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History is easily one of the most nuanced of topics discussed in the context of cannabis. Inherently esoteric, the cannabis plant has always been riddled by misunderstanding. Debate has been sparked on everything from its taxonomy to its geographic origins, and even the basic categorization of the plant has been a point of contention among cannabis researchers and professionals. 

As the plant has gained more attention from the scientific community, some of these questions have finally been answered. For instance, there has recently been consensus drawn on the origins of the plant. Though the exact location is still not entirely clear, most experts agree that cannabis first took root in the Himalayas. This theory is supported by paleobotany, a branch of paleontology that studies ancient vegetation and plant fossils.1 

The roots of many of the world’s most potent and notorious strains can be traced to the Himalayas. Amid the Himalayan mountain range, the first cannabis varieties are reported to have taken root. In fact, the kush name was first borrowed from the Hindu Kush region, a geographically disputed area that includes parts of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.2

Historically, cannabis was cultivated in the Hindu Kush region for its therapeutic and recreational properties. Significantly, the cannabis produced in the Himalayas is said to be one of the first strains grown and consumed by humans. In addition to being one of the first cultivars, kush remains a hugely popular strain, likely attributed to strong genetics, which can be traced to the Himalayas. 

Cannabis has reportedly managed to travel the world without the help of human hands. Primordial pollen grains have been found across Europe, while ancient Asia hosts seed remains, and incinerated cannabis residue has been recovered in Africa and Europe. Of course, cultivars have been bred in most of the regions where evidence of a history of cannabis cultivation and use is present. For that reason, among many others, cannabis is a particularly curious crop.

Somewhat ironically, not all regions with ties to cannabis have produced noteworthy cultivars. In Mongolia, for instance, the first cannabis cultivar is reported to have been bred 6500 years ago. In China, there is strong evidence that the domestication of cannabis was achieved around 4500 BC. Though in China, where cannabis remains illegal, there are no popular cultivars cultivated or consumed that have international repute.


Elsewhere, however, the story has been entirely different. In places where cannabis isn’t domestically grown – and the plant has managed to migrate by help of human hands – a number  of cultivars have been bred.

As likely the most obvious example, America has in recent decades produced some of the world’s most popular varieties. While these cultivars have often come out of hotbeds like California, many states have grown strains that are now consumed daily, globally. This list includes heavyweight cannabis cup winners like East Coast Sour Diesel,  among dozens of others.

Even in smaller countries like Canada, growers have bred a series of cultivars that are now in demand by consumers across the globe. That list includes, but is not reserved to, Nuken, Chemo and BC Big Bud. And similar to the story south of the border, Canada’s cultivars are not bred exclusively on the country’s renown West Coast.3

Jean Guy’s roots, for instance, can be traced to Quebec. Also known as Bienville, this phenotype of the popular white widow variety has become a global favourite. As Canada moves into the adult-use cannabis space, it stands to reason there will be even more of these cultivars produced and shared internationally in the coming years.4

  1. “The Cannabis Grow Bible.” Written By: Greg Green
  2. “Kush: The rich history (and origin) of kush strains.” https://www.findclearchoice.com/history-origin-kush-strains/
  3. “8 legendary cannabis strains with Canadian origins.” http://dailyhive.com/vancouver/best-canadian-weed-strains-2018
  4. “Bienville (Jean Guy).” http://hempster.co/strains/jean-guy/

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