What is skunk?
The cannabis strain Skunk is a legendary classic. It was one of the first cannabis strains to be grown under artificial lighting and the name is notorious.
Today - particularly in the UK - skunk has morphed into a generic term for high potency indoor grown weed. If the UK press is to be believed, “skunk" is something akin to homegrown heroin, that has been genetically modified from innocent “mellow strains” - which people used to smoke back in the day - to something that’ll turn all the youth schizophrenic just by sniffing it.
In fact, this ignorant propaganda could not be further from the truth. Skunk is just one cannabis strain of many and it is no more harmful than all the other 100% non-harmful cannabis strains out there.
Skunk is so safe it is actually the basis of GW Pharmaceuticals Sativex - a cannabis-based medicine that is legally grown in the UK - making the UK the world’s largest exporter of legal cannabis. Talk about hypocrisy.
Let’s go back through the years and see how this glorious strain’s story unfurls.
"Many strains have skunk lineage: Cheese, Big Bud, Critical Mass, G13, Mazar, Early Girl, Northern Lights, the list goes on."
The 70s: A stinky hybrid
To find the origins of skunk we need to go way back to the 60s and 70s when breeders in California were tinkering with different landrace cannabis plants to discover traits to create appealing strains.
The original skunk was the offspring of a Colombian Gold, an Acapulco Gold – and an Afghani Indica purebred. The first two of those strains being tall sativa plants and the Afghani being a stocky/bushy indica - thus making skunk an indica/sativa “hybrid”. They were aiming to get the potency of the sativa combined with the stealthiness of an indica. These smaller plants being better suited to indoor growth.
The myth that skunk is far removed from strains people were smoking in the 60s is well and truly debunked, as skunk is a direct descendant of those exact strains which were popular in the 60s. They themselves were likely very strong.
The 80s: Skunk comes to Europe
In the early 1970s skunk was developed in California by a collective of breeders known as Sacred Seeds, led by a guy called David Watson. Mr Watson is better known as Sam the Skunkman. After a brief spell in prison, Mr Skunkman made his way to Europe in the early 80s. By this time indoor growing in Holland was progressing well. Sam had a few kilos of skunk seeds and founded Cultivators Choice seed company.
The 90s: Skunk finds its way to medicine (and the streets)
The combination of high yields, fast flowering, strong branch structure, dense flowers producing lots of resin and a distinctive smell made skunk an ideal candidate for a parent plant for other breeders developing their own strains. Many strains have skunk lineage: Cheese, Big Bud, Critical Mass, G13, Mazar, Early Girl, Northern Lights, the list goes on. As indoor growing technology really took off, so did the cultivation of potent, stinky strains, which made their way from the basement onto the streets.
I remember as a late teen in the early 90s being blown away by the wonderful aromas and strong highs these amazing strains offered. After years of low-grade hash and Jamaican brick weed (if we were lucky!), it was a revelation.
Meanwhile, David “Skunkman” Watson founded HortaPharm B.V. in 1990. He was soon joined by David W. Pate and eventually Robert C. Clarke (author of some fantastic cannabis related books). They obtained the first license issued by the Dutch government to permit a Cannabis research facility in the Netherlands. They then partnered with UK based GW Pharmaceuticals to develop cannabis varieties for the manufacture of pharmaceuticals. Which is how GW Pharmaceuticals got to grow skunk as one of the high THC strains they use to make their medicines.
The 2000s and beyond
Skunk continues to be a popular strain itself. The high is rather pleasant - despite what the UK tabloids say - and the perfect choice for chilling with friends or sharing at a party. It’s a classic strain, with great heritage and is easy to grow - indoors and out - rewarding the grower with a bumper crop.
The main takeaway from this article is that skunk is actually just the name of a particular strain. As it was such a “product leader” it became the generic name for potent indoor weed. Rather like everyone calls vacuum cleaners “Hoovers” when in fact Hoover just happens to be a popular brand name of vacuum cleaner.
Next time someone refers to your Lemon Haze, Girls Scout Cookies, Bubblegum or other high-end cannabis strain as “skunk” pull them up on it before passing them your vaporizer so they can taste the difference. Let them know the history of skunk and its place in the cannabis hall of fame.
Grow your own skunk
Intrigued to grow your own classic skunk plant and re-live the old skool daze? Well, you can, here are some easy skunk strain seeds to allow you to do just that.
- Skunk #1 photoperiod feminized/automatic feminized the classic from Sensi Seeds
- Sweet Skunk Automatic a sweet variety from Royal Queen Seeds
- Skunk #11 a high quality reasonably priced pack of seeds from Dutch Passion
- CBD Skunk Haze CBD rich strain from Dutch Passion in partnership with CBD Crew
By Bill Griffin author of Easy Organic Weed