Hawaiian Pakalōlō Roots: A History of Cannabis in Hawai’i
The history of Pakalōlō (the Hawaiian word for cannabis meaning: crazy or numbing tobacco; paka = tobacco, lōlō = crazy or numbing) in Hawai’i is a subject shrouded in mystery and myth, lost in the aromatic mists of time, similar to the now extinct dinosaurs of the hit movie Jurassic Park filmed here on the breathtaking Hawaiian islands we call home.
As those of us lucky enough to have deeply inhaled sweet pungent mind warping tropical Hawaiian Pakalōlō strains like Maui Wowie, Kona Gold, Puna Buddaz, Kaua’i Electric, and Moloka’i Purpz can attest, true authentic Hawaiian Pakalōlō is the finest and most exquisite delicacy in all of the cannabis kingdom.
Unfortunately numerous Hawaiian Pakalolo strains have followed the dinosaurs down the road to extinction.
Hawaiian Pakalōlō is an endangered species, holding on by a hemp thread connected to the hearts and souls of Hawai’i ‘Ohana (family) who have dedicated their lives to preserve the heritage of Hawaiian Pakalōlō genetics, guerilla growing freedom fighters engaged in an unjust war against a sacred medicinal plant utilized by humanity as a medicine, rope, fabric, paper, along with countless other applications as far back as 8000 B.C.
Many epic Hawaiian Landrace strains have already gone extinct due to a cannabis eradication program known here in Hawai’i as Operation Green Harvest, as well as the introduction of many non-Hawaiian Pakalōlō strains like ’98 Aloha White Widow who originates from Amsterdam and finishes weeks before longer flowering Hawaiian Sativa strains like Kona Gold (finishing in 10-14 weeks as opposed to White Widow and her expedited 8 weeks of flowering) saving weeks of paying the high cost of electricity in Hawai’i for indoor growers or finishing outdoors before Green Harvest helicopters can descend from the sky armed with automatic weapons to pilfer Pakalōlō cultivated in paradise, caressed by warm loving rays of tropical Hawaiian sunlight.
Operation Green Harvest
Operation Green Harvest was born in the late 1970’s on the Big Island of Hawai’i.
Federal, state and local narcotics officers with the aid of police and National Guard helicopters, scouring the islands searching for Pakalōlō with the goal of eradicating perhaps the most medicinal cannabis on the planet.
By 1980 Green Harvest was a statewide operation, with the majority of funding coming from the Drug Enforcement Agency.
Local people now have to live in fear of invasive helicopters violating our privacy and stealing our Pakalōlō.
To this day it is not uncommon to see armed men descending out of helicopters on ropes and leaving with loads of Pakalōlō plants in tow flying away into Hawaiian sunset.
The increasing efforts at eradication of our sacred Hawaiian Pakalōlō plant forced plenty of local growers underground and many Hawaiian strains disappeared, whispered about only in legend, cultivated by the bravest and most daring growers who chose to challenge the unjust laws demonizing a medicinal plant celebrated within Hawaiian culture for over two centuries.
Pre-Green Harvest Hawai’i: Da good ol’ days
Prior to the attempted genocide and all out war waged on Hawaiian Pakalōlō by Operation Green Harvest in the late 1970’s, Pakalōlō was prevalent in Hawaiian culture, in fact Pakalōlō grown in Hawai’i was considered some of the best Pakalōlō on Earth and was exported all over the world.
Strains like Kona Gold, Maui Wowie, Puna Buddaz, and Kaua’i Electric were easy to locate and shared freely throughout the Hawaiian island chain. Visitors from the mainland as well as the rest of the planet raved about the amazingly potent Pakalōlō of paradise and the legends of tropical wonder weed spread all over the globe.
The Puna district on the Big Island of Hawai’i had a thriving economy due to Pakalōlō production. Stoners searching for super sticky Puna Buddaz did not have to look far to find dakine.
Pakalōlō was everywhere!
People planted fields of Pakalōlō and prospered.
Operation Green Harvest changed all of that.
Now over %30 of the population of Puna is living in poverty and Pakalōlō export has slowed dramatically. Most Pakalōlō grown in Puna is smoked, shared and sold locally before it even has a chance to hit the other side of the Big Island, let alone the global market.
Peace and Love and Pakalōlō
In the 1960’s young people began rejecting the status quo, protesting the war in Vietnam and fully embracing Pakalōlō as they preached peace and love.
The surf scene of the late 1950’s in Hawai’i and California was a precursor to the counterculture movement that sprouted up in 1964.
Many surfers and hippies chose to migrate to Hawai’i in search of a more peaceful existence in paradise far away from the harsh realities of Babylon.
Racial tensions between Native Hawaiians and Haoles (the Hawaiian word for foreigner) may have been eased somewhat by the mutual love Hawaiian people and the migrating Hippies had for surfing (a sport invented in Hawai’i) but the Pakalōlō peace pipe was directly responsible for a new era of respect and understanding, breaking down cultural walls and barriers, realizing we are all human beings regardless of skin color and we all share a passionate love of Pakalōlō.
Bradda Joseph of Lower Nāhiku, Maui recounts a tale of a summer solstice celebration in the 1960’s where peace began to prevail over pipes of Pakalōlō:
“In the 60’s there was still lots of animosity between the Hawaiian people and the hippies. The Hawaiian Kingdom had recently been overthrown, about 60 years before the 60’s and many Hawaiians were distrustful of the new wave of haole hippies that began migrating in those days. There were still stories of hippies being thrown off bridges and being beaten up really badly going around and with every new incident the walls between Hawaiian culture and Hippy counterculture got thicker.
Then came summer solstice and the hippies threw a huge psychedelic party down in Lower Nāhiku. There were clouds of smoke everywhere, you could smell Pakalōlō all da way up Hana highway! People were playing music and dancing it was awesome! A few truck loads of Hawaiians showed up looking menacing, it seemed as if the party was about to get broken up before it even started.
The Hawaiians had been out planting their own Pakalōlō, as summer solstice is the day with the most sunlight of the year. Apparently the Hawaiians smelled the Pakalōlō and heard da music and came over to check it out. Instead of busting out bats to beat up Hippies they busted out their own Pakalōlō and started rolling bat sized doobies, passing them around to everyone.
The hippies had some really good Pakalōlō like Panama Red, Acapulco Gold and this killer Thai stick weed that made you start sweating and tripping out. But then the Hawaiian Pakalōlō started going around and we reached a whole new level. The hippies were astounded by true Hawaiian Pakalōlō, everyone wanted to know the strain name, as strain names were becoming increasingly popular in those days. The Hawaiians called it Maui bud. It was like nothing the hippies had tried before. All anyone could say was “wow” soon you could hear people saying: “wowie, maui wowie, maui” all totally tripping at this huge psychedelic bash down Lower Nāhiku! It was incredible! .
By the end of the party the Hawaiians and the Hippies saw eye to eye in a way we never had before, or as we like to say we saw third eye to third eye for the first time.”
The name Maui Wowie stuck, similar to the sweet sticky tropical flower from which she got her name. A fragile peace began to grow and flourish between the Hawaiians and the Hippies in Maui.
Elsewhere on the island of Kaua’i the crown jewel of all Hippy counter culture experiments was taking place in Hā’ena where the road ends and the Kalalau trail begins.
In 1969, Howard Taylor bailed out a band of 13 young mainland hippies incarcerated on Kauai for camping illegally at beach parks around the island and invited this hippy tribe to camp on his oceanfront land as the state would not grant him building permits and planned to use the land to create Hā’ena state park. Taylor camp was born, a free-love tree-house village that lasted until 1977.
These hippies also encountered local Hawaiians prepared to fight many times and defused the potentially violent situations by breaking out Pakalōlō and sharing a session together.
The hippies on Kaua’i were awestruck by the local Hawaiian Pakalōlō with its blissfully uplifting high and sweet tropical flavor. One Pakalōlō strain in particular grown by local Hawaiians up Mt. Wai’ale’ale on the Powerline Trail, became a favorite of the tye dye adorned immigrants from the mainland.
Named Kaua’i Electric due to the geographical location up the Powerline Trail where she was cultivated for hanauna (generations), this Pakalōlō strain hit the cannabis community like a lightning bolt.
Many hippies returned to the mainland with seeds and stories of exotic Hawaiian Pakalōlō and its psychedelic effects. Some hippies even started lucrative underground businesses importing Hawaiian Pakalōlō from Hawai’i to the mainland making names like Maui Wowie, Kona Gold and Kaua’i Electric household names and spreading the fame of Hawaiian Pakalōlō around the globe.
While hippies may have helped to make Hawaiian Pakalōlō famous to those who had never even visited the Hawaiian islands, taking it mainstream all around the world, the history of Hawaiian Pakalōlō goes back much further and is shrouded in secrecy.
Hawaiian Pakalōlō revealed
In the days before names like Maui Wowie, Kona Gold and Kaua’i Electric were well known respected members of the cannabis community most Hawaiian strains were named after the Ahupua’a (a Hawaiian land division) where they were cultivated. Moloka’i Purpz was called Moloka’i Pali (Pali is the Hawaiian word for cliff, as she acquired her purple color being cultivated on top of the highest sea cliffs in the world on the island of Moloka’i).
Hawaiian Pakalōlō was referred to by the Ahupua’a where it was cultivated, as Hawaiian strains were grown by the ‘Ohana (family) who lived off the ʻĀina (Hawaiian word for the land which means “that which feeds us”) of each Ahupua’a.
These Hawaiian heirloom seeds were then passed down to the next Hanauna (generation) to cultivate. When different ‘Ohana (families) would gather they would share the Pakalōlō and other plants grown within their Ahupua’a with ‘Ohana from neighboring Ahupua’a.
Property ownership was a foreign concept to ancient Hawaiians, who instead followed a complex system of land division. All land was controlled ultimately by the highest chief or king who held it in trust for the rest of the population. An entire island, or mokupuni, was divided into smaller portions, down to a basic unit belonging to a single ‘Ohana (family).
Mokupuni were divided into several Moku, the largest units within each island, spanning from Mauka (mountain) to Makai (sea). Moku were divided into Ahupua`a, narrower land sections that also ran from Mauka to Makai. These land divisions allowed Pakalōlō strains geographical isolation, gradually developing genetic traits that made them special, individual and most importantly: Hawaiian.
Hawai’i is the most geographically isolated island chain on the planet.
It is this isolation that allowed Hawaiian Pakalōlō to evolve into the amazing strains we know and love today without interference or cross pollination of other Pakalōlō strains.
The ancient Hawaiians were master botanists, well aware of the medicinal properties of an abundance of plants. They brought seeds, plants and animals with them in outrigger canoes traveling from Polynesia following birds and faith to a land they had never seen before.
Seeds and spores also sailed the ocean currents, drifting high in the atmosphere, some hitching rides with migratory birds. Those plants that made the journey evolved into the various beautiful plant species of Hawai’i we know today.
We do not know for certain if Pakalōlō was one of the plants that traveled naturally by sea or air or if it was on board the outrigger canoes sailed by the ancient Hawaiians when they arrived, as there is no mention of Pakalōlō in old chants and legends.
What we do know is that when Polynesians arrived in Hawai’i for the first time in between the years of 300-900 A.D., they discovered a tropical paradise overflowing with gorgeous diverse native flora. Hawaiian plants, many found nowhere else on earth, became part of the medicine, worship, knowledge and the culture of Hawai’i prior to Western influence.
We also know that outside of one’s own ‘Ohana, discussion of Pakalōlō cultivation or even personal use became Kapu (forbidden) after an article was published in a Hawaiian newspaper, Ka Nonanona, written in the year 1836, about a woman who fell asleep after smoking “sweet smelling baka” (baka: another Hawaiian word for tobacco used for Pakalōlō) and accidentally lit her house on fire killing the inhabitants, including the keiki (children) who lived with her.
Prior to this article Pakalōlō was celebrated within Hawaiian culture for all of it’s wonderful medicinal benefits and shared freely.
The same newspapers that printed advertisements for medical marijuana before the fire, now turned their backs on Pakalōlō believing that the plant was evil.
The article demonized Pakalōlō as the culprit for the fire, as opposed to blaming human error and all mention of Pakalōlō became Kapu (forbidden) hiding deep underground, now grown only in secrecy, obscuring the origins of Hawaiian Pakalōlō deeper in mystery, myth and legend.
’69 bag seed…1769 that is!
Some of the most amazing Pakalōlō strains on Earth like OG Kush, NYC Diesel and Chemdawg can be traced back to a bag seed that the breeder Chemdawg acquired at a Grateful Dead show in Colorado in 1991, but is it possible that some of our favorite Hawaiian Pakalōlō genetics originate from a bag seed from all the way back in the year 1769?
Captain James Cook arrived in Hawai’i the year 1778 and was credited as the man who “discovered” the already inhabited Hawaiian islands. James Cook had a botanist by the name of Sir Joseph Banks, who was quite the cannabis enthusiast to say the very least.
Sir Joseph Banks is responsible for spreading Pakalōlō seeds all over the world!
As the British Empire expanded in the 1700’s, the bounties and treasures of the world were brought back from the four corners of the earth, not the least of which was bud and hash of Indian Hemp, a.k.a Cannabis Indica. The sailors enjoyed smoking it and one intellectual nobleman enjoyed the heady effects so much he made it his mission to spread cannabis seed worldwide.
Enter one Sir Joseph Banks, nobleman, prodigy botanist, world explorer, and cannabis grower extraordinaire. To some he is founder of Australia (there are some theories that claim he founded Australia specifically in order to cultivate cannabis) hero of the British Empire, he is trusted botanist to King George III and his family, as well as a procurer of fine hashish for Coleridge and the Romantic Poets, as discovered through personal letters.
In 1769, as a young stoner, and the official botanist, he sailed with Captain Cook on his first voyage. In Tahiti, to his more conservative crew’s dismay, he stripped down and celebrated with the locals, participating in local customs and ritual. They took him in as one of their own.
Could the high quality hash and Pakalōlō seeds he brought to share, barter and trade with have had something to do with his popularity with the locals?
By 1789 he was the head botanist in the British Empire, the man responsible for choosing which seeds were valuable for trade and propagation, and he made sure cannabis seeds were on every ship, a plant of strategic importance to spread to every colony, both the tall lanky Sativa used for canvas and rope as well as the short stout smelly Indica variety used for medicine and recreation.
On Captain Cook’s second voyage of discovery in 1778, where he made the first contact with the people of Hawai`i, he must have had some of Joseph Bank’s Pakalōlō seeds on board for trade with the native people.
Seeds were a kind of universal currency in those days.
Captain Vancouver landed in 1789 and befriended King Kamehameha, his botanist came bearing gifts of new useful plants for the nation of Hawai`i, one of these special plants came to be known by the locals as Pakalōlō.
Hawaiian Landrace Ha’awina
The Hawaiian word for lesson is Ha’awina.
A Landrace is a domesticated, regional Eco-type, a locally adapted, traditional variety of a domesticated species of animal or plant that has developed over time, through adaptation to its natural and cultural environment of agriculture, and due to isolation from other populations of the species.
Another important term for this Ha’awina is: Genetic divergence.
Genetic divergence is the process in which two or more populations of an ancestral species accumulate independent genetic changes (mutations) over the years, often after the populations have become re-productively isolated for some period of time.
As Hawai’i is the most isolated island chain on Earth, the potential for any species of plant or animal to exhibit genetic divergence as it adapts to its new lush tropical environment over time, evolving into a Landrace, is irrefutable.
Pakalōlō has been a part of Hawaiian culture for well over two centuries, many who live here in Hawai’i and have ‘Ohana (family) who have a personal relationship with Hawaiian heirloom Pakalōlō passed down over Hanauna (generations) would argue Pakalōlō has been a part of Hawaiian culture much longer.
Over the years Pakalōlō cultivated in Hawai’i became Hawaiian Landrace strains by adapting and changing, engaging in genetic divergence in the tropical paradise and perfect Pakalōlō growing environment we call Hawai’i.
Pakalōlō grown on different islands, in different climate zones became the wonderful Hawaiian landrace strains we know and love today by names such as: Maui Wowie, Kona Gold, Kaua’i Electric, Moloka’i Purpz and that strong stinky little survivor from the land of lava; Puna Buddaz.
Hawai’i Pakalōlō Nō Ka ‘oi
While we may never truly know if the origins of Hawaiian Pakalōlō came from bird migration, like the flight of the golden plover, traveling between Hawai’i to Asia, and mainland America.
Or Polynesian and European explorers bringing their favorite seeds with them to share on their journey?
Was Pakalōlō brought to Hawai’i organically by Mother Nature drifting along ocean currents?
Perhaps it was a perfectly random combination of all of the above.
One thing we most definitely do know is that Pakalōlō found a home in the birthplace of the Aloha Spirit and was accepted by the local people and tropical climate zones with open arms, becoming Hawaiian over the centuries, cultivated in paradise.
For our final Ha’awina we will translate the phrase:
“Hawai’i Pakalōlō Nō Ka ‘oi”
Hawai’i Pakalōlō Nō Ka ‘oi = Hawaiian Cannabis is the best!
Aloha a hui hou,
Pua Mana ‘Ohana