When we hear the term “hybrid”, it’s associated with living things which are the offspring of two parents who possess different traits. The technical definition of “hybrid” is “a thing made by combining two different elements.” This definition is most applicable when describing one thing that sort of acts like another – for instance, calling a music video that is thirty minutes long a “music video/short film hybrid.”
Hybrids also apply to cannabis strains – those whose properties create the effects commonly known to be attributed to indica and sativa strains separately. Typically, these two strain categories once gave consumers an idea of what experiences to expect from weed, from relaxation to euphoria; now, we’re learning that things aren’t so cut-and-dry, mostly because of cannabis’s globetrotting history.
The first trace of cannabis in historical texts dates back 4,000 years ago. It’s a widely accepted assumption that cannabis was harvested and its seeds were inventoried well before then. The succeeding globalization of cannabis began in Central Asia and stretched as far as Australia by 1788. Without human intervention, cannabis would have remained unique to Central Asia – further proving that the strains carried beyond here are naturally hybrids; their environments, once they’ve been prompted to grow elsewhere, are entirely different.
“Pure landrace strains might have existed back in the early days but those are all but gone for the modern smoker. Now, basically everything is a hybrid of a hybrid of a hybrid,” says Ted Lidie, a California-based strain connoisseur at Alien Labs.
What can be seen in today’s market is tradition. We can determine, based on some anecdotes and maps, where a strain has originated from, its “parents” (what the two strains that were crossed to create this one are referred to as), and what effects users can expect to feel.
The modern consumer’s demand for variety has shrunk the pure strain market, and the majority of the factors that determine a strain’s characteristics are environment-based, meaning light strength and type and growing technique. The migration of seeds from destination to destination has also caused different seeds to produce different results when met with different climate conditions.
This migration, combined with the plant’s primarily hidden and undocumented history, makes reproducing the strains within industry and government standards nearly impossible. Breeders and growers today are tasked with, in most instances, making descendants of popular strains without any proof that they truly are – deeming most plants “clones”, or seemingly similar reproductions. Indica, sativa and hybrid strains come together with differing backgrounds, origins, and abilities to contribute to the same landscape.
So, how did we get from Central Asia to a California dispensary’s countertop?
“In the sense of hype strains, Girl Scout Cookies is really the first hybrid strain to make noise on the scene; it basically changed the entire scene,” Lidie explains.
Gilbert Milam Jr., better known by his rap moniker “Berner”, has amassed an empire off hybrid strains. His trendy cannabis brand Cookies, and the aforementioned Girl Scout Cookies strain, have supplied the United States’ most famous cannabis-consumers with product well before its opening. Berner fostered a friendship with rapper Wiz Khalifa and even collaborated on Khalifa’s signature strain, K.K.
The K.K. strain is a sativa-dominant hybrid known for its notes of sour lemon and pine, and its head high effect. This hybrid boasts a higher THC level than usual for a sativa strain, and that’s intentional.
“I don’t think that we’ve ever found hybrids to do more or less medically [speaking], but it has definitely increased the THC [levels] of traditional indica and sativa strains,” Lidie says. “The chemicals seemingly stay the same, they are just in different variations and amounts. But, when you start crossing plants together you get something called ‘hybrid vigor.’ This is, basically, the second generation expressing better traits than either parent.”
The first instance of the amalgamation of two strains may never be uncovered, and it’s fair to assume the process was accidental. Today we’re met with growers who are purposefully producing strains that boast the best and most popular traits, and consumers who wish to find a strain that works for them for what they intend to use it for. As Lidie says, it’s about “finding what works for you instead of seeking out something that should work for you.”
Story by Evan Malachosky
The preceding is for informational purposes only. It is not meant to condone the use or consumption of cannabis. For more information, please refer to our disclaimer.