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6 International Cannabis Strains Worth Seeking Abroad

March 6, 2018

Updated 3/9/18

“Travel is like cannabis; it broadens your perspectives…personally, culturally, and politically,” according to bestselling guidebook author and acclaimed PBS host Rick Steves. “Suddenly, the palette with which we paint the story of our lives has more colors.”

For a cannabis enthusiast, this idea of expanding our palettes rings especially true, because even in our current heady era of rapidly advancing legalization, many of the world’s finest and most exotic cannabis strains can only be found in their regions of origin. So if we think of each varietal of the plant as its own unique hue, then we must travel widely to truly experience the species in all its technicolored glory.


8 Exotic and Unlikely Places to Buy Cannabis Around the World

Much as your local liquor store carries wine and beer from around the world, we should be able to sample the finest cannabis available anywhere without leaving home. Another way to look at this is as an opportunity to get out and do some exploring.

As a longtime cannabis journalist, I’ve had the good fortune to travel widely in parts of the world where the love of this plant flourishes, and I can report back that each place comes complete with a particular cannabis strain that’s a point of local pride. Some among the finest I’ve ever sampled.

So what are we waiting for?

Cannatonic offers profound therapeutic relief for pain, inflammation, and anxiety.


Origin: Barcelona, Spain

Much like the coffeeshops in the Netherlands, the cannabis social clubs that have cropped up in Barcelona and elsewhere in Spain over the last decade aren’t really legal, they’re just tolerated—for the most part. Clubs have been busted by the authorities in the past, and the Spanish legal system is still grappling with how to enforce (or not) a set of cannabis laws that allow for “personal” consumption in a “private” setting, without ever defining those terms.

Cannatonic is a cross of MK Ultra and G13 Haze with a slight earthy odor and a mild, sweet, vaguely citrusy flavor.

The city itself, of course, is one of the world’s ideal places to be stoned. Tapas is the ultimate stoner cuisine, and Gaudi is the best architect ever when you’re high. The most popular local strain when I was there some years ago was Jack Herer, an Dutch-bred varietal that most assuredly flourishes beneath a Spanish sun. But to experience a truly homegrown phenomenon, take the time to track down Cannatonic, a high-CBD strain bred by Spanish seed bank Resin Seeds.

With THC rarely above 7% and CBD potentially above 15%, it’s a cross of MK Ultra and G13 Haze with a “slight earthy odor and a mild, sweet, vaguely citrusy flavor.” While not providing much of a high due to its elevated CBD profile, the strain offers profound therapeutic relief for pain, inflammation, and anxiety. It’s the perfect way to unwind after a long hot day wandering La Rambla.


Will Barcelona Be the New Amsterdam? What Tourists Should Know About Cannabis in Spain

Dr. Grinspoon

Origin: Amsterdam, Netherlands

As a travel destination, Amsterdam offers up many charms, from the picturesque canals and lively nightlife to the parks and museums and a place called Febo, where you can buy deep fried cheese out of a coin-operated automat in the middle of the night. The city’s also been a refuge for cannabis consumers and cannabis itself for decades.

Not only have Amsterdam’s famed coffeeshops attracted visitors from around the world since they opened in the 1970s, they’ve also served as a safe haven for cannabis strains from every continent to escape prohibition.

If you’re fortunate enough to make a visit, definitely sample some Neville’s Haze or any of its Haze cousins, and don’t miss out on the wide array of imported, traditionally made hashishes available from Morocco, Nepal, Afghanistan, and other distant lands. But if I had to recommend just one smoke in town, I’d say make an appointment with Dr. Grinspoon, a pure sativa heirloom strain bred by Barney’s Farm, a cannabis seed bank associated with one of Amsterdam’s top coffeeshops.


10 Best Amsterdam Cannabis Coffeeshops to Visit

Like all purebred sativas, the strain (named for medical cannabis advocate Dr. Lester Grinspoon) takes a long time to harvest and doesn’t yield very well—but who cares? You’re not growing it, you’re smoking it. And the soaring, cerebral, invigorating high will set you off on an adventure to remember (or forget) in one of the world’s most beautiful cities.

Lamb's Bread provides an uplifting, inspiring, energizing high that pairs nicely with a cup of local Blue Mountain coffee.

Lamb’s Bread

Origin: Jamaica

Jamaica has long been associated with ganja, a local word for cannabis that derives from an ancient Sanskrit word that reached the Caribbean in the mid 1800s, brought along by indentured servants freshly arrived from India. In time ganja spread to native born Jamaicans. In particular, the Indians’ use of cannabis as a spiritual sacrament would be adopted by Jamaica’s Rastafarian community.

Add in the global impact of reggae music, and the indelible idea of Jamaica as a cannabis paradise took root in the public’s imagination. Even though, until recently, cannabis remained highly illegal and the laws against it seriously enforced.


Jamaica’s Cannabis Roots: The History of Ganja on the Island

Happily, however, that all began to change in 2015, when a new law decriminalized up to two ounces of cannabis and made personal grows legal.

So how best to celebrate if you happen to be lucky enough to make a pilgrimage? Well, nothing could be more appropriate than rolling up a joint of Lamb’s Bread—the definitive Jamaican cannabis strain, and purportedly Bob Marley’s favorite throughout his life. A bright, green, sticky heirloom sativa, it’s an uplifting, inspiring, energizing high that pairs nicely with a cup of local Blue Mountain coffee if you really want to get your day started right.

Malawi Gold

Origin: Malawi

Revered as a food, fiber, and medicine, cannabis flourished throughout Malawi until 1964, when the newly independent republic joined the United Nations and adopted the UN’s Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

Malawi Gold remains a vital cash crop throughout the African nation, but growers now plant their seeds in remote mountain clearings.

Fifty years of mandated federal enforcement later, what the locals call chumba, and the world calls Malawi Gold, remains a vital cash crop throughout the impoverished African nation, but growers now plant their seeds in remote mountain clearings, hoping to elude the authorities. According to a 2011 report from the World Bank, Malawian farmers harvest around 150,000 pounds of remarkably potent cannabis in this manner every year, the vast majority bound for Europe. The plant remains illicit to this day, but there’s a strong movement in Malawi to legalize both cannabis and hemp.

Famous throughout Africa for its potency, Malawi Gold is a pure sativa strain that’s slow to mature, with a flowering time of up to 120 days before it’s ready to harvest. But it’s worth the wait to smoke the long, resin-coated buds that have made the strain famous far beyond Malawi’s borders.


Indica vs. sativa: What’s the difference between cannabis types?

Cheese has been the herbal pride of the United Kingdom since the late 1980s.


Origin: United Kingdom

Britain’s cannabis scene isn’t well known for producing high quality cannabis or award-winning strains, with one notable exception. An indica-dominant hybrid named for its sharply sour aroma, Cheese has been the herbal pride of the United Kingdom since the late 1980s. Local legend has it the original Cheese (sometimes called Original Cheese) descended from a Skunk #1 phenotype that was selected for future breeding based on its incredibly pungent aroma.

Big Buddha’s version put Cheese on the global map when it took home top honors in the Indica category at the 2006 Cannabis Cup.

The most popular modern version comes from Big Buddha Seeds, and features the same pungent funky aroma plus the addition of Afghani indica genetics to increase trichome production and yield. Big Buddha’s version put Cheese on the global map when it took home top honors in the Sativa category at the 2006 Cannabis Cup and has been spreading out geographically ever since.

But it’s still best enjoyed at home, in Merry Old England, paired with a cup of Earl Grey and some tasty crumpets.

Island Sweet Skunk

Origin: Vancouver Island

British Columbia—Canada’s westernmost province—stretches from the ocean to the Rocky Mountains. The region became a hotbed for cannabis cultivation starting back in the 1960s, when the ranks of the area’s homegrown farmers were swelled by the arrival of draft resisters from the US who began fleeing to Canada to avoid service in the Vietnam War. With Vancouver eventually earning the nickname Vansterdam for its tolerance of cannabis coffeeshops, and the entire province boasting vast stretches of remote land in which to grow cannabis, a culture of tolerance and acceptance took hold in BC even in the darkest days of Canada’s cannabis prohibition.

And now that it’s set to be legalized nationwide this summer (with the recreational market functional by late summer/early fall), British Columbia will remain the ultimate Canadian cannabis travel destination, a place of natural beauty and vibrant culture. Island Sweet Skunk was originally bred on Vancouver Island, a 290-mile long, largely undeveloped stretch of coastlines and mountains just off the Pacific coast. A sativa with an electric buzz and a flavor profile that mixes classic skunky notes with ripe grapefruit undertones, the strain is a descendant of Skunk #1 and grows tall, straight, high-yielding plants.

David Bienenstock's Bio Image

David Bienenstock

Veteran cannabis journalist David Bienenstock is the author of "How to Smoke Pot (Properly): A Highbrow Guide to Getting High" (2016 - Penguin/Random House), and the co-host and co-creator of the podcast "Great Moments in Weed History with Abdullah and Bean." Follow him on Twitter @pot_handbook.

View David Bienenstock's articles

  • Gregory Frye

    Glad to see Dr. Grinspoon made the cut. Sometime I’ll tell you how I made one gram of that last for 30 days while consuming it almost every day.

    • Lorne Robinson

      Please. Tell us!

    • PhatB01

      I would love to know how you did that. You put only a pinch to roll a pin joint? Or put a tiny bit in a pipe bowl for a couple of hits that’s good enough to make you fly.

      • Hamza A M De Barros

        Lol if you smoke it mixed with tobacco, I find funny how USA people say I don’t smoke with tobacco but than they smoke with a blunt that’s a big tobacco leaf no wonder they don’t mix with tobacco. It’s funny as well that only cannabinoids are the only drug that people actually discriminate each other by the amount you put in your joints when well if gets where you want to get shouldn’t be an issue ok alcohol too. We call it a soup mix and who rolls a joint it’s the cook and the cook it’s always the first tasting the joint, I realised when I used to blaze with my mates that I was smoking less weed than when I used to roll for myself but would still get high so I reduced the amount of weed in my own joints to kind of match the amount I would smoke if I was smoking with other people plus the tobacco itself gives you a buz body, relaxation I know it’s unhealthy but oh well one day I will stop smoking.

  • DCBC

    David Bienenstock writes ” you can buy deep fried cheese out of a coin-operated automat in the middle of the night “, well no wonder so many are dying.

    • PhatB01

      Huh? Dying of what? I love cheese but only melted nacho cheese with tortilla chips, olives, ground beef, jalapeños, tomatoes, chopped italian parsley, basil and oregano. Add some cottage cheese mixed with sour cream or sour cream alone but make sure it’s fresh. One of my best munchie foods and have nice big mug of kick ass java to get my artistic mind going after smoking a nice full bowl of blue or purple sativa ganja. I’ve never heard of someone dying from eating cheese. The key is moderation. If you have heart disease have an apple or grapes with cold cheese, not fried. That’s what I would do.

      • Jeff Warner

        excellent advice

      • Hive Mecha

        “Blue or purple sativa ganja” ?? Are you referring to Blue Afghani or Purple Kush or something?

        • PhatB01

          One is a sativa dominant hybrid while the other was a complete sativa. Most blues are indica while purple is haze from purple haze – jimmy hendrix song. Awesome weed strain.

      • DCBC

        Pretty sure they changed the article because I read it right when it came out and responded right away, Now I can’t even find the word capitol in the article..Also you can keep your processed food machines to fuel your heart disease, nothing wrong with good cheese. Automation will doom this world.

  • DCBC

    I was born and raised in Victoria and many of the best strains are developed here and usually get smoked here never to reach the rest of the world in fact the best hardly make market at all.

    • Hive Mecha

      Nowhere does the author claim Vancouver is the capital of B.C.

    • Reggie Day

      Wow… Im from chicago and all this weed knowledge is fascinating… Where im from all different strands and names we never knew what they were Until the Last 5 years

  • Philip Tomlinson

    Jack herer was bred by sensi seeds in Amsterdam, not the USA

  • Gediminas Gedas

    I use the CBD which helps me, I feel great! I believe this product. Great products at the hempcbdworld

  • forkboy29

    More ethnocentric American bullshit. Just assume every reader is from the USA, you arrogant douchebags!

    • Bobbi Kresnik

      Someone needs a hug. So angry. Lol hugs

      • forkboy29

        Just because you’re ashamed of your country, is no reason to slag others.

        • Fun Please

          You are the one throwing slag, hypocrite –

    • Fun Please

      I like to say to people like you: Get it done yourself. But you can’t, so you complain. What a wimp

      • forkboy29

        Get what Done? What are you talking about? How about forming coherent sentences…????

        • Fun Please

          Get a publication. Do the research. Write the article to the audience you want.
          Stop being such a beach ffs

          • forkboy29

            Why don’t you write something twice verbatim, you mental midget.

          • Fun Please

            Given how slow* you are, it still isn’t enough –
            Go figure

        • Fun Please

          Get a publication. Do the research. Write the article to the audience you want.
          Stop complaining like a beach.
          It’s like you are seriously addled in the mind.

          • forkboy29

            When I write articles on the WORLD wide web, that isn’t directed at a specific geographic audience, I assume the readers might be from anywhere in the world. That concept seems to elude so many American fuck-tards, like yourself.

          • Walt Corcoran

            Cannabis is meant to bring us together NOT divide us or ridicule one for birth origin

  • androloma

    I can’t say for strains I haven’t tried, but the Island Sweet Skunk and Malawi Gold are strains I’ve personally grown, and didn’t think much of, sorry. Two very potent THC strains of the sweet herb are Rare Darkness and Head Wreck. So many trichomes that they appeared fuzzy. Taste great, too.

  • Big Dude

    I have tried cheese and I didn’t care for it at all.

    • Hive Mecha

      You must have had a shwag batch then because Cheese is a fantastic strain!

  • Hive Mecha

    A great article! However If I may nitpick, Big Buddha Cheese took home top honors in the INDICA category at the 2006 Cannabis Cup… not sativa.. just saying..

  • fakevintage

    I was hoping to find something from Uruguay, but nope… maybe next time…

  • Corey kishman

    Was hoping to see Mataro Blue on the list, got some from my local dispensary a month or so ago. Once I tried it I immediately found the breeder (in Mataro Spain) and ordered some seed. Got one in my Tent now, if you folks ever get the chance give it a try.

  • Amsterdam’s Barney’s Farm Laughing Buddha. Made me giggle like a little girl and is my favorite.