A Jamaican scientist is recreating a ‘supreme’ marijuana that was smoked by Bob Marley in the 1970s before it was wiped out the following decade during the American war on drugs.
Amid mangos, lychees and other jackfruit, Dr Machel Emanuel has planted a field of cannabis plants measuring 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.
‘In the 50s, 60s, 70s, Jamaica was known for its landrace cultivar which definitely gave Jamaica that international reputation,’ the rasta doctor explained. The plant is adapted to its environment and with ‘unique growing characteristics based on its flower, on the smell, on the flavor, even on the euphoria’ it delivers to those who consume it, he said.Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailers – founding members of the celebrated reggae group The Wailers – used landrace cannabis, Dr Emanuel assures. The reggae legends’ ganja, he says, would not have been as strong as modern, artificially created cannabis, which has higher levels of THC – the plant’s main psychoactive ingredientBut in the 1980s, during the US war on drugs, landrace cannabis was easily spotted because of its height and destroyed, and cultivation of the plant was abandoned. Over time, easier-to-hide hybrids replaced the landrace cultivars. .Dr Emanuel has grown cannabis since 2001, moving to Jamaica in 2007 to pursue his studies. The 35-year-old from Dominique has a doctorate in biology, with a specialty in horticulture and the adaptation of plants to climate. A lover of marijuana himself – which he doesn’t smoke but rather consumes by means of vaporization or aromatherapy – Dr Emanuel decided to recover the lost landrace varieties and reproduce them in his lab. 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, 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 who ‘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.