As market consolidation continues across the cannabis industry and larger companies enter the space, Compassionate Cultivation, a vertically integrated medical cannabis company in Texas, has placed a focus on in-house breeding to better serve its patients and differentiate itself from the competition.
In mid-July, the company introduced Brazos, its second original cultivar. Brazos was bred in-house at Compassionate Cultivation’s facility in Manchaca, Texas, and joins Waterloo, an original variety that the company introduced last December.
Like Waterloo, Brazos produces a 20:1 CBD-to-THC ratio, according to Compassionate Cultivation Vice President of Operations Taylor Kirk. A cross of two cultivars that are rich in CBD, Brazos is a Type 3 cannabis plant that is high in CBD and low in THC. The variety is linalool-dominant, and contains several other terpenes such as beta-caryophyllene, myrcene, pinene, limonene and terpinene in significant concentrations, Kirk said.
Waterloo and Brazos have two different terpene profiles, and thus complement each other fairly well, Kirk said. “Both are linalool-dominant, which is fantastic for the types of patients who will be utilizing the 20:1 medicine for seizure control, for other convulsant properties, pain properties—things like that. So, we’re very proud of the terpene profile.”
Brazos has a perfect 20:1 ratio in extraction, Kirk added, whereas Waterloo produces more CBD. In addition, Brazos’ compact plant structure allows Compassionate Cultivation to increase its yield, Kirk said.
“It’s got an upright, tight, compact growth habit, and it’s a high-yielding plant, so that enables us to have more plants per square foot of bench space and increase the yields that we’re achieving in our flower rooms,” he said.
The name Brazos is a nod to Compassionate Cultivation’s Texas heritage. The cultivar is named after the Brazos River, which divides East and West Texas, and Washington-on-the-Brazos is the historical site where the Texas Constitution was signed, Kirk said.
A Focus on Breeding
Compassionate Cultivation launched in February 2018 as Texas’ first retail dispensary and is one of three companies licensed in the state to grow cannabis and process it into low-THC formulations of CBD oil for the state’s medical cannabis program. While the program continues to get up and running, Compassionate Cultivation has placed a focus on breeding, Kirk said.
“We’re interested in breeding … our own cultivars and then [working] with those to select the right chemovars for our patients here in Texas,” he said. “We’ve had the opportunity, fortunately, to do a lot of in-house R&D through breeding because our market’s been a little slow to take off because of the regulations here in Texas. So, we’ve focused on really making sure we have the highest quality products and plants and genetics to work with.”
Compassionate Cultivation has an in-house analytical lab that allows the company to test plant samples to determine the type of chemovar, the ratio of CBD to THC and overall potency, Kirk said. The company has started every plant from regular seed stock—not feminized seed stock—which Kirk said offers more robust offspring and provides Compassionate Cultivation with male plants to use for breeding.
“We use regular seed, and when we get males, we select the best-looking male plants, and then we’ll have a small group of males that we’ll grow out in our vegetation room,” he said. “[We] really monitor their growth habits and take samples of their leaves and determine which ratio of THC to CBD [they have], and that’s really the guiding factor initially for whatever we’re breeding at this time.”
Once the desired THC-to-CBD ratio is found, Compassionate Cultivation can breed another plant with the same ratio but a different terpenoid profile, which offers patients variety. Eventually, the company will use emerging research to target specific cannabinoids and terpenoids, Kirk added.
The company selects its favorite male and female plants, and will match them together to make a hybrid, Kirk said. “That seed produced from that hybridization is now our new cultivar that’s unique to us through our selection process from seed stock and the breeding effort. We have a special breeding room that utilizes open pollination, so the male can grow in a natural way, and once its pollen is released, the female will be pollinated and created the seed that we harvest once it’s dried, and we grow those seeds out.”
A Commitment to Leadership
Compassionate Cultivation’s breeding program is part of the company’s overall desire to be a leader in all facets of its business, Kirk said.
“Most of the time, you don’t find producers at large scale breeding,” he said. “Usually, you have breeders in one bucket and commercial production in another, or medicinal production in another. You do have a few rare companies out there doing what we’re doing, so we’re definitely not the only ones that operate this way, but it does offer differentiation … that we can target certain things that we’re after.”
Compassionate Cultivation will continue to acquire genetics from the market to use in its breeding program, but once the company has identified the type of plant and the terpene profile it desires, it will breed those genetics into its own in-house cultivars.
“If you have your own [varieties], nobody is going to have that, so it’s a unique offer,” Kirk said. “Nobody is going to go get Waterloo. Nobody is going to go get Brazos. Another thing is, obviously, that uniqueness is intellectual property that we own, we created, [and] we spent a lot of time, money and energy into developing.”
The company is interested in patenting its plants over time, Kirk said, to maintain an advantage over the conglomerates that he predicts will eventually enter the market. “When they do, if you have your own protected plant material, no one can come after you for royalties on something they may have acquired or purchased. … We’re protecting all of our investments, all of our work, and really want to have quality plants of our own that we can work with.”
Compassionate Cultivation has plans to introduce a new, full-spectrum product line soon, Kirk added, and the company is also working on another new cultivar, which will be unveiled in the coming months.
In the meantime, the Texas Legislature voted this year to expand the state’s medical cannabis program, adding new qualifying conditions and removing the limit on CBD content in finished products.
“That opens up opportunities for us to start to formulate some new ratios in our medicine and also work with breeding new plants with different types of ratios,” Kirk said.
With expansion of the state program, Compassionate Cultivation will likely have an influx of new patients, which may eventually mean less time for the company’s breeding efforts, he added.
“At some point, we’re going to be so busy keeping up with the demand of our patient population that breeding’s going to slow down a little bit, but we’re definitely committed to developing multiple offers of multiple types of cannabis,” Kirk said. “We’re going to continue to work toward other types of cannabis that we may need for our new conditions that were added and for medicine that we’re producing, and to have as many plant types as we need for our operation to run efficiently and effectively."