There are written histories of marijuana prohibition, but much of the plant’s past will never be recorded. Much of its illicit past survives only as oral history, a kind of mythology. The most tangible evidence of this folklore is in the endless number of cannabis strain names, which can refer to famous activists, unlikely crossings and, probably more often, meaningless, silly shit that must have seemed funny at the time.
Shop at any dispensary and the provenance of its strains is highly dubious. But every grower can make the case for the veracity of his crop. Similarly, the widely held belief that strains can be sorted into uplifting sativas, restful indicas and balanced hybrids has no scientific basis. But people use the terms anyway. Strain names also hint at how companies want to position their brands for a legal future.
The mood is tense in L.A.’s cannabis scene as many businesses are fretting about L.A. Police Department raids (three of the proprietors asked that their last names not be published). But a few Southern California producers shared with L.A. Weekly the stories behind their strains.
FutureBerries, grown by THC Design
Available at the Weed
According to Ryan Jennemann, founder of L.A. grower THC Design, FutureBerries was a gift from the Venice Beach Care Center, after the latter's facility was set on fire last year by a vagrant. THC Design accepted a cutting that was a cross between Hell’s Fire and Querkle. It didn’t have a name of its own until THC Design settled on FutureBerries, which pays tribute to a joke on South Park and the marketing prerogative. “Anything that’s berry is popular now,” Jennemann said. Plus, the purple-hued, indica-dominant hybrid has a grape-y, berry-ish flavor.
Calm #104 by Candescent
Available at MedMen West Hollywood
The upmarket, elegantly packaged brand Canndescent replaces the indica/sativa nomenclature for five categories of sensation: calm, cruise, create, connect and charge. CEO Adrian Sedlin describes Calm #104 as an product best taken after work for “supporting evening tasks.”
Lowell Farms started out as a small, family-run farm in Santa Barbara and evolved into a kind of collective selling product from multiple farms, as long as it meets the company’s standards, which it says includes paying workers a living wage. The company’s name refers to William “Bull” Lowell, a California farmer jailed for growing cannabis in 1913. Farmers in these parts “get high and talk about him a lot,” Lowell partner Sean said.
Asked if Bull Lowell was real, Sean retorted: "Was Jesus?" For a strain, Sean says the famous, sometimes misunderstood sativa Durban Poison grows exceptionally well in Southern California, which has a similar climate to the South African city of Durban, where the strain may or may not have originated.
Lemon OG by Heirbloom
Available at Unclear
Among aficionados, L.A.’s most celebrated contribution to cannabis breeding is OG Kush, which the website Leafly says “makes up the genetic backbone of West Coast cannabis varieties.” Stefan of Heirbloom attributes OG Kush’s dominance to its popularity in the hip-hop world, and widely traveled aerospace engineers who were bringing back “landrace” strains that grow in the wild abroad. OG Kush is said to originate in the Himalayas. Stefan suggests a Lemon OG that tips its hat to the Midwest, where he grew up. The region, he said, is known for lemony cannabis.
Black Haze by Legacy Strains
Available at Herb
Legacy Strains has been supplying L.A. dispensaries since 2007 with what Emily Meyers of the Venice delivery service Greenly called “organic art.” Legacy’s Erik Hultstrom said the Black Haze takes cantaloupe haze, crosses it with blackberry and then crosses it again with blackberry. The result, he said, incorporates the popular berry flavor but without the lackluster effects sometimes associated with berry strains. Hultstrom acknowledges that strain stories are often dubious, but since Legacy has some history, it can trace its strains back to when California cannabis growers were a smaller and self-regulating community. The hybrid’s effects, he said, “are both heavy and clear-headed at the same time.”
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Blucifer by Terraform Genetics
Available at WHTC in Studio City
This sativa is named for the giant statue of a demonic blue stallion that drivers pass on the approach to Denver Airport. The statue achieved infamy in 2006 when a section of it fell on its sculptor, Luis Jiménez, killing him. Even if this wasn’t the case, it’s an off-putting sculpture. Grower Brett says the sativa is the result of him crossing Conspiracy Kush and Blue Dream in 2013. It’s not a high-yielding plant, and he grows only a limited supply of this “very cerebral” sativa that tastes of “blueberry with a spicy, hazy finish.”