25 Greatest Strains of All Time
What better way to celebrate High Times’ 40th anniversary than to pay homage to the best of the cannabis plant, which provided our founder, Thomas King Forçade, and so many others with the inspiration to cultivate a movement and put forth a publication dedicated to one goal for so many years.
You’re probably wondering just how, exactly, we came up with The List? We do admit it’s not a bad gig to have, deciding which strains are the best of all time — but still, the task did come with its challenges. Sorting through the varied histories of these strains wasn’t exactly easy as the lineage, parentage and even the birthplace of some of these strains are murky at best.
So we had to rely on a few main factors, the first being each strain’s influence and overall contribution to the cannabis gene pool — hence many of the old-school varietals on the list. Next, we had to consider the awards (specifically, Cannabis Cups) that each strain has won. And after that came popularity and market share, qualitative factors that helped shape The List greatly. Lastly, we made use of our movement’s greatest asset: Science. We looked at a host of quantitative characteristics, such as potency (both THC and CBD; see #8 for proof) as well as terpenoid profiles, which produce the flavorful aromas and tastes that we all love so much.
Hopefully, we did right by all of High Times’ readers. But we’re also pretty confident that if you were starting out on a new planet and had to take a handful of cannabis seeds along, you’d be choosing from among these 25! So here’s to our Lady of Cause, and all of her beautiful children. Enjoy.
25. Acapulco Gold, a.k.a. Mexican Sativa
Kicking off our list of the all-time greatest strains is a true native landrace of North America. Often referred to as Acapulco Gold, but more commonly known these days as Mexican sativa, it is often used in breeding projects which have led to numerous world-class strains such as Skunk #1, multiple Haze varieties and even the fabled Blueberry line (check out #11, #10 and #2). And, when grown right, Mexican sinsemilla (meaning “without seed”) can provide one of the best stand-alone sativa highs around.
24. Girl Scout Cookies
Highest lab-tested THC at a HT Cannabis Cup: 25.14 percent (Denver, 2013)
The GSC might be the youngest strain to earn a place on The List. She first appeared just a few years ago, circa 2011, and took the cannabis world by storm. Much controversy still surrounds this strain, however, and not just because of her name. A debate persists as to her lineage: The most commonly held belief is that she’s the product of OG Kush x Cherry Pie, while others contend that it was something called “F1” (not in reference to breeding) x Durban Poison, which was then crossed to Kush. Either way, the GSC has edged out some tough competition to make her appearance here.
23. Amnesia Haze
￼A classic strain from the Netherlands, the Amnesia Haze was winning Cups more than a decade ago and might be considered a fixture of the Amsterdam pot scene. A sativa-dominant hybrid, her ancestry looks something like this: (Afghani x Hawaiian) x Laos x Jamaican. This combination gives the Amnesia Haze a sweet and spicy flavor with a very cerebral high.
22. Critical Mass, a.k.a. Critical+
This one sparked a bit of internal debate here at High Times as to whether she merited inclusion on The List. However, in the end she won out over some of our honorable mentions (appearing at the end of this article) — mostly due to her overwhelming popularity in Spain, which is fast becoming the new Amsterdam of Europe. Furthering her cause is her strong and flavorful high, for which a special nod to her folks, who rank at #11 and #6, is due.
21. Hindu Kush
This landrace strain is the primary reason the words “Kush” and “indica” have become synonymous. Originating in the Hindu Kush mountains of Afghanistan, this pure indica is responsible for such offspring as the Master Kush … and she also played a role in the creation of our beloved OG Kush. Originally released by the stalwart Sensi Seeds, it’s rare to see these flowers around much these days, although her family still ranks among cannabis royalty.
20. Durban Poison
Highest lab-tested THC at a HT Cannabis Cup: 22.43 percent (Denver, 2013)
Another true landrace, the Durban is the only strain on The List that hails from Africa. A pure sativa, this variety has been used in a wide range of breeding projects, as she was one of the first strains out of South Africa that exhibited none of the auto-flowering traits of ruderalis, which are sometimes found in wild landrace lines. Lately, pure forms of Durban have been turning up at Cup competitions, and she has largely impressed with her licorice flavor and very potent “up” high.
19. White Widow
The White Widow was winning Cannabis Cups in Amsterdam as far back as 1995, and her actual birth date extends to nearly a decade before that. A well-balanced hybrid reportedly made by crossing a Brazilian sativa with an unknown indica from South India, she has both an indica-dominant and a sativa-dominant phenotype. Both phenos are usually thickly coated with trichomes, giving her a very white appearance (and, her name).
18. Thai Stick
Pure Thai, a landrace sativa, is still a favorite among cannabis connoisseurs. However, Thai Stick is a legendary strain with a twist — and we mean that quite literally. It’s rumored that back in the 1960s, Thai Stick was pure Thai bud twisted around a stick — but reports vary as to how the buds were attached. Some say it was with hemp rope; others say with pot leaves and stems; while still others say it was stuck on with opium! The latter would certainly explain why so many old heads have long craved the Thai Stick since her disappearance in the 1980s.
17. Chem ’91
Obviously, we couldn’t fit all of our favorite Chem Dog phenos here, since there are more than a few. But the ’91 is the first of the family to appear on The List, because she just might be the most flavorful of them all and has been widely used in crossbreeding projects (like the Deadhead OG) to get that sweet, Diesel-y taste that makes the mouth water and the lips pucker up. More on the Chem family when the 91’s big sis makes her appearance at #5.
16. Strawberry Cough
Highest lab-tested THC at a HT Cannabis Cup: 25.28 percent (Seattle, 2013)
This sativa-dominant hybrid produces a well-balanced but very uplifting high. The progeny of the Vermont-based indica Strawberry Fields and a mixed-breed Haze, the Strawberry Cough is revered among connoisseurs of fine cannabis for both her exquisite flavor (think berry) and high THC. When she’s grown organically — or veganically, as some would have it — she tops the THC charts and claims Cups as she should.
15. Grand Daddy Purple
Highest lab-tested THC at a HT Cannabis Cup: 18.60 percent (San Francisco, 2012)
This NorCal original started the purple- bud craze that helped push several very similar (if not identical) varieties out into a marketplace saturated with Kush and Diesel flavors. Offering a sweet and fruity taste of grape, the GDP stands out in a crowd and spurred the likes of Purple Urkel, the Purps and Grape Ape. Begat from an old Mendocino purple strain, this indica-dominant plant was used early and widely by California patients’ groups and has gone into the creation of several successful hybrid strains known for both flavor and heavy medicinal effects.
14. Cheese or Sensi Star? You decide …
We need your help on this one! Should it be Cheese or Sensi Star that gets a spot on The List? Email [email protected] with your vote and put “Top 25” in the subject line. The winner will be named in an upcoming Cultivation Clinic column as the Featured Strain of the Month!
13. Super Lemon Haze
Highest lab-tested THC at a HT Cannabis Cup: 22.64 percent (Los Angeles Cup, 2012)
One of only two back-to-back Cannabis Cup champions, the Super Lemon Haze scored her wins in Amsterdam in 2008 and 2009. One of her parents, Super Silver Haze, was the only other strain to achieve this feat, back in 1998 and 1999 (more about her at #4). The Super Lemon Haze is a true Amsterdam original, created by the breeding giant Green House Seed Company as a cross of Lemon Skunk and Super Silver Haze. The Lemon Skunk half, which is native to the US, brings an overwhelming citrus flavor to the palate. Lab testing has shown extremely high profiles of limonene and terpinolene, making this super-sativa both tasty and potent.
The first (and, so far, only) known strain to be bred by the US government at this country’s sole legal cannabis-research facility at the University of Mississippi, the G-13 was secretly procured and brought to Holland circa 1986, where she fast became the mother to a host of epic strains. Because of her notoriety, most G-13 hybrids clearly state the parents in their name, like G-13 Haze (Cannabis Cup winner, 2007), G-13 Hashplant or Lemon G-13. Most recently, the G-13 was crossed with a Jack Herer male to produce the newly popular XJ-13.
11. Skunk #1
One of the first and best real hybrids of the modern cannabis-breeding era, Skunk #1 is a mix of three true-breeding landrace strains: Afghani (#6), Mexican (#25) and Colombian. This well-balanced beauty is a heavy yielder, doing well both indoors and out, filling gardens with that pungent, skunky aroma. She went on to play a role in the creation of such strains as Skunk- berry, Cheese, the Church, Island Sweet Skunk and Lemon Skunk, plus a couple
of other choice smokes you’ll see further down The List at #8 and #4.
Highest lab-tested THC at a HT Cannabis Cup: 17.45 percent (Seattle, 2013)
A perennial favorite with pot aficionados across the globe, the Blueberry could not be omitted from The List—and especially the top 10. Bred by DJ Short of Legends Seeds out of western Canada decades ago, the Blueberry is a powerful indica-dominant hybrid that has no less than eight distinct strains contributing to her lineage (yes, even some Mexican, for those of you reading the whole article)—a true benchmark of planned breeding.
9. Bruce Banner #3
Highest lab-tested THC at a HT Cannabis Cup: 28.35 percent (Denver, 2013)
The most potent strain ever tested in the history of the High Times Cannabis Cup, the Bruce Banner was born and bred in Colorado and hit the 28 percent mark for THC, putting her squarely in The List’s Top 10.
The OG-dominant #3 phenotype was created in a hybridization project that crossed an OG Kush mother crossed with a Strawberry Diesel male. The #3 exhibits a nose-crackling, rocket-fuel aroma that scores high in flavor profiles — including a tall order of the much-favored terpenoid limonene. If you haven’t tried out the Bruce Banner #3 yet, put her high on your list.
Highest lab-tested CBD at a HT Cannabis Cup: 19.1 percent (Michigan, 2011)
Yes, that’s right, Cannatonic: This lovely lady earns a spot on The List for her contributions to the world of medical cannabis. While there are many CBD-rich strains out there, the Cannatonic has exhibited some of the highest CBD values ever recorded. In fact, one of her phenotypes, the Cannatonic X, which we came across in Michigan in 2011, went to 19 percent — a true accomplishment for her breeders, and a real boon to patients and the medical community.
7. Northern Lights #5
Highest lab-tested THC at a HT Cannabis Cup: 18.71 percent (Denver, 2013)
One of the true all-time greats, the NL #5 was winning Cannabis Cups in Amster- dam way back in 1990. Grown and entered by the Seed Bank (one of the first such enterprises in the world for cannabis seeds), she was later released through the iconic Sensi Seeds and went on to play a role in producing generations of award-winning strains, including Super Silver Haze and Romulan. Another NorCal native, her lineage is unknown, but her taste and influence are not.
6. Afghani #1
So why we do call this keystone strain “Afghani,” as opposed to just “Afghan”? The answer reaches back into the history of this powerful indica, to a time when she was commonly called “Afghanica,” a reference to both her nation of origin and her classification as a truly pure indica variety. Today, the name has been shortened to the familiar “Afghani.” That being said, the Afghani #1 is one of only a handful of cornerstone genotypes that can be credited with aiding in the creation of nearly every major breeding achievement of the past 30 years. The Afghani is a major contributor to strains such as Skunk #1, the original Northern Lights, Sour Diesel, Cheese, Blueberry and Mazar, just to name a few.
5. Chem Dog
This slot isn’t just about the indica-heavy cannabis supermodel known as Chem Dog; it’s also a shout-out to all her sexy sister phenos (Chem ’04, Chem’s Sister and so on) that were spawned from the legendary 13 seeds found in a pound of Colorado kind bud purchased on a Grateful Dead tour back in the early ’90s. Out of those beans came a line that launched a whole new generation — and genetics revolution, of sorts — of the world’s newest and best marijuana. For her part, the Chem D has mothered more Cup-winning strains than any other in the current cen- tury, including the original OG Kush (and thus all other OG phenos), Sour Diesel, Stardawg and a whole host of Chem D crosses. Enough said.
4. Super Silver Haze
Highest lab-tested THC at a HT Cannabis Cup: 17.87 percent (Los Angeles, 2014)
It’s no coincidence that the Super Silver Haze is the only other back-to-back champion in Cannabis Cup history. Both she and her daughter (Super Lemon Haze, at #18) are nearly one and the same when it comes to killer Haze strains, with the only real difference being the infusion of Lemon Skunk. Bred from superb Hazebackcrosses, the SSH has all the true- breeding landrace sativas in her DNA, as well as a quarter NL #5 and a quarter Skunk #1. Make no mistake about it: The SSH was up for the #1 slot and might have gotten there if it wasn’t for the fact that the next three entries to come are…
3. Sour Diesel
Highest lab-tested THC at a HT Cannabis Cup: 19.50 percent (San Francisco, 2012)
I won’t lie: If we were selfish people here at High Times, the Sour Diesel would — for sure — benumero uno on The List. How- ever, as we explained in the opening to this article, there was more to the process of compiling these rankings than just personal (or personnel) preference. That being said, if there’s a tastier bud on the planet, we haven’t smoked it. When grown right, from the true East Coast cut (think AJ — and true connoisseurs know what we mean here), there is simply no better flavor in cannabis. Period. The Sour Diesel reigns supreme on the east side of the United States and will be on The List for eternity.
2. Original Haze, a.k.a. Nevil’s Haze
Known to most simply as Haze, this lady also goes by the name Nevil’s Haze or A5 and was created by the Haze Brothers of Northern California. In the early ’80s, she was brought to Amsterdam by Dave Watson, a.k.a. Sam the Skunkman, where she was backcrossed and stabilized by Nevil, another of the legendary godfathers of breeding. A crossbreeding project of Mexican x Colombian x Thai x Indian (all landrace sativas), the Haze was a seminal import at the onset of the genetics trade that formed in Amsterdam during that time.
1. OG Kush
Highest lab-tested THC at a HT Cannabis Cup: 24.04 percent (Denver, 2013)
So here we are at #1… and there is no denying the OG Kush her rightful throne. The Queen of Cali is one of the most popular strains ever to grace the pages of High Times and is hands down the flower of choice on the West Coast of the United States. Not only is she one of the strongest strains on Earth, but she is also among the most varied, exhibiting more phenotypes than almost any other strain we’ve seen and demonstrating that she’s a true product of her environment.
When grown well, the OG Kush can take home a Cup in any competition, at any given time anywhere in the world, already claiming dozens of Cups via various OG phenos and crossbreeds. Nearly one out of every three new hybrids that come to market has the OG stamp in their genetic code, almost making the OG its own subspecies within the Cannabis genus. We all owe a debt of gratitude to the OG Kush for helping to usher in the next generation of excellent cannabis lines. Without a doubt, the OG is another strain that will forever be on The List.
Undoubtedly, this was one of the toughest exercises in our 40-year history! Here are the other classic strains that were oh-so-close to making The List, but just missed the cut: Bubba Kush, Jack Herer, AK-47, Kali Mist, Lavender, Headband, Skunkberry, Purple Haze, Chocolope, Maui Wowie, Bubblegum, OG Ghost Train Haze, Hashplant, Chem ’04, Big Bud and the Goo.
What better way to celebrate High Times’ 40th anniversary than to pay homage to the best of the cannabis plant, which provided our founder, Thomas King
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Strain Hunters is a series of documentaries aimed at informing the general public about the quest for the preservation of the cannabis plant in the form of particularly vulnerable landraces originating in the poorest areas of the planet.
Cannabis, one of the most ancient plants known to man, used in every civilisation all over the world for medicinal and recreational purposes, is facing a very real threat of extinction. One day these plants could be helpful in developing better medications for the sick and the suffering. We feel it is our duty to preserve as many cannabis landraces in our genetic database, and by breeding them into other well-studied medicinal strains for the sole purpose of scientific research.