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Some Cannabis Strains Tell the Stories of Heroes

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There you are, scrolling through picture after picture of pretty purple haired flowers, brightly yellow-hued shiny shatters, sticky waxes, tinctures for all that ails, plethora of pod varieties, muscle rubs, gummies… Every option has a name – like lovers, some feel like old friends and some come and go. But how often have you questioned where these names come from and what significance they have?

Ever wonder if growers have sampled all that Weedmaps has to offer the moments leading up to the their official naming ceremonies? It is entirely possible that circumstance occurs fairly frequently, but not all names are pulled out of thin air like a half-baked notion on the whisper of a bong rip.

Some strains are meant tell the story of marriages – that glorious wedding of the two perfect parents that results in a whole new beast, a hybrid of nuance and love. Some come by their names purely by accident, while some strains have names that carry history, reverence – they speak to a story far beyond what happens between seed to harvest.

Two strains in particular are named for heroes in their own right – these are their stories.

Jack Herer

There once was a man named Jack. Often referred to as the “Emperor of Hemp” or “Hemperor”, Herer was cannabis rights activist and author of the 1985 book, “The Emperor Wears No Clothes.” Each chapter of his book, lovingly provided free of charge on a website maintained by his widow Jeanine Herer, digs a little further into the history and benefits of hemp. In a bio written by Paul Rogers and published on the site, said Herer possessed:

“[A] rare combination of brilliant intellect, endless curiosity, scholarly diligence and passionate people skills made him a force of nature whose impact is perhaps only just beginning to be truly felt.”

His life’s work to bring awareness of hemp benefits and forward the topic of legalization was before his time. And yet, if it had not been for the man and the legend, we may not be in the position we are in today. He was an unlikely convert to the cannabis kind in his 30s after serving as a military cop in the Korean War and living the life of a “pro-war Republican prohibitionist” who once threatened to leave a wife over her own marijuana use. But like many people who resist the rhetoric and sample some of what the earth has to offer in body and mind, Herer found himself on the front lines of a different sort of war: legalization.

Jack Herer portrait. Photo courtesy of the LA Times.

The story goes:

“The Hemperor was arrested in 1981 for trespassing on federal property while collecting signatures for a California ballot initiative, and in the subsequent two weeks he spent in jail, he began work on ‘The Emperor Wears No Clothes.'”

Like so many strains we now have legal access to, due in part to his tireless work, Herer was an enigma – complex in flavor, multifaceted and awfully, awfully strong. Although he died before realizing the fruits of his labors, once he realized the value of hemp agriculture as the “ultimate renewable source of food, fuel, medicine and more,” he never let up the fight. His face-to-face campaigning, book work, documentaries all pushed the country further along. We have much to thank Mr. Herer for – remember him well the next time you light up a bowl named in his honor.

Charlotte’s Web

If you haven’t seen the many articles and documentaries that trace the origin of this mighty strain, you might confuse it as being named after a pig tale. In this case, Charlotte is a very, very real girl whose struggle became a catalyst for change. Charlotte Figi suffered from epileptic episodes from the time she was 3 months old and they grew increasingly worse and more debilitating as time went on. Her doctors and parents discovered that Charlotte had Dravet syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy that impacts behavior, cognition, creates emotional trauma and shortens lifespans. She was a 2-year-old with a condition that impacted everything about her life.

She couldn’t eat, play, talk or move like other kids, and none of the prescriptions she was being given helped at all – and her parents tried just about every drug available, some with horrible effects.

By 6 years old, she was suffering from about 300 episodes per week. Not an hour would go by without Charlotte seizing and at that point, doctors suggested she be placed under a medically-induced coma to give the child some rest. It was then her father stumbled on a story of a California boy who had been treated with CBD for epilepsy. Although the family were not in favor of cannabis legalization, they were down to try anything to save their little girl…and that they did.

Charlotte Figi. Photo courtesy of CWHemp.

They struggled to find medical supporters and access to medical marijuana but her mother persisted and eventually got her hands on a high CBD, very low THC strain that she extracted oil from. Very shortly after, Charlotte was a whole new child – the episodes less and less frequent. But the oil extraction, at the time, was not really a thing…until the Stanley brothers came along and created a unique high CBD strain and oil that would later become known as Charlotte’s Web. Without negative side effects, Charlotte was able to function again. She could do things most children and parents take for granted, like eat without a feeding tube and learn to ride a bike. She became the face of what was possible and her story mounted pressure to change laws.

In the land of marijuana abundance many of us now know, it’s important we take a moment to remember the people who struggled and fought tooth and nail to get us here. To Jack and Charlotte, thank you.


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Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Journalist, editor, student, single mom to a pack of wolves, foodie, music lover, resident smart ass, and champion of vulgarity and human kindness.