Fast forward 30 or 40 years and now we have a very different gene pool, one tilted toward indica-based hybrids grown from clones. The gene pool has been narrowed by indica-based breeding with fewer and fewer outside influences. Cloning female plants results in more females. If everyone has hens, where are the roosters?
There are several reasons why they are making a comeback now, but first let’s examine why they disappeared in the first place. In the old days, when you bought weed you got stems and seeds along with everything else. A nuisance to most, the seeds allowed those so motivated to grow their own. And then came sinsemilla, female plants that were never pollinated because all the male plants were destroyed. That meant greater yields for growers and fewer potential competitors because seeds disappeared.
One thing to consider: There were only so many seeds put away and every day that finite pool gets older and less viable. Each of those seeds is getting more valuable as time goes on. My advice is to seek them out and coddle them back to life.
Around the same time, President Nixon’s war on drugs drove cultivation indoors. Growers quickly learned that sativas were too tall for indoor grows and took too long to flower. Indicas were short and fast. Because the plants were all female, cloning became the norm. Cloning produced genetic copies, but it required knowing somebody with a live plant to start. It was just like a sourdough starter: you need one to start one. Complicating matters further, live plants are fragile, and unlike seeds, they have a shelf life much like fresh produce.
The return of vintage, heirloom strains doesn’t just provide bored consumers with new choices. The reintroduction of these older genetics are a boon to breeders and growers. When I gave Colombian Gold 1972 pheno to savvy smokers, they asked if it had any CBD (yes — supporting our belief that heirloom strains have a more balanced cannabinoid profile). When they smoked it, everyone’s first comment was about the taste. Why? Because none of them had tasted those terpenes in decades.
Introducing new strains is hard enough when male plants and pollen are rare. It’s even more challenging if the gene pool has become smaller due to breeding habits.
By Jerry Whiting
Many old-timers stashed seeds from a favorite strain with the idea they’d reproduce the experience one day. Inevitably, priorities like careers, children and other obligations got in the way and the years slipped by. Now, as baby boomers approach empty nests and retirement, they are rediscovering pot. With legalization, decriminalization and the rise of medical marijuana, much of the legal and social barriers are gone. Boomers are comfortable picking up where they left off. Many will gravitate toward the strains of their youth. Mention Thai Stick or a good sticky Jamaican and watch heads turn. A pleasant side effect is watching younger smokers discover heirloom sativa strains which contrast sharply with the indicas they grew up with.
What about those old seeds tucked away in boomers’ attics and basements? They represent what cannabis was like years ago. Individual seeds are different, which means they carry unique genetics, unlike clones. Some will produce plants with the characteristics you want, others will surprise you. Injecting new genetics from age-old heirloom cannabis is a genetic breath of fresh air.
Old-school seeds in film canisters: A baby boomer’s dream come true By Jerry Whiting Strains of cannabis go in and out of style like anything else. Breeders are introducing new hybrids to