I took a long break from growing cannabis after those early years in Madjag Canyon. It wasn’t until 2012, almost 35 years later, when I qualified for an Arizona Medical Marijuana card and was authorized to cultivate 12 plants, that I began my love affair with weed once again. This time, legally!
I first contacted Robert Clarke, author of Marijuana Botany and several other outstanding cannabis-related books, in 1979 through an address c/o “High Times” magazine. Robert responded and we soon made personal telephone contact. Rob visited me in Arizona a few weeks later to personally deliver the 3,000 Skunk #1 seeds that I wanted to purchase. Our initial contact process took 3 weeks or more, yet today with internet and email it could be done in a day or two. We hit it off immediately and have remained long distance friends for 40+ years.
Over the subsequent years I have investigated many old-school cannabis varieties by contacting the companies that sell seeds as well as the owners of the early seed sources. For instance, Sam Skunkman and Robert Clarke, founders in 1981 of the first cannabis seed company, Sacred Seeds, also sold Afghani #1 and several other fine strains like Early Girl, Nepali, Malawi, and various Haze hybrids and I was able to acquire a small number of the Afghani#1 seeds way back when.
If only we knew what a priceless gift we had in those seeds and somehow managed to keep some seeds in the frig and a mother plant or two in the greenhouse…..
I enjoy knowing the genetic history of whatever cannabis variety that I am growing. At a certain point the pedigree of your current weed seed will be difficult to identify because tracing back the family tree will no longer be clear. My favorite genetics have names that indicate a lineage to specific, historic varieties. Until the early 1970’s most of the early cannabis names were generic like Acapulco Gold, Thai Stick, or Santa Marta Gold. Next, landrace-specific names like Malana Cream, Kandahar, Manga Rosa, or Panama Red became well-known as the various cannabis-growing countries, districts, and local areas lent their names to their cannabis. Jump forward another 25 years and you’ll begin seeing names that don’t reflect a country, district, or town appellation, names like OG Kush, Afgoo, Headband, AK47, Fruity Pebbles, Kali Mist, Northern Lights, or White Widow.
I like to know the parents and grand-parents of my weed the same way I like to know the heritage of my family. A family reunion where I meet lots of relatives named Joe and Mary or Walt and Cindy isn’t accurate enough. I need more if I truly want to have a clear picture of where my parents were born, the country from where their parents’ lineage emigrated, or the name of the district or county where they were born so that I have a meaningful narrative about their lives. To say that they hailed from “Italy’ isn’t the same as saying they originate from two hours north of Rome, in the Lago Bolsena region, from the walled castle town of Valentano. To say that they were “southerners” in the USA or even Floridians is just not enough.
I find the current nomenclature of cannabis varieties rather amusing, well, not really. The lack of a clear genetic family tree for cannabis, one that would be based upon building blocks that made sense and could be understood by the typical stoner, has not yet been devised. The scientific side of detailing the exact ancestry has yet to be confirmed and is still being investigated by labs worldwide. Companies like Phylos, Steep Hill, Modern Canna Labs, and Medicinal Genomics use their own proprietary methods of analysis to offer growers genotypical and phenotypical snapshots of their strains. This analysis can also provide enough information to receive a plant patent. I hope that some sort of standard nomenclature evolves within the cannabis community with accurate genetic components so that I can at least say, “It’s 1/8 Nepalese, 1/8 Mexican Oaxacan, 1/4 Colombian Santa Marta Gold, and 1/2 Panama Red”. Until then, the market will continue to promote wild names like Gorilla Glue, Bubba Kush, and anything a grower wants to call their strain. The average consumer won’t care, though the true marimberos will want a decent degree of pedigree.