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Historical spread of cannabis on the world map

History of Cannabis Strains

Ancient History of Cannabis Cultivation: Where and How It All Began

The history of all cannabis strains actually dates back thousands of years. The original cannabis species (or subspecies, as postulated by some scholars) are Sativa, Indica, and Ruderalis. Their history goes hand in hand with the history of mankind. More than 4,000 years ago humans domesticated and started using cannabis for mind-altering and spiritual ceremonies. Whether Sativa or Indica was the consumed kind is unknown – wild Indica was the stronger, highest THC species, but less widespread. The homeland of the two psychoactive marijuana species is somewhere definitely south of the Asian part of Russia. Is it in Central Asia, Mongolia, Pakistan, China or India? We don’t know. The full history behind marijuana strains is unlikely to ever unfold.

Ancient cannabis buds looked even weirder than these
Ancient cannabis buds looked even weirder than these strains from the 60s

Sativa and Indica evolved growing near water with lots of sunlight in temperate climates of the northern hemisphere. Sativa evolved in a warmer climate with long summers and a lot of sunlight, Indica is likely to have evolved in a mountainous region.

Early breeders began to sow seeds from plants with desired traits. Artificial selection – that’s how the cultivation of cannabis strains started; and the first landraces, pure indica and sativa strains, were made. One of the most widely known Indica strains are Hindu Kush and Afgani, these are most likely the purest varieties most closely related to the oldest cannabis cultivars.

Cannabis was pretty widespread in the ancient and medieval world, its traces are found as far north as Scandinavia of the mid-ninth century.

Modern History of Marijuana Strains

By the 19th century, all cannabis species were legal almost everywhere in the world aside from a few Islamic countries. By that time a lot of people in the west consumed cannabis therapeutically – in the United States, it was an ingredient in hundreds of medicines till 1937.

In the mid 20th century, breeding of Cannabis split into strains producing fiber, seeds, and drugs.

Cultivars meant for making fiber and seeds were called hemp.

Cultivars meant for making drugs were forbidden and scornfully labeled as marijuana – a folkish term originating from the language of a native Mexican ethnic group.

Notwithstanding laws and punishments, the cultivation of psychoactive (high THC) strains was carried out by stealth to match the high underground demand. By the end of the 20th century, laws regarding cannabis were loosened and the open growing, cultivation, and creation of new strains began.

The history of all the strains on the market we have these days began with clandestine crossbreeding.

Oldest Known Cannabis Strains

It is thought that Hindu Kush, Afghani, Thai, Aceh (Atjeh), and Nepalese are the oldest known cannabis strains with landrace traits. But it’s hard to know the true origin and the deep lineage of most cannabis strains of today. Their cultivation took place underground and wasn’t well-documented. The history of most modern cannabis strains doesn’t go any further back than the 60s.

History of Haze Strains

The original Haze strain is an erstwhile pure sativa crossbreed hailing from California of the 70’s. The history of this strain began with two brothers cross breeding cannabis plants grown from Colombian and Mexican marijuana seeds. They crossed the gained hybrid with a sativa landrace from India, which in turn was crossed with a landrace from Thailand. In the 80s, The Haze brothers’ friend Sam The Skunkman brought the strain to the Netherlands and began developing new varieties there.

The first Haze’s strong long-lasting uplifting typical sativa effect made this strain highly popular. Though the taste and effect became the benchmark for cannabis at that time, early Haze was unstable, it needed more than 16 weeks to start flowering, which is incredibly long by modern standards, the size of the plant was too big, and the sensitivity to environment changes was too high. Given that, the cultivation kept on. The original Haze brought forth dozens of stains – Amnesia Haze, Purple Haze, Blueberry Haze, Lemon Haze, Silver Haze, and many other cultivars were based on its genetics.

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Some Haze strains were crossed with Ruderalis. This species is found in the wild northernmost, it blossoms automatically in about 30 days after sprouting, it’s well adapted for cold weather and is used as the basis of autoflowering strains – newlings’ favorites.

History of Kush Strains

The original Hindu Kush strain is considered the purest indica. This strain stands behind the history of many american cannabis Indica strains.

The ancestors of all the Kush strain family originate from the plants growing among the hillsides and riverbanks of the Hindu Kush valleys. Bubba Kush, Purple Kush, Cali Kush, Master Kush and OG Kush – all of these and more – the renowned AK-47 and White Widow share this glorious heritage.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s likely that OG Kush has little-to-no Hindu Kush genetics.

Kush was very widespread among hippies in the 60s and 70s. These are the folks who brought the first Kush seeds to the US and Europe from the valleys of Hindu Kush.

History of Skunk Strains

The background of this strain family is clear, but the name itself is pretty vague. For some people (especially in the UK) Skunk means strong cannabis in general, for others the meaning of smelly marijuana seems more befitting. 

In the beginning, the name of Skunk was given to a new Afghani Indica based strain that emerged in the 1970’s in California to denote its stinky smell. After a while Sam The Skunkman brought a whole bunch of Skunk seeds to the Netherlands where the process of cultivation started.

The emerged strain was named Skunk#1 and happened to be very stable and fast-flowering which helped it gain popularity.

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