The Cannabis Origin: What is a Landrace Strain?

We welcome the neverending flow of new crossbred strains. Patients are able to enjoy a vast spectrum of medical benefits, and connoisseurs bask in the diversity of their complex flavor profiles. For those only accustomed to plastic bags of nameless herb, signature varieties like Blackberry Kush and Red Haze introduce a new world of cannabis. But where did all these “Kushes” and “Hazes” actually come from?

Historical documents from around the world, some dating as far back as 2900 B.C., tell us cannabis has lived alongside humans for thousands of years, cultivated for religious and medicinal purposes. Many growers believe the earliest cannabis strains sprouted in the Hindu Kush region of Afghanistan and Pakistan and eventually spread to other areas, including South America, Asia, Jamaica, Africa, and even Russia. We call these indigenous strains landraces.

A landrace refers to a local variety of cannabis that has adapted to the environment of its geographic location. This accounts for genetic variation between landrace strains, which have been crossbred to produce the cannabis variety we see today. Landrace strains are oftentimes named after their native region (e.g., Afghani, Thai,Hawaiian), and traces of these forefather strains are sometimes detectable in the names of their crossbred descendants. A combination of environmental conditions and selective breeding by native populations gave rise to these stable varieties, the forefathers of all modern strains. Until its prohibition, cannabis remained a cultural cornerstone in these areas of the world.

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