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6 Classic Strains That Influenced the Modern World of Cannabis

Cannabis is an extraordinarily diverse plant that is bred and propagated at an astounding rate throughout the world. Regardless of where you place your finger on cannabis’ evolutionary timeline, a few unforgettable classic strains loom somewhere in the background as deities carved into the “stoned” masonry of the living cannabis pantheon.

These strains are genetically and culturally significant touchstones because they give us a glimpse into the not-so-distant past, where strains were transplanted from their countries of origin to be cultivated and refined alongside the history of the counterculture.

Classic or “old school” strains were not initially bred for potency, but rather for the exotic flavors and effects enjoyed outside the borders of the Western world. As these strains traveled and proliferated, new genetic hybrids were created, intentionally or unintentionally.

The blending and crossing of transplanted landrace strains led to the explosion of genetic diversity we see today, but before there were even a thousand named strains, the classics gave way to a new generation of cannabis mainstays that fortified their own mythologies and lineages. The “new classics” described below are strains that have grown out from under the shadow of foundational genetics like Haze or Afghani to create robust and unique offspring that are almost as ubiquitous in smoking circles as a Bic lighter.

How Potent Are Old School Cannabis Genetics?

These classic strains tend to vary by only a percentage or two in terms of average THC levels, but as many of us already know, the terpene profile is where the nuance and uniqueness of a flower is truly expressed. As you’ll see below, these strains also exhibit some similarities in terpene profiles, but ultimately boast a unique composition that sets each one apart.

Click to enlarge. (Elysse Feigenblatt/Leafly)

Willy’s Wonder

Willy's wonder classic weed strain tile

Terpenes in Willy's Wonder marijuana strain

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Willy’s Wonder (or William’s Wonder) is an old Afghani cut that has seen more pipes than the Mario Bros. This old school beauty produces a sweet, tropical aroma thanks to notable quantities of myrcenelimonene, and linalool. These terpenes also contribute to Willy’s relaxing, yet happy physical buzz that gradually spreads over the consumer.


Cheese classic weed strain tile

Terpenes in Cheese marijuana strain


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Cheese is the inordinately pungent offspring of Skunk #1, another classic, foundational cannabis strain. Known for its sour and funky aroma, Cheese (also called UK Cheese and Exodus Cheese) made its mark on the palates of yesteryear. While its terpene plot looks somewhat similar to Willy’s Wonder, Cheese retains just enough sweet, floral funk to push the aroma from tropical to gnarly.

White Widow

White Widow classic weed strain tile


Terpenes in White Widow marijuana strain

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White Widow firmly stands among the icons of cannabis. This hybrid cross of a Brazilian sativa landrace and a South Indian indica embodies the look and smell of what many consumers recognize as “classic” cannabis. Its semi-sedative effects and pungent earthy aroma lingers in the collective unconscious of lucky ducks who snagged a bag of this fine flower during its pre-legalization heyday.

Sour Diesel

Sour Diesel classic weed strain tile

Terpenes in Sour Diesel marijuana strain

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We’ve all encountered that signature acrid fuel aroma native to many cannabis varieties. The Sour Diesel genetic line has imparted its pungent, gassy fragrance to many strains over the years, and has essentially defined one of the many archetypal attributes of dank, potent cannabis.


AK-47 classic weed strain tile

Terpenes in AK-47 marijuana strain


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AK-47 was created in the early 90s by blending a variety of landrace genetics together to create something outstanding. With a terpene profile rich in pinene and caryophyllene, AK-47 provides an alert mental state without uppity overstimulation.

Amnesia Haze

Amnesia Haze classic weed strain tile

Terpenes in Amnesia Haze marijuana strain


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Amnesia Haze bridged the gap between the old and new worlds of cannabis. Bred from South Asian and Jamaican landrace genetics, this strain required a degree of globalization to even come into existence. The happy, heady buzz and peppery, tropical aroma of Haze genetics continue to inspire new strains and genetics.

Explore More Classic Cannabis Strains

Still jonesing for some timeless cannabis cuts? Look for these old school beauties on your next dispensary visit.

Which other classic strains belong on this list? Tell us about them in the comments section!

Jeremiah Wilhelm's Bio Image
Jeremiah Wilhelm

Jeremiah Wilhelm is a former strain researcher at Leafly.

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