For thousands of years, geography, climate shaped original indicas, sativas

by DGO Web Administrator

In the beginning, there was, simply, cannabis. And, if you lived in a place where it grew naturally, life was good. These were the original landrace strains, bred in nature and carrying the characteristics dictated by the environments from which they developed over thousands of years.

If you lived in the rugged, mountainous Middle East, you had short, stout, bush-like plants available to you to do with as you would – and what you would do is make hash, beautiful hash rolled between your fingers and gathered into beautiful sticky piles. These were the original indicas, which delivered a mellow, hypnotic high. If you lived in parts of the steamy Southeast Asian jungle, you would have access to towering, lanky plants that swayed like hula dancers in the wind. These were the original sativas and they delivered an uplifting, spiritual high. If you lived in the middle ground of the Indian subcontinent, you would potentially have access to one or the other of these styles of plant (or phenotypes), depending on your geography and meteorological conditions. If you lived anywhere else, you were pretty much shit out of luck.

On one hand, I envy these aboriginal potheads for their union with nature, but if we want to talk about hitting the sweet spot with regard to perfect timing, being a cannabis aficionado today is akin to being a basketball fan in 1979, the year Magic and Bird entered the league, or a rock ’n’ roll fan entering high school in 1969, or a hip-hop fan doing the same in 1989 – sometimes things seem to vibrate at an absolutely otherworldly frequency, and right now we are enjoying the fruits of the labor of the past four decades of folks worldwide who put life and liberty on the line to bring us a bounty never before seen in human history.

With the explosive spread of popularity and legality worldwide, we, as consumers, can walk into a store and choose the characteristics we damn well please: genotype, phenotype, cannabanoid and terpene profile, taste, color – the options are almost limitless. We are blessed with the opportunity, if we so choose, to take things to the next level; we can get our hands on seed or clones, put them in our own dirt (or water or other growth medium) and see how they grow under our own loving care; we can even decide to try our hand as a cannabis breeder and create our very own strains.

Every single bud, cookie, or dab we ingest is the descendant of these landrace strains that originated in places like Turkey, Lebanon, Iran, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Thailand. The geographical base of landraces expanded during the second half of the last millennium as European colonialism brought with it seeds culled from these points of origin to Africa and the Americas, creating localized cannabis gene pools that eventually led to the establishment of the strains that comprise the second wave of landrace cannabis – Durban Poison, Malawi/Swazi/Angola Gold, Congolese, Kilimanjaro, Panama Red, Acapulco/Colombian Gold, Maui Wowie, and many others – all strains that thrived in climates that mimicked their original homes, and as we traveled through the 1970s and ’80s, true North American cultivars (called heirloom strains) began to take hold in the Emerald Triangle of California, Colorado, the Pacific Northwest, and British Columbia, like Haze, OG Kush, and Northern Lights.

These plants form the genetic base of the almost inconceivable variety available to us today. Next week, we will continue our walk down memory lane as we investigate the movement of cannabis indoors and the ensuing butterfly effect. Be well until then, friends.

Christopher Gallagher lives with his wife and their four dogs and two horses. Life is pretty darn good. Contact him at [email protected].


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