The concept of marijuana strains has long been questioned, and now it is all but officially debunked. Research on weed strains found that the practical differences between indicas and sativas are essentially nil; the THC content can be identical, and the effects are typically subjective and thus interchangeable. Minor variations in genes account for the size and shape of the cannabis plant as well as qualities like cannabinoid content, growth speed and scent.
Even if strains aren’t all that different after all, every pothead has a favorite — and some strains tell some amazing stories about the history of marijuana, weed culture and the magical, magnificent work of breeders. Here are some outstanding examples of interesting strains, even if they aren’t all that different after all:
Jack Herer was the Emperor of Hemp — an American cannabis activist who stridently fought for marijuana rights for decades. Ahead of his time, Herer campaigned for decriminalization of marijuana sales and possession, and he demonstrated how useful cannabis could be in applications like medicine, nutrition, fuel and fiber. Thanks in large part to Herer’s works, California kickstarted the legalization of medicinal marijuana, and recreational regulation soon followed. Now his name is famous around the world as a powerful sativa hybrid, easily one of the best weed strains ever bred.
Mr. Nice is a strain beloved amongst medical marijuana users, who rely on the indica for its ability to bring on cozy, calming sleep. Yet, the history behind Mr. Nice’s name isn’t as nice as one might expect. The story starts with a renaissance man by the name of Howard Marks, who graduated from Oxford and enjoyed several careers: MI6 agent, IRA associate, film actor, singer, author and international drug smuggler. One of Marks’s aliases was Donald Nice, the name of a convicted murderer who had passed away several years previous and who had conveniently left his passport for Marks to use in travel overseas. Like Jack Herer, Marks passionately campaigned for the legalization of marijuana, but his criminal past makes him a much edgier character in marijuana lore.
Anyone with a feline friend knows the smell: concentrated ammonia so strong that it wrinkles the nose. Cat urine has such an intense, distinctive odor because felines evolved in a desert environment, where they were required to retain as much water as possible. Cat Piss is a clone phenotype of Super Silver Haze that smells almost identical to cat urine — but fortunately, it has a delightfully sweet flavor with notes of pine and an uplifting, euphoric high.
Most stoners assume that Agent Orange is a pun, a name that derives partially from the strain’s light, citrus smell and flavor and partially from a devastating chemical used in the Vietnam War. Allegedly, the U.S. government developed Agent Orange as an herbicide, sprayed on Vietnamese fields in an attempt to interrupt the Vietcong’s supplies and weaken their fighting forces. Unfortunately, it was extraordinarily toxic, causing mental disabilities, birth defects and various cancers in all exposed.
In fact, the strain was named for the friend of the strain’s initial breeder. Some stories say that friend died as a result of coming into contact with Agent Orange while fighting overseas, but because Agent Orange is a popular older strain — dating from a time when marijuana grow operations were clandestine and poorly documented — we might never know the real truth.
In 2020, we are well on our way to understanding how valuable cannabinoids can be in maintaining health and treating disease, but not too long ago, information about marijuana’s medical benefits was scarce. Fortunately, Charlotte Figi — who has suffered from a rare form of epilepsy since she was a baby and as a toddler endured more than 300 grand mal seizures per week — was given access to medical cannabis in Colorado. There, growers developed a high-CBD strain that dramatically improved Charlotte’s quality of life, and in honor of her, they named the strain Charlotte’s Web.
The origins of strain G-13 are steeped in rumor and mystery. According to legend, government agencies like the CIA and FBI performed extensive research on marijuana throughout the 1960s and 1970s, breeding the dankest strains possible. In government fashion, they named their strains systematically, starting with strain G-1 and ending with strain G-23. G13 was allegedly the best of them all, and it was smuggled out of its government facility and spread around the world. Today, G-13 remains one of the best pure indicas on the market.
As marijuana becomes more readily accessible, the stores behind new strains will become less salacious. Still, it is fun to learn the histories of some of the most influential weed strains and how they have long impacted cannabis culture.