect.
Could you sum up each of your strains in one word?
Purple Ryder – Spectacular
Lowryder #2 – Original
Diesel Ryder – Crazy!
Easy Ryder – Strong
Chronic Ryder – Reliable
We’ve heard that you’ve been busy updating and stabilizing the Lowryder # 2 strain too. How come / why the need / what’s changed?
That’s true, but the fact is, we are always working on all of our strains and improving them. It’s not just about breeding a strain it’s about maintaining and improving it. The nature of growing autoflowers dictates we cannot clone plants and therefore have to continuously grow new generations of seeds from scratch. In each generation we have an opportunity to choose the very best plants so that we are selecting the plants with the best characteristics. There’s no excuse for anything but improvement. Selection and breeding go hand in hand. And the fact is Lowryder #2 is our flagship strain we have been working on for the longest time. So it really should be the best.
We have had a chance to improve Lowryder #2 to the point that it is very stable and producing a reliable quality yield and product. In our recent test involving medical users, Lowryder #2 was found to be one of the top medicinal strains, out of all the autoflowering strains now in existence (over 100).
Are all The Joint Doctor strains feminized or do you offer regular seeds as well?
Most of our strains are offered only in feminised form except for our strain Lowryder #2, due to customer demand. Many people still want to use the original strain for their own projects and we are happy to be able to still offer that.
There were rumours of fake Lowryders on the market recently? What happened and is this issue fixed?
Counterfeiting has always been a problem in the cannabis seed industry. There are a lot of opportunists interested in making a quick buck off of someone else’s hard work. Suffice it to say that I have fallen victim to this phenomenon, as have many other breeders.
I can confirm that there are companies that have no connection whatsoever with the Joint Doctor, who are brashly marketing their own seeds under my brand name, even using my logos. It’s nothing less than theft. But we are doing what we can to eliminate this problem. To ensure our clients are receiving the genuine product, we have recently create a new packaging with a holographic seal, with a serialized verification code and the Joint Doctor’s logo. This system allows us to trace our products, and if a client doesn’t receive that unique seal on their pack they know it is counterfeit. We maintain a list of authentic resellers as well as a blacklist that you can consult on our website www.jointdoctordirect.com. We have to be proactive about this problem now, because if not we’re leaving the door open to copycats, and believe me they are very professional about counterfeiting. Weed breeders have limited protection at our disposal for this kind of thing.
How do you keep track of any poor batches of seeds circulating?
Good question, this also relates to the previous statement about counterfeiting, the new authentication system allows us to trace each package from its origin to the purchaser. If a news of a bad batch would reach us, with the tracking number we would be able to quickly withdraw that batch. For example, if there are males in a package in feminized seeds. But the best way to ensure it doesn’t happen, is to have good solid quality control measure in place. Testing, testing, testing.
You were at the Treating yourself expo in Canada recently. Was it a success for The Joint Doctor?
It was a resounding success. But we’ve been expecting this, since it is our fourth year running a booth at the expo and we are quite well known on our home turf, Canada. We have a lot of returning friends and clientele and it’s one of my favorite times to meet people and get their feedback on our strains.
What’s been your favorite Cannabis trade show?
Spannabis in Barcelona is definitely one of the leading Cannabis expos in my opinion. It has become THE gathering for the industry. However, it’s extremely well-attended and noisy and it’s something of a party! I actually prefer the Toronto expo for getting stuff done, as it is a more serious environment and at the same time there is less noise and hoopla. So it’s easier to have more meaningful conversations with people. In that sense, I prefer the smaller venues. Don’t get me wrong, I really like a good party. But, I have to maintain that separation because this is a living for me, and know that I can easily get carried away with partying and forget what I came for.
Do you plan to attend any other trade shows this year?
I’m not generally a big fan of flying, however, my presence is always guaranteed at Spannabis. Since I am a farmer, I don’t have time attend as many expos as I would like. This year, I am really looking forward to going down to a trade show or conference in South America, as countries like Uruguay are decriminalizing cannabis.
How do you measure your strains characteristics?
There are two ways to measure their characteristics and you have to use them both. The first one is your sense of observation. Paying attention to the things that you can measure qualitatively through your own senses and experience, such as appearance, smell, structure, bag appeal and a myriad of other characteristics that most pot enthusiasts will understand. The second way is through quantitative measurement: keeping good notes is the primary tool in this. Then there is the ability to analyze those numbers and adapt them to the goals you set for yourself. In breeding you should have at least one goal in mind, you don’t need very many, just start with one.
Without goals, you are just fooling around, which sometimes is okay because you may actually identify goals at a later time. The plants can speak to you and reveal something unexpected. Be a student. If you are in tune with them, you are ready to let the breeding process happen. That’s how it happened for me, the more I got involved with the breeding process, more goals became clear for me.
Nowadays, when it comes to the testing / smoking of the final products, rather than relying solely on my own observations, we have a small group of licensed medical users who evaluate them independently. This is a great tool for us, it allows us to get others’ opinions, and I don’t have time to test every single plant on my own!
How do you measure your THC and CBD levels accurately?
Obviously we test our varieties empirically. We dish out a lot of samples to our patients in need and their feedback allows us to gauge their effect. But for concrete actual THC figures we rely on a third-party lab. We do this on a yearly basis. We like to use a certified lab as we know we can then compare our figures accurately with those of our peers.
Are you currently satisfied that your strains have reached a sufficient level of stability?
I don’t think any breeder would say they are completely satisfied with their strains. It I were one hundred percent satisfied, I might as well go back to growing peppers. I don’t see an end when it comes to breeding, and there are so many possibilities and it may be that we are just beginning to scratch the surface in certain areas. Why not an everbearing strain, or a strain that looks like parsley, doesn’t get you high, but cures what ails you? A multipurpose, big-seeded medicinal hemp strain for the northern farmer? These are just some of the projects I am interested in. There’s a lot of work to do. I will probably be doing this for my whole life.
So to answer your question, I am happy with the successes I’ve had, but know there is a lot more work to do to improve my existing strains as well as creating new ones, and I will continue to do so.
Do you grow any of your competitors’ auto strains for comparison?
Yes, I’ve recently completed a grow trial involving 30 strains from ten different companies, in cooperation with Skunk Magazine. It was great fun, man. I’m presently compiling all the data for a future report. One thing I can now say is that my strains still stand up to the competition. But I also have to admit other companies, like Dutch Passion and Dinafem, also provide some quality auto-strains, though there is still a lot of room of improvement when it comes to stability. But I have no doubt that newer, better strains will be released in the future.
You’re officially recognized as the originator of the automatic cannabis seed. Do you get irritated by the competition or are you touched that it’s your product people are trying to imitate?
I don’t get irritated much anymore, I figure this thing just has a life of its own now. I happened to be there in the middle of things when it all started. I am glad that other breeders and seed banks have realized the benefits of autoflowers, I’ve worked hard to get them out there. In that sense it is very satisfying.
Competition keeps you on your toes. You can’t sit on the laurels of your one achievement and expect to be a superstar forever. One thing you have to remember in plant breeding: nothing is truly created. You are not God: you are just along for a short ride. Originally, I got my seeds from somewhere too. So I have to give thanks to many friends and associates who’ve helped me out and made this possible. But I feel honored to have left my mark.
One thing that really does irritates me is a bad copy. It gives everyone a bad name. People should really inform themselves about what they are buying. Yes, there are very bad copies out there, so make sure you get the real thing!
My message to the counterfeiters: if you are just in this for the money, then you don’t have any pride in what you do. I don’t think lying to your customers is a good strategy in the long term. It’s just like the entertainment business. There are artists, who are in it for passion, and then there are profiteers who will do anything for a buck. Where’s your shame?
What is the best way to grow autoflowering strains?
There is no single best way to grow autoflower strains. It boils down to what your expectations are and how much time you have to put into it. The more you put in, the more you should get back. Personally, my favourite way to grow is the simple way, in organic soil mix with compost. Push a seed ½ inch deep into a 5 gallon pot full of moistened soil mix – don’t transplant. Stick it under the light with its friends. Water thoroughly but only when needed. Cut and hang dry when ready. Repeat again and again and again.
You seem to have a very organic relationship with plants – bio or hydro?
I grew up on an organic farm, so that is just the natural way of doing things for me. I smoke my own medicine and like to live and work in a non-toxic environment. But what I am doing now is trying to combine the best of both worlds. Bioponics!
Your collaboration with Dutch Passion gave us the StarRyder. Can we expect any other collaborations in the pipe-line? Do you work with any other breeders?
I’m definitely open to collaborating with other seed houses and breeders, and will continue to do this, both in Canada and internationally. I have traded seeds with other collectors and breeders for a long time and have a good network of respected peers.
Breeding is kind of a personal thing for me. I work mostly alone. But I like the camaraderie that exists between most plant breeders. We share the same passion, even if our goals may differ. More important than trading genetics, I think, is the exchange of ideas. Because the ultimate goal is to create great plants that respond to a human need. Not personal enrichment.
Is The Joint Doctor one-man band or there are more people working for you?
At the core, the Joint Doctor started out as one-man show. However, there are quite a few people that help make everything work now. Starting with licensed growers and ending with shopkeepers. And without good people in the middle to distribute and promote our products, like Seedsman, we wouldn’t get very far.
I owe a lot to the amazing photography and wisdom of my good buddy David Strange, who was there right from the very beginning, as well as the good people who publish articles in magazines like this one. I’ve also had a huge amount of help from people that I have never met face-to-face, who post and their results on web blogs or share their recommendations with me.
I’m learning that I can’t do everything myself anymore, so I recruit well qualified people in their chosen fields to work with me. It wasn’t an easy step to take for me. It’s like building a family. It has to happen organically!
The Joint Doctor is distributed by Seedsman.com