With pop culture influences like Pink Floyd, The Grateful Dead, and Led Zeppelin, the 1970s ushered in a new perspective on drugs. From rock-n-roll to disco, Cheech & Chong to Hunter S. Thompson, the 70s, anti-establishment counterculture helped shape the history of marijuana as we know it. As hippies faded into the sixties, Nixon started the infamous "War on Drugs," and a new era of marijuana subculture began.
During the 1970s, troops returned from the Vietnam war, and cannabis strains from around the world started cropping up (pun intended), in the U.S. black market. As cannabis breeders and consumers pushed for stronger weed, selective breeding and cross-breeding for decades changed cannabis over the years. Many of these classic, old-school 1970’s marijuana strains are rare, but some are still available at your local dispensary, albeit likely quite a bit stronger than you remember.
So, queue up your 70s playlist, pull up a bean bag, and turn on a lava lamp, then let's take a walk down memory lane and review a few of the most popular 1970’s marijuana strains from four decades ago, their origins, and how they helped shape the future of the cannabis industry.
As a classic sativa landrace, this strain gained its fame throughout the 60s and 70s. Earning the nomenclature from its origins, Maui Wowie first came from Hawaii which is evident from its luscious, tropical aromas and flavors. Averaging around 13 percent THC, this was a potent strain for this era. Many modern dispensaries carry this as a lightly euphoric and mildly energetic strain.
Cheech and Chong first made this strain counterculture-famous with their jingle from their 1978 classic movie, Up in Smoke: "No stems, no seeds that you don’t need Acapulco Gold is badass weed!" Like Maui Wowie, this landrace is also named for its region of origin, Acapulco, Mexico. Although it was likely less potent in the 70s, today this strain is known to reach THC levels of 20% or better.
Colombian Gold is also a landrace sativa which produces a lemony, sweet scent with happy effects that may help regulate mood. Originating in the mountains of Colombia, this strain is less prevalent in some regions, but several dispensaries in the Pacific Northwest and Colorado still carry this old school strain. Averaging between 14 and 20 percent THC, this strain certainly isn't the most potent strain known to man but has a solid reputation for creating potent cerebral effects.
In the seventies, smugglers imported much of America's cannabis supply. As such, Panama Red was an aptly named landrace sativa from the steamy, humid climate of Panama. With racy cerebral effects, the strain's quick launch to popularity started in the late 1960s. Rare in the legal market today, long flowering times cause commercial growers to hesitate and opt for faster-growing crops. Unlike the other tropical sounding strains, Panama Red offered a spicy, woody palette rather than the sweet, fruity flavors provided by the others.
Obviously, of Middle Eastern descent, Afghani is a potent indica landrace strain well-known and highly sought after for its consumer-reported stony, body relaxing effects. One of the oldest strains known, this strain is standard across the legal cannabis market today. With THC content ranging from 17 to 24 percent, Afghani offers an earthy, piney aroma and flavor with possible euphoric, couch-locking effects. Consumers often report a voracious case of the munchies typically accompanies this strain.
Mazar I Sharif
While this strain is often referred to as a landrace, breeders cross this strain with Skunk #1 for stability. Named for the fourth largest city in Afghanistan, and thought to have lineage stemming from the aforementioned Afghani strain, this potent indica regularly produces THC content above 20 percent. Because this strain typically produces high amounts of resin, it is commonly used for making hash, which was a popular method of consumption in the 70s.
Red or Blond Lebanese
Speaking of hash. Many 70s references to marijuana referred to various types of hash. Red and Blond Lebanese referred to hash imported from Lebanon. Designated by color, Red Lebanese was darker in color and generally heavier in effect as its typically made from an indica blend. Meanwhile, Lebanese Blond (or Gold), made from a sativa blend, is light in color and provides a more uplifting, cerebral effect. While hash is less common today than the 70s, it may be making a comeback.
As a hybrid concoction born of four sativa landrace strains, Haze originated sometime in the 1960s and grew to popularity as a 1970’s marijuana strain. Contributing genetics to many of the favorite strains today, this strain is still in high demand and flourishing in the legal market. As a crossbreed of four potent parents, Haze produces spicy, earthy tones and higher than normal levels of THC ranging between 17 to 27 percent. Some consider this strain of the greatest of all time.
Named after its pungent aroma, Skunk lineage is hard to deny. Popular since the late 70s, this strain is also commonly used to create many of the favorite strains found in the legal cannabis market. Although indica-leaning, Skunk #1 is known for its balanced effects. Not a show stopper for THC production, the strain typically tops out below 20% THC. As a blend of Afghani, Colombian Gold and Acapulco Gold, this strain is practically royalty.
Thai Stick, a common marijuana euphemism from the 70s is not really a strain, but more of an ancient consumption method that originated in Thailand thousands of years ago. Thai sticks are made by pushing buds onto a bamboo skewer, like a weed shish-kabob, then wrapping the buds in fibrous material from the stalk of the marijuana plant. Some modern versions may also include dipping the final product in hash oil, however, finding Thai sticks today is rare.
The Great Potency Debate
Although many marijuana strains from the seventies are still around today, it will be difficult to prove or disprove the theory that these strains are stronger than they were forty years ago. Wildly debated, there are two theories in cannabis potency, then and now.
Before the discovery of hydroponics, selective breeding, and advanced growing techniques, marijuana strains were not the powerful, potent strains of today. Supporting this theory, recent reports show 1970’s marijuana strains averaged between 1-4 percent, while the average THC content in strains today is around 13 percent with some of the most potent strains reaching between 25 and 30 percent.
On the other hand, others believe there's no accurate way to make that comparison. Opponents claim many of the high-potency, premium cannabis strains, and products of the 70s were ignored or went untested in many cases, thus making any test averages inaccurate. Many of the common 1970’s marijuana strains likely produced just as much THC then as they do today.
Like ancestry and genetics paint a picture of our biological origins, as cannabis products, strains, and even consumers continue to evolve, we mustn't lose sight of our roots. These classic 1970’s marijuana strains, along with a few talented breeders, contributed to the wide variety of strains and products available in legal markets across the nation. Without a doubt, we can thank this psychedelic decade for planting the seeds which grew into the cannabis industry we know and love today.