How Sour D came to be
Once upon a time in the mid-90s, in a land called New York City, there was a farmer known as AJ. He was an underground farmer because during this time, the ruler of the land—Mayor Rudy Guliani—deemed the product AJ grew unlawful. The ruler ordered the apprehension of anyone found growing or using this plant in any way through a policy called “broken windows,” which supports the idea that if the drug epidemic is neglected or overlooked, then it will get worse.
One evening at a nightclub called Wetlands, a mysterious man introduced AJ to a product called Chemdawg 91. When AJ consumed Chemdawg, it just felt right, and weirdly familiar. He said to the little plant, “We’re gonna be friends. We’re gonna be together for a long time.”
AJ learned how to grow Chemdawg on his own, and as a result, their relationship grew as well—then something abnormal happened. There was a mishap in his crop, and Chemdawg made love to another product. Some say the mystery lover was called Super Skunk, a strain that AJ obtained on a trip to Amsterdam, Some say it was a product called Northern Lights, and others are content with not identifying the name of this mysterious delicacy. What people can agree on is that the result was something magical. AJ decided to call the accidental creation “Diesel” for its gasoline-like aroma, and began to grow this offspring of Chemdawg.
Soon, the news of Diesel and its dreamy, hazy, cerebral effects spread around the city’s boroughs and requests for the product came in like wildfire. Diesel was considered so top-notch that people in NYC used “diesel” as code for good weed—people begged AJ for Diesel. The demand was so high that AJ had to pick and choose who he bestowed his creation upon. Legend has it that as more and more people fell in love with Diesel, they grew more sour because they couldn’t get enough. The strain soured relationships, and that is when AJ solidified the name of his product as “Sour Diesel.”
Today, Guliani no longer rules NYC, and the product AJ grew—cannabis—has become more socially accepted. Cannabis is decriminalized in the state of New York and Governor Andrew Cuomo has set a goal to legalize cannabis statewide in 2020. Eleven states and Washington, DC have been ahead of the game and have already legalized cannabis use. Either way, people all over the country and all over the world enjoy the East Coast delicacy of Sour Diesel. According to Leafly, the largest cannabis information site in the world, Sour Diesel serves the medical needs of people who suffer from anxiety, stress, depression, PTSD and mood disorders.
“I have been studying cultivation since 2001,” said Kymberly Byrnes, co-founder and managing partner of Tribe Tokes and Tribe Beauty, CBD and Cannabis lifestyle brands. “I have always been super interested in cannabis and the different strains, and Sour Diesel was such a phenomenon. The reason why it is prescribed for medical reasons is because it was helping people with depression because it is such an exciting and energetic type of terpene that really has a lot of energy and a lot of happiness, so I think that seeing Sour Diesel become a medicine really just makes me fall in love with the strain even more.”
People also enjoy Sour Diesel as a way to brighten their mood and increase their creative energy. Rapper Redman, also known as Reggie Noble, said in an interview with The High Times that Sour Diesel is one of his favorite strains to help him focus while he is in the studio. Before going to the gym, Byrnes used to have a ritual that she considers to be the original pre-workout method.
“I loved to go ahead and take a massive bong rip of Sour Diesel and then get on the cardio equipment,” Byrnes said.
AJ doesn’t like to say he created Sour Diesel, but that he is its “servant and keeper.” We don’t know too much about AJ. He has made small appearances in interviews with Merry Jane and on the Adam Dunn Show to spew wisdom about Sour D. We don’t know for sure the true story of Sour Diesel, and AJ doesn’t know for sure how the strand was created, and what strain was crossed with Chemdawg. Different people say different things and speak of its origin story as folklore, even down to the name. Byrnes received what she believes to be true from Ed Rosenthal, a leading cannabis horticulture authority. They believe that Sour Diesel got its name from its pungent, citrusy scent. Another theory is that Sour Diesel is actually not crossed with anything, it is just the Chemdawg that AJ grew himself.
“Sour Diesel doesn’t have a birth certificate, so it’s all based on legend,” Byrnes said.
Some of the greatest phenomena are the most widely twisted, and the Sour D strain has taken the cannabis industry by storm. It is known as one of the most popular strains. Diem Cannabis Dispensary described Sour Diesel on their website as the “Coca-Cola Classic” of Sativa strains. Sour Diesel’s popularity has caused growers everywhere to try and obtain a cut of the strain. While manufacturers attempt to recreate Sour Diesel, it is not that easy.
“Cannabis is a little territorial-like just how fruits and vegetables can be,” said Red Rodriguez, the Original Cannabis Cafe Director of Vendor Relations. “But everyone gets a cut or a clone of the mother plant that can be distributed to other growers. But everyone has a different process of growing it. I think it comes out a little different, it’s not necessarily the same all the time.”
Sometimes people will try to grow Sour Diesel themselves by buying the seeds from a grower, and other times growers or business people grow their original strain but sell it as Sour Diesel.
“I’ve been smoking it since the ‘90s,” Byrnes said. “It was really expensive and I think that sometimes people were selling it and it wasn’t even Sour Diesel,” Byrnes said. “But the goal in life in the late ‘90s and first decade of the 2000s was to get Sour Diesel.”
Sour Diesel is from the lineage of the renowned Chemdawg strain, and Sour Diesel has now produced its own lineage as well, which includes Sour DO*G, Sour Kush and Super Sour Diesel. People reach out to old friends who have maintained the same cultivars to find the originals to reestablish even more new lines, but the original is still out there.
A common misconception is that a weed’s potency has something to do with the actual name of the strain. There are over 80 strains of weed called “sour” that are all very different in terms of potency and cannabinoid-type. Names are just used to commercialize the strain and are chosen by the grower. Combining Sour Diesel with another strain to make a new one adds a level of popularity to that strain, but the new strain can produce different effects from those of its parents.
“It is also important to note that some strains are bred for specific effects or selectively bred to possess more of one genetic trait than another or the provided effects of the strain itself manifested as more Sativa-like than Indica-like,” Marisa Fowler, a Customer Support Specialist for Leafly, said. “In general, classification is a largely diverse practice and the criteria isn’t really based on specific math.”
As cannabis becomes destigmatized, so does cannabis research—continuing to grow just as the plant does. Maybe we will never know what actually happened in AJ’s little NYC garden in 1991. What we know for sure is that whatever it was, it created Sour Diesel, one of the most influential cannabis plants. It lives on as a strain, parent and legend. Sour D is only a leaf off the stem of marijuana’s rich history.
“I’m not a big smoker currently of Sour Diesel,” Byrnes said. “But if it comes around and it’s there I’m always excited to party.”
Lucy Calderon is a first-year journalism major who brought Above the Influence to their high school. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Art by Art Editor Adam Dee.