Dr. Machal Emanuel, a member of the faculty of Life Sciences at the University of the West Indies, is working on bringing back the legendary cannabis smoked by reggae legends like Peter Tosh and Bob Marley.
"In the 50s, 60s, 70s, Jamaica was known for its landrace cultivar, which definitely gave Jamaica that international reputation,” Dr. Emanuel told The Daily Mail.
A landrace strain is a type of cannabis indigenous to certain geographic areas. Because they grow free in isolation, landrace plants begin to exhibit the same "unique growing characteristics based on its flower, on the smell, on the flavor, even on the euphoria". Famous landrace strains include Acapulco Gold and Durban Poison.
Which begs the question - what happened to the original landrace plants? Due to their imposing height, the plants were easy to spot, leading to their destruction (Jamaica only decriminalized cannabis in 2015). As a result, growers relied on hybridized plants which were shorter and easier to hide.
Dr. Emanuel's search has taken him all over the Caribbean, searching for original landrace seeds. In spots like Guadeloupe and Trinidad, Dr. Emanuel has sought out Rastafarians with access to the original plants.
The goal of all this research? Besides the preservation of plants important to Jamaica's history, Dr. Emanuel sees a marketing opportunity. 'Jamaica's reputation was basically built on these plants,' he said, suggesting that Jamaica establish a brand identity to become "like Champagne in France", all while championing equitable business practices.
"The consumer is willing to patronize products based on morals, ethics and a protocol in growing, organic or vegan," he said.