Cannabis and PGRs: Should You Worry?

Plant Growth Regulators (PGRs) have captured the cannabis media. Home growers have used PGRs to their grow regimen. More significantly, commercial breeders and cannabis farmers have introduced PGRs to their agriculture. Fortunately, the states that have approved cannabis growing and sale require listing PGRs on product labeling.

Should you worry about the presence or volume of PGRs in your cannabis, home-grown or dispensary purchased. Well, PGRs add chemicals to the mix, so you should be forewarned about them, how they work, and what risks they present.

What are Plant Growth Regulators?

Put simply, RPGs are chemical treatments that produce tight and dense cannabis nugs, an early and fuller yield of cannabis product. Like humans and other mammals, plants have hormonal systems. Although the plant systems are smaller and more compact, the introduction of additives will directly and indirectly affect the development and deployment of those hormones.

The chemicals involved include the following:

  • Chlormequat Chloride (CLCH) sells as a chloride salt. Mixed with water or ethanol, it discourages gibberellin biosynthesis. This reduction I on biosynthesis produces long cells, thicker stalks, and increased harvests. U.S. commercial greenhouses and nurseries use chlormequat chlorine to manage and induce flowering. However, the U.S. also classifies it as am extremely hazardous substance not approved for human and animal consumption.

  • Daminozide (C6H12N2O3) sells under several labels. It makes harvesting more manageable by generating, retarding, or timing ripening. For instance, it kept apples from falling until they presented the most marketable color and size. Orchards and vineyards used Daminozide for decades until 1989 when the growers could no longer ignore the cancer risks to human. It remains okay for use in growing ornamental plants not meant for consumption.

  • Paclobutrazol (PBZ) inhibits plant growth to encourage bud development. Applied to the soil, it (C15H20CIN30) works its way through the growing plant as it inhibits gibberellin biosynthesis. Gibberellins are natural hormones contributing to plant maturity. PBZ reduces their effect. This does produce stronger stalks, branches, and roots. This, in turn, delivers an earlier fruit and flower. Long sued by arborists and nurseries to reduce stresses to plants and increase resistance to fungi. The U.S. Pesticide Properties DataBase (PPDB) lists now known carcinogenic effects. PBZ damages liver cells. The PPDB suggests a possible but not confirmed influence on reproduction. However, it lists the chemical as producing eye, skin, and respiratory irritation. It also notes that PBZ is harmful is inhaled or swallowed. The World Health Organization lists PBZ as “moderately dangerous” for human consumption and as posing risks to aquatic ecosystems.

PGRs and “Illegal” Cannabis

Where cannabis remains illegal, consumers remain at the mercy of their street dealers. Most dealers lack the sophistication, motivation, or conscience to reveal the presence of PGRs in their baggies.

Beside the PGRs’ risk to consumers’ health, PGRs also have a way of reducing the THC and terpene content because they have accelerated growth outside the natural process. This means consumers forfeit the expected medicinal or recreational experience.

PGRs may firm up nugs, but they also reduce trichomes that produce most of the medicinal effects. Moreover, while PGRs may accelerate growth, they also produce spongy buds because they have not developed normally. This weakens the aroma and produces a disappointing smoke.

PGRs and “Legal” Cannabis

Legal dispensaries should eliminate the risk to consumers with clear and detailed labeling. If PGRs present and near and present threat, the cannabis consumer has a need-to-know. That has not stopped unscrupulous growers, producers, and providers from pushing cannabis with high-risk chemical additives.

Cannabis fertilizers and starter soils, for example, may contain PGRs without notice on the label or mentioned only as “plant growth retardants.” Manufacturers also market PGRs as growth boosters, hormone enhancers, nutrients, and vitamins. Customers find them in soil feeds and root drenchers.

If these artificial chemicals present risks, growers and consumers have alternatives:

  • Auxins are a class of natural growth stimulants. They are found in every plant in different concentrations. Natural chemicals can aid, inhibit, or stimulate these hormones.

  • BioBizz Root Juice gets its strength from two ingredients: seaweed and humic acid. Their products enjoy organic certification by OMRI, Control Union, Clean Green, among other recognitions.

  • CANNA Bio Rhizotonic rates high in customer satisfaction. Bio Rhizotonic is heavily recommended for establishing cuttings, feeding stressed plants, and repotting seedlings and plants. Certified as organic (OMRI), Bio-Rhizotonic provides nutrition with vitamins including B1 and B2.

  • Chitosan is a natural compound found in crustacean shells. Long used by gardeners, Chitosan, applied to soil or irrigation, improves photosynthesis, increasing growth and propagation. It also fights insects and disease, increasing flavonoid and terpene count.

  • Hesi products include Hesi Root Complex that promises to give plant metabolism “an extra kick.” Hesi is careful to point out that their root stimulator does not contain fertilizer. Instead, it activates bacteria existing in the soil and energizes the absorption of fertilizer throughout the plant.

  • FoxFarm’s Bush Doctor Kangaroots supports root mass development for container plantings, in ground gardens, and hydroponic grow systems. Growers need only use 2 tablespoons per gallon of water every two week. Ingredients include earthworm castings, kelp, manganese sulfate, protein hydrolysate, and zinc sulfate.

  • Triacontanol (C30H62O) is another growth stimulator, a fatty alcohol. Non-toxic and environmentally friendly, Triacontanol increases the rate of photosynthesis to produce stronger root systems, increased chlorophyll, and enhanced enzyme activity.

The list of organic alternatives to PGRs includes even more products, availably where online and where organic gardening products are sold.

 PGRs and you

Cannabis consumers need to know what comes with the product. Black market cannabis may or may not include PGRs. However, considering the potentially high-risk toxicity, users need to know. When buying in legal dispensaries, consumer must read or demand labels with full disclosure of content. That disclosure should include third-party testing confirmation of ingredients because even traces of PGRs can harm cannabis users.