Cannabeginners: The Fairfax Four-Way

The cultivar that was too loud for prohibition.
Credit: Mr. Bob Hemphill

While those of us on the West Coast have legendary homegrown cultivars like Haze and Blue Dream, for those veterans of the East Coast hippie music scene, the pinnacle of pot was the Fairfax Four-Way, hailing from Fairfax, Virginia. High Times spoke to two cannabis cultivators with deep Virginia roots who wanted to help introduce the West Coast to “the loudest weed ever.” 

The Origins of The Four-Way and the Fairfax Four-Way

Unlike landraces like Acapulco Gold, Durban Poison, and Panama Red, we do know who bred the Four-Way, and that was Sensi Seeds, it was even featured in “some of the earliest seed-catalogues” in the 1980s. This cultivar gets its name from the complex mix of genetics that went into it, in a time when most bud out there was either a landrace or a very basic hybrid, the Four-Way was a stable multi-hybrid of Afghani, Pakistani, Indian, and Skunk #1 genetics. This was a painstaking process that Sensi Seeds did across several generations of plants and through careful hybridization and back-crossing. 

According to Sensi Seeds, the “Four-Way Regular was re-launched back in 1995.” High Times spoke to Virginia-native and the founder of Equilibrium Genetics, Jason Matthys, to learn more about the Four-Way and what that 95 relaunch meant when attempts to reach Sensi Seeds were unsuccessful. Matthys said it wasn’t “clear what Sensi Seeds did in the 1995 relaunch,” and he suggested speaking to Mr. Bob Hemphill, who had a cut of the original Fairfax Four-Way until very recently, but lost it in a natural disaster. When High Times reached Hemphill, he was currently back home in Virginia on the hunt for a new cut to replace his “family friend.” 

At this point, you might be wondering, “what makes the Fairfax Four-Way different from the Four-Way Regular being sold by Sensi Seeds?” As Matthys summed it up, “The Fairfax Four-Way was a magical unicorn phenotype, it wasn’t the kind of seed you would find in just any bag.” Hemphill gave High Times the details of the story, “It was in the very early part of 95, my friend Biggie bought the seeds from Sensi,” and when they popped them they knew they had “a really special one.” They bought as many packs of seeds as they could get but could not duplicate that phenotype. Biggie shared the phenotype widely with the Deadheads he knew and, like 420, the Fairfax Four-Way was spread to the world by Deadheads. “It pretty much was an East Coast thing, it was huge in the northeast,” said Hemphil, noting that it never went much further west than Ohio, save for one cutting brought to Arcata for personal consumption which is now gone.

Credit: Mr. Bob Hemphill

Flavor and Effects

Sensi Seeds describes their Four-Way Regular as 80% indica and 20% sativa, and the effects as “typically indica in personality; a potent total-body stone, which users claim is relaxing and sedative.” Matthys agreed, saying “I would get so stoned on Four-Way,” but added that it had “A good blend of cerebral and body effects which makes sense given the genetics that include sativas and indicas.”

Like many old school cultivars bred from landraces and skunk genetics, the Four-Way has a very funky flavor, which Sensi Seeds says “Users describe the taste as sweet and spicy, with notes of soil and skunk, thanks to the Skunk #1 influence.” Matthys had a bit of a different take on the flavor “it was all skunk with maybe a hint of fruit in the background but I don’t want to confuse people, it is not fruity, maybe a small undertone of sweet flavor.” 

The scent is truly what makes the Four-Way a legend. Sensi Seeds, doesn’t do it justice, and merely says the “aroma is spicy and strong, with a hint of sweetness and pepper. There’s also a touch of earthiness, which becomes more prominent as the buds approach harvest-time.” Leafly has a more accurate take on it, saying “Four Way produces an odor that could tip an elephant, much less fill the room it’s being consumed in.”

Matthys and Hemphill had countless stories to share about the powerful funk of the Four-Way. “It was on some other superhuman level of stink, that shit was the loudest weed ever,” said Matthys. Hemphill added to Matthys’ account of the otherworldly funk, telling a story about a friend who bought an 8th of Four-Way, and when he got home his parents called animal control because they thought there was a skunk in the house. “It really amplified the skunk,” said Hemphill, “I went to a reggae show in DC and someone was talking to everyone about a skunk and I only had three grams in my pocket.”

“You knew you had the Four-Way instantly when you opened the bag,” said Matthys, “If you broke open a nug and put your nose near it it would fill your nose with this burning skunk smell.” Matthys shared a story about going to a hippie music festival at the Sunshine Daydream Campground in West Virginia, where he bought some Four-Way from a dealer in a rainbow clown wig. He had been in the middle of buying from another dealer, but then clown wig showed up and opened his gallon-sized jar of Four-Way and instantly sold out. When he got home, he was in the kitchen and the Four-Way was stashed away in another room, and his mom asked “did you hit a skunk on my way home from West Virginia?”

Credit: Mr. Bob Hemphill

Too Loud for Prohibition

Unfortunately for the Fairfax Four-Way, like Blue Dream, the cause of its success was also the cause of its failure – those same terpenes that attracted legions of skunk connoisseurs also attracted law enforcement. “That is the subject of your article, that elusive skunk bud, what happened to it,” Matthys then answered his own question, “I assume everyone who was growing it got busted for it.” This was corroborated by Mr. Bob Hemphill, “A lot of my friends got popped for growing Four-Way. I used to grow it before they had carbon filters available on the East Coast and you smelled it outside of the house, no problem.” As Hemphill did not want to get busted, he “moved out to Cali in 97, because of Prop 215.” 

Matthys succinctly summarized what killed skunky weed, “There was a natural selection against people growing stinky weed back then.” That natural selection has continued into the regulated market, as once those skunk genetics are lost they are hard to breed back, and with the loss of that acrid, assaulting funk, a piece of cannabis history was lost too. “When I moved out to California to work at Harborside I thought all the weed would be like that, but none of it lived up to the standard the Four-Way set,” Matthys lamented, “That is still the best weed I ever smoked in my life.”

Do you have a Fairfax Four-Way story to share or a tip about its origins? Let us know with a comment!

  1. Hello my friend. My name is Bryan and I live in Arlington Virginia. I just wanna let you know that I know all those people in the article except for Mathys. Graham. I can lead you to the guy who grew the best fourwayy ever and still has the genetics. By the way, I was the one responsible for spreading it out to the deadheads. And those guys will verify it. 🙂

    1. Go DJ! My boy knows the proper story. I popped the seed. OGs were me, Piz, Doug, Eli, Bubba, Leto, Wes.

      Piz mailed me the seeds, I popped em. OG name was Blue #4. Piz mailed me Super Skunk, Afghani, and 4way seeds….10 of each. Super Skunks were Red 1thru 10, Afghani was Black 1 thru 10……4ways were Blue 1 thru 10. Blue #4 was gem. 52 day flower. Nasty of the neastiest ever.

      1. Dear Jamito – why did they leave your name out bro? First name I woulda mentioned ( but by an acronym so as not to doxx. These silly foos running to the librarian for facts get about this far. I’m dying for a show with you and the other Mateo.

        Mateito Riotito

      2. Jamito, I wish we could have included you in the article. Maybe we should do a follow up! These articles have deadlines to meet and it can be hard to track down every lead. Mitchell Colbert is a great friend and I know he really enjoys documenting the history. I lived in Dale City from 83 till 2010 and everyone I know who tried this strain was blown away and will never forget it, even 20 years later it is still a phenomenon. Thank you for popping the seed and having the balls to keep it growing, those were somewhat scary times to be cultivating in VA. We are grateful.

    2. DJ, I am the one who pitched this article to Mitchell Colbert. We used to work together at a dispensary in San Jose. He is a writer for High Times now and he was intrigued by the stories about this strain. As you know, it is legendary. Please get a hold of Graham because he deserves the cut back. Much love.

        1. What I meant to say is, it’s mind blowing that you folks route an article about it. I’m still kind of in a state of shock. But thank you so much! That cut was a big part of our lives. I can’t believe it’s getting this recognition almost 30 years later. ❤️❤️❤️

          1. To the Fourway crew, I had owned a grow shop near fredricksburg for a little over a year. I had so many old heads talk about the fourway. People would get so excited when that strain would come up in conversation. Y’all put out the fire 🔥 it was a lot of peoples most memorable smoke. Bring it back!

  2. My old man got a quarter one time, had to stick it in a bucket and put it in the shed because of how loud the smell was. He found a seed and back then if your returned the seed you got a free quarter. Well, he passed up on the free quarter because the smell made him paranoid. Seed got tossed. If only he planted it..

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