England’s weed smokers don’t have a whole lot of choice. Unless you’ve got a Bitcoin wallet and a dark web market link, chances are you’ll end up buying Stardawg at some point.
The strain is one of the country’s most common, alongside Cheese and Amnesia, but it’s only Stardawg that aggressively splits opinions. There are those who’d pick it over any other bag, and those who’d dump their dealer over it. On the r/uktrees subreddit, some argue that it “got a nation through a pandemic”, while others complain it’s “wet and chemically”, or “the only strain” that makes them paranoid.
According to its creator, JJ from Top Dawg seeds in the US, the strain was never supposed to become this inescapable. “When I created it, I really wasn’t looking to create something to the extent of what it is today,” he says over Zoom.
Over the past few years, JJ has watched his strain grow in popularity in the UK. “I get a lot of messages from people from the UK asking for seeds,” he says. “It's an honour. If people think that Stardawg is highly regarded, or that it’s a symbol for quality, then I’ve got to be happy about it.”
“The genetics were good enough that people took notice,” says JJ. Named after “Stardog Champion” by the American band Mother Love Bone – “I had to come up with some kind of ‘dawg’ name, so it just clicked for me” – Stardawg seeds worked their way into the hands of staff at High Times, the cannabis magazine. Soon enough, people in California took notice and started growing the strain too.
As for how it came to the UK? “I’m not sure of the story,” says JJ. “There’s this famous Manny Stardawg that I always hear about.”
“There’s several rumours, but it seems that someone in Manchester got ahead of the game,” says Simpa, a drug reform advocate. “What became known as the Manny cut was probably on the scene a couple of years before anybody else had commercial access to it.”
Along with the strain’s high yield and its rarity at the time, Stardawg was seen as exotic, and smokers who wanted to be the first to try the newest strains in the UK – Simpa refers to them as “flava chasers” – quickly made Stardawg the strain you had to be seen smoking.
“As soon as people start seeing a popular strain name, they'll start just copying it,” he says, explaining that half of what’s sold as Stardawg isn’t the real thing. “They're just trading off the brand in the same way that people copy Adidas or Gucci. The product is inferior, but they’re trading on the illusion of the label.”
If you’re trying to identify the real thing, JJ and Simpa both say the smell is the biggest giveaway. “It’s very strong,” says JJ. “It's very gassy, and when you open up the bag you’re going to smell a gassy, chemmy, diesel, kind of pine-y smell.”
Whether Stardawg’s hold on the UK will last is down to “mothers” – the plants needed to make clones – but Simpa thinks its chances are strong, unlike other strains in that have been popular in the UK, like Blue Cheese. “With the original Blue Cheese, enough raids happened that very few people were left with the mothers, so they weren’t getting out to the big industrial growers,” he explains.
While JJ hopes to one day breed another strain with the same longevity as Stardawg, he doesn’t have a huge amount of control of the popularity of his plants.
“A lot of these things take on a life of their own,” he says. “No matter where it comes from, or what name it has on it, it’s when you open up that bag, you take a smell it makes your eyes bulge out, and you're just like, ‘What is this?’”