If you’re a good old cannabis connoisseur, you already know that Bob Marley is the OG hit-man. Furthermore, he is an iconic symbol for stoners and the greatest propagator of the Rastafarian religion. So it ain’t a lie that he had the best stash in town. However, it all kinda got lost somewhere in the 70s and 80s amidst the US crackdown on cannabis.
But now, there’s a Jamaican scientist with horticultural talents, who’s trying to regrow the strain so that all stoners can aspire to achieve Marley-level highs.
Amid mangos, lychees and another jackfruit, Dr Machel Emanuel has planted a field of cannabis plants. The plants occupying dozens of square meters in his lab in the botanical garden of the Biology Department at the University of the West Indies in Kingston.
His specialty? Landrace cannabis, which grew naturally in Jamaica before it disappeared as a result of human intervention.
Known as ‘supreme ganja’, the landrace cultivation used to grow naturally in Jamaican soil. But that was before humans decided to burn it all away. “In the 50s, 60s, 70s, Jamaica was known for its landrace cultivar which definitely gave Jamaica that international reputation,” Dr Machel Emanuel, told AFP. The scientist who is looking to find the lost spark holds a doctorate in biology. He also holds a speciality in horticulture and the adaptation of plants to climate.
Regrowing the ‘Supreme Ganga’
This 35-year-old Dominican has been growing ganja since 2001. He shifted his shop to Jamaica in 2008 so he could focus on his higher studies. While he loves his own smoking up sessions, he has his own way to enjoy it. Dr, Emanuel prefers to vaporise or ingest marijuana through aromatherapy instead of smoking it.
However, the quest wasn’t easy: grains of landrace had spread to the four corners of the Caribbean over the years. His search led him to Guadeloupe, Trinidad and Dominique. His journey in pursuit of Rastas living in the countryside and still cultivating what is left of these plants.
Dr Emanuel recalls finding a Rasta man living on a mountain. The man ‘hadn’t been really been in contact with the civilization in the last 40 years. ‘It was a six hours hike to get to him,’ he said. He returned with the rare landrace seed.
The plant is adapted to its environment and with “unique growing characteristics based on its flower, on the smell, on the flavour, even on the euphoria” it delivers to those who consume it, he said.
Love for horticulture Vs. Marketing
His research, however, has been out of love for horticulture rather than to sell it. But the scientist has also developed an entire marketing plan for the landrace cultivar.
The marketing material refers to a ‘pure’ and ancient herb, used by Bob Marley – a seductive pitch to cannabis lovers in countries and regions that have legalized its use, such as Canada and some American states.
‘There is a nostalgia value that could be added based on marketing applications,’ Dr Emanuel says. ‘Jamaica’s reputation was basically built on these plants.’
The consumer is willing to patronize products based on morals, ethics and a protocol in growing, organic or vegan,’ he says. Hence, highlighting the ‘natural connotations’ of his product.
‘There could be an economic advantage to growing these plants here,’ he says. ‘They are more resistant and grow more easily.’
Summing up his pitch, Emanuel jokes: ‘You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy weed.