Is PGR Weed Bad for You?

At Gentleman Toker, we don’t just want you to smoke weed that tastes great, we also want to help you avoid weed that could be harmful. That’s why we go through the effort of sharing information on the health concerns of different substances used when growing marijuana.

Unless you’ve gone full organic, a lot of the food from both plants and animals that we eat every day contains some form of added hormone. If you’re a regular weed toker, you’ve likely had some PGR weed, you just didn’t know it. There’s a lot of PGR cannabis out there, but not all of it is necessarily dangerous.

We’re not chemical experts or doctors at Gentleman Toker, but we can share some of the research behind PGR cannabis and help you spot it before you buy.

What Does PGR Stand for?

PGR stands for plant growth regulator, it’s a type of hormone that a plant produces naturally to shape its growth. Like the way hormones tell our bodies to start growing taller (among other things) as we age, hormones activate different aspects of plant growth when the time is right.

For instance, when a seed can sense the conditions are right for growth, PGRs tell the plant to start sprouting. Plant growth hormones also stimulate the growth of roots, leaves, fruits, and flowers.

What Is PGR Weed?

Weed that is grown with added PGRs is often referred to as PGR weed or PGR marijuana. The PGRs that cannabis naturally produces are called endogenous, but PGRs that are added by a grower are called exogenous. They are typically sprayed directly onto the cannabis plant or added into the soil and absorbed through the roots.

Why Put Plant Growth Regulators in Weed?

There are a wide range of PGRs that growers may apply to their cannabis plants, but most are used to encourage stronger plant growth and bigger buds. That helps the growers make extra money by producing more product with the same number of plants.

PGR Weed vs. Natural Weed

The differences between PGR weed vs. natural weed will depend on what PGRs are used and how much is applied. Sometimes it may be difficult to determine whether exogenous PGRs have been applied to weed, and other times you’ll be able to spot that something is up from a mile away. 

Natural PGR for Weed

Growers can use products containing PGRs that occur naturally within plants like auxins, gibberellins, abscisic acid, triacontanol, and ethylene to help guide their growth. For more drastic results, they sometimes use artificial PGRs that change how a plant produces its natural hormones.

Is PGR Weed Good or Bad?

Using plant growth hormones isn’t an automatic disqualification for all tokers, but you should always be on the lookout for growers who use PGRs for weed irresponsibly. Not only can irresponsibly grown PGR weed taste worse than natural weed, but it can also contain potentially harmful chemicals.

Can PGR Weed Kill You?

Natural PGRs that have been applied responsibly by experienced growers aren’t going to kill you. Some unnatural PGRS could potentially death in cases of extreme exposure, but it’s extremely unlikely that a cannabis product could have enough of the chemical to trigger such a severe reaction. There are concerns, however, that unnatural PGR weed can have long-term health effects.

PGR Weed Long-Term Effects

Unfortunately, due to the stigma and legal barriers to conducting comprehensive research on weed, we don’t know enough a lot about the long-term effects that some hazardous PGRs can have. 

Studies have shown that some artificial PGRs like paclobutrazol have been linked to malformed organs, birth defects, and other ‘acute toxicities’ when applied topically or inhaled by rats. When combusted, paclobutrazol can produce cancer-causing nitrosamines. Other artificial PGRs with demonstrated risks to human health are daminozide (brand name Alar) and chlormequat chloride.

Whether these kinds of chemicals have caused negative effects in people from smoking PGR weed is something that requires further study. In the meantime, it's probably best to steer clear of plants that have been grown with these kinds of chemicals.

How to Identify PGR Weed

If you’re worried about the health effects of plant growth regulators in your cannabis, you’ll need to know what PGR weed looks like. 

There’s an assortment of plant growth regulators for weed that have different, sometimes opposite effects on what they look like. Because of that, side-by-side pictures from Google that show PGR weed vs. natural weed aren’t that helpful and are often misleading.

The PGRs that are placed in weed also differ depending on where you are. Paclobutrazol weed and other dangerous PGRs like daminozide may still be a major problem in Australia, for example, but not so much in the United States. The weird, hairy buds that these PGRs produce don’t have much resin, smell, or taste and therefore don't have enough bag appeal to sell well.

As for the average American toker, we actually consume PGR weed pretty regularly. Natural PGRs like triacontanol that are used as bud hardeners are relatively common. But there are artificial PGRs like paclobutrazol that are illegal to use. While natural PGRs may not be harmful to health, it’s important to note that increased density doesn’t mean better quality and that most PGRs are ultimately about making more money for the grower. 

It’s a lot like the use of growth hormones on dairy cows. There may not be damning evidence that rBST and rBGH are harmful to cows and humans, but it still makes a lot of people uncomfortable.

The Characteristics of PGR Weed vs Non-PGR Weed

  • Chemical taste
  • Dense, smooth buds
  • Low scent
  • Abundant orange and red hairs
  • Low trichomes
  • Squishy or spongy feel

Should You Buy PGR Weed?

If you see the above signs of artificial PGR use, look elsewhere. When it comes to the use of strictly natural PGRs, there’s a much lower risk of chemical residues getting into our bodies. If they do, there’s much less potential that they’ll harm us. Natural PGRs are commonly used to help growers form really dense weed to increase profits, but sometimes that can end up reducing the quality or potency of the end product.

In the end that might not bother you, and density is often one thing people want, but if it's been a while since you tried “old school” fluffier weed, you might be surprised by what you’ve been missing! 

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