How We Got To Cookies, One Strain At a Time
The famous strain is the best example of what a "McDonald's of cannabis" will look like in the future.
When it comes to cannabis culture and products, few names ring off in the streets like Cookies. Its genetics have been used to create some of the most popular strains in the world; and as a lifestyle brand, it's put the absolute clamps on cannabis in pop culture. With big blue buildings popping up in every legal city and state possible, it would seem that Cookies is the best example of what a “McDonald's of cannabis” will look like in the future. To discuss the strains that got them to this point, I hopped on a Zoom with Jai Chang, better known as Jigga, Cookies co-founder, GSC breeder, and all-around grow expert for the cannabis juggernaut.
Cookies was founded by Berner and Jigga circa 2011-2012, but long before they achieved nationwide acclaim, Cookies was just a family of breeders and growers from the Bay Area that created, and dedicated themselves to one very special plant: The Original Girl Scout Cookies, now called GSC.
“Cookie Fam has a meaning. When you acknowledge that the plant doesn't work for you, you work for the plant. All you have to do is hold her high, hold her with respect, use her as a tool to help you evolve as a person. It's when you realize that you've given yourself to her, and you're a guardian and a servant to cannabis,” said Jigga.
These are the strains that made Cookies.
1998-2000s: F1 Durban Poison
Jigga's fanhood of cannabis started in his childhood home around 1995. His mom was a grower, so by default, he became one too. He used to flip through High Times magazines and be captivated by the articles about all the different types of cannabis growing worldwide. A light bulb went off in his head and Jigga immediately knew what he was meant to do in life.
Around '98, when he graduated high school and moved into a house in San Francisco with a childhood friend, he immediately started growing. OG Kush, Purple Urkle, and F1 Durban Poison were first. “Before I even started growing, I was fortunate to be around good weed. We had Kush before OG. And then Urkel, it was 'Purple.' Pre-Granddaddy, it was straight Urkel.”
Most importantly, Jai was growing his famed F1 Durban Poison, which would go on to become the genetic backbone of the wildly popular GSC strain family.
2003-2004: Cherry Pie
In the early 2000s, Jigga worked for the San Francisco Department of Public Health, where he was sent to middle schools and high schools to do presentations on the HIV/AIDS epidemic, often with a speaker that was living with one of the terminal illnesses.
On the side, he provided those speakers with cannabis to help relieve their symptoms. “I was like that revolutionary kid that was the anti-government, we were our own little clinic. I worked with about 40 - 50 people that were living with a terminal illness, and at that time, I was in charge of providing them all with weed. That was my job. The feedback I would get on a day to day basis, 'Jai, you don't know how much your herb is helping me every single day with my appetite, or my side effects, or the harsh drugs.'”
Cherry Pie ended up being one of those life-changing strains for the patients. “In retrospect, it helped with some of the foundation I have with seeing the health benefits, the respect for the plant. Because people would smoke these herbs that we created and would go out of their way to tell us how much it helped them.”
2005-2007: Girl Scout Cookies
Most of us believe Cookies hit the scene between 2011 - 2012, but Jigga told me that, truthfully, it had been around since the mid-2000s. “It was a time where you always needed to have the next thing going because everybody had the Purps. We knew that we wanted to have something or that next evolution of the Kushes, and that's really how the Cookies and Cherry Pie spawned. Cookies was one of those things that came out of our house on Noriega and 25th Avenue in [The Sunset District]. We knew right away. The smell was unique, it had the shiniest, densest nugs, and it held its flavor.”
On how the name came to be, Jigga shared, “After we made our new varieties, we liked to sit down and have a taste test amongst the homies. Girl Scout Cookies was one of those ones and we were sitting there trying to taste the name. We were passing it around and [the name] just came to me. This is Thin Mint Cookies, bro. It had that earl grey, that kushy piney, and it just stuck. From there on, we transitioned, and Bern literally got it out to everyone.”
Describing GSC's impact on cannabis culture then, Jigga remembered, “Once it was out there, Cookies immediately got the stamp from the streets. It had this movement about it, and it got into other people's gardens. It swept the streets. It became the foundation for so many other breeds and crosses.”
The 2010s is when GSC cemented its place on the Mount Rushmore of cannabis strains. No cultivar was hotter. Right after it, came its many descendants.
One of the most famous GSC children was Sherbert, which was bred by Mario Guzman, aka Mr. Sherbinski, under Jai's mentorship. Jai introduced a unique [Burmese Kush] pollen into Mario's garden and the resulting plants were the forefathers of what would one day become the Sherbert that we all know and love.
When it comes to some of the most influential cultivars in the world of weed, Gelato definitely makes that list of GOATs. Its descendants absolutely dominate modern-day cannabis culture.
As its story goes, the pollination of Gelato happened in a Sacramento garden that Jai and Sherbinski shared. The pheno hunting took place in San Francisco. From Gelato came the famous phenotypes Gelato #25, Gelato #33, Gelato #41, Gelato #43, and Gelato #45. On its impact, Jai said, “Culturally, Gelato has helped define the taste, smell, and experience of cannabis from the streets to corporate America.”
In recent years, there's not a single strain that was more popular in name, search volume, and cultural influence than Runtz. Though we all associate it directly with Cookies, it actually came from the Runtz crew/original Cookie Fam member Yung LB and “Cookies Boyz” Nick and Ray, according to Leafly.
About the fruity cross of Gelato and Zkittlez, Jigga said, “I didn't breed Runtz, but my genetics created the unique and powerful strain. It's the Gelato strain that is responsible for its distinctive look and flavor with its unmistakable creamy, gassy taste.”
2021: Gary Payton
These days, Cookies is worldwide famous for more strains that you can name off the top of your head. One that definitely stands out is Gary Payton, bred by original Cookie Fam member Kenny Powers from Powerzzzup. It launched in 2019 and has blown up in popularity over the past couple of years. “Once again, I cannot claim to have physically made this cross, but fortunately, some of the varieties I've worked on are responsible for this marvelous creation. It began with the original Kush variety we called Florida Kush combined with the YLife variety, a Cherry Pie x GSC. Now, we have one of the most potent and colorful strains to date.”