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.

      3. I am the Doug referenced herein and I can truthfully attest to this account. It was approximately late autumn 1996, and I was living in Appalachia at the time. Others sent, and I received, one of what I believe was two batches of the strain. I started a set of approximately 15-20 of them sometime around spring of 1997, and they were drastically ALL over the place in variety. One would’ve thought one had planted at least three different breeds! But there were two that stood out, those became the original mothers after the customary three generations, and the rest is history. I used to call the fragrance “impudent” because it had a habit of smacking you upside the head but GOOD. They were every bit as legendary as has been told, but sadly, the strain began to deteriorate after about five years and within eight years it became entirely unusable.

        We totally lucked out. We may never have even gotten any of those special places on the Punnett square of genetics. Every other known attempt to resurrect the strain has come up short. It’s my guess that in order to recover this strain a very dedicated effort involving 60+ specimens over three generations would be required. Likely a Trip to Amsterdam as well.

    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..

    1. WE never put out the fire! With considerable grief and regret it died of old age, and none were able to preserve it. A very involved effort to bring it back is not out of the question, tho.

    2. VERY doubtful of result. She was without a doubt the absolute WEIRDEST fish in the pond with regard to breeding. For YEARS we tried interbreeding with any number of strains, all to absolutely no effect of preserving ANY of the character of original FFF. Fickle, uncooperative and infuriating, it was as if she didn’t want to give up her genetic secrets! I tried at least ten times with no real success..

  3. I have some Fourora Borealis seeds and one ready to harvest right now.

    Fourora Borealis
    Special Edition “Mr. Bob Hemphill” F1 Hybrids. These are rare hybrids of heirloom genetics.
    Out of stock
    Fourora Borealis = Fairfax Four Way ♀ x Northern Lights #1 ♂
    Fairfax Four Way: Sensi Seeds Four Way, which is Skunk #1 x Afghani X Pakistan x India. This cut was selected in 1995. They were kept in a deepfreeze for years, and are still viable. I will attempt to make seeds if I find a male, only two girls so far.

  4. I ran the cut from 2002-2005. Right up until I went to prison for 7 years. 4 600w HPS with bat wings in a guest bedroom exhausting into the attic where it didn’t matter what I did, the block reeked like onions and skunk. Figured that would be how I ended up getting locked up, but nope, always got lucky until 2005. I acquired the cut in Merrifield (Fairfax) in late 2001 and due to how finicky the cut was and my inexperience at the time, it died. February 2002 I was able to get the cut again (in merrifield) only this time it wasn’t from Danny, it was from Brian. Brian’s story was that it was acquired through “D” from a friend group who were all Grateful Dead fanatics. Since Brian was scared to grow back then (it was super scary growing in Virginia back then) he gave it to me.

    First run I thought the plant was garbage and wouldn’t produce anything and that I was lied to. But after a few weeks in flower the entire house stunk with this smell that I still to this day remember very vividly. When that initial run was done my friends and I knew it was the real deal, since we were buying 1/4’s of the flower for three years every time it was around. Slight nuances in difference of structure and density from the environmental change and running it in my spot, but absolutely the Fairfax 4 way cut. I ran the piss out of that cut back to back to back until I ended up going to prison for 7 years. In 2002-2005 if someone got 4way from the Eastern Fairfax, great falls and loudoun county area, it more than likely came from me.

    Jason (equilibrium) and I have met once in a hydro shop in SE DC and discussed this cut for about an hour. When I was released in 2012 I tried to get the cut back and it just wasn’t around. According to quite a few people, the cut died out around 2010 to what we now know as HPLVd but at the time was dubbed as just dying from old age. Matt Riot apparently had gotten ahold of the cut and claims he used it in breeding projects, including crossing it with his Blue Bonnet cut. I ran a clone selected from the seeds by a friend of mine in 2021-2022 and there was zero 4way traits. Just all blueberry and sweet with nowhere near enough frost to even believe it was a 4way cross. Honestly I think it was a push to have people buy seeds since 4way was such a hype legendary strain. Like the unicorn that you might be able to find if you pop enough seeds. Only no one found anything close to it in Riots supposed crosses.

    It’s my personal experience that the cut doesn’t take pollen and starts acting crazy when you try and hit it with a male. Not from intentional breeding attempts (I wasn’t breeding back then. Didn’t start breeding until 2015) but from popping seeds and having a male I missed dump pollen in winter of 2004. Everything else in the room was seeded except the 4way cut. I had I believe 8-10 of them and not a single one took the pollen like a normal female would’ve, but every one of them grew weird foxtaily growths and became incredibly sensitive to the HPS lights. Premature seeds were littered through the buds but not one ripe, mature seed was found. I remember the run like it was yesterday cuz right after a friend of mine and I broke up all the buds looking for seeds, maybe a week later in the beginning of 2005 that was when I got locked up. My last run with the 4way cut ended up being the worst one and there wasn’t a single accidental seed to show for it.

    There was individuals I spoke with on the phone while I was at a small cannabis cup in Springfield Virginia a year or two ago who were from the original crew. It was good to meet people who could corroborate my story with people and timelines. About 8 months prior a friend of mine came to me with a cut he hunted, and claimed it was a 4way cross. Apparently someone in his family who lives in Warrenton had successfully crossed the 4way with a VA Beach Afghani cut. I ran the cut and it indeed was very similar to the profile of 4way. Just a better structure and easier to grow. Extremely loud, with that same skunky loud funk that is undeniably attributed to the original 4way. I brought cuts of it to the small cannabis cup and gave them to someone who apparently was part of the original crew. Cool dude, older gentlemen, super outgoing. Wish I could remember his name. But when he heard it was a 4way cross, he wanted the cut immediately. He put me on the phone with someone, I wish I could remember this guys name as well. If he’s one of the people on this thread he can confirm. We FaceTimed for about 10 minutes and both confirmed that our stories added up about the cut with locations, people and time frame.

    I’ve heard a lot of conflicting stories over the years (especially recent years) about how the cut died, who had it last, where it was now etc. I’ve searched since 2012 when I was released from prison to find the cut. I firmly believe it’s dead and gone. No amount of tissue culture or selfing or anything could’ve revived that cut. I just don’t see how it would be possible for the cut to still be around. I’ve heard stories (including from Mathys) that the cut was alive and well in California, but also heard 2018 was the last year it was alive. Not sure what to believe since I haven’t seen it in person since 2005, and a slight glimpse of what very well could’ve been a real VA Beach Afghani x FFX 4way cut that I ran myself and gave out to a few people until my cloner pump died, and I lost that cut and a shit ton of other cuts.

    If the cut is still alive, it would be nice to see it pop out again. Or if crosses were actually made and successful, someone should be hunting for an identical cut. At this point it’s what the industry needs. Hands down the best flower I’ve ever smoked or grown. You used to be able to have a gram in your pocket and get into a friends car, and everyone would be paranoid cuz it would make the car smell so bad. Someone could get into the car two days later and ask “who has the 4way I smell it” when it hadn’t even been in the car for a couple days. The ones who got to experience it, we were blessed to be a part of something so special. Even being a teenager growing it and giving it to my friends, everyone who tried it all has some sort of special memory linked to that specific selection of Sensi Seeds 4way. I would go into greater detail with names and places but I don’t want to break anyone’s anonymity who might not want their business out there for the public to see.

    It’s one of those things where if you know, you just KNOW.

  5. Just to clarify, the Brian I received the cut from I don’t believe is the same Bryan from this comment thread. I was 16 at the time and the Brian I knew was 19-20 in 2002. He got the cut from someone named “D” at one of THE OTHER ONES show in 2002. I guess they’re the Grateful Dead only without Jerry Garcia. Anyways, specific timeline after talking to Brian is November 2002 he got the cut from “D” at The Other Ones show in DC. He said “it was a big deal cuz that’s when the dead were touring again so me and a whole crew of dead heads showed up. Just the little plant that I gave you had our van smelling like shit the entire ride back to Merrifield.”

    After commenting I called him and I asked him a few more questions about the acquisition of the cut. “D” apparently knew someone named Wes, who was friends with “Bubs” who introduced him to someone who had the cut. They met at the Other Ones show at the MCI center in DC on November 15th, 2002 and the cut was given to Brian, who then gave it to me. I feel like a detective trying to track all this info down.

    Brian said that show is the same one he met the entire band and got his tye dye t shirt autographed, which he apparently has framed in his office. So as for dates when I got the cut back after the first mishap, it was late 2002. It’s been 20 years so some dates are a blur. Brian said he met Wes through a girl named Jessica back in 1999-2000. “I wouldn’t say Wes and I were friends, but we were cool. We’d run into each other occasionally and smoke a bowl or a joint and that was about it. He’s the one who introduced me to 4way. I told him I had a friend who was growing and asked if there was a way to get seeds. He said no but there was a way to get a cut. So I met with his friend who introduced me to some guy named “D” at the Other Ones show at the MCI center and you know the rest. Shit I was even scared to have the plant at my house overnight. That’s when I had you come over and take it home. Still can’t believe I gave you that plant. You were so fuckin young, but damnit you grew some good shit” I’m writing this as I’m on the phone with him by the way.

    If anyone knows Brian feel free to let me know, he’d like to catch up. Just more pieces to this crazy interconnected web of people from 20+ years ago. I’m actually glad I found these comments on this article. I certainly do miss those days though. What a time to be a stoner.

    1. After considerable digging and research I am now 80-90% convinced that I do indeed know a way to get it back, although it’s gonna be a real barking mad business. Can’t reveal any details for myriad reasons but it will entail great expense and probably take at least a year.

      Great patience is required, but it’s coming, folks!

      1. I know others working on this too and may have access to a tissue sample.

        How do we gather the minds to see this come to fruition?

  6. Oh, I grew up in the 90s in Northern Virginia any time we got our hands on four-way we’d buy it by the pound it was pricey but very good and I can concur. It would stink so bad we’d have to put it in a cooler. Once you opened it, it smelled throughout the house best weed ever I hope to get my hands on some, when I go back to the East Coast. Keep the screen alive!

  7. I grew up smoking the 4 way. Pink grapefruit,GPP I’m from nova. This brings back so many memories 😭 hit me let’s sesh!

  8. Dc native played with 4 way 2004 -08 .I was dc Metro with a 7th and I heard I smell a skunk and plenty other occasions I would have an .6 on me the attention I would get was at the time fun.But great article it really says it all.

  9. Hey yall I’m pretty sure Fairfax fourway is just Skunk along with Shoreline out of Texas but I can’t remember everything exactly. There was also Fourway (without Fairfax) that was Skunk or maybe I got the Fourways mixed around?

    Yall seem to have a Fairfax Fourway knowledge base going on here. Can someone remind me what the buds and seeds looked like? I’ve talked to legit people in the past that had direct knowledge of Fourway and others that had direct knowledge of Fairfax Fourway. One of them I’m convinced is Skunk, the other may be a Cheese, maybe a Cheese cross with a Skunk? But defiantly different.

    I may have chatted with some of yall in the past but I change identities often until recently so who knows.

    I lived in the Midwest when Skunk was around, mid/late 80s – early 90s. I’m talking about the Legendary Skunk also known respectfully and modernly as RKS, not Cheese nor Skunk #1 (which is Cheese) that PRE date the Legendary RKS by 15 years.

    Like yall ive been searching for RKS. I recently found out some information that verified decade long suspicions I’ve had. I’m ‘investigating’ and hopefully soon I will nail RKS to the wall. I’m talking about orgins. My problem is getting one specific 83 year old man to talk. I know this sounds crazy and like all the other BS stories about RKS but I think I found the guy that originally grew it in America.

    Yeah, I don’t believe me either. Hopefully soon I can find something out…

    1. You a clown. I popped the seed. I KNOW the story. Anyone wanna contact me, you cannot….go thru the proper channels.

      1. Bruh, a lot of people grew the stuff. All kinds of stuff, long before the 70s. I’m just looking for the last people to have their hands on ‘it.’ I mis spoke when I said ‘originally grew it’ I ment to say the last people I think had the genetics, t/f was I thinking idk.
        I’ve been chatting with people about this subject for probably 25 years. Just gathering information and piecing the believable parts together.
        If you have a story to share I’m all ears! I’ll add it to my collection of knowledge on the subject. I don’t know much about FW or FFW other than I’m pretty sure it was Skunk from all the people ive talked to.
        I’m a friend of the subject. Ain’t no one shit till this stuff appears and is confirmed by masses.

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