Cannabis breeding and ethics: what should you do and not do when breeding cannabis

Hey everyone,

Many of you have expressed some interest in breeding. Are you always sure what is (and is not) acceptable to do when breeding from someone else’s seeds?

Matt from Riot Seeds has put an article together = The Golden Rules of Cannabis Breeding

Do you agree or not?

@ProcessorOwners @LabOwner @mastergrowers @LabEmployees
@growopowners @GrowOpEmployees @DispensaryOwners @mastergrowers @Caregivers @DispensaryEmployees @Geneticists


Maybe in the good old days when all you had was someone’s word and your reputation counted for something. Today, it’s dog eat dog and ethics don’t count for much, sadly.


I agree entirely. I started my journey in breeding by being seen-not-heard, pulling up a chair, literally, as I was invited to sit in on meetings and conversations held by a group of well-known and seasoned breeders [and getting even that was difficult]. They were not wrong about me [I am proud of that].

Such souls are not for sale and are most often not cash motivated. They are usually not socially motivated either [not in the ‘let us be friends and party’ or ‘please clap for me’ kind of way] - they are usually more reclusive in their lifestyle. Your currency needs to be a genuine willingness to comply with their spirit. The first thing I had to pay attention for were the rules that governed their world. The basic things. It wasn’t my world [and still isn’t in most ways]. What follows is what was expressed to me on day one [directly and indirectly].

Pollen chucking is considered to be primarily worthless. Do not release those seeds [even for free]. Doing so privately, for fun, is not the issue and really how I recommend people start learning. Do not lie about what you did. The only time random pollination has value is just that - looking for a random clone-only, and rolling the dice hoping for a freak occurrence. At the same time - trying to breed with an accident is a terrible mission so it is best to avoid such strains as a breeder [and not release them without offering the truth]. You should also ask permission if you attempt to replicate this accident and use the namesake attempting to sell seeds.

In other words: What did you objectively accomplish and can you describe the benefit your work provided? What makes it your work exactly? You need to call your shot or the game isn’t over.

Never take anyone’s work without permission or first investigating them. Some do not care at all. Some assume they should [professionally speaking] be given credit for their work. Some are, only a few and in recent years, willing to send a threatening letter to stop you from even thinking about it [but those people are not feared or respected].

Remember that this is an objective art form. Of course, it has subjective desires [thus, it is also an art]. If you are breeding to help a patient - the art form is understanding and being able to make chemotype changes based on their feedback and spending plenty of money on lab results. The operation may need a very squat version of a plant that as far as market availability is tall and stretchy - subjective need but objective mission. That isn’t the same thing as random [it having some subjective elements]. All Cannabis plants are smokable. Golf clap.

Yes, it is okay to save something. Just think before you act and in any case stretch as far as you can to find permission one way or another or at least attempt to know the detailed history. Also, you didn’t discover something, you imported something, get it right. You may have ‘discovered this plant for the West’ but you didn’t ‘invent’ the plant. It has a story [and likely people] that go along with it.

Ignore the haters. If you want to make something because you believe it is important to you - no matter what anyone tells you - go for it. Make your own calculations. Never breed for someone that isn’t paying you [or deserves your charity].

Be careful with your later objectives / practices if people helped you out. They will take your past, present, and future personally. Just releasing strains too quickly is all most of us need to know to recognize that you are just trying to cash in.

Last, never bring anyone in. I don’t care what anyone tells me - besides rare cases of great long standing friendships with love - stay solo. Even keep your good ‘breeder buddies’ at a distance [I don’t even tell my wife everything…]. I won’t teach a random person either so if my employer tries to force me to teach someone I kindly leave. Chemdawg, as far as I know, is most famous for being a Cannabis photographer that took people’s genetics while at their farm and without their permission [“If you see a seed on the floor. Leave it”]. No, I cannot confirm that, but I think stating it that way, and the basis for the rumor, is a lesson given more than the truth disclosed. So anyone you would let in your garden is something to carefully consider. Did that partner you decided to bring in just leave with 100% that is also 50% entrusted to you by someone else? I have a friend that was ex communicated from other breeders he was trying to hang out with in a community when he was first starting out [so put in the corner and given time to mature more] because a lot of bag seed was found by forum members that had purchased flower from his grow [through the early progression of the project]. Not good. It scared people. Now there is some kid on the forum saying, “you don’t own this plant. Anyone want a cut? Early release! Found a crazy good keeper!” as a likely outcome. Imagine how your employer would feel in a highly competitive and unforgiving regulated market with big money involved [and so on]?

Keep in mind that the above does and does not have an economic impact on yourself, or a business, and my thoughts and feelings are not anywhere near universal. Others will do as they will. Personally, people that stray from this do not give me permission to sleep at night if I were to go against my own moral guidelines. Also, no, I am not a famous breeder, but i am a seasoned one, I have minor notable victories, but my path was not to be a breeder with a seed company [just to avoid people thinking I have an ego about this or asking me what strains of mine they would know. I am no Loja. You might know one but I doubt it and most likely you will never smoke one. Not yet. Fingers crossed].

  • David

We have always been breeding with someone else’s seeds, as humans did not invent the cannabis plant.

Much like there are just 12 notes in music, mostly growers today are just rearranging the same notes and making different songs.

Considering that Matt has only been growing and making seeds for less than 15 years, he is a great example of someone building off of the work of those who came before him.

I am not sure what protections you all think you deserve, when you are all doing now, exactly what you want to control other people from doing in the future.


What’s illegitimate is people/entities claiming exclusive rights (or working toward acquiring exclusive rights) over a varietal that exists because of the work of this plant’s stewards before them.

The only protection that seems legitimate is open source licensing. The only restriction brought by open source licensing, is that it prevents anyone from acquiring exclusive rights over a strain/varietal.

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The world of seeds is a seedy world. Here’s an example of one I saw recently:

GSC is a Northern California legend. Available for the first time ever in a stable seed. The seeds produce large plants compared to their clone counterpart, easily doubling harvest expectations. Giving it the nickname Girl Scout Monster. The buds are extremely compact and prolific with THC levels reaching upwards of 28%. The smoke is intensely medicinal and may work well for anxiety, depression, pain, and appetite stimulation.

… so is this Girl Scout Cookies? It sounds awesome, and anyone could have made seeds like this - just cross a GSC clone to a nice male and you’re pretty much going to get what they’re selling, Hey, I just saved you $150! Also names like Jock Horror are meant to be misleading… hmmm, it’s sort of sounds like what I"m looking for.
Be very skeptical. Ask about the strains legitimacy on forums (and be skeptical of the feedback you get - have they grown it out? do they have a grow-log? etc.). Are you able to talk to the people that made the seeds? Are they available on forums? What’s their reputation?
The people I get seeds from are very open about how they make them. They have grow logs. They write about the parental lines. They’re nerds, like me. Most often we trade seeds, or they like to give seeds out to test. No ones making/spending a shit-tonne of money.

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I must take some offense to this.

The protection of Intellectual Property and the self determined value of one’s own labor is very different than a claim of ownership over a naturally occuring resource. You are committing an act of sophistry attempting to generate agreement with [what seems to be] your own political ideology [by means of an argument that at surface sounds rational and logical but really contains the essence of cannibalism].

No, what Matt considers, not ignores, is that he himself as well has been breeding for only 15 years, is thankful to those that came before him, and their intellectual property and labor [which he respects in line with the ethics meant to govern the industry he engages]. Somehow you found it in your heart to reverse his interpersonal feelings from your chair on his behalf?

An artist didn’t invent the act of painting or the concept. They didn’t invent colors or flat surfaces. Artists existed before them and inspired them. The universe crafted the stars. There is no such thing as a thing that doesn’t occur in the universe whether you want to claim it to be ‘natural’ or not [there is no way to invent the laws of the universe]. Anything ‘other than’ would be a supernatural claim. They did however create a unique and identifiable configuration from their own labor with what the universe provided them [and did so fairly]. What you have really done is challenge the concept of private ownership. Isn’t that a topic for another day? Considering Matt never mentions that he believes what you conflated with a poorly hidden strawman.

What gives you the right to decide the value of their labor and to do so without their consent? Did they hire your appraisal service? At least your run-of-the-mill Capitalist seeks contract and agreement. I am not allowed to kidnap you and force you to work for me, pay you nothing in return, and maybe show up and take your house while I’m at it because you didn’t invent wood.

Just because you have the ability to reproduce their work doesn’t mean you have the right to profit from their labor without willing participation [otherwise we call that act slavery among many related identifiers]. If you do so it just means you are a thief robbing others in an act of greed [and exploitation]. A plantation owner also has the ability to work in their field - that doesn’t gift them the right to take the labor / substance of others against their will. Trust is what occurs when Intellectual Property is offered - the ease of violating that trust does not make doing so acceptable. I notice there is no law that states you must drink water. There is no law against selling water. There is no law against bottling water. However, there are laws that protect Fuji from having its exact bottle and label reproduced.

All crafts are an alteration / modification of something that occured in the universe. This scenario is not a unique one. The rules do not change.

Is it that you do not understand the nature of their work [a lack of education perhaps] and believe you hold the right to appraise the value of their work? Apparently, you appreciate their efforts so little you value them at zero, and therefore you have every right to take it? How did you get anything at all in the first place? If you believe it to have no value you can choose to not purchase their products and instead make your own [without buying from anyone] but you do not get to decide the value of their products [otherwise, what would currency be used for if there is no longer a need for social contract? So you are requesting a scenario in which if you personally and subjectively decide something someone else produces isn’t ‘theirs’ you can take it? Isn’t that just the philosophy of a kleptomaniac? Participation is equal and the term would be accomplice]. That is for them to decide. I believe plantation owners had a similar mentality in appraising the value of others and their labor .

I have yet to meet a breeder that would complain that a strain they crafted would be used in another project. It clearly isn’t that simple. That isn’t the point at all. You made a statement, a blanket one, that provides no context for its application, and a failure to provide context when speaking of social interaction is a failure to be on topic.

Why disregard ethics in the community that you wish to succeed in? That sounds like very poor business acumen I most often find in fresh eyed robber baron types that see money as an amoral pursuit [in which they are outside of the law].

Samuel Adams. Did that company invent hops? I guess not. Want to start a company with me where we mimic the most popular beer recipes in the nation and have the best line ever? Low investment cost, no R&D, sounds perfect, and proven market to go with it - best thing ever right?

I have never met that breeder [that would actually say no one can create projects off of their work] other than a few examples, mostly in the industrial hemp industry, where people wish to protect the rights and sales around the cultivar they created for large scale cropping [no different than people do with their specific hops or corn]. The production and sales of those seeds is how they make a living. However, they are not claiming the rights to ‘all cannabis’ or ‘all seed sales’ or a ‘natural resource’. Simply, just the right to their own trademark names and exact craftsmanship. There are really good reasons for that. Sure, such can be abused, so you prevent abuse, not prevent the good part and punish everyone.

Their unique configuration and the labor required to create value in the marketplace is not naturally occuring. If it occured naturally their labor would not be required. It is in fact preternatural, at that point, not natural, and only occured because of their labor, regardless of if or if not a resource was used the universe provided [which are the only resources that we have]. The same goes for the painter - the painting is preternatural as the paint did not naturally form in that configuration without the influence of their intellectual energy and physical labor. That doesn’t mean they own ‘all of the paint’ by allowing them to own their work, does it?

The same people that you are falsely accusing agree with you, just as well, on the normal parts of your statement [which help mask the abnormal parts and make it ‘feel more agreeable’ to the reader. I mean, “who doesn’t want to save the children” am I right?]. No one owns this plant. It isn’t our plant or your plant. Not in general. That isn’t the point at all. It is that some ownership [or at least credit] exists. I mean come on… A little credit? People aren’t making it wealthy here and could use the ‘thank you’ for the [sometimes years put in] time they offered you to make you something awesome [that ranges from having saved the life of a child, perhaps your own child, and so on, to the best time you ever had at that one place with your friends. Memories. LIfe].

If people do not protect themselves what is stopping someone else from copyrighting their work and taking their property as their own? If people do not protect their Intellectual Property they will be homeless. I do not recall anyone stating that ‘all cannabis genetic markers are here by my property’ - Where was that stated exactly? Also, no one even takes it that far in general [outside of industrial hemp] and Matt himself surely does not. We, people that consider breeding to be a profession with its own set of ethics, do not like those people either, and exclude them socially.

I would agree with Strainly. Some sort of open source license setup correctly would match the ethics of most breeders perfectly. That is the spirit. Not ‘it isn’t your property and you don’t get credit’. I would recommend though, as I stated in my rules above [in my first comment], that you should ‘never let anyone in’, and setup this license yourself. Here is why: