Ever wish you could take advantage of the countless therapeutic benefits of cannabis - like pain relief, stress reduction, appetite stimulation, or alleviating nausea and anxiety - without getting blasted into the stratosphere as a side effect? We all have days that demand too much responsibility to allow ourselves to get totally wasted. Likewise, many of us experience certain secondary effects of getting high that we find less than desirable - such as inability to focus, forgetting everything that just happened, paranoia, or being rendered unable to function outside of the couch.
But thanks to the recent introduction of strains high in cannabidiol (CBD) - renowned for its non-psychoactive medicinal benefits and promising as a way to counteract some of the negative psychoactive effects of THC - now you can have your pot and smoke it, too.
Harlequin is one of the most alluring new strains to hit the market, primarily because of its high CBD content. CBD, like THC, is one of the 80-plus cannabinoids that have so far been identified in cannabis. Of those, THC and CBD are the most abundant, with THC being psychoactive and CBD being non-psychoactive. Because most marijuana is cultivated for high THC content, CBD has been all but bred out of existence. Less than 2% of the strains tested in labs worldwide contain over 1% CBD - although to be considered CBD-rich, strains must test at 4% or higher. In California, Oakland’s Steep Hill Laboratory reports that only 12 in 14,000 strains tested as of October have turned out to be rich in CBD. But now high-CBD strains are on the rise, bred to meet the demand for highly therapeutic cannabis without the often-overwhelming psychoactive effects THC produces.
Created from three sativas—an early-‘70s Colombian Gold male, a Thai from the mountains near Laos, and a Swiss native land race—combined with an indica from Nepal’s Mustang State, Harlequin was initially bred to be a hash-producer. Its creator, Mr. Green, of the House of David Collective, was prompted to have its CBD levels tested when some of his friends reported that while they loved the smell, taste, and frosty appearance of the strain, it didn’t get them very high. Harlequin tested at a surprising 7% CBD and 7% THC (though it is worth noting that the specific phenotype reviewed for this article tested at an astounding 11% CBD). A different phenotype of the same plant tested at less than 1% CBD, highlighting the unusual find that Harlequin is. In fact, Harlequin is one of the rarest strains on the planet—and it’s poised to revolutionize the medical marijuana industry.
The smell: On the live plant, Harlequin smells reminiscent of musky, sweet, sugar loaf pineapple. Mango-esque, tropical fruit fluffs up the melon and cantaloupe scents. The cured bud brings out deep currents of slightly-mentholated, overripe plum.
The dry hit: The soft scent of mentholated dried mango swirls around the tongue, punctuated by the flavor of overripe peaches. Mild, floral undertones balance out the deep richness.
The flavor: Harlequin coats the mouth with a thick, rich, almost Nepalese blond hash-like taste. Its dominant flavor is nonetheless fruity and sweet, like berry bubblegum, with candied ginger highlights. A faint tinge of organic non-sulfur dried mangos rounds out the bottom end, and a delicate touch of liliquoi lingers in the aftertaste.
The cloud: Exhaling Harlequin produces a dense fog of sweet incense, with a soothing, soft and spicy sandalwood scent.
The high: Perhaps more than any strain I’ve encountered, Harlequin has vast applications and affects people in very diverse ways. Some of the most seasoned chronnoisseurs I know have been blown away by it—often for its therapeutic benefits. For those who wake up frequently in the night and rely on bedside bong-hits to get back to sleep, Harlequin may be just what you need to sleep peacefully. Still, others say that HQ wakes them up too much to be useful as a sleeping aid. Research confirms that CBD can both increase alertness as well as have sedative effects.
Harlequin is also known as a pain reliever, among countless other things. But it doesn’t simply make the pain go away; it kicks the pain out with ease and in style. One Harlequin fan, who uses cannabis for back pain, reported that when he smoked a joint of HQ before a shower, he found himself inspired to dance in the hot water and steam, which loosened his body, relaxed his muscles, and popped his back into place. Few over-the-counter pain relievers can lay claim to that!
Mr. Green told me in an interview that, to him, Harlequin is “like a sunny day.” He likens the sensation to the “warm, glowy feeling that radiates from within” after a hot bath. It gives him an endorphin rush akin to that which results from lovemaking and exercise. It is not a psychoactive high; he just “feels gooooood,” he gushed. He’s also noticed that HQ’s subtle effects produce big results - just a few tokes and he instantly feels the tension in his shoulder, jaw, and brow dissipate.
At 7%, Harlequin’s THC content is not enough to slay you. This has tremendous advantages for those who want to hang out and light up, but simply don’t have the leisure to get totally wasted. Harlequin won’t cause a pot-hangover the morning after, either, making it a convenient choice for a late-night session. People with jobs that require them to be alert and on their game might find Harlequin a workable option, as may those who want to have a toke yet remain fully present for school, workouts, or family functions.
Furthermore, research is underway to see if the combined effect of consuming a high-THC strain with a high-CBD strain might result in a more functional high, because CBD actually fits better in cannabinoid receptors than THC, thus potentially either displacing THC, or winning out over THC that vies for the same receptor sites. Acting as something of an antidote to excessive highness, HQ can dissolve some of THC’s psychoactive effects if you find that you have become “too high.” Tokers overwhelmingly report that they experience no paranoia or anxiety when they smoke Harlequin, and some say it even cures anxiety and paranoia brought on by other, more THC-rich strains. If you’re one of those that think THC is too strong these days, and are prone to nervousness, paranoia, anxiety, and lethargy when you smoke, Harlequin is your girl. And I almost forgot - CBD has been shown to actually prevent short-term memory loss associated with THC. Put that in your pipe and smoke it!
Meanwhile, other heads maintain that whatever psychoactive effect Harlequin may have is eclipsed by its medicinal qualities. Perhaps the groups that will derive the most benefit from Harlequin are those using cannabis mainly for medicinal purposes. If your primary goal is just to get rid of your headache, relieve pain and stress, treat your chronic illness, or keep your nausea at bay without the side effect of getting completely baked, Harlequin is your cure.
Harlequin’s clear-headed, functional high complements its tingly, mild body stone. But in spite of the fact that Harlequin is a sativa-dominant hybrid, many stoners define the high as neither indica nor sativa. They say it deserves its own classification—even apart from other CBD strains: mildly opiate-like and slightly dreamy, that simultaneously makes your body relaxed and your mind more alert.
The medicinal uses: [Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor. I’m a stoner. Talk to your doctor before changing your medication or self-medicating.]
Harlequin was only discovered to be rich in CBD in the spring of last year, but already it’s been determined to have more medical applications than just about any strain studied so far. And not only for serious diseases. Harlequin is the perfect strain to keep in your medicine cabinet. I have personally found it very effective at treating headaches, as well as neck and shoulder pain, plus it’s way more sociable and fun to smoke a joint of Harlequin than to pop a pain pill.
According to Project CBD, a not-for-profit educational outfit spearheaded by Martin Lee and dedicated to promoting CBD research, “Scientific and clinical studies indicate that CBD could be effective in easing symptoms of a wide range of difficult-to-control conditions, including: diabetes, alcoholism, PTSD, epilepsy, antibiotic-resistant infections and neurological disorders.” CBD also has demonstrated neuroprotective effects, and has been shown to relieve convulsion, inflammation, anxiety, dystonia, and rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis? That’s right, Harlequin is a strain even Grandma can enjoy.
High CBD strains are also reportedly effective for people who suffer from mental disorders. While some research has shown THC to trigger schizophrenia in people who are predisposed to the disorder, the UK’s Institute of Psychiatry reports that CBD has actually been demonstrated to help patients with schizophrenia. Their research indicates that CBD acts as an anti-psychotic and may counteract the potential effects of THC on individuals with latent schizophrenia. CBD also appears to protect against “binge” alcohol-induced neurodegeneration, and has been shown to be an anti-depressant and effective treatment for bipolar disorder. All that, and it doesn’t lead to tolerance.
Perhaps most intriguingly, CBD has incredible cancer treatment potential, begging the question, is there anything that Harlequan’t? CBD has been proven to inhibit cancer cell growth and even kill cancer cells. This is worth repeating:
CBD has been proven to inhibit cancer cell growth and even kill cancer cells.
Thus serving the same purpose as chemotherapy - and is promising as a treatment for breast cancer. In November 2007, the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute reported that CBD reduces the growth of aggressive human breast cancer cells in vitro and weakens their invasiveness. “The anti-cancer potential of CBD is currently being explored at several academic research centers in the U.S. and around the world,” Project CBD reports.
The grow: Harlequin is a fabulously frosty, clone-only strain that flowers quickly and requires about 60 to 70 days to finish indoors. Although with most strains, the longer you let it roll, the more fully developed it becomes, in the case of Harlequin, extending its flowering time can actually diminish its CBD levels. At 10 weeks indoors, Harlequin generally tests at around 7% CBD. However, taking it earlier, at 8 weeks, CBD can test as high as 11.9%.
Since it’s covered in crystals, HQ will probably need cola support during the last few weeks, because the trichomes add so much weight to the flowering tops. A medium-yielder with countless medicinal uses, Harlequin is a medical marijuana patient’s miracle strain.
Be a Part of CBD Research:
Having contributed strains like Harlequin, Lemon Kush, and Alchemize to the cornucopia of cannabis, Mr. Green is no longer a grower (although he is working on perfecting a highly-concentrated Harlequin tincture to help those in medical need). These days he focuses his energy on Project CBD, with a goal to wake people up to the potential of CBD for its plethora of untapped medical applications.
Although many growers who have created high-CBD strains guard their plants carefully, Mr. Green takes a much more generous approach. “I decided a long time ago that my work is for everybody. Anyone with legitimate medical need has been able to get cuttings.” He wants people to have access to high-CBD strains, and to be able to grow their medicine at home. That’s why he’s given it away from the very beginning, “and why I continue to give it away… I believe the plant revealed itself to me so that people could find healing.” His hope is that the big pharmaceutical companies don’t come in and try to rip it out of the hands of the people, but he is quick to note that big pharma is already developing CBD medications.
Mr. Green expects that in five or ten years, we will discover that CBD possesses the same wide variety of effects that THC does in different strains. But making that discovery requires rigorous research. And you can help.
Currently, there are at least seven labs testing for cannabinoid content, and more than a dozen CBD-rich strains have been identified. Although CBD is classified as a Schedule 1 drug, its effects continue to be explored. A confidential survey developed by the Society of Cannabis Clinicians asks patients to report the effects of high-CBD strains compared to the strain they’re currently using. They hope to present the data in peer-reviewed medical journals. To participate in the survey, and to learn more about CBD, visit ProjectCBD.org