How a Colorado man grew the most potent strain of weed you can legally buy

How a Colorado man grew the most potent strain of weed you can legally buy

VicesMay 04, 2015

If you're a person who lights weed on fire and sucks it through a tube into your lungs, now is the most glorious time to be alive. Not only has the marijuana legalization movement gained momentum across the country, but as a society, we're privy to better buds than we have been at any point in history. Gone is the leafy, stem-y-y weed of days past; today's weed has so many THC crystals on it, you'd think it was Liberace.

Today's super-strong pot is no freak accident. Weed growers have been hard at work for decades, meticulously breeding high-potency strains to intensify the THC content in their plants. In 1978, average street weed had a THC concentration of 1.37 percent, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Forty years later, in 2008, the average concentration was 8.5 percent. But more recently, as state marijuana programs have sprung to life and the legalization movement allows for a proliferation of marijuana products and cultivation, growers have been able to share information and perfect their methods, resulting in some of the highest THC levels ever seen and smoked. Dispensaries all over Colorado are packed full of weed boasting THC content between 20 and 25 percent — if that doesn't make you want to buy a Rasta hammock and a family of bunnies just so you have something soft to pet while you bake, nothing will.

But in the environment of ultra-potent weed and stratospheric highs, one Colorado grower has gone above and beyond to create a strain putting all others to shame. His name? RB-26. His strain? Gorilla Glue 4. With a THC concentration of 33%, it's the most potent strain of weed on the market today.

In 12 consecutive tests conducted by the California testing company SC Labs, RB-26's Gorilla Glue 4 tested between 30 percent and 33.5 percent — numbers that raise equal amounts of excitement and skepticism. Obviously, any professional stoner would hand over their left ___ (body part) to blast a strain around 30 percent THC — but is that even a real thing?

According to an interview with RB-26 for Vice, it definitely is. It's just a matter of grow method. Over the last few years, he's been diligently perfecting and refining a grow process he attributes his success with potency to.

"I'm an extremely data-driven person," RB-26 says. "I log everything in little journals, and I'll do tons of tests if I change anything in the room."

Behold: the beast itself ...

Part of the method involves breaking his grow into several smaller spaces that are more easily managed.

"It costs a lot more to segment your rooms like that, but it affords you tons of different benefits, like pest management," he tells Vice. "If you have contaminants or bugs in your huge room, well, I've seen that wipe out a huge room over night. When you segment, you might lose a 12-light room, but that's [it]."

It's also easier to control environmental variables like temperature and humidity in smaller grow rooms. And in those rooms, RB-26 creates a lower overall temperature than most growers for his plants. His rooms stay between 72 and 77 degrees, as opposed to high 70s or low 80s that large, warehouse grow operations maintain. "Heat is one of the biggest stressors of plants and as your temperature rises, you're going to be degrading terpenes [aromatic plant compounds] and oil production, and that directly affects potency," he says.

Keeping the facility clear of contaminants is also a major factor in upping his plant's potency. Before entering his grow, you have to strip, swap your clothes for a sterile suit, and trade shoes for a pair of Crocs. "Worst case scenario, you're bringing in pollen, which could pollinate flowering plants and ruin the whole room," he said, like a weedy Walter White.

Is it just us, or was he our high school chemistry teacher when we fictionally lived in Albuquerque, NM?

RB-26 says that, more than anything, experimentation in this controlled setting is what led to the super high potency of Gorilla Glue. "It all starts with your genetics," he says. "There are definitely some strains that are just low testing strains. I don't believe that every single strain can hit 30 percent."

However, other growers in the industry aren't buying it. Since there's no baseline measurement for weed potency, growers use their own average potencies to measure how much THC they think their plants have. As a result, testing is inconsistent across labs.

"Anything at 33 percent THC is kind of hard to believe, physically," says Kayvan Khalatbari to Vice about RB-26's Gorilla Glue. Kayvan is the co-founder of Denver Relief, a Colorado dispensary that produced R-18, the third-strongest strain ever tested by High Times at 27.34 percent THC.

But that doubt is why RB-26 had his strain cross referenced with test results from another potency-testing lab in Colorado — Denver-based CannLabs. 

CannLabs uses a process liquid chromatography to measure THC concentrations. Based on CannLabs data, the average current THC content in Colorado is 15 to 17 percent, up from 10 to 15 percent in 2010. RB-26's Gorilla Glue 4 tested at twice that. After a dozen tests by separate facilities, Gorilla Glue 4 has remained every bit as resinous and THC-laden as RB-26 has claimed.

Considering RB-26's Gorilla Glue has a 5 percent higher THC content than High Times' 2014 winner for Strongest Strain at their Cannabis Cup in Denver (The Bruce Banner #3), he must be doing something right.

... Although we can't say the same for you if you're brave enough to smoke it.

So, there you go. If you want to grow the strongest weed on earth, all you have to do is live in a permitting environment, scale down cultivation, get neurotic about contamination, and live life according the same principals as a maniacal mad scientist. As far as viable career paths go, that lifestyle doesn't sound too shabby.