Article by Will Kersten, Dope Magazine
In Pueblo County, Colorado, pollen drift is wreaking havoc on cannabis crops. Tom Dermody, Executive Director of the Industrial Hemp Research Foundation (IHRF), calls it a ticking time bomb with national implications. Pollen drift is the unintentional cross-pollination between different types of crops. With cannabis, that includes three variations:
- Industrial hemp grown for seed, oil and fiber. This crop is low in all cannabinoids and includes both male and female plants.
- Low-THC hemp grown for non-psychoactive cannabinoids, such as CBD. These are all-female grows.
- High-THC marijuana grown for its psychoactive and medicinal properties. These are also all-female grows.
When female cannabis plants are allowed to cross pollinate with seed and fiber orientated-cannabis, their cannabinoid potency plummets. This means CBD-producing hemp and THC-producing marijuana crops are particularly at risk. If they become pollinated, they’re either discounted as substandard or considered a total loss.
This is the problem in Pueblo, a mecca of outdoor, female-only cannabis grows. Nearby, five neighboring counties have robust outdoor industrial hemp cultivations. “This has resulted in a significant amount of pollen transfer-related crop loss,” says Dermody, “somewhere to the tune of 12 to 18 percent, depending on which part of the county you’re in.”
Pueblo County’s solution was to enact a four-mile buffer between hemp and marijuana grows. It didn’t work out as they’d hoped. “It sounds like a great fix,” says Dermody, “but pollen dust travels far greater distances than four miles. And the county cannot interfere with the production of industrial hemp outside the county line.”
Indeed, pollen dust can travel hundreds of miles. One famous case of pollen drift occurred in southern Spain in 1995. Scientists taking air samples detected large amounts of marijuana pollen, which had traveled 250 miles over the Strait of Gibraltar and 100 miles inland from Morocco. While the U.S. may not have warm sea winds to carry pollen for hundreds of miles, the example does show that pollen dust won’t stop at an imaginary line.