When the CBD (cannabidiol) craze first hit, a lot of us who’ve spent our lives breeding and growing marijuana for the highest THC and lowest CBD percentages wondered why anyone would grow a CBD marijuana strain.
We associated CBD with hemp and ditchweed—marijuana that doesn’t get you high–and were offended by CBD fanatics who demonize THC and the glorious high it produces, instead touting the “non-intoxicating medicinal effects” of CBD weed.
Why grow weed that doesn’t get you high?
Many years and physical injuries later, I now value CBD marijuana, and have grown nearly two dozen CBD strains. Today’s article tells you the absolute best CBD marijuana strains to grow, and how to grow and use them.
The first thing to know is that an increasing amount of scientific evidence reveals cannabidiol as having anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, anti-PTSD, anti-spasm/seizure and many other medical benefits.
CBD by itself doesn’t produce psychoactive effects such as euphoria, visual and auditory enhancements, aphrodisiac or other effects produced by THC. CBD is mostly felt in your body. The only non-body CBD effects you experience are sedation, relaxation, and a sense of calm.
The next thing to know is there are distinct categories of CBD marijuana strains. The least-useful category for connoisseur marijuana growers features CBD hemp strains used in industrial hemp agriculture.
These strains are even less fun than ditchweed. They have low CBD percentages (1-5%), and only a fraction of a percent of THC. They’re for mass producers who will run the crops through CBD extractors or use them for industrial purposes. They’re no good for smoking.
Another CBD marijuana category contains strains that have an approximate 1:1 ratio of CBD to THC, with CBD percentages at 4-10% and THC percentages in that same range, or slightly lower. A sub-class of this category, attained by only a handful of strains, has CBD at 10-20% and THC in that same range.
The narrowest category are the few strains that have 10:1 or greater ratios of CBD to THC, with CBD percentage at 15% or higher, and at least 1-3% THC if not more.
Testing these three categories has shown me there has to be a minimum of at least 3-4% THC before the strain gets you high. When I’ve consumed strains with less than 2-4% THC, I experience no psychoactive effects at all. Strains with 4% THC or more give you at least a hint of the THC high.
My favorite high CBD marijuana strains are those producing massive amounts of CBD and 4% or more THC. There are few of these available.
I sometimes use high CBD cannabis strains to moderate the effects of THC.
Many of my THC strains produce 23-30% THC and hardly any CBD or CBN (cannabinol). Especially at harvest time, when I have to vaporize or inhale ten or more grams per day from many different strains so I can do bud grading and pricing, I sometimes get chronic THC overdose.
THC runs wild in my head, producing anxiety, paranoia, racing thoughts, mild hallucinations, shaky hands, insomnia. When I’m overdosing on THC, I inhale a strain with 10-20% CBD and very little THC as an antidote that immediately cuts off the THC effects, similar to how naloxone can save the life of someone overdosing on opiates.
I often combine my THC marijuana strains and high-CBD marijuana strains in the same bowl at a ratio of two parts high THC to one part high CBD. The CBD tempers the THC, allowing me to experience the best parts of the high, without THC overdose.
I often consume high CBD marijuana strains just before bedtime, or when I have something to worry about that I don’t want to worry about. The CBD clears my head, empties it, and puts me into a more chill state.
Growing CBD marijuana strains requires the same skills, environment, and attentiveness as growing regular high-THC marijuana. I recommend that every grower have at least a few jars of cured and dried CBD marijuana in their freezer.
Here are the world’s top CBD marijuana strains you can grow right now…
CBD Charlotte’s Angel, from Dutch Passion: It may seem strange to see CBD marijuana described as Sativa dominant because we associate Sativa with trippy highs. CBD Charlotte’s Angel doesn’t get you stoned, as it produces virtually zero THC. Its CBD percentages can be very high though—some phenos give you 15-25% CBD.
This photoperiod strain has a tendency to triple in height during bloom phase, so don’t let it go too long in grow phase. It also has a typical Sativa problem: it doesn’t handle intense feed programs very well.
Dutch Passion is known for its strain consistency, but this strain has wild variations, including phenotypes that take only 8-9 bloom phase weeks before harvest, while others require 10-13 weeks.
Willie G’s Lebanese High-CBD Landrace, from Humboldt Seed Company: This rare CBD marijuana strain is sold by Humboldt Seed Company, based in Northern California’s famed Emerald Triangle and not to be confused with a totally different and vastly inferior copycat company called Humboldt Seed Organization.
Humboldt Seed Company is highly-respected for sourcing and improving rare cannabis genetics. Their Willie G’s Lebanese high-CBD strain comes from landrace genetics from Lebanon, where cannabis has been grown for centuries.
Humboldt Seed Company founder Nat Pennington discovered these CBD genetics when he met Willy G, a medical cannabis patient who uses cannabis to deal with symptoms of cerebral palsy.
A cousin of Willy traveling in Lebanon gathered landrace cannabis seeds and sent them to Willy. Pennington saw those seeds grown out and recognized they were exceptional, with anomalous leaf structure, colors, and terpenoids he’d never seen before. He invited Willy to participate in a joint venture that started with testing plants grown from the Lebanese seeds. They turned out to be very high in CBD, with some plants testing at 20% CBD and less than 3% THC.
Pennington and his breeding team stabilized the most promising high-CBD phenotypes, noting that the Lebanese genetics produce a broader range of terpenoids and higher yields than typical landrace and high-CBD cannabis genetics. Willy G’s Lebanese phenotypes consistently provide fast-growing, high-yielding plants with buds containing far more CBD than THC.
This strain naturally grows tall, so indoor growers should flip it into flowering no later than week four of grow phase. Indoor bloom phase usually lasts 60-68 days. Outdoors, Willie G’s plants have grown as tall as 16 feet, and yielded a kilo or more dried bud per plant.
This Humboldt Seed Company strain contains the purest landrace genetics of any CBD marijuana strain on the market, as the breeding program only consisted of crosses with indigenous Lebanese cannabis seeds.
CBD Warlock, from Serious Seeds: If you love original Warlock, a famous, heritage Dutch Indica, you will likely appreciate this CBD-added version that needs 60-65 days in bloom phase and has a 2:1 CBD to THC ratio.
Dr. Acula, from Nerds Genetics: This strain from a small, craft American breeding duo is easy to grow, needs only 45-57 days in bloom phase, and has enough THC so you feel high. The CBD to THC ratio is 2:1. This strain can be recreational, not just medicinal.
CBD Skunk Haze, from Dutch Passion: This CBD-enriched version of a Dutch Passion Haze/Skunk has two phenotypes, one with equal amounts of THC and CBD, the other with 4:1 CBD superiority.
Unfortunately, bloom phase can last as long as ten weeks, and the strain tends to grow a bit tall, but the consistency of CBD percentages and the strong taste and scent make it worth it.
Super Sour CBD, from New420Guy Seeds: New420Guy is in the top five of marijuana seeds companies worldwide. I’ve grown many of their strains and they always meet or exceed my expectations. Plus, their price per seed is at least 10% lower than the few other companies that sell marijuana seeds worth buying.
Here’s what the breeder says about this top-selling Sour marijuana CBD strain. “This is a Sativa-dominant hybrid F5 I created to help fight daily ailments. I found a really good pheno from Sour Brasi (Luca Brasi x Sour Diesel) and crossed that with a very old cut of Sour D that my good friend has had since 2004-5. After melding a trichy Sour Brasi male to a cut of the Sour D, I pheno hunted for a high CBD, super sour plant. Out of 60 I narrowed it down to the plant that was then crossed with CBD Grenades (from Wnek’s Genetics, which is 9% CBD/THC) male. This provided super quick growth, fat stacking, and was VERY quick at flowering. I needed that due to the original F1’s bloom time ranging from 11-14 weeks. I chose the most resinous out of those and bred them with a beautiful CBD Grenades male to tame the bloom phase duration. The strain now needs between 10-12 weeks in bloom phase, and has a high CBD and THC content, testing at 12-16% CBD and an average of 10% THC. Don’t let this strain get more than 20-24 inches tall in grow phase, because it can stretch 100-400% in bloom phase. We’ve had great success with this strain in soil, soilless, coco and hydro. Although the strain is a heavy feeder, it’s sensitive to overfeeding and incorrect root zone pH, so use quality nutrients and monitor for overfeeding. It does well outdoors because it’s resistant to cold weather, torrential rain, molds and pests. Multiple toppings will give you massive yields. The high is interesting and powerful. It’s good for appetite stimulation, pain, PTSD, mood enhancer, but if you use a bit too much, it’ll put you to sleep.”
CBD-Chronic, from Serious Seeds. CBD Chronic is the heavy-yielding plant you see in the photo for this article. It’s an F1 Sativa/Indica hybrid based on Chronic, one of the most popular high-THC Indica heritage strains on the Serious Seeds menu. This strain has a 1:1 ratio of CBD to THC.
Serious Seeds is one of two legendary Dutch cannabis seeds breeding companies still selling high-quality seed strains. They recommend giving this easy-growing feminized photoperiod strain 4-5 weeks in grow phase, and 56-63 days in bloom phase.
This strain’s untopped structure is very symmetrical and sturdy, with one massive central cola surrounded by heavy-flower side branches lower on the plant, as you see in the photo for the article. It is a very heavy yielder.
Serious Seeds told us the strain is often used to make CBD extracts, and gives relief from symptoms of multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, glaucoma, chronic pain, and arthritis.
Growing CBD Marijuana Strains
CBD marijuana strains sometimes have morphology and growth characteristics that differentiate them from high-THC cannabis strains, and this affects how you grow them.
Some CBD strains tend towards a high leaf to calyx ratio– this means buds have too much leaf in them, and not as much development of tight, resinous floral clusters like you see with THC-rich strains.
The extra bud leaves aren’t sugar leaves—they’re just excess foliage, a waste. This trait common to many (but not all) high-CBD strains is often accompanied by other traits associated with hempy genetics, such as the tendency to grow tall, with weak stalks.
Tactics I use to limit excess leafage and weak vertical growth include cutting back on nitrogenous feed program inputs, increasing the amount of blue and decreasing the amount of red in my grow light spectrum, and increasing light intensity.
Another crucial difference between high-THC and high-CBD cannabis strains is in the type, size and density of resin glands.
High-THC strains manifest crystally stalked resin glands we’re all familiar with from cannabis macrophotography.
But many high-CBD strains have a lot of unstalked resin glands that hug floral surfaces and are much smaller in diameter than stalked glands.
That’s why it’s crucial to stimulate resin formation as much as possible when you’re growing CBD marijuana. One way to do this is by applying ultraviolet light just before lights go off each day during the last half of bloom phase.
Another resin-boosting tactic is letting my high-CBD bloom phase plants go longer than I’d do with regular marijuana strains.
With high-THC strains, I harvest when 15% or more of resin glands are falling apart or changing from clear to cloudy or from clear or cloudy to cloudy and amber. With high-CBD strains, however, I let the resin glands mature a few days longer than that, and have found that amber resin glands on most high-CBD strains equates to more CBD and less THC.
Lab testing shows that as strains ripen past their optimum harvest date, they lose THC but gain CBD and CBN. Of the two, only CBD is currently seen as a valuable cannabinoid.
One other important fact I’ve discovered: vaporizing, combusting or making cannabis concentrates from CBD marijuana strains I grow myself gives me way more value than purchasing so-called CBD extracts, which are ridiculously expensive.
You can grow your own CBD for a lot less, and have a lot more fun with CBD marijuana, compared to buying commercial CBD extracts, which are often of questionable quality and may contain harmful contaminants.
Every serious grower should try at least a couple of these premium CBD marijuana strains. I used to scoff at CBD marijuana, but now I enjoy using it by itself, or blending it with high-THC marijuana. It expands what cannabis can do for you, saves money on CBD, and is another sign of innovative evolution in cannabis breeding.