The legendary cannabis breeder known as Subcool survived a nearly fatal diagnosis, the fiery destruction of his home and possessions, and a messy divorce from his wife and business partner to rise from the ashes with a new venture called the Dank.
Subcool’s passion for cannabis started early in life. He began growing in the 1970s and eventually found himself in trouble with law enforcement and in jail. His defiant return to cultivation resulted in a subsequent bust and he wound up serving time in prison, a stint that ignited a passion to change cannabis laws and help free the healing flower for good.
Subcool moved west and his prowess in breeding and growing eventually led him to found Team Green Avenger Seeds. He first came to my attention in the forums of overgrow.com, where he shared information and photos of his lovely cannabis specimens. In 2006, I chose his Jack the Ripper as one of our High Times Top 10 Strains of that year, and he was eventually inducted into the High Times Seed Bank Hall of Fame in 2009. His Vortex strain, entered under a different name, won the first Cannabis Cup in the United States in 2010 in San Francisco.
Along the way, Subcool also became a regular contributor to High Times magazine, the author of both Dank: The Quest for the Very Best Marijuana and Dank 2.0, and, more recently, a winner of the High Times Dr. Lester Grinspoon Lifetime Achievement Award. His popular Weed Nerd show on YouTube chronicles his cannabis growing and breeding, showing a slice of his life to a legion of Weed Nerds who follow his exploits and test seeds for new strain releases.
In 2013, Subcool was diagnosed with alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, a genetic form of emphysema and a progressive lung disease. He moved from Oregon to California for better weather—and “because I had always dreamed of living in Sonoma County where any adult could cultivate 30 plants per household, and that’s exactly what we did,” he tells me. “I’m technically disabled and my lungs only have 70 percent capacity. Growing is hard work, so I have to depend on others to lift and carry things. When I’m really sick, I am hooked to an oxygen concentrator and can barely walk.”
Despite his health setbacks, Subcool and his then wife and partner, MzJill, continued to build a company staffed with fellow growers/breeders now known worldwide as TGA Genetics (The Green Avengers). But Subcool’s illness and treatments were wearing on him. He says he “lost his kind nature.” Then came the day that would change his life forever.
October 8, 2017. MzJill and Subcool were already planning to separate when fast-moving flames burned their home in Santa Rosa to the ground. The wildfire eventually destroyed 8,500 homes and killed over 60 people. Sub and Jill were lucky to escape with their lives, but they lost everything, including almost four million seeds and all of the male and female breeding plants they had saved over many years. Devastated, the pair went their separate ways, and Subcool tried to pick up the pieces and move on.
Without a home, Subcool began to build his new life and restore his cannabis-genetics library. Two years later, he has an arsenal of 44 Dank strains stocked up and distributed worldwide. But it wasn’t easy. Without any tools to run his business, he and his partner, William Rouland, sourced back lost parent stock from close friends who held cuttings of the plants. He even had to purchase some of his own seeds.
Slowly, they rebuilt his core strains using original mother and father plants. Strains like Jack the Ripper, Vortex and Querkle were reproduced, and Sub also started creating new strains and placing them into his large testing program.
Sub also had some issues with hemp russet mites that almost shut him down again. “I took in lots of new cuttings, and one of these came with a present—HRM, or hemp russet mites—and they almost caused me to move and stop growing altogether,” Sub tells me. “Instead of giving up, I tried literally everything, including heating plants to 122 degrees, raising CO2 levels in the room to 10,000 ppm, WPF97, Venerate, Flying Skull, Dr. Zymes [insecticides] and wettable sulfur. In the end, it took a combination of all of these and killing 40 full-size plants in flowering. Most importantly, I learned the use of predator bugs and organic IPM [integrated pest management] methods, and now my garden is healthy, happy and producing amazing-quality cannabis.”
One interesting story Subcool relates to me deals with reacquiring Strawberry Cough for his Strawberry Daiquiri strain (Strawberry Cough x Space Queen). He took a trip to Hollywood and struck a deal with Kyle Kushman to grow his genetics out and work with his famous Strawberry Cough alongside a new cut called Stardawg. Their collaboration has been dubbed “the Dank Brothers.”
“To bring the story up to date, we now have many collaborative strains in the ‘tester’s network,’” Subcool says, “and have just released a new strain called Strelka, which is a delicious cross of my cherry-infused, resin-coated Space Queen dad with Kyle’s fruity/diesel Stardawg female, fully endorsed by two old-school growers and friends. The results have been amazing, and we look forward to this cross becoming highly sought after in the new cannabis world.”
On February 20, 2019, Subcool and MzJill met in mediation to officially separate. Subcool surrendered TGA Genetics IP to her and officially became the Dank, the same name of his two books. He also gave up the rights to the following strains: Jillybean, Agent Orange, Brian Berry Cough, Orange Velvet, Ace of Spades, Plushberry, Black Dahlia and Time-wreck, and he and MzJill agreed to the joint use of Space Queen.
Sub tells me he regrets the role he played in his and MzJill’s messy and public breakup. “I promoted TGA for 18 years,” he says. “I did a good job, but I feel that the magic fell apart the night of the fire. I do not know the fate of TGA, but my work, my strains and my passion continue on in the 44 strains that make up the menu of the Dank.”
The Pool Grow
Subcool settled in Arizona and rented a home with an indoor pool, drained it and started growing cannabis inside it under Arizona’s medical program. Now, with his new home converted to a state-approved 60-plant grow op, his mission to continue working with his beloved cannabis plant continues in a very unique environment.
Sub explains to me: “The wet air made it impossible to breathe, so one day I drained the pool. Someone online joked about the old Cheech and Chong skit [in which the duo have a grow op in an empty pool], and I took the challenge.” Solis Tek gave him a good deal on the lights, and he put 8,000 watts of double-ended high-pressure-sodium fixtures above the 20-by-30-foot pool. Smart Pot donated custom 100-gallon air pots, and Dragonfly Earth Medicine contributed organic teas to feed the plants. To complete the giving chain, the cannabis he grows in the pool is donated to patients entirely for free!
The Bowling Alley Grow
Sub also sent me photos of a brand-new facility he and his team are building out in what used to be a bowling alley. He tells me: “With the support and help of [grow visionary] Eli Harding and William Rouland, the bowling alley in Globe is almost complete, and in just a few weeks we start moving in plants. We will grow in my Super Soil using my methods and grow as close to organically as possible. Everything will be tested, even though it isn’t required in Arizona. The Dank will set new standards for packaging, testing and distribution. The state-of-the-art kitchen has glass walls, so all aspects can be filmed and supervised for quality control.”
Subcool tells me he’s enthusiastic about the future: “I get to start hundreds of seeds and do pheno hunts of my favorite strains. Once we find the best, we’ll use Phylos Bioscience to map and protect our versions of each strain. Each strain will have quality standards for terpene and cannabinoid production. I’m excited, but I also understand the long road we have in front of us. Growing cannabis has so many variables, and so many things can go wrong. We stand at the brink of success or failure, and all of us won’t look back until we handle all adversity and make something truly Dank!”
You can find verified Subcool seeds online at the Dank (subcool.com) and at major seed distributors like Attitude Seed bank, Seedsman and JBC Seeds. Look for the Dank’s consumable cannabis products in Arizona dispensaries.
This feature was published in the July, 2019 issue of High Times magazine. Subscribe right here.