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Nov 9, 2020 6 min read

What is haze? Know your cannabis strain

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by Ben Hartman
Strawberry haze

It can often seem like there’s little rhyme or reason behind the names of cannabis strains — and indeed, much of the time they mean nothing at all. Sometimes, however, there is a fair amount you can learn from a name. Haze, for example, is one of several iconic, building-block strains that has been used to breed many of today’s available cannabis varieties.

Haze strains are usually sativa dominant, with an upbeat and energetic high, and tend to have high levels of THC. They are not known to be particularly easy to grow, with a long growing period. 

But what exactly does haze mean? And what should you expect when a strain has haze in the name? 

Table of contents:

Strawberry haze
Strawberry Haze (bakalaerozz/123rf)

How cannabis is categorized

There is a seemingly endless number of cannabis varieties (more than 18,700 on Seedfinder.eu at last count) circulating around the globe at the moment, and a quick glance at a list of marijuana strains turns up the same three terms time and time again: kush, haze, and skunk. 

Reading up on strains — or just chatting about cannabis — one will also commonly hear the terms “indica,” “sativa,” or “hybrid.” While many marijuana consumers and producers use these terms as a way to determine how a strain will make them feel, there is actually zero scientific evidence that a strain being labeled indica or sativa is of any consequence. 

The actual differences between indicas and sativas is in how they look and grow. The effects of a strain, on the other hand, are dependent on its unique chemical profile of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids.

What is the origin of haze?

We should probably note right off the bat that these characterizations for cannabis strains aren’t an exact science and the provenance of weed varieties isn’t the most rigorously-studied field of history. Regardless, here’s what we know about haze. 

Sometime between the late 60s and early 70s, mysterious seeds from the Far East and all points in between made their way to California after they were “obtained by roaming hippies and surfers who would bring cannabis seeds back with them from far away lands that they had visited on spiritual quests or surfing adventures,” according to a 2008 article in Treating Yourself.

Titled “The Origins of Haze,” the article describes two brothers referred to by legendary breeder Sam the Skunk Man as “R. Haze” and “J. Haze.” According to the article, the brothers “are said not to have set out to breed the plants specifically, but that the plants they grew were chance hybridizations between varieties that happened to be available in seed form at the time the plant was grown.” 

Super lemon haze
Super lemon haze (bakalaerozz/123rf)

The article says the exact pedigree of Haze is up for debate, and that theories include a mix of Thai and Columbian. They state that “the exact details surrounding the acquisition of the strain which would later go on to change the face of modern cannabis breeding is still somewhat of a mystery.”

The article also makes sure to note that haze “has also become a generic term in modern times used to describe sativa varieties that share common traits associated with all sativa cultivars.” 

Another similar version of the story  published in the Cannabis Pharmacy attributes the origin to two friends from Santa Cruz who began breeding a variety of cannabis by combining sativas from Mexico, Thailand, India, and Colombia. Calling their strain haze, they put out a different batch each season, with each given a name like Gold, Silver, or, you guessed it, Purple. It has not been determined to what extent that original strain was a sativa or a hybrid, or the exact origin of all of the strains that went into its genetics. 

As the story goes, one of these haze phenotypes reportedly made its way to the Dutch breeder Neville Schoenmakers, who used it to create Neville’s Haze, which has been an influential strain and helped foster countless cannabis varieties since the 1980s. 

What are haze strains like?

Haze strains aren’t an exact science, and since no one has ever defined the chemical structure of a “pure” Haze strain — it’s a bit of a guessing game. Nonetheless, haze strains tend to share some common attributes.

What do haze strains smell and taste like?

Haze strains are known for having a distinctly spicy aroma when smoked, though citrusy and earthy scents can also be a sign that you have your hands on some haze. The flavor of the original haze strain tends to be earthy, sweet, and citrusy. Unless you’re using the original haze strain or something quite similar, it’s impossible to say precisely what flavor and aroma to expect from a haze strain without knowing what other strains it was crossed with, and more importantly the chemical attributes — particularly the terpenes — of that strain.   

Cannabinoids and terpenes in haze strains

Haze strains often have a high level of THC, with low or not significant levels of CBD unless they were crossed with a high-CBD strain. The terpenes present will depend on the genetics of the particular haze strain, though certain ones should be expected. Terpinolene, a stimulating terpene, is common in a number of haze strains, and can produce a floral aroma with hints of citrus and earth. And that spicy haze aroma? That’s likely to be the result of the terpene beta-caryophyllene, which is prevalent in haze strains and produces a spicy aroma and relaxing effects. Many haze strains are likely to have high levels of limonene, an energizing terpene that occurs in the rinds of citrus fruits and can provide that delicious lemon flavor and aroma that helps make haze strains a fan favorite. Myrcene, the most prevalent terpene in North American cannabis strains, has a sedative effect and is common in haze strains.

Of course just because somebody called their weed haze doesn’t mean it is, or that it has these characteristics. There are no enforced standards in the cannabis world, so chemical analysis and certificates of analysis are your only way of knowing what you’re really getting.

What type of high do you get from haze strains? 

The high you feel from a particular weed strain is directly related to that chemovar’s distinct chemical profile, not necessarily its lineage. Haze strains such as Super Silver Haze or Super Lemon Haze were created by crossing haze with other strains, which have their own unique chemical profiles. Nonetheless, there are a number of attributes that most strains have in common. 

Haze strains are said to cause an upbeat, energetic high, which is what most people associate with sativa or sativa-dominant strains. The high is often said to be mainly a cerebral one, and not the type of couchlock vibe people tend to report with indica strains. A largely-cerebral high can get your creativity running and can be great for social settings. On the other hand, it can also produce a sort of brain fog (or haze) that not everyone is a major fan of, and people who are prone to anxiety or nervousness when they use cannabis may find that a racy high is not to their liking. 

Whatever type of high you prefer though, the commonly high THC levels of haze strains makes them a potent option in any situation.

The physical attributes of haze strains 

Haze strains are usually sativa or sativa dominant, and they tend to look the part. Sativas grow taller and narrower, with longer and thinner leaves. The buds themselves tend to be of a lighter green shade with orange hairs.

Growing haze strains of cannabis

Haze is known for being a strain that is fairly difficult to grow and not well-suited to novice growers. It has a very long growing period relative to other strains (around 12-14 weeks) and the plants grow high, requiring a lot of care and also possibly being more likely to alert the neighbors to your hobbies. 

But those who are patient and willing and able to put in the work will be rewarded with an ample harvest of high-THC herb. 

Popular haze strains 

In any dispensary or coffeeshop you’re likely to be presented with no shortage of options with haze in the strain name. Here are a few of the more popular varieties:

Super Lemon Haze

A sativa-dominant mix of Lemon Skunk and Super Silver Haze, Super Lemon Haze has won 8 Cannabis Cups and is one of the world’s most popular strains, in no small part because of its strong citrusy taste and it’s energetic, euphoric high that’s perfect for when you have a long afternoon ahead of you. 

Super Silver Haze

Super Silver Haze was bred by Greenhouse Seeds, the same team of legendary cannabis cultivators who crafted Super Lemon Haze. The strain won three straight Cannabis Cups in the late 90s, and is known for its upbeat high that brings with it a nice body high as well. 

Amnesia Haze 

A longtime star on the coffee shop scene in Amsterdam, Amnesia Haze is believed to be a cross of several landrace strains believed to be from Jamaica and Asia. It has won multiple Cannabis Cup titles and is highly-popular due to its potent and very energetic high, as well as its citrus and earthy flavors. And don’t let the name fool you — this strain won’t leave you unable to remember your day or with your mind erased. It can actually create a cerebral high that can really get your creativity working.

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