Strains & products

9 best marijuana strains of the 2020 harvest

Published on October 14, 2020 · Last updated November 19, 2020
In for 2020: Zkittlez crosses like this Z-Money from Talking Trees Farms in California. (Courtesy Talking Trees)
(Courtesy Talking Trees)

This year may be a dumpster fire inside a trainwreck, but at least there’s more fresh, legal, tested fuego for your bubbler than ever before.

Amid a global pandemic and historic political division, legal cannabis has become a silver lining deemed essential by authorities. Weed continues to get stronger, more flavorful, more tested, and more legal in 2020 than before.

And the pace of cannabis development is accelerating in 2020, said Kevin Jodrey, cultivation director and owner of Wonderland Nursery in the Humboldt County town of Redway, CA—the epicenter of global ganja innovation.

“It’s reaching a critical mass,” he said. “Growers have to be able to constantly innovate, constantly create, and you’re beginning to see people putting out a lot of interesting work.”

US farmers grow 29.9 million pounds of pot per year, … with leader California growing 13.5 million pounds… 60% of it outdoors

This October, tens of millions of outdoor-grown pounds are coming down from the hilly fields of the Emerald Triangle, Santa Barbara, and Oregon and Washington.

US farmers grow 29.9 million pounds of pot per year, New Frontier Data estimates, with leader California growing 13.5 million pounds, agriculture officials estimate. Sixty percent of the crop is grown outdoors, sewn annually in the spring and harvested through October.

Each year, Leafly talks to farmers about what’s ripening in the estimated $52 billion total US market, and where flavor trends are going, so you can shop the outdoor harvest like a pro.

Our picks stay 100% independent, and close to the plant: We grow it, smoke it, study Leafly search traffic, and interview commercial breeders and growers. Get your grinders ready!

Hot Gelato crosses

Vanilla Frosting

A field of Vanilla Frosting trees finish in Southern Humboldt. (Courtesy Humboldt Seed Company)

Stress eaters: Put down the cupcake and pick up the Vanilla Frosting for gobs of dessert flavor and relaxation with zero calories; that is, until the munchies hit.

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This year, California’s leading seed-seller Humboldt Seed Company sold a blistering, record 110,000 seeds and clones of this Gelato cross developed by Happy Dreams Farm.

Vigorous and pretty, Vanilla Frosting blew the roof off of a 20-foot-tall greenhouse in Humboldt, said Humboldt Seed Company CEO Nathaniel Pennington. The farmer had to remove the ceiling to let the plants finish.

“The grower was just so happy, he was giddy,” said Pennington.

Vanilla Frosting (Courtesy Dark Heart Nursery)
Vanilla Frosting (Courtesy Dark Heart Nursery)

Leafly recommended Vanilla Frosting in our 2019 seed guide, and spotted early light dep flowers in the September Leafly Buzz.

Now, a delivery fleet of Frosting flows down the hills to coat chronnoisseurs in velvety sweet vanilla and creamy fuel. The initial aroma attracts novices, while the high THC percentages satisfy tokers.

THC is the engine of all cannabis, said Pennington. But the aroma molecules—the terpenes—are the steering wheel.

“I tend to care more about where I go than how quick the trip is,” he said.

See also:

  • Rainbow Chip (grown by SPARC)
  • Talking Trees Sunset Mints (Sunset Sherbet x Kush Mints #11) from Seed Junky Genetics
  • Sherbinski’s Gello (Bacio Gelato x Mochi)

Zkittlez crosses

White Runtz

White Runtz (Courtesy Cookies)
White Runtz (Courtesy Cookies)

Trick or treat yo’ self to a bag of White Runtz this fall for a trendy melange of Zkittlez’s fruit syrup crossed to Gelato’s creamy berry-grape gas.

“It’s hard to argue Runtz isn’t the strain of 2020,” said Santa Barbara grower Graham Farrar, president of Glass House Group.

If Cookies-based Gelato is the older, more established strain, then Zkittlez is the newer kid on the block—the Kendrick Lamar to a Dr. Dre, if you will. Naturally, you pair old and new, and remix, first into Runtz and now into the Runtz crosses, among them, White Runtz.

A lot of Runtz is coming down,” said Jodrey.

Runtz quality will vary widely this year, because pounds of A-grade White Runtz fetch $5,500 on the East Coast street, Jodrey said. That attracts con artists.

Look closely for these small, white, dense, purplish Runtz nugs—and don’t pay top dollar for anything weathered, brown or green.

Growing Runtz outdoors is tricky to master—it’s better small and compact indoors than as a field of trees. Masters coax out notes of candied fruit and creamy berry-grape gas.

Runtz’s potency will knock most veteran smokers back on their couch.

“This is classic stoner weed,” said Daniel Hendricks, CEO at Humboldt County nursery HENDRX Farms.

See also:

  • Talking Trees Z-Money (Zkittlez x The Money) from Dying Breed Seeds

OG favorites


Don’t bring your baby lungs. Fatso is for gas lovers, OG lovers, and GMO Cookies lovers.

Colorado breeder Cannarado crossed GMO Cookies and Legend OG to make Fatso, and it’s been gaining ground thanks to the two great tastes it brings together.

On its own, GMO Cookies dominated in 2020. It’s a savory counterpoint to all the dessert strains. Ultra-high in THC, GMO dumps resin for hashmakers.

Leafly Buzz—New strains, best-sellers, pro picks

“I think GMO will be underproduced for the demand that plant has,” said nursery operator Hendricks. “I’m excited to see Fatso in play.”

Underneath the hood, GMO is stacked with power from parents Animal Mints and Triangle Kush, said Jodrey.

“It’s a great chassis to add things on,” he said.

Crossing GMO to Legend OG reinvigorates the OG line and makes it beefier. Give the thicc strain some love next time you see it.

See also:

  • Talking Trees Layer Cake #6 (GMO/Triangle Kush/Skunk x Wedding Cake)
  • HENDRX Farms’ Mother’s Milk #31 bred by Bodhi Seeds (Napali OG x Appalachia)
  • All of Sherbinki’s originals—Sherbert, Gello, Acai Berry, Bacio, and Mochi—crossed to Mandelbrot OG
  • Ethos’ Crescendo (Chem D and i95 X Mandarin Cookies #17)

A super Glue

Forbidden Lemon Glue

Forbidden Lemon Glue (Full Circle Pharm)
Forbidden Lemon Glue (Full Circle Pharm)

Engage in some aromatherapy with this super tart, citrus, and fuel child of Original Glue—formerly known as Gorilla Glue, GG#4.

A tsunami of outdoor Original Glue satisfies smokers yet again this fall. But in terms of unique crosses for 2020, Equilibrium Genetics’ Forbidden Lemon Glue dumps gobs of thick grapefruit and lemon stank atop glue’s fuel base. It also looks like genetically engineered roses from an alien exoplanet.

Unpacking the name, Forbidden Lemon Glue combines Forbidden Fruit (Cherry Pie x Tangie) and Lemon Glue (Lemon Tree x Glue 75%). That’s four equally intriguing genetic lines outside of a Cookie or an OG.

“An absolute delight to both grow and smoke,” said Michelle McIntyre, owner/operator of Full Circle Pharm in Mendocino County. “I love doing chores, housework, market shopping, and creative art projects while imbibing!”

Next year, shop Equilibrium Genetics seeds at licensed dispensaries and glue your own garden.

A great bake-off

Lemon Lava

Lemon Lava (David Downs /Leafly)
Lemon Lava via The Green Cross SF (David Downs /Leafly)

Volcanoes are steaming with Lemon Lava this fall. The rich, lemony, fuelly cake cross is great for chilling without knocking you out.

PHinest cannabis and Cannarado crossed Lemon Heads to Lava Cake to make Lemon Lava—a winning recipe in the ongoing cake wars. High-end indoor growers LitHouse really popularized it.

Fields and fields of cakes get the chop this October—mostly Wedding Cake and Ice Cream Cake. So icy, so sweet, and so powerful, Wedding Cake kicked off a cake breeding frenzy that yielded the richer, gassier Lava Cake. Now, Lemon Lava adds a citrusy finish.

“You’re getting enough lemon to keep the lemon heads happy and you’re getting those cake heads happy.”

Kevin Jodrey, Wonderland Nursery

Lemon Lava caters to the “maybe buyers,” akin to the mythic swing voter who decides elections—or in cannabis’ case, drives sales.

“You’re getting enough lemon to keep the lemon heads happy and you’re getting those cake heads happy. You can sell it to both clusters,” said Jodrey. “Now you start having real velocity in a product.”

California indoor growers Lithouse took the 2019 Emerald Cup for Lemon Lava. 2020’s Lemon Lava light deps and outdoors are ready for your own ring of fire.

See also:

  • Medellin (Wedding Cake x Serious Chem D)

Cheetah Piss

Cheetah Piss (Courtesy Cookies)
Outdoor Cheetah Piss in 2020. (Courtesy Cookies)

Track down Cookies brand’s exotic outdoor Cheetah Piss in stores this fall for a ferocious encounter with lemon, creamy berry, cake, and maximum THC. Rawwr!

Cookies planted a pride of these coveted Cheetah exotics outdoors this year. That means you’ll be able to spot a great deal on an ounce.

Don’t get your hopes up for a modern version of Catpiss, though. That legendary, biting strain is thought to be lost to time. This is Cookies’ cross of Lemonnade, Gelato #42, and London Pound Cake #97—a menagerie of on-trend terps.

Cheetah Piss (David Downs:Leafly) web
Cookies’ Cheetah Piss (David Downs / Leafly)

“It’s so fun to smoke stuff that’s so bright, and light, and flavorful with such a nice mouth and nose,” said Jodrey, who ran Cookies genetics this summer.

You got the syrupy lemon, berry cream, and sugar butter all prancing around your olfactory bulbs. Fancy cannabis for lazy, self-care Sundays and gaming—pounce on it if you see it.

See also:

Something sativa

Magic Melon

Magic Melon — Courtesy of Humboldt Seed Co web
Magic Melon — Courtesy of Humboldt Seed Co web

Love the balance of Blue Dream and a mild, approachable aroma? Pick mild sativa Magic Melon for a similar experience this season.

Magic Melon took the number one spot at Humboldt Seed Company in 2020, selling 124,000 seeds and clones because it grows well outdoors and yields pounds of evanescent, melony smells, plus moderate to high levels of THC.

Selected by Briceland Forest Farm, Magic Melon has just enough sativa energy to stay engaged, without so much that you take a personal inventory of your life’s failings.

“Deep down, people don’t want that much mental awareness,” said Jodrey. “[Traditional sativas] make them so aware of their precarious position in life, they almost wet their pants.”

Magic Melon (David Downs/Leafly) web
Magic Melon (David Downs/Leafly) web

The biggest threat from the mild sativa melon? It’s easy to lose the ripe tropical notes to over-drying or poor storage.

“Growers can screw it up,” Jodrey said. “If you take away the nuance it’s just like bland fruit.”

Ask your budtender for the freshest stuff.

See also:

  • Squirt (Blueberry Muffin x Tangie) from Humboldt Seed Company

Fruit salad

Papaya Punch

Papaya Punch (David Downs / Leafly) web
Papaya Punch (David Downs / Leafly)

Fill your online shopping baskets with cannabis’ stone fruit and tropical trends this year, including Papaya Punch.

“The papaya is smoking hot,” said Jodrey, “Both the original papaya and the punch crosses are scorching hot in the illicit clone scene.”

Oni Seeds took the flavor of 2018, Purple Punch, and mixed in the mysterious Papaya. Lots of big growers ran the cultivar this year, including Honeydew Farms, Nickel & Dime, Dimebag, and Cream of the Crop.

Light, soft tropical papaya notes take the lead. Behind it in the grinder is Purple Punch’s thick, sharp citrus terps. Fruity terps reign in its high-THC hybrid effects making it versatile day through night.

Grind Magic Melon and Papaya Punch up together for an electric daytime fruit salad.

See also:

  • Apple Gelato (Gelato X Sour Apple)
  • Berry Pie (Cookies X Blueberry)

Old school throwback

Island Sweet Skunk

For the old school throwback fans, Skunk 1 has delivered high-THC, high-terpene, mind-warping effects since London in the late ‘80s. But skunk also seems to self-limit its population. The racey, edgy 80% sativa is stinky as all get-out—enough to get you popped in prohibition states.

While authentic Skunk is due for a comeback, the closest most get are sweet skunk crosses like Island Sweet Skunk, an old-school Canadian cut that pops up in Select oil cartridges or in European seed banks. (Jack Herer and Green Crack are two skunk offspring.)

But the one true Skunk—acrid, eye-watering, almost vomit-smelling—is as mythic as Sasquatch. “That one is almost impossible to find,” Jodrey said.

So tell Leafly if you spot it. This harvest season, there’s more strains to explore than a lifetime allows.

“It’s the best it’s ever been, and it’s still getting better,” said Glass House’s Farrar.

Forbidden Lemon Glue (Courtesy Full Circle Pharm)
Forbidden Lemon Glue (Full Circle Pharm)
California produces an estimated 13.5 million pounds of cannabis per year. (Courtesy Humboldt Seed Co)
California produces an estimated 13.5 million pounds of cannabis per year. (Courtesy Humboldt Seed Co)

What did you harvest in 2020? Let the Leafly community know in the comments below!

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David Downs
David Downs
Leafly Senior Editor David Downs is the former Cannabis Editor of the San Francisco Chronicle. He's appeared on The Today Show, and written for Scientific American, The New York Times, WIRED, Rolling Stone, The Onion A/V Club, High Times, and many more outlets. He is a 2023 judge for The Emerald Cup, and has covered weed since 2009.
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