Chris Fanuzzi calls it his genetic library.
Seed descriptions, batch logistics and references to growers and cultivators who supplied some of the seeds are all noted in the heaps of pages of mostly handwritten notes in his trusty binder.
There are more than 400 “recipes” for Fanuzzi’s renowned rotating cannabis menu items, including the famous original Montana Silvertip, a hybrid strain. In the cannabis industry, the term “strain” refers to a variety of the cannabis plant and can include characteristics such as chemical profile, appearance and effects on consumers.
“Maintaining the integrity of the original seeds over time is incredibly difficult for any cultivator,” said Fanuzzi, owner and founder of Lionheart Cannabis, Montana’s leading medical and recreational cannabis provider. “It’s an art to be able to sustain a particular genetic makeup of any one plant, especially when you consider these plants are growing alongside one another with the ability to pick up characteristics of the plant strains located, literally, right next to them. And that doesn’t even take into account trying to maintain a completely stable environment from year to year, all against a backdrop of legislation that is constantly changing.”
It Starts with Seeds
But Fanuzzi has made it work. His company is renowned for its focus on quality, top-of-the-line products, compassionate patient care and educational awareness among clients.
Lionheart currently produces myriad oils, edibles and tinctures in a variety of flavors, strengths and price ranges. In addition to its headquarters in Bozeman, the company has five cultivation facilities throughout the state, as well as dispensaries in Billings, Butte, Helena, Great Falls (Herbal Bliss), Kalispell, Livingston and Missoula.
With 50 to 60 strains on the shelves at any one time, Lionheart is set to roll out scrolling digital menus that will provide customers with real-time product availability and pricing. The company is also enhancing its on-site customer experience by redesigning retail space to include more open floor plans and visual product display areas.
“We want to encourage our customers to spend as much time as they want with our budtenders when they are onsite, to look at every jar to find that bud that is really going to work for them,” he said. “The online menu will only complement that experience.”
But back to Montana Silvertip. A genetic cross between Purple Urkel (also known as Granddaddy Purple) and Super Silver Haze, the sativa-dominant bud has a THC level anywhere from 20% to 30%, with an earthy pine and blueberry taste.
“It’s an absolutely beautiful strain with hues of bright lavender and frosty white,” Fanuzzi said. “We continue to cross-pollinate its seeds with some of our other renowned strains such as Wedding Crasher, Mandarin Cookie, Purple Punch and Meathead, resulting in some really incredibly viable genetics with lots of different properties that are very popular with our customers.”
Other favored staff picks include Do Si Dos, Kimbo Kush, Blue Dream, Lucky Charms, Key Lime Pie and Ginger Tea. And while consumers should note the THC potency levels listed on the product packaging, Fanuzzi said other things to consider include terpene profiles, how the buds are stored (glass jars and turkey bags are best), the smell (too much moisture results in a moldy odor) and feel (should feel spongy like a marshmallow when squeezed). If the bud is too dry, it will crumble. Also, buds stored in sunlight lose their potency more quickly.
Fanuzzi said as his recipe library for strains continues to grow, it also includes notations for those strains that have been bred out over time, including one of his “most legendary” strains, the Papaya. “Unfortunately, I developed it back in 2007 and never cloned it. So once it was gone, it was gone,” recalled Fanuzzi.
“Strains today represent combinations and cross-breeding of some of the best products and varieties people like. There are only so many families of land-raised genetics out there, so you continue to fine-tune until you achieve what you think is the perfect combination.”