Our correspondents from around the world weigh in on this year’s bumper crop of buds. Take a tour of the best pot on the planet with our esteemed team of cannabis researchers, who have scoured the globe in search of great ganja.

These days, the horticulture of cannabis is so completely under the control of humans that the plant tends to lead an unnatural life cycle and rarely has the chance to grow freely in the wild. It is typically grown indoors, where the males are killed and the females are cut down in their prime – just before having the chance to reproduce. In the Western world, where cannabis is outlawed and its value makes the plant highly coveted, the chance to grow it in the wild is next to impossible.

There is, however, one area of the world where cannabis does grow abundantly in the wild, unabated and unrestricted. Throughout the Himalayas, Northern India, Nepal, and Southern China, cannabis is indigenous. In fact, cannabis seeds have been found in Chinese tombs dating from 4000 BCE, and even the popular Rastafarian term for pot – “ganja” – is actually a Sanskrit word. (In Nepal, it’s pronounced more like “gancha.”)

The Annapurna Circuit is a trail that circles a portion of the Himalayas, slicing and dicing through gorges, ravines and rivers. Narrow tracks that have travelers clinging to the rock walls almost by their fingernails are the only way into these hidden valleys, which for centuries have offered an unassailable refuge for those who sought to hide away from the world. The entire trek takes about 20 days of hiking, and the circuit climbs to a peak of just over 17,700 feet. The trail leads through approximately four different climates, from tropical to semi-tropical, then through permafrost in the high altitudes, and finally to desert.

After the first day on the trail, there are no longer any roads, electricity or running water. All supplies must be carried in either by mule or human porter. The whole area is so remote and idyllic, so astonishingly natural, that you get the feeling this must be the way the world was before humans arrived.

On the second day of the trek, my guide pointed out a small field of baby cannabis on the side of the trail. (I’m sure he was laughing and saying to himself, “Gets ’em every time!”) I ran down to take a few pics, and I couldn’t believe that there were so many plants just growing there out in the open. After a short while, when I started to look for it, I’d see it everywhere: in small fields in bunches, interspersed with other plants and weeds, between the cracks in the trail, even in piles of garbage. All of which makes Annapurna a pot smoker’s Eden, a Shangri-la in all its natural glory.

At the semi-tropical level, marijuana grows as abundantly as dandelions do in North America, and it’s regarded in much the same way – i.e., just another weed. It’s nice to know that there are some places on Earth where we haven’t unjustly outlawed a plant that Mother Nature so rightly put here. Although, technically, cannabis is illegal in Nepal, you’d never know it: In 2000, the country reportedly exported 300 million kilos.

For pot seekers, there are really only two times of the year worth visiting: spring and fall. The fall is more crowded with tourists, but the ganja is fully mature. In the spring, it’s young but more abundant, as it hasn’t been pruned by all the trekkers. The summer, of course, is monsoon season – not a great time to visit. On the other hand, you can find smokable weed throughout the year. —Ganja Guru

With its long, hot summers, huge expanses of terrain and a deep-seeded love of marijuana, Australia’s a perfect country for outdoor cultivation. Many farms down here will grow smaller cannabis crops – somewhere between 25 to 40 plants, although their average height is generally over 3 meters (10 feet) tall!

The average outdoor temp during the growing season, which runs from September to April (remember, the seasons here are the opposite of those in North America and Europe), is approximately 23ºC (74ºF) in the southeastern states. Most growers will plant their seeds in the more densely populated coastal regions, as this is where the temperatures stay most moderate. Indoor growing is a bit more prevalent in the cities, however, because much of the outdoor farmland around here is rugged bush terrain.

The tradition in Australia is to put your germinated seeds into the ground on the AFL (Australian Rules Football) Grand Final Day, which takes place every year at the end of September. In Melbourne, a city known for “four seasons in an hour,” fluctuating weather conditions can serve to postpone or advance the harvest, with the possibility of the big day occurring anytime from early March to early May.

The harvesting process in Australia is basically the same as everywhere else. Australian cultivators usually hang their buds outside for a period of time throughout the day; the low humidity of the south provides an ideal drying environment. Yields vary greatly, but anywhere from 4 ounces to multiple pounds per plant can occur, depending on size (check out the picture – quite possibly the largest cannabis plant we’ve ever seen).

Due to the extremely strict quarantine regulations in Australia, no plant material can pass its borders without approval from the customs authorities. This puts a severe limit on the number of strains available; unlike in Europe and America, when purchasing a few buds in Australia, one has to settle for whatever happens to be around. Still, popular strains from the 2008 Australian harvest include White Widow, Aussie Haze and Mullumbimby Madness.

While growing marijuana in Australia is illegal, some states (South Australia, the Australian Capital Territory) treat simple possession (under 50 grams) as a minor infraction, punishable by nothing more serious than a fine or confiscation. One big exception is Nimbin, a country town in the state of New South Wales, which is known, thanks to its liberal, cannabis-friendly attitude, as a haven for pot lovers everywhere. The “Amsterdam of Australia” has a wide variety of strains easily available, and once a year it hosts the Mardi Grass at the beginning of May – just after harvest time, of course! —Conrad MacGilligan

Malawi is a very special African country. It’s tourist-friendly, to a certain extent – backpackers will love it, and five-star tourists will have few complaints. It’s also quite pot-friendly: Cops are very rare, and they’re more interested in small donations than in busting potheads.

Stretching along one of the longest lakes of the continent, Malawi is divided into the tourist-driven south and the more rural north, where most of the action lies. The country is home to very large production fields of high-grade pot, known the world over for its psychedelic, uplifting high and spicy but fruity aroma.
Though there are two types of Malawi weed known on the international markets (Malawi Gold and Malawi Black), their differentiation isn’t really strain-related – instead, it depends on the fermentation process and the method of storage and transportation. Slightly fermented bud (Malawi Gold) stays golden in color; fully fermented bud (Malawi Black) is pressed inside corncobs for months, which renders it dark, almost black, in color.

In reality, there’s just one local landrace in Malawi with six or seven different phenotypes, ranging from the fruity (pineapple and mango are the predominant smells) to the woody (incense-like and very deep). The plant structure changes as well, from bushy to less branchy, but these are all very tall, very stretchy, almost pure sativas.

The origin of the Malawi genetics dates back to the first settlers from Congo and Arab traders from Egypt crossing the continent on their way south; both groups brought seeds with them. We can safely speak of a Malawi landrace now, however, as the inbreeding process has been going for quite a few centuries – if not for over a thousand years.

The locals use cannabis for medicinal purposes more than as a recreational drug. But the relatively safe situation and cheap prices are attracting more and more pot tourists from South Africa, Europe, Australia and, more recently, even the US. Price per ounce varies according to place, quality and time of year; good-quality pot ranges from $3 to $10 an ounce. But marijuana isn’t the only attraction here: There’s also unspoiled nature in abundance, unique diving in freshwaters, hiking, fishing, paragliding and plenty more to do in between rolling and smoking. —Franco (Green House Seed Co.)

The proliferation of new seed companies has changed the cannabis landscape of the entire Iberian Peninsula. Today there are over 20 different companies, with more sprouting up every year. Dinafem and Eva Seeds (all feminized), Delicatessen Seeds, Good House Seeds, Medical Seeds, Pyramid Seeds, Sweet Seeds and World of Seeds are among the best known. Most of these companies have a website; just type their name into Google.

According to Ms. Dinafem, “Clones are sometimes difficult to locate, and many growers find they are too much trouble and prefer feminized seeds, which are legal.” This is the reason the Spanish market is now dominated by feminized seeds, just as it is in the rest of Europe. Growers here grow mainly for their own consumption, so feminized seeds work perfectly for them.

Every year, more pot is planted in Spain. It’s common to see plants growing on balconies; rural gardens tended by extended families are commonplace as well, especially in Catalunya and the Basque Country. In fact, marijuana is becoming more popular than Moroccan hash – something I never thought I’d see happen.

High temperatures and little rainfall have made this growing season difficult for indoor and outdoor growers alike. The good news is that the autumn weather was relatively dry in much of the country, and the longer-flowering sativa crops have had plenty of time to mature. However, wet weather was the norm in the Pyrenees Mountains, the Basque Country and all along the Cantabrican Coast, which borders the Atlantic Ocean. Plus a persistent mold similar to powdery mildew has plagued several northern regions, diminishing harvests and leaving many growers scratching their heads.

Despite the heat, lack of rain and mold problems, however, this has been an excellent year overall for growing. Spanish growers are harvesting more than ever – but no matter how much cannabis is grown, we always manage to smoke more than we harvest! —Jorge Cervantes

With 84 percent of the counties in Colorado having at least one or more registered medical patients, it’s no surprise that this state made our global harvest report. On June 1, 2001, the Colorado Department of Public Health began accepting applications for medical-marijuana cards. Since then, the state has granted a little over 3,000 people the right to harvest three beautiful plants.

Before medical marijuana was legalized back in 2001, Colorado was a place where you could always count on having a piece of heady nugget handed to you at a party or concert. Since the state is located in the middle of the country, you will find many of the popular strains from either coast. Everything from Sour Diesel and Strawberry Cough to Grapefruit and Purple Kush is available here: “Variety” is the best word to describe the pot scene in Colorado. Some of the more popular strains are Lamb’s Breath and Cough (Northern Lights #5 x Haze). You can find both of these strains just about anywhere you go here, along with good old Northern Lights.  

Weather and population conditions make growing outdoors in Colorado more difficult, but the indoor scene can compete with anything around. The mountains seem to be the only place to really offer the refuge to grow a large outdoor garden – but with mountain growing comes cooler, drier weather that creates the perfect conditions for powdery mildew to form. And at these altitudes, for almost three-quarters of the season, frost has the ability to form, which can ruin any crop in days.

Even so, no matter the time of the year, there’s probably a phenomenal indoor harvest just around the corner, which means there’s an excellent chance you’ll find someone in Colorado to hook you up with some good smoke. From the major metropolitan areas all the way up to the little resort towns in the mountains, people are holding in CO. —Big Croppa

These days, American and Canadian strains – Love Potion, Kush, Blueberry and the Purps – are all very big in Mexico. Gone are the days of smoking only Popo Blue, Punta Rojo, Acalpulco Gold, etc.; now, you can find pretty much anything that’s won a HIGH TIMES Cannabis Cup.

Mexico is taking over where British Columbia left off. Thanks to Canadian, Colombian and US influences, the quality of Mexican weed has improved significantly in recent years. Much of it is being grown in greenhouses or in controlled outdoor gardens. Most small and midsize growers have no affiliations with organized crime until they have to sell their crop; the Mexican mafias still provide the only wholesale outlet with ready cash in hand.

Oaxaca is currently developing a name for its sieved hash, though it’s of lower quality than you might find in central Mexico or the country’s new hash capital – Culiacán, Sinaloa. Those in the know can find top-quality ice hash in this Mexican-mafia-controlled capital for around $300 US per 100 grams.

Small gardens, both indoors and out, are more common in Mexico these days as well. Growers with small connoisseur plots are producing more for their own personal pleasure rather than export. Proximity to the US hydroponic stores as well as a sprinkling of big-box stores – Home Depot, Costco, Wal-Mart, etc. – make it easy to find all the supplies necessary to grow a great crop. As a result, the general rule of thumb is that Mexican marijuana increases in quality the closer you get to the US border.

More Mexicans are smoking pot today than ever before. The old macho stereotypes are softening as the country modernizes, and as a result the taboo against marijuana is fading into the past. Young people are the ones breaking with tradition – in fact, tourist stores even carry paraphernalia now, and on a recent trip across the Tijuana border, a Mexican friend bought a bong from a street vendor!

Top-quality strains sell for about $2,000 a pound, but don’t hold your breath before inhaling: You still need an amigo to find a good deal. And novices should be careful, because la mordida (“the bite” or bribe expected by police) is one part of the culture that hasn’t changed. —Jorge Cervantes

This has been a particularly wet growing season for local ganja farmers in Costa Rica – which means great smuggling weather for all the modern-day pirates out on the high seas, of course, but that’s another story…

Meanwhile, up in the Talamanca Mountain range, which runs the length of Costa Rica from Nicaragua in the north to Panama in the south, the indigenous population continues to produce a consistent (but seedy) crop that increases in quality every year. All-natural growing techniques, little police enforcement on tribal lands and cooperative farming within the local community means extremely reasonable prices for budget travelers in the area interested in a fat sack of local, organic sativa.

Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast also boasts a very large community of Jamaican immigrants, creating a unique blend of cultures not found in other parts of the country. Several times per year, a special Jamaican brick of very high quality arrives, smelling like hash and extremely sticky with resin. Like most imports, the Jamaican can be a little expensive at $200 an ounce, but you get what you pay for, and these red-haired buds are extremely prized by Jamaican descendants because they were grown in the soil of the motherland.

I even feel this spirit myself when I partake in the magic of Jamaica.

On the Colombian front, pressed bricks arrive frequently from the south. Various grades, from semi-green to yellow-gold, are priced accordingly, with most compressed varieties going for around $80 an ounce.

American-style chronic – grown indoors even in paradise – is another option, but its availability is limited, and the price remains prohibitive to all but the wealthiest gringos.

As for the police down here, they tend to look the other way for those holding small quantities of marijuana, but if they get a bug up their ass, confiscation or a ticket is the norm for possession of up to an ounce. Anything above that can get a little complicated – unless you know how to grease the palms of the local authorities.

But that’s another lesson for another day… —Captain Zero

Growing in Israel has some unique and challenging features: high humidity, high temperatures, a pH of 8.0 with 490 ppm water (my personal nightmare), and a very compact layout when it comes to housing (Israel is a small country). If you’re growing indoors, the humidity level and temperature can be handled by an air conditioner, and the water can be ordered from a water-bar or cleaned by a wide spectrum of filters.

The compact living, on the other hand, entails a high security risk. You should avoid any leakage of sound, light and smell (thanks to the HIGH TIMES cultivation team for “The Department of Growroom Security”). Be creative about flood prevention (pallets, backup systems), and avoid a significant rise in electricity usage (by changing all your regular bulbs to energy-saving ones, for example).

But how do you explain that huge bag of soil or that DWC container to your neighbors? Try bringing in the soil together with a few pots of ficus or some other houseplant, and your hydro container in with the washing powder, etc.

And don’t forget to use good nutrients. I like the products from Hesi and GHE, but you may prefer something else. Find a good hydroponics shop (these can be easily Googled): The salesmen are usually very discreet and helpful and can give you really great advice. And always pay in cash – you’ll get a discount, and your credit card data won’t be tracked there.

Almost all the rest of the equipment you need can be found in the usual Ace, Ikea or Home Depot monster stores. Once again, pay by cash only and buy all your stuff in different places. Try to avoid small three-person shops!

Once you’re properly set up, a regular growbox in your cupboard can handle all of your needs for a lengthy period. A wide variety of strains can be grown in your safe, well-hidden, little piece of heaven. I like the feminized Mazar from Dutch Passion: It’s strong and it smells amazing. It’s a true Cannabis Cup winner, and it gave me exactly the right mix of high and stone.

Just a few more things: Never tell anyone or sell anyone anything. There is no exception to this rule – period! (If you want to share with someone, you should trust that person 100 percent – 99 just isn’t enough). Always drop your grow garbage in a container far from your neighborhood, and never take your weed out of the house. These simple precautions will help you avoid many problems! And if you’re growing in Israel, keep in mind that they don’t believe in privacy here, so be sure to protect your Internet connection using VPN proxy services.

Always remember: Although Israel is very MJ-liberal, and the cops might decide to simply take your name and let you go if they catch you smoking weed, that situation can change drastically if you’re caught holding a few hundred grams.

Good luck and peace to everyone! —Ltype

Well, if you haven’t guessed it by now, the harvests in Amsterdam are happening in preparation for the World Series of Pot: the 2008 Cannabis Cup. Crops plucked in early to mid-October will be cured just in time for entry into the Cup, which takes place in late November.

Growers in Amsterdam, using indoor facilities, try to get their final Cup crop into the dirt no later than August 1, after a year of rigorous testing and tasty sampling. Using tents as breeding chambers, many Dutch growers create laboratory-style growrooms where they can experiment with various strains and use a wide range of techniques to create new hybrids. As far as strains go, there’s no shortage of variety: This year we’ll see new hybrids of Kush, Trainwreck and the various Hazes.

For many of these new crosses, Dutch breeders will use the ever-popular G-13 as a father to pollinate the most vigorous mothers and add potency to already strong lines. Others will use backcrossing as their preferred method to bolster their favorite phenotypes, while the truly adventurous will travel far and wide to find new races of marijuana to bring back to Amsterdam for hybridization. Look for Kushadelic, a Brainstorm Haze x G-13, Wreckage and Anunnaki to be some of the latest and greatest coming out of the 2008 harvest in A’dam! —Nico Escondido