Sometime in the 1970s, the Hindu Kush arrived on the shores of America. The strain takes its name from the rugged, 500-mile-long mountain range that extends from Afghanistan into northern Pakistan. But this story isn’t about a South Asian indica grown with loving care by tribal families for aeons upon aeons; it’s about Florida stoners and progressive growers who sought to create great buds, but had no idea what genetics they were even dealing with.
The breeder named Bubba sits down with me at the headquarters of Rocky Mountain High in Denver. Activity swirls around us at this warehouse/dispensary on the outskirts of the city. Bubba has just given me a tour of the facility, where he now serves as master grower. If things go according to plan, he’ll soon be working his magic in state-sanctioned growrooms in New Jersey and Massachusetts. “I’ve been called many things,” he says, “but most people call me Bubba. ‘Bubba’ is not just some redneck name given to me because I was raised in Florida -- I’m Bubba because I call all my close friends Bubba or Bubi or some variation.”
Obviously, Bubba wants to make clear it’s no coincidence that the strain bears his name. With that out of the way, he begins to spin his tale. “I am one of the original godfathers of Bubba Kush,” he intones, “but I will warn you that some dates and details may be slightly marbled due to age, memory failures and smoking the Kush for 20-plus years.”
Curtain up on the University of Florida, circa 1990. “It started with a bag of super-danky krypto -- but krypto was just a generic name for weed,” he says. “I was living with an awesome bubba of mine who was teaching me how to grow. He was really into crossing strains. We were lucky enough to have some superb Skunk #1 and other really special Gainesville strains.”
Attesting to his belief that the connections we make in life are not coincidental, Bubba ran into another longtime bubba from middle school who introduced him to a dude named Learch, who became a close college buddy. Learch was friends with Arnold, who came from Orlando. On one of his many visits to Gainesville, Arnold brought along an outstanding bag of weed that happened to have a couple beans.
“We popped them,” says Bubba, “and started calling the strain Kush. None of us knew that a real strain called Kush already existed. In fact, I didn’t know there was a strain called Hindu Kush until a few years ago. We smoked ‘the nectar,’ ‘krippy’ or ‘the kind.’ We rarely knew what strain we were smoking. If we had all the information that’s accessible now, we would have definitely called it something different. We actually named it Kush because of a friend’s older brother, who said it looked like kush-berries -- whatever the hell those are.”
The name Kush stuck. The college roomies began crossing their friends’ gnarly Skunk strains with their Kush, creating KX, KY and KZ. They settled on the KY and killed off the KX and KZ. So then they were left with the Skunk, the Kush and their newborn cross, KY.
Fate was kind. On a trip to Mardi Gras, Bubba was gifted a bag of seeds for a Northern Lights cross from Humboldt County. “Naturally,” Bubba says, “I popped all of the seeds that looked healthy. After killing the males, I was left with about a dozen. Due to space issues, I picked six, cloned them and let them bud. One in particular was absolutely beautiful: It grew like a stumpy oak tree, with leaflets that were so fat they covered each other and blocked light from the bottom almost entirely. Obviously, I kept this strain and renamed it -- what else? -- the Bubba. I continued to grow the Bubba, the Kush and the KY for the next few years, until I graduated. They were good years: Learch and I were the gods of Gainesville -- at least for a minute. It was the start of the phenomenon. We couldn’t keep the Kush around.”
Next, Bubba headed for Los Angeles and moved in with a college buddy, a best bubba to this day. They got a place in Silver Lake with a small space under the house ideal for a secret garden. Bubba returned to Florida, stuffed a roller-blade boot with a plastic bag containing a bead of water and some clippings from Bubbas that were still growing, then stowed it all in his luggage and brought his genetics to the West Coast. Amazingly, the cuttings rooted. In time, they decided to get rid of the KY and kept just the Kush and the Bubba.
“The Kush was a tough strain,” Bubba recalls. “It was so stringy, a bad producer and very finicky -- a hard strain to get perfect. But even a bad crop was still better than anything else we had or that was around in LA. But we had a problem: Our place was small and we couldn’t adjust height levels easily. The Kush was tall and lanky, but the Bubba was short and beefy. It was hard growing them together ... so, tragically, we decided to dump the Bubba.”
Fate stepped in for a second time. “We had another roommate in those Silver Lake days -- Josh D. In the hierarchy of the LA chapter of the Kush Brotherhood,” Bubba explains, “Josh D. was second in line. We had a Kush that had hermaphrodited and pollinated the Bubba. Josh D. was buddies with the Cypress Hill crew. One day, B-Real and his bodyguard came by to pick up some Bubba and discovered seeds in their bags.”
Bubba Kush had arrived -- albeit by accident! But it played second banana to their original superstar, Kush.
Within six months, the Kush Kraze was raging; nobody wanted anything else. Rappers, rock stars and actors all came to Silver Lake just for the Kush. “We were getting $8,000 a pound, and people were paying months in advance to make sure they didn’t miss out on a crop,” Bubba boasts. “We had it good. We used Kush for everything -- lift tickets, show tickets, restaurants, you name it. We’ve given cuts to hundreds of people, and they’ve given it to two friends who gave it to two friends. Soon, everyone was growing the Kush.”
But not well. “Some people who got cuttings grew it like ass, devoid of our original quality, taste, smell and appearance,” Bubba says. “Also, pseudo-Kush strains began popping up, which true canna-sseurs knew were inferior. Then shit from Canada called Kush began appearing on the scene. It was being trucked down to LA all squished and tasted like old carrots. Prices started dropping to $6,500. So people started making a distinction, referring to my Kush as the ‘OG’ to clarify it was the real deal.” (“OG” is an abbreviation for “original.”)
Since their creation, Bubba’s prized OG and Bubba Kush have caused nothing but craving. Their virtues have been extolled in rap songs, making Kush the strain of the hip-hop scene. But Kush has inspired some episodes of reefer madness, too: In 2009, Representative Mark Kirk (R-IL) introduced a bill targeting “Kush super-marijuana,” which he said makes its users “zombie-like,” and called for increased penalties for those selling it.
“Drug dealers know they can make as much money selling Kush as cocaine, but without the heavier sentences that accompany crack and cocaine trafficking,” Kirk said. “Higher fines and longer sentences aren’t the total solution to our nation’s drug problem. But our laws should keep pace with advances in the strength and cash value of high-THC marijuana. If you can make as much money selling pot as cocaine, you should face the same penalties.”
Thankfully, no such legislation ever passed. But although Kirk’s bill died, he’s now a US senator, proving once again that stupidity is no barrier to getting ahead in politics.
Fortunately, intelligence is valued in the cannabis community, where the core American values of hard work and a can-do spirit continue to drive the industry forward. Understandably, Bubba is proud of what he’s produced. “Today, both our OG and Bubba Kush strains are world-renowned. But,” he adds, “you’ve got identity thieves at work in this industry. One of my pet peeves is people out there calling their strain ‘Pre-’98 Bubba.’ There’s no way there was more than one pheno-type by 1998, since it was created in 1997!”
No doubt about it: Breeders of top-notch strains are sensitive souls. In fact, Bubba still grieves over the heartbreaking loss of the strain known simply as “the Bubba” years ago in Silver Lake. Like a parent speaking of a missing child, he says: “I’ve heard rumors that it still grows somewhere in Northern Cal. I’m hoping it’s true and that we can be reunited.”