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Strains & products

8 rare cannabis strains worth searching high (and low) for

September 17, 2018

In our modern digitally connected world, pretty much everything rare and prized is also paradoxically readily available—at least if you have the means.

Want to chow down on the world’s rarest caviar, then wash it down with a glass of the world’s rarest fine wine? Well, it’ll cost you a pretty penny (perhaps you can pay in 1944 Steel Wheat Pennies, worth over $110,000 a pop), but thanks to the internet, you’ll have no problem actually locating those items on the open market.

Here’s another paradox: Anyone seeking out obscure cannabis strains of the distant past—far flung exotic landraces that never made a commercial impact to begin with, or the hottest new hybrids that haven’t yet hit the commercial market—will like have better luck dusting off their old underground dealer rolodex and chasing after leads and clues like some kind of dank detective than they will driving over to their friendly local cannabis store.

Which raises two very significant questions worth addressing before you set off on your rare cannabis quest: Which hard to find strains are worth the effort? And how will you know it’s really the “real deal” once you find it?

What’s to stop someone from claiming to be in possession of a rare cutting of Pre-98 Bubba Kush when all they’ve really got is a run-of-the-mill OG? Nothing really, except honor, decency, and a desire not to be labeled a human paraquat and banished from the scene.


What’s in a Strain Name? A Lot, Actually—but Only If It’s Accurate

But anyway, putting all that unpleasantness aside, I recently indulged in a pleasant little thought experiment by asking some of the world’s leading cannabis connoisseurs two questions:

  1. What’s the rarest strain you’ve ever had the pleasure of smoking?
  2. What’s the one rare strain you’ve never tried but would really love to track down?

Culling through their responses—plus some “big data” supplied by Leafly’s in-house researchers—I put together this highly-subjective list of rare and highly sought after cannabis varietals. Consider this only the start, so please add your “holy grail” strains in the comments. And yeah, if you happen to know where to track down a nice nug or two of Kali Mist, I can be reached via Twitter: @pot_handbook

Chemdog 91

The history of the Chemdog line of cannabis strains is long, convoluted, and fascinating, with an origin story that dates back to bag seed salvaged from an ounce of primo bud sold on a Grateful Dead tour back in 1991. Perhaps most famous for its incredibly potent progeny—including Sour Diesel, OG Kush, and their many variants and offspring—the original Chemdog varietal (now known as Chemdog 91) remains among the most potent, flavorful, and sought after cannabis cuts of all time. Known for its earthy, skunky, diesel aroma and euphoric high, it’s often imitated, but rarely located these days.

Check to see if someone’s got Chemdog 91 near you.

Mendocino Purps

Direct from the Emerald Triangle—Northern California’s famed cannabis growing region—comes Mendo Purps, one of the classic purple strains with a flavor profile redolent of caramel coffee and woodsy pine. A harbinger of the “Purps” craze that drove the underground weed market in the mid-2000s, the purple pride of Mendocino County started life as a clone-only cutting and remains in sadly short supply.

These dispensaries say they got the Mendo Purps.

Bubba OG

As any cannabis enthusiast in California can attest, there’s no shortage of OG Kush crosses on the market, but one of the oldest and best has largely slipped off the radar. And that’s a shame, because Bubba OG—a hybrid of Pre-98 Bubba Kush and Ghost OG from Canadian breeders Dr. Greenthumb Seeds—delivers the former’s flavor and the latter’s potency, a truly winning combo. BOG (as it’s known to those who remember) can work wonders for chronic pain, muscle spasms, nausea, and insomnia.

We heard you can find Bubba OG at these shops.

Four Way

Named for its four parents—three distinct landrace strains hailing from Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan, plus the legendary Skunk #1Four Way is one of the most pungent strains of all time, while also delivering a potent cannabinoid profile with up to 20% THC and 2% CBD. Predominantly indica with creeping sedative effects, this beloved but elusive strain retains the spicy, hashy taste and aroma of its exotic parentage, plus notes of pure stinky skunk.

These shops allegedly carry Four Way.

Sweet Tooth

This classic indica-dominant hybrid was on top of the world after bringing home 1st place at the 2001 High Times Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam, but nowadays satisfying your Sweet Tooth will take some serious searching around. A remarkable blend of landrace strains from from Afghanistan, Hawaii, and Nepal, the buds come coated not in sugar, but in resin, and deliver a truly sweet smell of flowers and berries.

We’ve heard tales of Sweet Tooth’s availability at these shops.

NYC Diesel

Winner of five Cannabis Cup trophies back in the early 2000s, NYC Diesel was bred by Soma Sacred Seeds and is a slightly sativa-dominant cross of Mexican and Afghani landraces that retains highly cerebral effects and deep body sedation. Distinguished by its powerful lime and grapefruit aroma, it’s an uplifting, creative, buzzy varietal that doesn’t spark anxiety, making it ideal for social situations.

Find out if NYC Diesel made its way to a dispensary nearby.

Amnesia Haze

Winner of two Cannabis Cups for top sativa (more than a decade apart), Amnesia Haze has ironically been all but forgotten today. Still, it retains a place of high honor in the memory of anyone lucky enough to have sampled the strain’s citrus flavor and experience its uplifting, energizing, buzzy effects. A hybrid of South Asian and Jamaican landrace strains, it became a sensation in Amsterdam more than a decade ago as the featured menu item at a coffeeshop named after the strain.

Or was was the strain named after the coffeeshop?

I forget.

Explore dispensaries stocked with this coffeeshop classic.

Hawaiian Snow

The Original Haze strain dates all the way back to the earliest cannabis breeding efforts of the late 1960s, and remains the standard bearer for all sativa strains to this day. Hawaiian Snow combines the genetics of three of the best Hazes of all time—Neville’s Haze, Pure Haze, and Hawaiian Haze—into one incredible varietal with the smell of spicy-incense accented by hints of citrus and eucalyptus. It also delivers a soaring cerebral high with THC levels that can reach 23% when properly cultivated and harvested a peak potency.

See if Hawaiian Snow has fallen at a dispensary nearby.

Header image by Yarygin/iStock

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

  • farmerlion

    I guess opinions of rare vary? Highland Nepalese, Oaxacan, red hair Angola and Mazar I Sharif before it was crossed with Skunk 1 are rarities. I wouldn’t even consider trading one of these from my library, for anything mentioned in article.
    I did ommit my Purple Haze and Lebanese genetics. May you all find your version of utopia. Peace MedDakotabis

  • Fun Please

    Amnesia haze fantastic weed

    • Anton_Zilwicki

      You’re probably right. I just don’t remember……….

  • Dillon Hale

    High Country Healing, a great artisanal dispensary with locations in Colorado, has the Mendocino Purps as one of their regulars. They do it proper, one of the most flavorful strains ever.

    • Law

      I simply HAVE to get back to Colorado. You can get good smoke here in flyover country with characteristics of any of the above strains, but you can never be sure that what info you have on your strain is accurate.

  • Mollywog

    The only one on the list I’ve had is Mendocino Purps. Loved it! Now I know several different growers are producing Alaskan Thunder Fuck and I’ve got to admit that I love me some ATF. BUT! Back in the day I knew someone that lived in Alaska and would come down to Seattle once in a while, this would’ve been the early to mid 70s era. When it was available, she’d bring down some Matanuska Thunder Fuck, grown up there and oh man… that weed was the best fun! I have tried some Matanuska Thunder Fuck that was grown down in Oregon not too long ago, but it didn’t even compare with the stuff we got way back when.

    • Evan Paul Rhodes

      MTF is by far my favorite Sativa. I normally use it in distillate form.

    • les

      ATF is totally bogus. I’ve talked with people who knew the breeder of ATF. He NEVER shared seeds with anyone, he wouldn’t even give away buds. he’d smoke it with friends but never shared it. Alaska Thunderfuck is a dead and gone and all strains being sold are frauds playing up on a cool name.

      • viper643

        Last April I purchased a 300mg disposable vape pen in Laugh,NV. It was very impressive. The recent return trip; the dispensary was sold out. The budtender said a good substitute was Fruit Salad.

    • Fun Please

      ATF from WA Growers in Washington State is fantastic

  • Euegene!

    You can find everyone of these stains, regularly in Portland Oregon.

  • HumboldtBiologist

    I know you guys don’t like to give credit to one of the best breeders around, CSI_Humboldt, but he has preservation lines of Chemdawg 91 S1 and Mendocino Purple S1 available. So if I can find these seeds for sale online within 30 seconds can you really call them rare?

  • I grow NYCD since a couple of year, I got a beautiful mother that gives me perfect clones, this is by far, one of the tastiest weed ever made.

  • HipJipC

    Amnesia Haze, oh yes, that’s in my “Strain” diary and it’s top dog. I am still seeing it here in Massachusetts. Central Ave. Compassionate Care has it now, just checked their menu. Great dispensary now since I’ve noticed changes in administrative employees. I suppose, starting up, tweaks have to be made in all new businesses to be successful. Getting the discounts to those who really need it most was something most of the dispensaries in Mass. faulted with in their business infancy, especially claiming “Non-Profit” status but relaying to customers, whether intentional or not, profit, not compassion, seemed to be their main focus. Some have changed their status since being called out. Transparency is key if one truly wishes to have a business of honest integrity and not just merely playing lip-service to it in advertisements. They did a write-up in the Boston Globe on it. Anyhow, seems Compassionate Care came through.

    • les

      Yes and AH is most certainly not rare. Every seedbank in the world sells several breeders AH. maybe not as popular here, but its still one of the top ten in Europe. And I’m willing to bet without even looking that the original strain is still available. Don’t you just love it when some young punk runs his mouth about how much he knows about Cannabis????…………………….

      • Michael

        You are absolutely right, the good seed banks have more then half of those supposedly rare strains. Leafly needs to hire knowledgeable writers.

      • Traman7414

        Yeah because YOU know EVERYTHING there is to know about cannabis RIGHT? Jackbutt. I can tell you’re the type of smoker nobody wants to be around, because you THINK you know more than everyone else and you’re always right. Get REAL man.

    • Michael

      I don’t know about the Compassionate Care in Ma. But the Ct. sucks as far as making a purchase, you can’t use the correct name of the strain, you can’t see or smell the product before you buy. Hopefully ct. Will follow ma. And make recreational weed legal. I’m happy for you ma. I just may take a ride up 91 to ma. soon.

  • Bob Smoker Sacheli

    I have the most Rare strain in the world in this vial.
    Its the only one seed of this strain in the world.
    I crossed Tangerine Kush with Fruity Pebbles male and got 1 seed.
    How can anything be more Rare?

    • A Frank Neri

      DUCKFOOT original cut the one used in many legendary strains. That’s how it gets more rare.

  • The Resistance

    I can vouch for NYC Diesel. Great strain. I’ll also add Alpha Blue which combines NYC Diesel and Blue Dream. And it was the first legal bud I purchased shortly after legalization!

  • Aaron Sorensen

    God’s Gift. Specifically, this batch I had 2 years ago in Arizona. It was AMAAAZING! It made the rounds and soon enough eveyone I knew was looking for it. Sadly, the supply was short lived and I haven’t had as good of a God’s Gift since then.

    • Michael

      Just buy the seeds and you’ll have all you want. Flip the front cover of any High Times mag. you’ll see the seeds for sale.

  • Andrew GMan

    Rare strains? Kali Mist? One Word: EASY! You can get Kali Mist at the Seattle Tonics, but onto the discussion What are REAL RARE buds ACTUALLY ABOUT? The following are ACTUAL RARE TYPES OF BUDS: God, Goddess, Buddha, Jesus, and Magic Type Buds, so if ANY of those names are listed (Purps X Blue Buddha makes Purps THEN GO AHEAD AND TRY PURPS THEN AS PURPLE BUDDHA THEN TELL ME ABOUT HOW YOU HAD A RARE STRAIN!!! Besides the 1 ANY dispensary has is: Blue Dream: PEOPLE ARE SICK OF EVERY DISPENSARY HAVING JUST BLUE DREAM AND NEVER KEEPING ANY KIND OF GOD BUD!!!! The RT Truth: The Next Level High World’s Greatest Strain HARDER THAN PCP, COKE, ACID, AND ANY ILLEGAL DRUG BEAT OUT BY: The New Creation Next Level High Pink Buddha (Laughing Buddha X Fighting Buddha) ENERGY BETTER THAN THE ONLY CANNABIS HERB TO ENERGIZE DURBAN!!! Than Be Kind Buds made a Night-time version and found out about Argo Couture Pink Buddha. The parents of the Night-time Pink Buddha are: Bonsai Buddha X Pink Kush! If you have either the night or day time version of the God of Wisdom in FULL GOD MODE as Pink is the color of finality in Buddhism, therefore, A Smoke that is Truly Beyond Belief!!!

    • les

      That’s what you get for depending on dispensaries for your weed………. you get whatever crap they feel like selling. Hell, half the people buying from a dispensary can’t tell one strain from another. Now they may sell some good stuff, but samples of “top shelf” I’ve been given aren’t any better than what I grow myself. At least I know where my genetics come from.

  • Zachariah Jones

    The rarest strain I ran across was a strain called Heartbreaker which I think is (Blueberry Kush x Medijuana) x Floji. I got it medically on the front range in Colorado, the grower is no longer with us sadly and I have no idea where and when I may ever see it again but it broke your heart when it was gone for sure. The rare strain I would like to try but haven’t is “The Chronic” which I am led t believe is a cross of Skunk #1, AK-47, and Northern Lights.

  • Zachariah Jones

    The Rarest strain I have ever heard of though is the Paonia Purple or “P-bud” from Paonia in Colorado (former home of Terence McKenna). I have never had it myself but heard of it’s legend and that it was actually wiped out in the 90’s.

  • Sy Katus

    Rare (no sign of) where I live now are classic weeds including Black Ganga, Acapulco gold, Panama Red, Hawaiian Sense, Panama Red, Lebanese Hash, Afghani Hash, Turkish Hashish , Pakistani Hashish etc, (Talk about rare) Greek white hashish. Other classics include Jamaican and other so called Land-race weeds.
    All the weeds you mention and most if not all discussed in articles here I have never even heard of before they were mention here or on other legal weed pages. I grew up in NY city. I sold weed and hash there in the late 60’s. Pounds I sold of Mexican weed for $150 I paid $100. Pounds of Pollen Hashish the ones mentioned above I sold for $800 while I paid $700. Smaller quantities were more expensive per ounce such as 4 ounces of pollen hash I sold for $300.

  • les

    There is nothing rare about any modern hybrid that uses availablr genetics. Maybe someone’s Chemdawg is the original, but who says thats the best? You see this all the time, ohh nothing is as good as the original. BS!

    What is truly rare are landrace genetics that are getting harder to find all the time. the BEST weed I ever smoked came from Vietnam. It was smokable LSD! Crazy stuff! Now you can’t even find Vietnam Black, once somewhat popular. No one wants to grow difficult landraces strains, they’d rather accept some ho hum hybrid rather than actually have to work for the pleasure of smoking a true connoisseur weed.

    I’ve been searching for the true roots of the strain Ducksfoot. Not that Wally Duck crap, but the Ducksfoot he bred from. I don’t for a minute believe duck is a Mutant or a hybrid. It breeds true, eliminating the whole mutant theory. I believe it may be a landrace. But from where? OIf you where to grow and study the plant, you’s see and find many odd characteristics not found in other cannabis. I suspect, but can’t prove, that its an Australian native landrace. Maybe someday I’ll be able to prove that, but it makes a lot more sense than it being a mutant strain.

    And I’ve got Duck that predate’s Wally Duck’s variant of Ducksfoot….. figure that one!

  • I’d say the rarest strain I have smoked is grown by one of my best friends who has grown since the late 80s on a Caribbean island I grew up on. He calls it Berry Best:

  • Seeds Bank

    I would differently look for this 8 rare cannabis strains. There names are so interesting. Thank you for sharing this .

  • Klandestien010

    lost strain panama red i hear of it that strain was really potent only thing is have not hear about it very long time and no where to get those seeds

    • Michael

      Surprise, surprise, check out Dr. Green thumb seeds. They have actual Panama Red seeds.

  • Concerned Pharmacist

    I’m still looking for the Northern lights #5 X Haze originally from The Seed Bank about 1989. Strongest strain I ever had of flower.
    I also had a black hash from Morocco in 1977 called Sputnik that had you sooo high before you finished your first hit. Those were the days!

  • Tom Morrow

    It was the late 1970’s when I took my first toke. Where we lived, the standard bunk weed was Mexican, but we called it “Commercial”. It was $20 for an ounce of green powder and 500 seeds.

    It was all we could afford as teenagers in an age when “The Narcs” would actively hunt for juvenile delinquents. Occasionally we would score what we called Colombian Gold. $20 for a 1/4 o-zee. I recall it being decent, and would have been a Sativa strain…

    Even rarer was Cambodian. Dense buds with an exotic taste and a pale green colour is what my memory tells me. Probably considered top shelf shit back then.

    And only once do I remember scoring a bag of (what I believed to be) Acapulco Gold. The smell chopping it up, tasting it before ignition and then while smoking is forever etched in my mind: cat pissy. But in a good way. Weird eh?

    The other occasional treat we could score was Thai Sticks. Ten bucks per. More stick than thai, no doubt.

    The next phase was all about what was locally called “Skunk Weed”. And it did reek! Airtight storage was a must. I don’t know if this generic term was an actual strain – somehow I doubt it. It was funky as hell and a big powerful buzz. Around that era, I scored a one-off bag of some buds that were the most vivid shades of bluey green. And brittle. And sticky. And killer bud. Never knew the name of it and it haunts me to this day…

    These are the cannabis memories of my misspent youth!

    • William Jones

      Good history. I came in somewhere around the skunk era. Tales of “Acapulco Gold” and “Colombian Gold” seemed like fairy tales. (Still do!)

  • gary west

    There not that rare we have a lot of them here in Michigan you want rare how about some red bud, aucapoco gold, Hawaiian, and there’s plenty of great old strains you no longer see bummer

  • Alan Weber

    Dutchberry is by far the tastiest weed ever grown…

  • MsNooneinparticular

    Kauai Electric is pretty rare. Would like to try that one. And Santa Marta Gold.

  • tb

    Was lucky enough to get to try Amnesia Haze in Amsterdam in 2004 on my 30th birthday trip, at Amnesia. They had happy hours where volcano bags were only a euro or two. One of the strains that made me fall in love for good.

  • Justin Michael

    I got sweet tooth as a freebie from gorilla seeds

  • A Frank Neri

    Honestly not looking for any of them personal opinion every one of them are garbage

  • Chris L

    I picked up NYC Diesel and Hawaiian Snow both at Stone Age Farmacy in Long Beach the other day.

  • William Jones

    Mine was Lamb’s Breath, followed by Blue Dream.