Cannabis History

26 February 2019

A Brief History of Skunk

An ode to one of the world's most legendary strains

By Slyvester

Skunk, you undoubtedly know that it means cannabis… of some sort; but the level of your curiosity with cannabis history, whether you grow, and where you come from could all influence the accuracy and nuance of your definition. So, to elucidate, and hopefully illuminate, we humbly offer a Brief History of Skunk.

VERB – to skunk, or not to skunk?

In the U.S. of the 70’s the vast majority of cannabis was imported. How-to-grow and what-to-grow was a question of experimenting with ‘bag seeds’. That’s how early cannabis pioneer-growers along the warm, west coast began crossing short, potent strains from the Kush region, bordering Afghanistan, Pakistan and India with the long, gangly landrace sativas of the southern Americas, mainly using Mexican Acapulco Gold and Columbian Gold genetics.

In one now legendary grower’s enclave, a breeding collective called Sacred Seeds, which included legendary names like Mendocino Joe and Sam the Skunkman, was at work perfecting many future, benchmark strains. One of them, refined from a variety of global types and many unstable versions later, became Skunk #1.

This is, supposedly, an image of the very first Skunk plant, back in the '70s. Pic by Madjag | icmag.com

Skunk #1 was (and still is) a potent, pungent 65:35 indica/sativa hybrid. Known for being easy-to-grow, and popular among a wide variety of cannabis consumers. Sam took Skunk #1, along with many of the best west coast strains, with him to Amsterdam when he returned there in 1982. These seeds’ qualities were added to the gene banks of major Dutch cultivators and both Skunk #1 and her many derivative strains were distributed widely, and perfected for indoor grows under lamps. Skunk became a popular and productive industrial strain and, as such, spread far and wide.

Another image of the very first generation of Skunk (early 1970s) Pic by Madjag | icmag.com

For full disclosure, there are many vague and contradictory narratives surrounding Sacred Seeds’ and the extent of Sam The Skunkman’s (aka David Watson) involvement in the creation of Skunk #1. Due to the illicit nature of the early cannabis industry and the unconfirmed reports of the actual events leading up to the arrival of Skunk #1 in the Netherlands, we will most likely never know the whole truth of who did what exactly. For the article, however, we chose to stick with the facts that could be confirmed.

ADJECTIVE – Skunk misnomers

Originally deriving its name in the U.S. after the stinky animal resident in much of the country; Skunk was best known for her pungency. Her widespread appeal meant that Skunk was passed around a lot. The name therefore went on to become a general reference for cannabis among the American pot smoking community of the era, despite strains getting more diverse, not less.

The truly original Skunk. Cute when they're young, but wait till they get older.

Today, however, Skunk’s meaning has split. Most noticeably in the UK, Skunk is not understood in the same way as in the U.S. or the Netherlands. In fact, strong prohibition in Britain over the last half century led to limited grower culture in the UK and so limited general understanding of strains altogether. Evolving street slang helped turn Skunk from a specific term, to a catch-all term for strong grass; which has since been taken up by the right-wing tabloid press, and some mainstream media, as if it is a reference to some illusive form of ‘super-weed’.

Main stream media hysteria

It is also common to use this idea of Skunk in parallel while talking about synthetic drugs like Spice; lumping genuine cannabis together with totally chemically synthesized street-ware as if it is somehow synonymous. And, in school drugs education in the UK, ‘Skunk-cannabis’ is often still looked at, and so lumped in with, high risk substances like heroin, cocaine, speed etc.

Synthetic weed (AKA Spice)

Skunk as this homogenous term continues to be used in sloppy reporting in the UK, and so further propagate outdated and discredited ideas about cannabis. Even as leading British pharmaceutical companies are perfecting and selling cannabis based medicines for Multiple Sclerosis and Childhood Epilepsy.

As cannabis activism, medical cannabis use and general normalisation of the plant grows worldwide, better understanding of cannabis is beginning to seep through on UK high streets. Breakthrough publicity in 2018, around cannabis’ efficacy for treating childhood epilepsy, is finally making waves at a political level and may perhaps be a tipping point for a general reevaluation of what cannabis is, does and means in the UK.

NOUN – a Strain among strains

Today’s knowledgeable breeder’s best Skunk #1, is a balanced and stable mix of two landrace strains: Colombian Gold x Afghani #1, plus a potent Acapulco Gold. (For those who are wondering; Acapulco Gold isn’t a landrace strain, but one of the first Mexican landrace sativa hybrids) 

As a breeding strain she is versatile; easy-to-grow by both novices and experts alike, she grows well in all mediums and, though principally now an indoor strain, she still does well outdoors too.

Her popularity among consumers and breeders alike has led to Skunk #1 being a leading phenotype for hybridization and she has birthed a plethora of skunk variations around the world. She can be found in all sorts of cannabis strains, including classic, Dutch beauties like Shiva Skunk,  Jack Herer, and Northern Lights.

Skunk On!

If you’ve had your curiosity sparked and now you’d like to grow and spark up some juicy Skunk strains yourself, check out our varied offering in the seed shop. You’ll find not just the original and the great, Skunk #1, but also a load of her little sister strains: fruity delights, Mango Skunk or Lemon Skunk for instance, potent princesses such as Skunk XXX, or hazy medicinal hybrids like the Skunk CBD Haze. And they’re all coming to you from the leading lights of the modern breeding community, like: Royal Queen Seeds, Nirvana Seeds, DNA Genetics, Sensi Seeds and Dutch Passion.

Post author
Sylvester
Sylvester likes writing about culture, history and tech, digs cosmology, futurism and ukulele - and prefers to accompany all of these with a good bowl of Chocolope Kush
See more from Sylvester

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