The History of Haze

September 2021

Written by: Nick Trautman

You’ve probably never smoked a real Haze. In fact, there’s probably only a few hundred people still alive that remember the real Hazes. I’m talking about the literal Grandmothers of them all. The rare strains that birthed all the sativas you know and love. Super Silver Haze, Purple Haze, Blue Dream, Jack Herrer, Trainwreck, White Widow- every real American sativa owes its lineage to Haze.

The history of Haze, as they say, is a cloudy one. Get it? Eyeroll. But the short version is that a couple brothers in Santa Cruz, California had some landrace seeds from Thailand, Columbia, and Mexico (and possibly Southern India) that they crossed and sold throughout the early 1970s. Sam the Skunkman (later, the winner of the first cannabis cup in 1988) got ahold of the genetics, stabilized them a bit, and eventually they ended up in the hands of Neville Schoenmaker. From Neville’s Haze crosses came almost every popular “sativa” you see today. The Hazes that started it all have reached legendary status among connoisseurs.

If you’re a weed nerd like me, you might have seen message board posts about legendary hazes from back in the day. Hazes like Cuban Black Haze, or NYC Uptown Haze. Bandaid Haze. If you’re from the east coast you might know it as “the Piff,” or “frankies.” West Coast stoners remember Haze for the pungent, distinct, frankincense nose. Only available to dutch coffee shops, or a small circle of breeders for decades, these have been covertly guarded and tightly held in the traditional market. We’ve found a few of them. Preserved over the years. And you’re going to love them.

Why are these strange, rare, old strains so important? Their effects. Plain and simple, Your whole weed smoking career you’ve heard people claiming that they have a strain that will feel like a cup of coffee. Haze, for real, feels like a double shot of espresso. This is the legendary weed you’ve been hearing about but never quite found. This is stuff that will make you say “Oh, some weed actually IS different!”

Most of us, even those with decades in the industry have never even seen a real Haze phenotype. There’s a reason. Well, a couple reasons. The short story is that over the last 30-40 years, just like tomatoes and potatoes and corn, cannabis has become somewhat of a monocrop. For most of the time that cannabis has been legal, we’ve been living in “The Great Hybridization.” Strains are picked and crossed for attractive traits. Short plants can be grown indoors. Plants that flower quicker require less kilowatt hours to mature, resulting in lower costs. Purple coloring and frosty trichomes are easy “bag appeal” differentiators. Pure Sativas become watered down versions of what truly makes them great.

When I first entered the “grey” prop. 215 cannabis scene in 2012, budtenders couldn’t rely on THC% and brand name. The folks on the front lines, the ones weighing out 1/8ths in windowless rooms for 12 hours a day, basically had to be a poet to describe effects and find the right fit for patients. Weed was multifaceted and strange. Your nose was your guide, and you couldn’t simply point to a board and say “I want the one with the highest number.” Sativas had a chance.

I’m not saying that testing isn’t a good thing for the industry, and I think the ability to actually know exactly what it is you’re putting in your body is an obvious necessity. But, I think we’ve lost a lot of what makes cannabis great by leaning on one metric to define “good.” THC% and tight, dense, buds, with a name of a dessert (most likely a gelato cross) have become the markers of quality. Over the past few years these cuts have come to dominate the market, and for good reason. They get you STONED. Heavy lidded and melty. The “Huh? Yeah we should watch ‘Waking Life’ again…” type of stoney. And we all LOVE that, sometimes.

So back to the Sativas you’ve probably never seen. You may be lucky, you may have come across some true sativa genetics like Red Congolese, or Malawi Gold (there’s even a few decent Durban Poison cuts out there) and if so, you’re lucky. These “Land Race” strains are quickly getting bred to extinction as well. But none of them hold the mystique, none of them have what all Sativa heads are truly looking for - pure, unadulterated, HAZE.

It’s a dinosaur of a plant. It’s not what you’d expect. On purpose. It looks ancient. And because of that, it retains some of the strangest and hardest to place terpene profiles I’ve ever come across. On the East Coast in the late nineties and early 2000’s you could find it as “the Piff” or “frankies,” a nod to the distinct, rich frankincense nose that the flowers produce. Dealers could ask over $800 an ounce, and people would pay it. Why? Because of the way it makes you feel! This is weed for people who have shit to do. Everyone at team Space Coyote hopes you can get your hands on a piece of the Sativa Preservation Society product line so that you too can experience the epicness that is an original Haze strain. Get glazed, my friends.