Hemp flowers have become a staple for CBD lovers. Producers and dispensaries have created various strains that can be legally smoked, preserving some of the best rituals from cannabis culture.
However, this increasing demand for hemp-based weed has also sped up things. From super exotic strains like the Zaza flower to really cheap and low-quality flower are some things growers have turned to for the consumer’s attention. Cheap weed might sound great at first, but it can contain traces of PGR.
Plant growth regulators are one of the most common chemicals used in agriculture to allow for more yield. These compounds have several adverse effects that can affect your health. If you want to know how to detect if there’s PGR in your weed, the most common side effects, and what to do with these chemicals, we’ve prepared this article to help you.
- PGRs are chemicals used by cannabis and hemp growers to maximize the yields of their plants.
- PGRs alter your weed’s chemical structure, aroma and smell. Plus, they can be dangerous to your health, even in low quantities.
- Always ensure your weed is PGR-free by getting it from trusted brands like Botany Farms.
What are Plant Growth Regulators?
Plant growth regulators, also called PGRs, are synthetic or natural chemicals used in agriculture to modify and control certain plant growth factors, such as increasing or regulating the size of branches and roots, increasing return flowering, suppressing shoot growth, and alteration of fruit maturity or removal of excess fruit in case the plants bear fruit.
These plant growth-regulating chemicals are commonly used in ornamental plant crops. The issue with PGRs is that most of these chemicals are prohibited for human consumption since they are potentially harmful to health. In fact, many of these plant growth regulators are prohibited for food-grade crops as they can have short and long-term adverse health effects.
When it comes to growing cannabis, the implementation of PGRs has become popular among some growers because these chemicals cause yield plants with a more attractive appearance and can generate more buds than usual. PGRs can even help develop plants with better health and resistance to marijuana fungus.
Nevertheless, synthetic-type PGRs are inappropriate and can tremendously affect the quality of your cannabis buds and make them potentially harmful. Therefore, growers who dare to use PGRs to increase the production of their cannabis plants are exchanging your health for more financial profit, which is certainly not the most ethically correct thing to do.
PGRs are most common for growing cannabis sold on the black market, usually in areas where cannabis is illegal. These legal gray areas create the perfect setting for black market growers to use PGRs to inflate their plants' yields and, consequently, their profits by selling appealing-looking, cannabinoid-lacking, and dangerous cannabis buds illegally.
So, while legal cannabis must follow regulations, laboratory tests, and laws, in places where this plant is still criminalized, users are forced to get it clandestinely, risking getting cannabis grown with PGRs. It is necessary to highlight the fact that the use of PGRs is not necessarily wrong.
The problem is that the PGR cannabis you find on the streets is highly unlikely to have been grown with human health-based PGRs, and consuming this type of weed can be anything from unpleasant to even dangerous.
Organic Plant Growth Regulators vs. Synthetic Plant Growth Regulators
Different types of plant growth regulators fulfill different kinds of functions controlling certain specific characteristics of plant growth. But we could classify PGRs into two main groups, organic or natural and synthetic.
Organic PGRs offer a natural alternative that performs much the same function as synthetic plant growth regulators. The advantage of organic PGRs is that they do not represent a risk to human health and can also help regulate plant growth.
Among the most popular organic PGRs are chitosan, triacontanol extracted from alfalfa hay, sugar found in shellfish shells, and algae since these contain natural plant hormones that increase plant performance.
Growing cannabis with these organic PGRs provides practically the same benefits as synthetic PGRs but without their drawbacks; cannabis plants still grow with an improved growth pattern and develop denser and larger buds. Another advantage of natural PGRs is that they are friendly to the environment, and their residues do not harm soil biodiversity.
In fact, according to research, some specific PGRs, such as auxins, gibberellins, cytokinins, and salicylic acid, can rehabilitate soils damaged by pollution. Evidence suggests that using some PGRs in conjunction with some PGRPs may represent an eco-friendly alternative to increase resistance to drought in some crops. Lastly and perhaps most importantly, these type of organic PGRs does not represent a risk to people's health.
On the other side of the game are synthetic PGRs, often preferred by black market growers, despite being harmful to the environment and human health. Synthetic PGRs produce large, dense, tight, colorful, and seductive-appearance buds.
Nonetheless, the super development stimulated by artificial hormones in these buds makes them odorless, tasteless, unhealthy, and with very little or no cannabinoid content in them; that's why FDA prohibited most of these PGRs for edible crops.
Black market cannabis growers and retailers take advantage of the striking appearance of buds grown with synthetic PGRs to deceive users forced to obtain their cannabis illicitly. The principle they rely on is simple: once you buy the weed on the street, you will hardly be able to claim a return or request a refund once you have purchased the package.
These growers and retailers that sell PGR weed do so to increase their profits even though customers are getting buds that are potentially harmful to their health. In the worst case, users will not even experience the psychoactive or therapeutic effects they sought.
What is PGR in Weed
PGR (Plant Growth Regulator) weed is becoming pretty common in the hemp and cannabis scene. This happens when hemp growers use PGR with their crops to enhance or increase the value of their buds and overall yield. Think of it as using hormones to get weed faster and better.
However, this is not very good if you want healthy hemp yield or want to try different kinds of cannabinoids, terpenes, or even naturally highly potent strains with trichome crystals. PGRs can help some lacking growers so their crops yield more buds. This is worrying, as there is evidence that the chemicals used can be dangerous and have adverse health effects.
How to Identify PGR Weed
PGR weed is more common and abundant, especially in territories where cannabis is still illegal or criminalized. These legal restrictions only promote the trading of products that do not go through any type of control and do not comply with regulations or laboratory tests to determine if they are safe.
In such scenarios, there are cultivators with very different intentions. While some grow marijuana or hemp plants indoors, in a greenhouse, or outdoors to generate a good product and offer good quality to their customers, other growers use PGRs to shorten flowering times, and increase yields, and with this, their profits at all costs.
Fortunately, there are certain particular characteristics that you can look for to tell if the buds you are looking at are organic or if they were grown with synthetic PGRs. Some of the attributes by which you can best identify PGR weed are the following:
Red or Brown Excessive Hairs
Most, if not all, cannabis strains produce pistils or "hairs" on their buds that can range in color from brown, brownish, orange, red, yellow, or other colors, depending on the strain.
In PGRs weed, these pistils grow more pronounced, developing more than the same trichomes that contain the cannabinoids and, therefore, the psychoactive load of the weed. In PGR weed, the "hairs" will be mostly brown and red.
Typically, cannabis buds develop a content of trichome crystals that make these buds look shiny or even feel sticky to the touch. In PGR weed, these crystals are scarce as these chemicals disrupt the development of trichomes, cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids.
This same deficiency of terpenes, cannabinoids, and flavonoids causes PGR weed to lack aromas or flavors. It is the combination of terpenes, flavonoids, and cannabinoids that gives each cannabis strain its unique smell.
Therefore, one of the ways to differentiate a PGR bud from an organic one is to break a bud and check its aroma. If at that moment you wonder why your buds don't have a smell, it's probably because they are PGR weed.
Dense, Heavy, and Rock-hard Buds
PGRs force growth on buds, which grow out of proportion to their potency. These types of buds grown with PGRs are generally denser and heavier. But, some buds can grow so dense that they develop a rock-hard texture that feels strange to the touch.
Spongy, Wet Texture
While PGR weed buds can be rock hard in some cases, other PGR weed buds can develop a spongy texture. If the buds you see have an odd dampness or the texture of an old sponge, it's probably PGR weed.
As with the smell and appearance, the taste of the buds is a characteristic by which you can quickly identify PGR weed. PGR cannabis, whether smokable or in edible form, often carries an easily recognizable chemical taste.
Cannabis grown with synthetic PGRs lacks the aromatic terpenes, flavonoids, and rich flavor characteristic of cannabis. These types of buds often cause a chemical high, which is brief and leaves users fatigued at their offset. PGR buds tend to be dense, stone-hard, and generally colorful.
Therefore, if you are comparing PGR weed to organically grown cannabis, it is preferable to choose cannabis that smells and feels right, despite not being as flashy in appearance, rather than going for the cosmetically appealing-looking that harms your health and your budget.
Most Common PGRs
Now, let’s go with three of the most common Plant Growth Regulators that some hemp growers use: Paclobutrazol, Chlormequat Chloride, and Daminozide.
Paclobutrazol might be one of the worst three chemicals, especially if you smoke or vape it. The main problem with this chemical is that it transforms into nitrosamines when heated. These compounds are responsible for different adverse effects. In fact, Nitrosamines are one of the main components in tobacco cigarettes associated with cancer due to their highly carcinogenic properties.
This chemical is used in plant growth to help growers have sturdier plants with thicker stalks. It has been used in ornamental flowers and even cereal crops to help them increase yield, which makes sense for hemp growers to want to get more buds.
However, there’s evidence that this pesticide and retardant can irritate if swallowed or when it has contact with your skin. When burnt, it can cause toxic fumes, which can lead to eye irritation, and there is research on high doses in animal studies that might cause convulsions.
Daminozide, known as Alar, has also been classified as a probable carcinogen. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reported that this pesticide has been used in agricultural commodities, like fruits, vegetables, and food crops.
What to Know About PGR for Weed
PGRs might sound good at first, but these chemicals can affect your smoking experience in several ways. And much like newer cannabinoids like Delta-7 THC or CBGA, research is needed to understand how it can affect your body in both the short and long term. With that said, we have a few insights about how PGR works with weed as agricultural products. Let’s review some of the most important ones.
PGRs Can Alter Chemical Structure
Most hemp plants will have similar characteristics whether the flower s grown indoors or outdoors. This includes their chemical structure, which by law has to be tested due to Delta-9 THC content in a lab.
Foreign substances like PGRs can change the natural structure of plants. While there is not much evidence of the degree of these chemical transformations, the key takeaway is that PGRs remain after the harvest and modify the plants’ structure.
PGRs Can Affect Flavor
Another issue with PGRs is that they can affect the flavor due to the blockage of the plant’s natural hormones. This affects the plant’s usual growth, from getting a specific terpene profile to trichome crystals.
PGRs Can Affect Texture
This hormonal change can also affect the bud's texture and form. PGR-treated weed looks unusually compact, with fewer colors and barely any trichome crystals. Expert growers and cannasseurs might get the difference as one bud from a specific strain might look drastically different when treated with PGRs.
Their Use is Becoming More Common
As there’s a new brand or grower every day, competition in the hemp space has never been as present as today. These days brands want to maximize their revenue and have larger yields, which has led growers to use these chemicals to satisfy the demand.
Thanks to this, PGRs have become more prevalent in the growing community. Brands see these chemicals from big to small farms as a way to fatten their profits without considering the final consumer.
PGR Weed Effects
As a grower, having more plants and more buds to sell is always a good option. PGRs, however, can be detrimental to your health and have toxic properties that are backed up by scientific research. PGR can have both short-term and long-term problems when consuming it.
If you came in contact with one or had a toke of PGR weed, you might have skin or eye irritations, respiratory distress, nausea, and even vomiting. Long-term effects of PGR can lead to even worse adverse effects, such as lung damage, low antioxidant levels, and even detriment to reproductive health in men and women. The study mentioned above also lists carcinogen and hepatoxic properties with these types of compounds.
Is PGR Cannabis Safe to Consume?
No, PGRs are not safe to consume in any way. In fact, two of the primary chemicals used in the industry, Alar, and Paclobutrazol, are both considered carcinogenic.
We also don’t fully know how these compounds might affect human health, potentially leading to adverse effects. This is why we don’t recommend trying or consuming PGR-treated hemp flowers, as their lab studies might not even really show their composition.
What is the Best PGR for Weed
As stated above, PGRs are not good for your health and might have strong short-term and long-term adverse effects. We don’t recommend any plant growth retardant to use while growing hemp. And from a grower or hobbyist perspective, if you want a more significant yield, you could try opting for other strains that can give more buds per plant or planting hemp outdoors so stalks can give more buds.
How Can You Spot PGR Cannabis
Let’s step back a little and check some PGR weed characteristics. Some of the features of this kind of bud are most noticeable on the outside. From the lack of smell, texture, the lack of crystals, and even odd colorations, PGR buds differ drastically from hemp and cannabis nugs. Let’s quickly review some of the most important things to notice from PGR buds.
Dense and Heavy Buds
The PGR-treated flower has a noticeably denser consistency. This kind of herb might look unnaturally thick and have small nugs. Some users have even reported it feels pretty similar to products like moon rocks, with more weight and no added distillate.
PGR can make the buds of your weed have a sponge-like feeling. Kind of like having a semi-wet sponge in the shape of a dense weed nug. If your bud’s texture is similar and doesn’t have any sauce or cannabinoids on top, you might be looking at a PGR bud.
Lack of Crystals Found on the Leaf
Since Plant Growth Retardants affect hormone production in the plant, it is common to find treated plants without trichome crystals. If your bud does not have any tiny crystals and similar varieties from other growers usually do, you might have found PGR weed.
Brown or Red Hairs (Pistils)
While some varieties might have red or purple coloration, brown and red pistils are actually not good signs. Users have reported that looking at weeds with these colors and dense texture might be evidence of plant growth retardants in your hemp.
Low THC/CBD Content
Hormonal growth can be blocked with PGR, meaning the cannabinoid content on your bud might also be affected. If your grower claims that their buds have really low cannabinoid content or if their lab results throw something unusually low, better stay away from these nugs.
Harsh Chemical Taste
Some strains might have a chemical or even an “electric” taste. We recommend checking if the strain you are getting has that flavor profile or if any parent buds have it. If they don’t, that might be another insight if your bud has been treated with PGRs or not.
No/Low Smell When Breaking Up Bud
Weed, in general, is very fragrant. Some strains might have different smells or terpene profiles, but most buds are fragrant and even more when ground up. If your buds do not have strong odors when broken up, your herb might also be tainted with PGR.
A Fast-acting Chemical High that May Cause Lethargy (Low Energy and Motivation) and Headaches
Long-time hemp and cannabis smokers know the natural high feeling slowly takes over after having a puff. However, PGR weed has been reported by users to give a quick, almost chemical high that might cause adverse effects, including lethargy and headaches.
If smoking your bud irritates your eyes or mouth, it might also indicate that PGR chemicals are present in your bud. If this happens, we recommend checking with your healthcare provider.
Why Choose Quality Flower
Now that you know what to look for in PGR-treated weed, you might want a small break from all the bad news. Luckily, at the Botany Farms store, we have different kinds of high-quality strains that use no pesticides or growth retardants that you can try.
For CBD-only plants, you can try two strains that are opposite in effects but share a high cannabinoid content. If you like fruity and a little sour profile, the sativa strain Shaolin Gleaux is the perfect choice with its hefty 31.6% cannabinoid content.
Now, for something relaxing, the berry and piney Zombie Kush has reported couch-locking effects that can be a treat after a long day. This strain has 32.6% of cannabinoid content, which makes it pretty potent. Delta-8 THC flower can also be a good option if you want to add psychoactive effects to your session.
You can try it in our tropical and sour Delta-8 Pineapple Haze strain or try a milky and sweet option with the Delta-8 Fruit Loops Flower. And if you don’t feel like committing to a single strain, for now, prerolls are a solid choice to try different strains.
Our favorites are full of mangoes and tropical fruit, Sour Hawaiian Haze, or the sour candy-like notes of the Super Sour Space Candy Pre-Rolls. Or try the CBG and Delta-8 THC blend with White CBG Pre-Rolls for some delicious tokes and soothing relaxation.
PGR Weed FAQ
Is PGR weed harmful?
Yes, PGR weed is potentially harmful to human health and can pose serious short- and long-term risks. So, if you're wondering if organic indoor, greenhouse, or sun-grown weed is better, the answer is yes. In contrast, when it comes to PGR weed, it is always best to avoid it. You can easily identify PGR weed buds by size, colorful appearance, rock-hard texture, chemical flavors, and lack of aroma and effects.
What PGR is used for weed?
The most commonly used synthetic PGRs for growing cannabis are chlormequat chloride, daminozide, and paclobutrazol. However, evidence suggests that other substances such as naphthaleneacetic acid or NAA, 6-benzyl amino purine or BAP, and other natural supplements can perform the same functions as synthetic PGRs to regulate or improve certain growth factors in plants.
Is PGR safe?
The direct answer is no. Chemical PGRs are substances that can cause severe damage to health. This is why most are prohibited for edible crops, including cannabis, since the remnants of these substances in plants are potentially harmful and chemically alter the plants, thus changing their properties.
Can PGR be organic?
Yes, different substances function as organic PGRs. In addition to kelp, chitosan, and triacontanol, other natural ingredients contain nutrients or organic compounds that can act as plant growth regulators. These ingredients include coconut water, bamboo shoots, young corn, sprouts, and banana anvils. These substances can also function as a substrate that can increase local beneficial soil microorganisms. Learn more in the video below.