Some of the rarest, most luxurious cannabis strains in the world may be tucked away in the private stashes of passionate growers around the world. Meanwhile, some of the classic strains popular in the 70s, 80s, and 90s are becoming increasingly more difficult to find. Instead, consumers today are more likely to come across a candy scented hybrid cured to perfection. In the rapidly expanding world of craft and luxury buds, where are the best strains hiding?
The rise of craft weed
Since the hippie era, the cannabis industry has advanced dramatically in the realms of breeding and strain genetics. Each week, several new strains enter the marketplace. Who knows how many more marvelous plants are hiding in the private crops of long-time cultivators?
Strains introduced today are certainly different from their early, hybridized predecessors. Craft cannabis cultivation really began to take off in the 60s and 70s, when growers in the United States and Holland began to breed existing varieties together to create plants with distinct combinations of effects and growth patterns.
Some of these early hybrids, like the Haze and Skunk families, brought large yields and potent, THC-laden highs to the cannabis world. Over time, these strains and other classics have been further backcrossed with one another, creating a genetic whirlpool only made possible by human intervention.
Now, master growers are continuing to select for strains that have more aesthetic shelf appeal in addition to potency and designer effect. Particular attention is given to strains with deliciously fruity scents and tastes.
In an interview with Kind Land, Justin of Los Angeles-based Justin and Mac explains,
Boutique strains are high-end, top shelf. They embody the main four: Smell, taste, look and high. When a strain has all four, it’s rare, coveted, and may be shrouded in mystery. Many times, they’re not circulated in the mass public.
Justin and his partner have been growing for decades. According to Kind Land, their newest venture is Manali West, a brand of boutique and specialty strains and cannabis concentrates. One of their creations is Nova OG, which has taken first place in highest ever THC for a flower in SC Labs testing history, featuring 35.6% THC.
Toward a new way of thinking about cannabis
Boutique strains are to cannabis what microbrews are to beer. While lineage of strains is certainly important, some of the most expensive new products on dispensary shelves have earned their price for their marketing, as well as for exceptional cures, aroma, overall appearance, and quality.
One of the most expensive strains on the market, Isla OG Canned Cannabis, is a perfect example of this odd new paradigm. The air-sealed can of bud sells for up to $800 an ounce.
However, some of the best strains may be ones that the public will never know about. The exact heritage and breeding information from some of these strains is considered proprietary – while growers may not be able to patent their creations, they can certainly keep their methods and best plants to themselves.
Further, evidence suggests that classifying cannabis into individual strains may not be the most accurate way to think about the herb. According to Mowgli Holmes, chief scientific officer at Phylos Bioscience, cannabis and humans have some similar genetic characteristics.
Holmes explains to ATTN,
The way that seeds work in the cannabis world is more like the human population. Every seed is a unique child from two different parents – and there’s just this incredible diversity because the plants spread all around the world and then all of those different varieties came back and recombined into this genetic swirl on the West Coast of the U.S. and in Holland.
The genetics of cannabis strains has been greatly influenced by generations of human propagation, which was then accelerated and changed by the underground cultivation of illicit cannabis.
As a result, some strains like Blue Dream can produce a variety of different effects and characteristics. A Blue Dream that you pick up at one location may actually be a completely different genetic plant than a Blue Dream picked up at another location. To ensure that you are actually getting the same genetic plant, you’ll have to clone.
However, at this point, there is no way of knowing whether or not which Blue Dream is a true Blue Dream, pending some random backcrossed plant in someone’s private stash.
The genetic swirl of hybridization has opened the floodgates for craft cannabis strains. The continuous crossing of cannabis plants has allowed growers to spot unearth some true anomalies in the cannabis world, such as Pinkman Goo, which produces its own resin droplet, similar to sap on a pine tree. The grower originally found the seeds behind an oven in an old Altoid tin.
Another is Manali West’s Pink Starburst, which has tested as high as 32.49% THC. But, Pink Starburst doesn’t exactly fit into the classic indica/ sativa categories. A cosmopolitan lady, this strain has inherited quite the genetic mix from both sides of the cannabis spectrum. Justin tells Kind Land,
It grows like an indica, but as far as the terpene profile, it’s dominant in limonene, a terpene that’s predominant in sativa strains for its uplifting effects. It’s hard to classify the Pink Starburst as either an indica or a sativa because the growth pattern is that of an indica, but the effect is a sativa.
While cannabis has long been thought of a plant with two distinct species, centuries of human domestication and accelerated hybridization has opened the doors to new, specialized varieties of cannabis that transcend the simplistic categories.
The develop of boutique and luxury hybrids are pushing the limits of evolution, and many are marketing their products. But, some of the best strains? Who knows where they came from, or where they will end up. In the meantime, perhaps localized cannabis markets will develop some top-notch regional specialties.