Former Phylos Bioscience Employee Sheds Light on Breeding Controversy

There were perhaps twenty people gathered to hear me speak. For a noon slot, not too bad. All the same, it was my first time giving The Pitch for Phylos Bioscience, and I psyched myself up through a buzzing chest as best I could. Fairbanks Alaska in July is a land without night; having spent the previous evening watching the sun through my hotel window as it barely dipped below the horizon only to creep back up from its catnap an hour later, I was a bit edgier than perhaps I should have been. I stiffened, walked up to the podium, clumsily fiddled with the microphone, had a deep breath and jumped right in. This was my moment, after all. I smiled.

The Script

“Hello, folks! Hope everybody’s had a pleasant morning. My name is Ricky, and I’m here today from Phylos Bioscience.”

Many of you in the grower and breeder communities who are reading this met me under exactly these circumstances. I smiled at you, shook your hand. I answered your questions with austerity and confidence, gained your trust, followed up on the phone, shared laughs and grow stories, tragedies and drug war nightmares. And I even fulfilled your orders for the Phylos Genotype kit, compiling a vast blueprint of your genetics and charting them in the Galaxy, the largest genomic map of cannabis worldwide.

I reassured you time and again, hundreds of times daily: “We are not out to steal your work. We are here to help you protect it, to prove prior art. We’re a different type of cannabis company. We fucking hate Monsanto. We fucking hate Monsanto. We fucking hate…” and on and on.

The Flip

Within the last three weeks, a side of the company has come to public light that calls all of this into question. What I helped build was merely a pawn for a horribly different endgame. I helped build an unparalleled data set of the cannabis genome, paid for by an eager public, to help the company build barriers to entry for anyone else who breeds. I helped establish my employers in a dominant and unfair competitive position for this new venture with an eye towards becoming the industry’s number one acquisition target for Big Ag.

And in the end: I am so, so sorry to you all. I genuinely believed I was doing the right thing. I’ve never believed more deeply in what I was doing, nor been bamboozled so fully. I’d like to speak to this, and if I can’t right my wrongs here at least give some thoughts on how the community can move forward independent and strong.

Phylos Bioscience Starts as Testing Facility for Breeders

In case you’re new to this story and its many twists and turns, here’s the nuts and bolts: Phylos built their name as a testing facility, creating a super-cool 3D map of the Cannabis genome called the Galaxy. For depth of information, ease of use and simple visual appeal: it’s unrivaled in the world, truly an accomplishment to be cherished proudly and applauded by any bioinformatician anywhere. Phylos set themselves up as a guardian of people’s genetic work, helping growers and breeders establish a prior timetable of when they had their genetics before the inevitable wave of patents and big ag attorneys looming on the horizon start to rewrite the rules of what belongs to whom.

For years they had a page on their website titled “Tools for Breeders”. This dealt with developing marker-assisted selection, a technology where the specific mutation points on an organism’s DNA code are tracked and understood, then that data used to inform and accelerate traditional breeding. This isn’t GMO, where a CRISPR machine is used to rewrite sections of the plant’s basic DNA. This is simply kicking traditional breeding into overdrive: with a pre-grow genetic roadmap, a breeder could use this tech to decide which seedlings out of a crop will carry the traits they’re looking for; all of a sudden you’re looking at bringing ten plants full term instead of potentially hundreds of thousands, saving time and labor and resources and farmland.

All in all, this promised better, more refined traditional agriculture for the community and a safeguard against private labs under the direction of a multibillion-dollar ag company steamrolling us all out of existence. A level playing field, an honest and even shot for so many small and underground growers who suffered for so long in our drug war: truly a paradigm shift in agriculture with the potential to ripple outwards into the wider web of what we grow, how we grow it and in essence who we are as a culture and species.

This was one of the things that really attracted me to the company, and one of the reasons I’m so sad to see them go the way they have: a breeding program could have been introduced to the public as a series of tools to develop and further their own work. As it goes, this was simply not to be.

Phylos Bioscience Announces In-House Breeding Program

They made their fateful announcement on Instagram April 16th: an in-house breeding program, one that by definition would not only be stiff competition for any other breeders of industrial hemp or craft flower but most likely bury with the tech they’ve gathered and perfected. Imagine if all the umpires in baseball got together and said they were starting their own team, putting the full weight of their support behind it. Should the other teams, or the general public for that matter, trust them when they tell us they’re not competing, that they just want to contribute to the love of the game?

This was the quandary Phylos presented with their public statement. True, they’d be paying royalties to the original breeders of the building blocks they started with. But they kept repeating it, over and over in the comments section: we’re not going to compete with you. At best it was patronizing and to this day it remains unfounded. And people got…really, really mad.

Community Responds with Outrage

Between the low-level emoji trolls, loud-mouthed blowhards, cannabis influencers and well-meaning, erudite responders who clearly had a much more solid grasp of genetics and science than the company was giving them credit for: it was an unmitigated shitshow. There were the most horrible names, from “Corporate fucking chads” to the worst you can imagine. There were ignorant pitchfork-wielding yokels spouting pseudoscientific nonsense, there were numerous physical threats.

On the occasion that somebody would ask for clarification or a more complete picture of what might be happening with the data they submitted, the slightest optimism in their sentiment was met with some of the heaviest ridicule I’ve witnessed anywhere, anytime. Everybody took their piece of the big bad scientists and their reputation. It was awful for me to watch; like a dream home you spent a year building reduced to cinders quicker than you could comprehend.

They tried to salvage the situation with form responses to comments, a public statement from their PR person (turns out “You know what? I AM a suit. But I think I’m a pretty good one.” …is not a delicate statement when your intent and role in the industry is being called into question), but the community was relentless. They made a second IG post and a post on their website’s blog, attempting to clarify the first but eerily avoiding some of the deeper questions being asked of them. They did what they could to speak to “how scary this must be” for Everyone involved. Some were pacified by this. Most remained skeptical at best.

Phylos Founder Vows to Replace Modern Varieties of Cannabis

Almost immediately afterward, a video of one of their founders giving a presentation was unearthed, speaking at the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference in Miami in February. The term “smoking gun” almost doesn’t do it justice: like many of us who had worked with Phylos in the field, and myself more poignantly than most having worked directly for them, put my name behind them, gone to bat for them with my honor and my word… it was really, really hard to watch. I had to go through it several times over several days just to believe what I was hearing. I cried through a lot of it, puked at one point. It couldn’t possibly be real.

“All the cannabis that’s around now will be replaced by varieties that will be optimized and specialized, and we’re going to be the company that makes those.”

“We have huge barriers to entry protecting us.”

“It would be impossible for anybody else to collect this data set.”

“Cultivators can’t do real breeding on their own.”

“Our core business is plant breeding, we had to build two other businesses to support that…so we built an entire testing business to create all that data.”

“We have a really unusual advisory board. They are not there for show… Ron started and ran a couple of seed companies that he sold to Syngenta, he worked for Syngenta for years and is now the CEO of a spin-out company from there. And Barbara until recently was the VP of technology acquisition for all of Dow / DuPont. So, having these guys around is just critical for us, because we’re building a company that is ultimately going to be acquired by that universe.”

It was suddenly, starkly clear that the brass at the top of the company didn’t give a shit about the community they had built themselves up on the hopes and aspirations of. Actually, truly the case that they looked down on that community and the breeder’s art they’ve carried, for decades, risking everything as “a quaint, rural hobby that maybe farmers get into.”

Supporting Big Ag over Craft Cannabis

Since then, their reputation is on fire and the trolls of the internet have decidedly unleashed themselves. Almost as painful to me as watching their credibility disintegrate has been tracking the body of grotesque, virulent, often badly-uninformed and occasionally decidedly ignorant vitriol being espoused in their direction and that of anybody who supports them, or wants to, for any reason, no matter how rational the rationale.

Things seem uncertain at best for their standing in our community. For being the most dedicated, passionate and capable team of people I’ve ever worked with, in any industry: they’ve chosen to support Big Ag over craft botanists, money over the community. They had a real, solid chance with one of the most valuable crops on Earth as it emerges into full marketplace acceptance to stand with the right people, change the way the game of agronomics is played. Instead, they took the money. They fucking blew it.

Worst of all: they set back the trust of the cannabis community in science, possibly by years, until a stable and reliable alternative can present itself. We need to advance and evolve if we’re to survive the coming onslaught of Corporate Weed. It is not guaranteed that we’ll retain control of our culture or our plant, and with this development things just got darker for us all.

A Word of Advice to Phylos

That all being said, I’d like to give a couple of points of unsolicited advice to the folks at Phylos. Maybe they’ll listen, maybe not: all the same I hope that one way or another they take some time to address their tone-deafness on many key points and publicly raised concerns surrounding their announcement. Who knows? Maybe they’ll surprise me in a way that works for everybody. I can’t help but hold out hope.

First of all, stop talking about “How ‘scary’ this must be” for the community. The term that more accurately describes your recent behavior is “insulting”. Here’s why: the language you’re using indicates a complete lack of understanding and empathy for a group of humans who have endured generations of legal persecution, social stigmata and violent crime. I personally have had friends lose their freedom, their possessions, their families, been lined up against a wall and executed – all for the love of this plant.

This is far from an isolated experience. If you think you’re “scaring” the devoted, hardworking community who had the guts and integrity to build this culture during prohibition that you’re now attempting to appropriate and sell off to big ag, you’ve got another goddamned thing coming. You clearly have no idea who you’re talking to, nor what they’ve endured to get here: we’re in this because we ARE this, past present and future. Check yourselves.

Secondly, you need to state, clearly, what side of the business you’re on. You can’t simultaneously use the lab experience the breeder community has paid you to build, sell yourself off to the biggest fish that waltzes into your bank account and expect to continue enjoying support from the community.

You want to sell out? Fine. But quit acting like you’re not competing with the rest of the industry. Referring back to suggestion #1: it’s insulting. This isn’t a question of a small group of bad actors being really mean and hateful on Instagram, nor is it a question of nuance and context in your communications. Stop bullshitting the people who got you here.

Moving Forward as a Community

To the community at large: we need to take a moment right now. We need to assess, to reflect, to adapt and overcome. There are clearly some mammoth changes coming our way and everything our predecessors have fought and died for is being coveted and actively taken from us by greedy businesspeople who did nothing to help our plight when it really mattered.

As a community, we need a common legal language and framework that breeders can use to protect their work.

We need a scientific community that’s open source, fully transparent and works for everybody equally. We need to support this with personal research, communication and our dollars.

As consumers, we need to support crop diversity and the ability of small farmers to innovate and drive our industry by making our purchasing choices reflect those ethics.

When we get burned, we pick ourselves the fuck back up and keep moving. Given what we’ve survived so far: this is just another bump in the long, strange trip. Not to worry, we’re gonna WIN this thing. Better goddamned well believe it, Y’all.

With peace, love and respect for everyone involved,

-Dick.

The post Former Phylos Bioscience Employee Sheds Light on Breeding Controversy appeared first on High Times.


Estudio revela que el THC puede mantenerse en la leche materna tras consumir marihuana

Una nueva investigación ha determinado que el THC puede estar presente en la leche materna hasta seis días después del consumo de cannabis. Los resultados del estudio fueron publicados en la revista Pediatrics.

En el estudio, 50 mujeres que dijeron haber consumido cannabis suministraron muestras de leche materna a Mommy’s Milk, un laboratorio de investigación de leche humana en la Universidad de California, San Diego. Las mujeres también completaron un cuestionario sobre el uso de cannabis y otros medicamentos durante 14 días previos a la prueba.

El análisis de las muestras mostró la presencia de THC en 34 a 63%, de las 54 muestras. Cinco de las muestras, o sea el 9%, tenían niveles detectables de CBD. El THC se identificó en muestras de hasta seis días después del uso reportado de cannabis.

Christina Chambers es profesora de Pediatría en la Universidad de San Diego California (UCSD), directora de investigación clínica del Departamento de Pediatría de la UCSD y del Hospital de Niños Rady en San Diego y una de las autoras principales del estudio. Ella sostiene que el efecto que los cannabinoides pueden tener en un feto en desarrollo no ha sido determinado.

“Ya sea que esto signifique que algún nivel, o cualquier nivel, de estos metabolitos puede afectar el desarrollo infantil, se desconoce hasta este punto”, dijo Chambers.

“Es importante poder conocer las respuestas a esas preguntas para que los consejos que los pediatras y obstetras brindan a las mujeres embarazadas y/o a las que están amamantando se basen en pruebas sólidas”. Este es un exhorto para dar los próximos pasos en el estudio de los resultados a largo plazo en estos niños”, agregó.

Efectos desconocidos

Chambers señaló que la presencia de THC en la leche materna no significa necesariamente que los niños se verán afectados por el cannabinoide.

“La pregunta es, ¿importa?.. ¿Es posible que incluso niveles bajo de THC en la leche materna puedan tener un efecto en el desarrollo neuronal de un niño? Y no sabemos la respuesta a eso”, manifestó.

La Dra. Melissa Bartick, profesora asistente de medicina en Cambridge Health Alliance y Harvard Medical School en Massachusetts y quien no participó en el estudio, dijo que los investigadores no saben si el THC en la leche materna puede ser absorbido por los niños lactantes.

“Para ver eso, primero tendríamos que ver si los niveles en la leche se traducen en niveles en la sangre de los bebés”, dijo Bartick.

“Tendríamos que medir los efectos cognitivos, intelectuales y de comportamiento en los niños con relación en los niveles mostrados en la sangre, mientras se eliminan factores de confusión como la exposición durante el embarazo y los efectos de la crianza de los hijos mientras estamos bajo la influencia (del cannabis)”, agregó. “De modo que hay poco que podamos aconsejar de este estudio, excepto más investigación”.

Chambers dijo que su equipo está planeando estudios sobre los efectos que la exposición al THC en los niños puede incidir en su desempeño en las pruebas neuroconductuales.

“Esa es una hipótesis comprobable y un tema con el que queremos avanzar tratando de responder, porque es una cuestión fundamental”, dijo Chambers.

Hasta que se pueda investigar más, los autores del estudio sugieren a las madres lactantes sigan las recomendaciones actuales de los expertos en medicina.

“Al carecer de datos definitivos sobre el riesgo o la seguridad de la exposición infantil al cannabis a través de la leche materna, la Academia Estadounidense de Pediatría y el Congreso Estadounidense de Obstetras y Ginecólogos recomiendan que no se incentive el consumo de marihuana durante la lactancia”, dice el informe.

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Wise Women Wax Witty Words On Weed

If you were to Google “What do people think about pot” or “weed quotes” or something similar, you’d get dozens if not hundreds of well-worded sentences by many, many men—Ivy League-educated gentlemen; intelligent men; political men; men of all shapes, sizes and colors (but let’s face it, mostly white), celebrity men, even scholarly men, most of them, men of means.

It’s not that quotes by intelligent women are completely missing from the cannabis dialog, but the selection is certainly thin.

Celebrity Voices, As Always, Are Present

A couple handfuls of female celeb weed wisdom typed into neat memes is out there, by the likes of Martha Stewart (“Of course I know how to roll a joint”), Sarah Silverman (“I’d have to be honest, I have contempt for pretty much every drug other than pot”), Jennifer Aniston (“I enjoy smoking cannabis and see no harm in it”), even prim old Sarah Palin has a weed quote floating around out there (“I can’t claim a Bill Clinton and say I never inhaled”).

Celebrity quotes bring in higher views, which certainly has its’ effects on what words are front and center in cyberspace.

Unfortunately, it’s not as easy to dig up the words of female scholars, doctors and quotes by highly intelligent cannabis users in a Google search–just yet.

In an attempt to strike a balance of the plethora of white dudes ever willing to share their insights (and mightily documented as having done so), High Times reached out to intelligent women to get a round up of some interesting quotes on cannabis to add to the list for the next time you’re blitzed out on some ripe sativa buds and wondering, “What do women with high IQ’s have to say about me getting stoned?”

The Mensan’s Musings On Marijuana

D.V., a 32 year old member of Denver Mensa and a graduate student with a 4.0 GPA uses cannabis frequently. She was a cannabis advocate and voted to legalize in Colorado in 2014, yet, she has a few concerns about the outcome of her hard work.

“Unfortunately, the extreme regulation around the plant has made cannabis very expensive, both recreationally and medicinally,” D.V. explained.

She also felt some disappointment that though cannabis is increasingly legal, people are still serving jail sentences for having used and sold it.

“My best hope was for prior convicted felons to be released–a process that has not been as fast or thorough as I’d like.”

Furthermore, she is disturbed about the waste created via legalization.

“There is a ridiculous amount of containers, stickers, bags and sleeves that come with cannabis products,” she lamented. This is a topic that High Times covered in October 2018.

As a person who highly values her intellect, D.V. feels that deciding to use cannabis recreationally might be worth the wait.

“I am a firm proponent that people should not use cannabis until around age 25 or so, when adult brains are more developed,” she explained.

However, she also believes that some of the rhetoric associated with the idea that weed kills brain cells might simply fear-mongering and hype.

“A few years ago, I was scared my marijuana use was making me stupid, since that’s what our media portrays. As I’d always been quite smart, this terrified me. Around that time, I took the Mensa Admissions Test, and got in! I tested into the 99th percentile.”

So, maybe if you want to be like D.V., use more cannabis?

“I know I’m not the only smart person who smokes weed,” she chided.

D.V. shared an interesting observation when she drew an association between the stigma of cannabis and it’s unique odor.

“I think a lot of the stigma of marijuana comes from the fact that it has a distinct smell, both as a plant and when being smoked,” she said. “Because law enforcement can sniff it out in the air or in pee, it seems as though they are inappropriately eager to identify cannabis consumption.”

And finally, D.V. imparted a witty observation.  

“Our bodies have natural THC receptors. THC can stay in the body fat, hair and et cetera for months,” she shared. “Perhaps it should be considered a critical “vitamin” and non-cannabis users could be considered “THC-deficient.”

The Doctor’s Thoughts On Dank Nugs

Chris Wells, a 46 year old researcher, Ph.D. and Cannabis user credits cannabis for helping her to come off of prescription drugs.

“I’ve used edible marijuana products since they were legalized here in Colorado,” Chris explained, “and they have allowed me to come off of psychiatric medication that I took for many years.”

It’s always extra interesting to hear a doctor eschew western medicine to opt instead for a plant-based solution.

The Editor’s Eloquent Enlightenment

Tiffany Pace, a Nevada-based 47-year-old editor, Mensan and Facebook admin for a group of Mensans who are interested in marijuana says she only started using cannabis a few years ago when back pain kept her from being able to sleep for more than a handful of hours at a time. Cannabis helped her greatly; so much so, that she began to enjoy long stretches of sleep, and her back pain went away.

She believes that cannabis legalization is long overdue. “I think it will have immeasurable benefits to people who are suffering–not just those in physical pain, but those with Crohn’s disease, MS, epilepsy, anxiety, depression, and the list goes on,” Tiffany explained.

She is also excited about what may come from federally funded research.

“New uses and treatments as well as isolation of specific compounds that are effective in treatments may make marijuana as medicine even more target specific to certain diseases and disorders,” says Tiffany.

As you go about your days and nights, perusing Quora, Twitter and various search engines for what women of high intellect have to say about cannabis, understand that there may be some cause for disappointment with what is uncovered.

However, take some solace in that as cannabis grows ever more legal across the United States, that will change.

Sisters Speak On Sativa

In addition to the wise words above, a few additional snippets unearthed by women of note included the following, which can (and should) be added to all lady-based tear-sheets of cannabis quotes. Here, we shared some of our favorites:

“The evidence is overwhelming that marijuana can relieve certain types of pain, nausea, vomiting and other symptoms caused by such illnesses as multiple sclerosis, cancer and AIDS — or by the harsh drugs sometimes used to treat them. And it can do so with remarkable safety. Indeed, marijuana is less toxic than many of the drugs that physicians prescribe every day.” – Joycelyn Elders, MD / Pediatrician, Public Health Administrator

“The American Nurses Association (ANA) recognizes that patients should have safe access to therapeutic marijuana/cannabis. Cannabis or marijuana has been used medicinally for centuries. It has been shown to be effective in treating a wide range of symptoms and conditions.” – American Nurses Association

“We need to legalize now so both patients and consumers can share in the gifts of cannabis.” – Diane Fornbacher / NORML Board Member

“You know what I’m really tired of is people getting arrested for the possession of marijuana. It’s just a plant. It makes no sense.” – Madeline Martinez, proprietor of America’s first ever Cannabis Cafe

“We think of cannabis as a drug, in accordance with international opinions. This means that even consuming small amounts can lead to very severe dependence. With alcohol or cigarettes however, sensibly limited consumption does not bear the risk of immediate addictiveness as this is the case with cannabis according to our opinion. With alcohol there surely is an element of a tradition. However, enjoyed in moderation, as supplement to a meal for example, alcohol is not something that causes immediate dependence. Still, there is a great need for prevention and information in this matter.” – Angela Merkel, Germany’s Chancellor

Homer, I am getting really worried you are going overboard with this. We are out of clothespins, there are half-eaten cupcakes all around the house, and the curtains smell like doob.” – Marge Simpson, The Simpsons

What Say You About Weed?

If we missed a great quote or if you happen to be a women with something intelligent to say about indica (or any other cannabis strain), add to this form, and share the link with wise weed-informed women friends.

Because, have you gotten the recent memo? What women say matters now, so let’s jot it all down in the herb annals while we can.

The post Wise Women Wax Witty Words On Weed appeared first on High Times.


Coca Cola Heir Caught with 5000 Cannabis Plants on Private Jet

Billionaire and Coca-Cola heir Alkiviades “Alki” David was arrested on the Caribbean Island of St. Kitts last week after customs officials discovered 5,000 cannabis plants on his private jet. David and his friend Chase Ergen were taken into custody by officers with the Anti-Narcotics Unit at Robert L. Bradshaw International Airport after the plants, seed, and CBD oil products were found. David was then released but arrested again on May 9 when he tried to leave the island nation.

The billionaire was charged with crimes including possession with intent to supply, possession of controlled drugs and importation of a controlled drug into St. Kitts. David was released on bail after paying a cash bail of approximately $30,000. He is due for a court appearance on May 14 and has been required to surrender his travel credentials and report to the Frigate Bay Police Station daily while awaiting the hearing.

David is a member of the Leventis family and heir to the Leventis-David Group, the majority owner of the Coca-Cola Hellenic bottling plants in Europe. The resident of the Isle of Man has an estimated net worth of more than $3 billion, according to media reports.

A Billionaire CBD Advocate

David is a medicinal cannabis advocate and owner of the CBD oil company SwissX. David has denied the drug charges and claims that the plants carried aboard his aircraft are hemp and not illegal in St. Kitts.

“We’re going to go into the granular details of what cannabis genus it is,” David said at a press conference on Monday. “We didn’t even bring in cannabis, we brought in a cousin of cannabis that has been genetically modified.”

At the press conference, David blamed St. Kitts Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris for his arrest.

“This little dictator who thinks he can do this,” said David. “It’s illegal and it’s unconscionable. Mr. Harris here has a whole new thing coming at him.”

“I’ve never been to jail in my life, I’ve never had handcuffs put on me,” he added. “I was degraded, my friend is being degraded and we’ve done nothing wrong.”

Representatives for Harris declined to comment on the situation, according to media reports.

CBD Infused Coke?

SwissX might not be the only one of David’s companies interested in the benefits of CBD. In October of last year, media reports claimed that Coca-Cola was in “serious talks” with Aurora Cannabis to develop a CBD-infused beverage, according to a report from BNN Bloomberg Television. An unnamed source reported that the two companies were “pretty advanced down the path” of coming to an agreement.

Heather MacGregor, a spokesperson for Aurora Cannabis, declined to comment on a potential deal with Coca-Cola. However, she did confirm that the company is interested in pursuing opportunities in the CBD beverage market.

“As a rule, we do not discuss business development initiatives until they are finalized, however, we have a responsibility to our shareholders to give proper consideration to all relevant opportunities that are presented,” MacGregor said.

The following month, Coca-Cola CEO James Quincy denied the reports of a potential CBD beverage during a conference call with investors.

“We don’t have any plans at this stage,” Quincy said.

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