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Cannabis Basics: What is Sinsemilla Weed?

Modern marijuana consumers in North America are a fortunate breed. As long as you live in an area where weed is legal ( 10 American states plus D.C allow recreational weed along with the whole of Canada), you have easy access to top-shelf weed that eluded previous generations.

In the great “Is cannabis stronger today than before?” debate, we recently revealed that the answer is both ‘yes and no.’ Yes, there is now marijuana with a THC content of up to 30% that wasn’t available ‘back in the day.’ However, it was more a case of strong weed not being available, as much as it was a scenario where no such marijuana existed.

Various studies, including one by Cascini, Aiello, and Di Tanna, published in Current Drug Abuse Reviews in 2012, found that the THC content of cannabis has increased over time. Samples tested at the University of Mississippi found that older weed was at least 57% less potent than today’s marijuana.

One possible issue here is that the cannabis in question wasn’t properly stored. When we discuss ‘potency,’ we are of course looking at the level of psychoactive THC in the plant. When the herb is improperly stored, its THC degrades. Even with this in mind, it is a fact that the Mexican brick weed of lore, filled with seeds, has been replaced by high-quality marijuana we call ‘sinsemilla.’

What is Sinsemilla?

Surprisingly few people seem to know what sinsemilla actually is. One school of thought suggests it relates to high-quality seedless marijuana that is tended to with extreme levels of care. Other people believe sinsemillas are potent weed strains that come from the Southwest of the U.S., or Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

In reality, sinsemilla is not a specific strain of cannabis. The word comes from a combination of Spanish words: ‘Sin’ (without) and ‘Semilla’ (seed). In other words, sinsemilla means marijuana without seeds ; the same as the first description mentioned above but without the high levels of care requirement.

When Did We First Gain Access to Sinsemilla?

Although marijuana has been grown for at least 12,000 years and was legal for most of its history, it was unilaterally prohibited in the Western world by the middle of the 20 th century. As a result, very few people risked growing weed in North America and Europe until the 1960s. It was at that time that breeders walked the famous ‘hippy trail’ and began taking seeds back from Asia.

Most of the marijuana smuggled into Europe and North America came from India, Pakistan, Mexico, Thailand, Colombia, and Jamaica. The vast majority of this weed was full of seeds which made for a rough smoking experience, and relatively low THC.

It was only in the 1970s that seedless marijuana became better known. Breeders and users soon realized that this ‘sinsemilla’ weed was of significantly better quality than what they were previously receiving. It didn’t take long for people to understand that sinsemilla cannabis was the ‘gold standard.’

It was also at this time that ‘sinsemilla’ came to mean more than weed that was high in THC . In the 1970s, sinsemilla was described as a method of growing marijuana where the female plant’s flowers were not allowed to come into contact with pollen from a male plant. This technique prevented the development of seeds in the female plants.

The rationale behind the sinsemilla growing tactic is that female flowers which remain unfertilized are high in resin and develop larger branched flower clusters. This form of growing Mary Jane is believed to have begun in the West in the middle of the 1970s. Breeders were delighted to find that sinsemilla cannabis had at least twice the THC of fertilized weed, and the THC level was up to 10 times higher depending on the strain.

Some experts argue that sinsemilla shouldn’t even be considered ‘marijuana.’ Why? Because they say weed is the vegetation of the marijuana plant, whereas sinsemilla only relates to the flower. Hydroponically grown weed using the sinsemilla technique usually has a higher level of THC than cannabis grown in soil. Hardly anyone tries to grow sinsemilla weed outside due to the high risk of pollination by male plants.

Sinsemilla & the Modern Era

Today, marijuana users are spoiled by a combination of easy access and extremely high-quality bud. While past generations relied on low-grade schwag illegally smuggled into the country, today’s users can walk into a dispensary and buy the best weed they can afford.

The increase in the quality of weed is mainly down to legality and availability. Yes, we have also learned more effective and efficient techniques, but if we brought a 1970s grower to the modern day, he or she would be able to produce extremely good weed from a bag of smuggled Columbian seeds.

For example, popular strains such as Kush and Skunk have been around from the 1980s, while Neville’s Haze was around in the 1970s and is just a single step removed from a landrace . Most experts now agree that there was premium weed 40+ years ago, but hardly anyone was fortunate enough to use it.

It is now so easy to grow high-quality marijuana that users are becoming picky. High THC strains are common, so it is now a question of finding weed with the ‘right’ aroma and taste. It is marijuana’s aromatic terpene compounds that are mainly responsible for the flavors and scents of weed.

It is interesting to see how addicted we are to sugar and things that taste ‘sweet.’ It is a desire seen in popular marijuana strains such as Gelato , Cherry Limeade, and Girl Scout Cookies . A lot of people don’t seem to realize that terpenes don’t make sinsemilla taste sweet. What happens is that the aromatic compounds act as a trigger for association with sweet items we previously experienced.

One expert likened the process to the creation of ice cream. There are lots of flavors, but ultimately, ice cream is just sugar and frozen milk. Our association with sweet items guides the selection and breeding of modern-day growers.

Final Thoughts on Sinsemilla

How many marijuana users wake up and are thankful for the high-quality weed they have easy access to? The likely answer is ‘not many’, as modern-day consumers take it for granted. Those who lived through the dark days of the 1960s, when they were lucky to get their hands on low-grade Mexican brick weed, might understand their good fortune, but for everyone else, sinsemilla cannabis is the ‘norm.’

In simple terms, sinsemilla is marijuana without seeds. It is far more potent than cannabis with seeds and offers a far smoother smoking or vaping experience. When it was made available to Europe and North America in the 1970s, breeders soon realized that by keeping female plants away from the males, they could grow as much sinsemilla weed as they wished.

Fast forward to today, and practically every breeder creates sinsemilla cannabis if they are growing indoors . There hasn’t been an issue with ‘seed and stalk’ marijuana for most growers in about 25 years. Today’s growers not only grow sinsemilla indoors every single time, but advances in growing technology mean they can enjoy several harvests per annum; a pipe dream for most a generation ago.

Is sinsemilla different from regular marijuana? We take a look at just what this word means and how it affects the quality of your weed.

seedless marijuana

However, in the book Desperados: Latin Drug Lords, U.S. Lawmen, and the War America Can’t Win, author Elaine Shannon writes that other growers had come up with sinsemilla first. Still, she notes, Caro Quintero dramatically increased the drug’s production and reach.

FBI Rafael Caro-Quintero, known as Rafa
FBI Rafael Caro-Quintero, known as Rafa

As viewers of the Netflix series know, Don Neto was already a leader in a Sinaloan organization of drug traffickers before he helped Felix Gallardo unite various fractious groups into one unit known as the Guadalajara Cartel. According to the book, Mexico: Narco-Violence and a Failed State? By George W. Grayson, Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo (Don Neto) was called “The Godfather” and “pioneered large-scale poppy production and trade” in Sinaloa. He also mentored Rafael Caro Quintero, who is described in the book as a “shrewd and youthful entrepreneur who converted Mexican marijuana from second-rate weed to the choice of connoisseurs by perfecting a seedless variety of the plant (sinsemilla.)”
In the Netflix series Narcos: Mexico, one of the most flamboyant leaders in the Guadalajara Cartel – Rafael Caro-Quintero, known as “Rafa” – proves his worth to the drug trafficking organization by pioneering a new form of seedless marijuana. It’s called “sinsemilla.”
The plant has inspired musicians, as you can see above.
In 2018, The Huffington Post described Rafa’s life on the run: “Hunted by Mexican and American authorities, he never sleeps in the same spot twice, according to his guards. His bed is a sleeping bag, his roof the canvas of a tent. During the day, he haunts the mountains like a ghost, his head perpetually craned toward the sky, scanning for the drones that search the impassable mountains for signs of life.”
Rafa was in custody for 28 years after the cartel murdered U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent Kiki Camarena (learn more about the real Kiki Camarena here). Camarena also existed in real life, and his 1985 torture and death sparked a major crisis between the American and Mexican governments and led to what we know as the modern drug war (the busting up of the Guadalajara Cartel also created the vacuum that produced El Chapo, who has a bit role in Narcos: Mexico, which streamed on November 16, 2018.)

FBI Rafael Caro-Quintero, known as Rafa

Did Rafael Caro Quintero, known as Rafa, really grow sinsemilla, seedless marijuana, as Narcos Season 4, Narcos: Mexico, shows on Netflix?

Sensimillia, also used interchangeably with sinsemilla, is a concentrated form of cannabis. The term originates from the Spanish words’ ‘sin’ and ‘semilla’. Sin translates to ‘without’, while semilla means ‘seeds’. So, sinsemilla literally means without seeds.

In North America, mainly, it is now easier to get ahold of seedless marijuana buds. The legalization of weed for recreational purposes is perhaps the main reason behind the increased availability. Additionally, technology is helping – from controlled greenhouses, feminized seeds and clones, as well as hydroponic farming techniques.
Cannabis plants produce seeds to ensure survival after the plant dies. The plant has adopted a survival strategy where it produces as many seeds as possible so that some will survive before the following spring.

So, sinsemilla is not only potent but also convenient. You do not have to go through your buds to remove seeds carefully.
The potency of sinsemilla is in the growing. Breeders do not allow the female marijuana plant (whichever the strain) to come in contact with pollen from the male plant. This growing technique prevents the development of seeds.
Sinsemilla marijuana is grown in greenhouses to prevent fertilization. Additionally, most growers prefer the hydroponic farming technique as it produces more potent strains compared to growing in the soil.
The seeds account for about 50% of a fertilized, dried, seeded bud, which presents a significant hardship for consumers. Removing the seeds is a nuisance process due to their size. Yet, if you do not remove them, they result in an unpleasant flavor.
When the female flower remains unfertilized, the result is a high resin content and larger flowers (buds). The marijuana plant produces resin to trigger fertilization. The resin of a cannabis plant has high levels of THC. Compared to plants with seeds, seedless marijuana has THC levels twice as high.

Sinsemilla does not refer to a particular strain of weed. The term collectively refers to strains of marijuana that do not have seeds. However, some people use sinsemilla to refer to potent weed strains from Amsterdam and the southwestern regions of the US.

strains are pretty rare as they require a unique cultivation style. But thanks to the continued legalization of recreational marijuana, sensimillia is now more readily available.

However, in the book Desperados: Latin Drug Lords, U.S. Lawmen, and the War America Can’t Win, author Elaine Shannon writes that other growers had come up