The Associated Press's Supermarijuana Meets Its Kryptonite


The AP story I blogged about last month about supposed superhybrid marijuana strains in Mexico–which various commenters here were, wisely, skeptical about—gets a full and hearty slam from Jack Shafer over at Slate, longtime expert at debunking crappy, breathless mainstream reporting on drugs. Some excerpts:

…..A "new high-yield hybrid" that is "genetically improved" sounds scientific, even coming out of the mouth of a Mexican general. But what does it really mean? Hybrids are created whenever planters crossbreed varieties of a plant or between species, and by definition the successful ones are "genetically improved."…..

Should we be impressed with the supergrass's high yield? AP reports that "traffickers can now produce as much marijuana on a plot the size of a football field as they used to harvest from four or five hectares (10 to 12 acres)."……A football field—exclusive of its two end zones—covers a little over an acre. If AP is saying that growers now produce as much pot planting the hybrid on one acre as they once did planting conventional marijuana (whatever that is) on 10 acres, I say, so what? Why attribute the higher yield to the hybrid alone? Smaller plots of most crops outyield larger plots because planters tend to extend more TLC to each plant under cultivation, whether the plant is marijuana or tomatoes.

One clue that TLC—and not an exotic hybrid—should deserve credit for higher yields in the Mexican plantation can be found in the long version of the AP article. Not every newspaper carried AP's paragraph about some of the raided plots having "sophisticated irrigation systems with sprinklers, pumps and thousands of yards (meters) of tubing." Irrigated plots tend to produce greater yields than nonirrigated plots, a fact mankind has appreciated for 4,000 years…..

Finally, Gen. Garcia alleges that the Dracuweed is resistant to herbicide, although he doesn't say which herbicide. As every farmer and cultivator of weed-free lawns knows, plants develop resistance to herbicides via natural selection, without any guidance from breeders. If growers have deliberately bred a herbicide-resistant plant or exploited one that they discovered, I'd love AP to get a botanist—as opposed to a Mexican general—to confirm it……

I should have known better than to link to the AP's report so uncritically or to take it at all seriously.

NEXT: Music Sales and the Internet: Together in Perfect Harmony?

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I think I might start supporting the drug war on this logic:

    The WoD hasn’t reduced my supply, but because growers are forced to import in smaller packages, they must grow more concentrated pot. Therefore, the WoD has made my weed better!

    Thanks, DEA.

  2. Shafer doesn’t discuss the most extraordinary claim. That the uberweed can flower in mid summer.

    Shortening daylight is what signals MJ to flower. A hybrid that could flower in 16 hour days would indeed be a leap forward (or backwards from the drug warriors POV)

  3. But the WoD also raised the price. So are you in fact paying more per quantity of thc?

  4. Planting closer is a double-edged sword.

    Yes, the growers have a smaller area to check for plants changing sex, pollenating the THC resin rich female plants and downgrading the crop. However, jamming them too close could possibly increase the ‘sexing error’ and end up with a field full of seeding plants rather than a field full of THC dripping buds.

    I suspect that getting them too close together can reduce sunlight, reducing the potency of the crop too.

    Also, irrigation systems are certainly more efficient when plants are closer together.

    All that said, the only way to grow a crop in the way described is when nobody who is looking for it is going to bother it because it sticks out like a bright green thumb.

  5. jb,

    I’m only 24, so I haven’t seen a noticable price increase yet.

    Emphasis on yet.

  6. There is an interesting article on wired.com about farmers crossbreeding coca plants to prevent the drug warriors from killing their crops using herbicide.

    Here’s the link:

  7. I wonder what Norman Borlaug could do with pot crops.

  8. I should have known better than to link to the AP’s report so uncritically or to take it at all seriously.

    Wait, we were taking that seriously?

  9. As I’ve said before, we need to get the biotech industry working on cannabis. Once the gene(s) responsible for THC production are identified, a whole new world will open up. The possibilities are endless.

  10. Anybody confuse TLC with THC for a few moments? Sloppy writing in this instance.

  11. Interesting: I wonder, did the General in question personally test this Uberweed for it THC concentration? Granted that a crop that requires 1/10 to 1/12 the land to grow the same volume would be good for any hybrid (Super MJ alchohol instead of switch grass?), does the final product have less, the same, or more active ingredient per unit? Higher potency could explain the added expense of the described irrigation equipment, through increased street price &/or street sales.

  12. I’ve yet to come across anything quite like Jeff;s two-hit stuff that he grew in the back yard. Genuine article two-hit stuff. The first hit was yours. The second hit was you, hitting the floor.

  13. Matanuska Thunderfuck…

    I love living in Alaska…

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.