One of our favorite aspects of the cannabis plant is its variety.
As cannabis moves mainstream, there is a corporate push to homogenize the way that the grassroots cannabis community has always classified and named the strains that we all know and love.
But it is the history and the lore behind each and every strain that intrigues us so much. That respect for the provenance of the plant constitutes a large part of this culture – and it is under attack.
In an attempt to record and preserve this hard-earned folklore we will be taking an in-depth look at the history of perhaps the most iconic cannabis strain today – OG Kush.
In this multipart breakdown, we will introduce you to some of the people responsible for creating it, perfecting it, and proliferating its availability to the height of popularity that it deserves today. Kind of like a Star Wars saga, we are going to start in the middle, then take you back to the beginning, before a look to the future.
So sit back, spark one up, and enjoy Part I of the Beard Bros. Pharms Cannabis Trailblazers Series – The Origins of OG Kush
LET’S TAKE IT BACK… WAY BACK
The year is 1996, the backdrop is Los Angeles.
The Fugees were killing us softly, Pac was out on bail fresh outta jail California dreamin’, and the Golden State was about to change the game when it comes to cannabis reform with the passage of Prop 215 to establish what would soon become the largest medical marijuana market on the planet.
But even before the sudden glimmer of legality, intrepid cultivators had harvested countless backyard cannabis crops in the hills and canyons of LA and that’s where we find Josh D, aka @therealogkushstory, living a rebellious life as a young black market weed grower.
Josh’s first experience with cannabis occurred around the age of 13. He calls it a “revelation” and says, “I had a love affair right away with its effects.”
By the age of 17 he was quite literally travelling the world meeting other cannabis connoisseurs and collecting pot seeds for his own garden back at home.
Around this same time, on the other side of the country, a guy named Matt “Bubba” Berger was also bucking the law and kicking out top shelf fire before it was even a term. Known locally in Florida for his prized cut of a possible Northern Lights pheno, which he dubbed ‘Bubba’, Berger also came up on another Florida cannabis legend called Kryptonite. This high grade weed allegedly originated in Seattle and would get shipped back east in hard packed rectangular bricks. This added density, along with the overpowering effects of the weed itself, produced the name Kryptonite.
As so often happens, the name got chopped down over the years to Krippy, and soon was used to describe any and all high grade cannabis in the region.
As the story goes, one of Berger’s buddies loved the Krippy so much that he referred to the frosty, dense nugs as “Kushberries” – apparently with no intended correlation to, or knowledge of, the Hindu Kush mountains in Afghanistan that produced some of the world’s most potent weed at the time.
The name stuck, and was eventually chopped down to “Kush”.
It wasn’t long after that when Josh D’s orbit crossed with Berger’s.
ONLY IN LA…
Back on the west coast, things were heating up in the medical marijuana market.
Matt Berger had made the move from Florida to SoCal and was linked with Josh through a mutual friend named Chris the old fashioned way, before the days of social media and text messages.
Josh, Matt, and their buddy moved into a place in Hollywood, and Josh dug into the extensive collection of seeds that he had been stockpiling. He picked up a single used 1000 watt grow light out of the personal ads in the back of the local paper and began growing again.
Berger saw that his buddy Josh was the real deal, and fairly sure that nothing quite like Kush existed in LA, Berger packed his bags and made his way back to Florida to retrieve his prized cuts of Kush, Bubba, and a strain called KY, to bring them back west.
This is the trip that would change everything.
Armed with the rare genetics from Berger, Josh D led what can only be described as a revolution in Southern California of not just what strains were grown, but how they were grown as well.
Not only was their Kush blowing minds, but this same exact basement grow op is where the original version of Bubba Kush came from. Much like some of the most iconic strains we know of, Bubba Kush was the result of an accidental pollination of a lower nug on a Kush plant. They harvested some seeds from that pollinated bud and there’s your origin on Bubba Kush, another legendary strain.
Meanwhile, law enforcement was treating weed, and especially grow ops, as Public Enemy #1, and people were getting busted regularly over their association with the plant.
The model of growing stretchy, Sativa-leaning, cannabis plants in one’s yard brought a lot of risk, as those trees of THC could be hard to conceal from nosy neighbors, pesky police, or the threat of thieves.
Around that same time, High Times Magazine released an article touting a “Million Dollar Crop” that highlighted the burgeoning technology of growing cannabis indoors instead of out, and in a rock wool hydroponic system instead of soil.
Growing weed indoors changed the game in LA, and everywhere else, taking it out of the watchful eyes of law enforcement and concealing it all behind closed doors (and blacked out windows).
Josh became an expert in the technique and began to spread his understanding far and wide.
The Kush strain was, and still is, notoriously difficult to grow properly. It is super sensitive to light, it’s picky about its nutes, and if you stress it at all, it can throw nanners or seeds and wreck an entire crop.
On top of that, it grew in an odd, lanky manner with wide gaps between its internodes, and smaller clusters of buds when compared to more traditional landrace indica strains. But, once in flower, the strain always proved its worth by producing dense, greasy, diamond coated buds packed with flavor, aroma, and effects far superior to more common watered-down strains.
Josh D dialed it all in and began to gift the strain knowledge along with his hydro knowledge, and the game changed once again.
By 1997, the strain was easily fetching up to $8,000 per pound based on low supply, high demand, and even higher quality. This incredible rise in popularity, we believe, is something that could have only happened in LA.
NO, IT AIN’T OCEAN GROWN
The thing about nicknames is that they have to be earned.
The term “Kush” was too broad, particularly given its unintended relation to a Middle Eastern mountain range and the hashplants it produced. Josh D and his crew soon dubbed the west coast version as “OG Kush”.
Since that day, a heated debate has raged in the cannabis community about what exactly the OG stands for in OG Kush.
Given the popularity of the strain in LA, many tokers think it means “Original Gangster” – homage to the hardcore hip hop scene in SoCal in the early 90’s. Close, but no cigar…
Others will swear to you that it means “Ocean Grown”, and that it must be cultivated within a certain number of miles from the breaking waves of the Pacific Ocean to earn the name.
Josh D is amused by the speculation, but definitively ends the debate here once and for all.
“We called it OG because it was authentic… the original,” he says.
In SoCal slang, an OG is someone (or something, in this case) that is old-school and respected. It is a term that is earned.
The new name really struck a chord in the music industry, and the fact that the strain provided face-melting effects and unrivaled flavor and aroma landed it in the studios, and the lyrics, of some of the hottest hip hop and rap artists at the time.
A LEGEND IS BORN
You can walk into just about any dispensary today and they will have multiple variations of OG Kush.
Highly sought after due to its pungent, gassy aroma and surefire effects, OG Kush has set a bar for both potency and terpene levels that few other strains, or families of strains, have been able to rival. This is why now, over 20 years later, the strain remains as popular as ever.
When you think about it, OG Kush has created a microeconomy of its own within the cannabis industry and that humbles Josh D who appreciates how relevant the strain has remained.
Phylos Bioscience is an agricultural genomics company based in Portland, Oregon. They use “modern molecular genetics and computational biology to better understand the most important and least-studied plant in the world: Cannabis.”
Their “Galaxy” of strain provenance is considered by many to be the bible of bud history. So it only makes sense that Josh D’s OG Kush cut serves as the cornerstone of that section of the galactic map.
It is really ironic to think that one of the driving forces behind the rise of this game-changing strain was the hardcore prohibition of cannabis that thrived in the 1990’s.
Josh D can remember a time when he would stop a few blocks down from the hydro store to switch out his license plates trying to duck the authorities. He has done time in jail for weed and has met others who have as well.
“We’re not tough guys,” explains Josh, “most of us are intellectuals fighting for what we know is right.”
THE NEXT CHAPTER
He views OG Kush as a medicinal tool that has been enhancing lives in a positive way for decades and he has no plans to stop spreading that positivity, one nug at a time.
“I have helped people. I have shared my ideas and my success,” says Josh, “so now we need good, healthy competition to let everyone try to claim their stake. There is a lot of talent in California, and I hope everyone gets a chance to put theirs out there.”
On top of that, he worries that genetics are suffering and that easy-to-grow filler strains like Blue Dream and Grand Daddy Purple are back on the rise, often under fabricated names.
These days, Josh D is legally operating in the California cannabis industry, continuing to build on his top shelf reputation and protect that of the strain.
It is still Josh’s dream to see a truly free and open market for cannabis, but in the meantime he says, “Whatever the game is, you’ve got to find a way to play it.”
As for OG Kush, he feels that the cut is as strong as ever.
With a new licensed cannabis cultivation center just north of Los Angeles, the Josh D brand just harvested their first commercial crop of OG under the new laws and those incredible flowers will be hitting the top shelves of dispensaries from Diego to the Bay by the end of November.
For two decades, Josh D and growers like him had to operate in the shadows. The 24/7 threat of arrest, or robbery, or worse, could dominate half of your focus and a significant portion of your time which certainly had an effect on the potential of the plants under your care.
Today’s legal market brings stresses all its own, but now licensed cultivators can build state-of-the-art facilities and dedicate their focus on the health of their plants at every stage and the results speak for themselves.
TIME TO SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT
For 20 years, Josh D and other rebel weed growers kept their identities, and their stories, closely guarded. As the popularity of the OG Kush strain and all of its variants skyrocketed, alleged stories of its origin began floating around – most of them completely devoid of truth.
So now Josh D and others with key parts of the story to add are ready to set the record straight on the origins of OG Kush.
Josh is quick and adamant to point out that he did not create the strain.
Matt Berger brought it to LA.
With his help, Josh D then spread the cut to worthy heads while revolutionizing the indoor hydro game in LA.
For the past 20+ years Josh has propagated and protected the line, and the story we just told you.
In our opinion, the timing was just too perfect, and the fateful connection between Josh and Matt Berger that brought that Florida “Kush” back to Cali forever changed the course of cannabis history.
Krippy, Kushberries, Triangle Kush, whatever you want to call it… it would have certainly continued to thrive in Florida, but it blew up in LA.
Without OGs like Matt ‘Bubba Kush’ Berger and Josh D, we’d never have OG Kush – it’s that simple.
But what about those crews back in Florida that first held these genetics? Where did Bubba originally get the strain that he eventually passed on to Josh D?
Well, that’s a story for another day and you know the crew at Beard Bros. Pharms will bring it to you soon in Part II of the Cannabis Trailblazers Series – The Origins of OG Kush