An Introduction to the Big Business of Cannabis Seeds
Cannabis seeds can produce widely different plants. And in anticipation of national legalization, the market is evolving quietly, but quickly.
Cannabis seeds are, obviously, integral to the weed industry. With so many growers around the world, they're in higher demand than ever. As a result, a network of online and physical retailers has popped up to satisfy both legal and grey market needs.
But increased demand and legalization are changing the seed business. How will the cannabis seeds market evolve with growing demand and more legalization efforts?
The 3 main typles of cannabis seeds.
There is a great deal of variety within cannabis seeds. Specifically, you can divide them into three main types:
Regular: These contain both male and female plants, meaning that half of the plants will not flower. This kind requires more light to begin flowering.
Autoflower: Autoflowering seeds begin flowering as soon as the plant reaches maturity.
Feminized: Seeds that only produce the flowering part of the cannabis plant i.e. the female part.
Aside from the type of seed, seeds differ genetically. This means that breeders have grown them into distinct stains that can produce a wide variety of effects. This is where the real value in cannabis seeds lies.
Why genetics matter.
Anyone who has ever consumed cannabis in any of its forms knows that strain matters. This goes beyond sativa vs. indica. Strains can be bred to produce a variety of effects and serve purposes that go way beyond flavor. For example:
High-CBD hemp seeds are ideal for creating potent cannabis oil.
Strains can be bred for pain management and other medical purposes.
Plants can be genetically altered for shorter, better yields.
Specific types of hemp create stronger, longer lasting fiber.
Not only is the ability to create products with distinct terpene flavor profile a great way to appeal to consumers, but the right genetics can produce vastly different effects with medical and economic advantages. And the more the medical and recreational markets grow, the more demanding consumers are of their weed products and the more competition there is when starting a cannabis dispensary or another type of business.
Who sells cannabis seeds.
Anyone can sell cannabis seeds but not all vendors are legal. International drug laws do not strictly regulate cannabis seeds because they have a variety of uses -- animal feed, oil production, clothing material -- but some countries are stricter about their importation than others.
Like the sale of growing equipment, cannabis seeds are adjacent to the weed industry but not strictly apart of it. This makes controlling or even studying the market difficult.
Different types of vendors.
According to one scientific paper published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, there are three different components to this business:
1. Seed companies: Seed companies produce the seeds. The majority are based on the Netherlands or Spain due to their more lenient laws. There are around 122 large scale seed companies in Europe, according to the UN's research.
2. Breeders: Breeder cross-breed strains to create new ones. They can work for seed companies or conduct their own experimentation.
3. Resellers: There are many more resellers than either of the above two categories. Resellers will often sell product from a variety of companies and can inhabit a legal grey area, catering to black market weed vendors as well.
Marijuana law remains hazy. Today, an increasing number of companies are patenting weed technology, seeds, and the hottest cannabis products. But whether those patents are enforceable, and where they are enforceable within the U.S., remains to be seen.
Plant breeders' rights
Since the 1960s, plant breeders can have exclusive control over a new variety of a plant they create for twenty years following a submission to the plant variety office. Control over everything from seeds to cuttings is given to that breeder for that period of time if that office decides that their plant is genetically or physically distinct. As a result, plant breeders' can technically have unique rights to the cannabis seeds they breed.
In the U.S., you can also patent genetic varieties of any plant. This includes cannabis seeds. Though the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is federal, it operates independently of other government agencies. This means that you can patent weed strains, and many companies have done so already.
However, even if someone does rightfully own a patent of a certain type of seed, that doesn't mean that their patent is enforceable nationwide.
According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, you can patent asexually reproduced plants if they possess certain characteristics due to their genetics or if they're a hybrid version of a different plant. According to one Reuters report, 39 cannabinoid-related patents were filed in 2018. Cannabinoids are the compounds found in weed that vary from strain-to-strain.
The vast majority of these patents went to drug companies. A few went to universities and other entities.
Another industry that will boom post-legalization.
Cannabis law is still under development. However, entrepreneurs and big companies alike are increasingly patenting a major element that can set their product apart from the rest: cannabis seeds. With the rights to a signature strain, there are two things that can be done:
Sell them over the internet or in stores to the increasing number of growers and individuals looking to produce their own weed
Today, people all over the internet are selling cannabis seeds with little to no oversight but, seemingly in anticipation of legalization, corporations are striving to control everything from plant genetics to technology. This could help certain ahead of their time companies could control major industries like CBD -- all thanks to seed patents they've filed today.