If we were to stumble upon Pepé Le Pew while camping or on a hike, we’d probably turn the other way and run. Skunks and their unique (and super stinky) defense mechanisms are generally the last things we want to see while exploring the great outdoors. But how should we react when we stumble upon skunk weed? What exactly is skunk weed and is it good?
The “Skunk” Was Born
The first time “skunk” was used as a descriptor for stinky cannabis came about in the 1960s and 70s. Varietals exhibiting this skunk smell came about in the 1970s, with the introduction of Skunk #1 by a group of Californian breeders.
Skunk #1 is a cross between Afghani and Pakistani varietals, and it was bred using strains from tropical areas in South and Central America and Asia. It’s an Indica-dominant hybrid strain that’s useful for medical marijuana patients. It has been used extensively breeding different varieties of skunk weed.
Skunk #1 has remained a popular choice—for both smoking and breeding. It’s got a long history of being genetically pure and sought out by breeders. If you’ve smoked Northern Lights, Early Girl, Green Crack, or Super Skunk, you’re enjoying the products of Skunk #1—and you’ve possibly noticed a particularly strong fragrance.
How exactly do some strains get that distinguished, sometimes overwhelming smell?
The smell of marijuana is distinct—and you probably either love it or hate it. The various pot-aromas can actually tell us a lot about the product we’re about to light up with. Researchers have actually evaluated the scents of different strains, using 48 different odor descriptors to study how aroma influences consumer perceptions of different strains.
It turns out that skunk is one of the most common aroma descriptors. More interestingly, the skunk aroma was associated with negative smell associations, but some of the most positive product evaluations.
So, why do we like skunk weed and where does the smell come from?
Cannabis contains more than 140 terpenes, the aromatic compounds found in both plants and insects. Different terpenes are associated with different smells. For instance, limonene and pinene provide citrus and pine-like scents, respectively. Myrcene—the most common terpene—attributes to a musky or earthy smell, or what contributes to the skunky fragrance found in some strains.
Skunks can surprisingly be kept as pets in the UK. Perhaps as such, the term skunk weed has been taken on as a term of endearment for some of the best quality weed. It isn’t used to describe the genetic heritage of weed that derived from Skunk #1. Nor is it used to distinguish between strains that have a skunky smell.
Instead, it is used to lump all high-THC cannabis varieties into a category. For the Brits, skunk weed comes from some of the best seedless and potent sinsemilla cannabis flowers—and makes up around 70% of the weed that’s sold across the pond.
While some English enthusiasts have inaccurately dubbed skunk weed a “super-weed”—likening its effects to those of ecstasy and reporting that it’s 20 to 30 times stronger than other strains, skunk weed can simply be considered a slightly THC-heavy variety with a very heavy and pungent aroma.
If you’re in North America, you can take skunk weed to indicate some pungent terpene aromas. If you’re in the UK, you’ll be enjoying an equally-pungent indoor variety. Regardless of where you are in the world though, unlike from its animal namesake, that sweet skunky stank is sure to be one you end up running towards—instead of away from.