In 1974, when HIGH TIMES started publishing, the best Cannabis sativa didn’t come from your neighbor’s basement, the backwoods of Humboldt County or a state-licensed medical marijuana dispensary. Back in those heady days, high-flying pot smugglers like our illustrious founder, Tom Forçade, still flew in planeloads of super-potent smoke from Hawaii and all points south, including Mexico, the Caribbean, Central and South America, and some parts of Asia.


Often named for the geographic areas where they originated, legendary landrace strains like Acapulco Gold, Maui Wowie, Durban Poison, Santa Marta Gold, and Congolese Black commanded a premium price in the marketplace – particularly those grown close to the equator, where purebred sativas flourished, producing highly potent buds with an electric, uplifting buzz and serious medicinal benefits. And none more so than Panama Red, a variety so revered by stateside herbalists that New Riders of the Purple Sage saw fit to immortalize it in song: “The judge don’t know when Red’s in town / He keeps well hidden underground.”


So imagine our delight when, at the first annual HIGH TIMES Medical Cannabis Cup in Seattle, a local access point called Delta-9 entered Panama Red in the sativa category, claiming it was the real deal. But the proof, as they say, is in the pudding, so we arranged for some old-school heads to take it out for a test drive, and we also sent the strain to an independent laboratory for analysis. Both tests came back with interesting results (including one longtime toker who likened the experience to stepping into a ganja-fueled time machine). Combine the overall high marks from our official judges with lab results showing 19.79% THC, and a strain with its roots in the late ’60s ended up taking third place in a contemporary cannabis competition.


And while, in the late ’60s and early ’70s, many cannabis enthusiasts believed that the strain’s incredible potency derived primarily from the particular soil and climate found in Panama’s remote Pearl Islands, where most commercial growing in the small Central American country took place, we now know it’s the really incredible genetics that deliver Red’s heart-racing sativa brain stimulation, trichome-covered buds and sweet, fruity aroma. So if you’re lucky enough to find some, proceed with caution – because while Panama Red is a powerful remedy for pain, nausea, depression and other ailments best treated with sativas, it can be a bit overwhelming for the uninitiated.