As the fledgling legal cannabis industry continues to sprout and grow, there are countless characters trying to make a name for themselves through various avenues, but there are some names which have more resonance than others.
If you know anything about weed then chances are you know who Subcool is and you have a good idea about what he does. Just in case you have somehow missed out on him and his friends – the main thing you need to know is that he is a phenomenal breeder who specializes in medicinal strains. Currently his YouTube series ‘The Weed Nerd’ is racking up tens of thousands of views as he uses online avenues to reach out to like-minded folk around the globe. As he approaches his 250th episode it is clear that one thing has always been true about Subcool: he and his friends focus on quality over anything else.
For the past 25 years he has been entrenched in the industry. From his guerrilla roots and outlaw grows, when he spent much of his time outwitting agents of the law, he has evolved into a legitimate business man. What makes him who he is today is the fact that he has never sold out his core values: Sub believes that a strain should not be put on the market until it is proven. What makes this possible is his network of growers who act as guinea pigs for every new strain. The Weed Nerds grow and document their test grows and give active feedback as they go. This means over a hundred people could be growing simultaneously across the globe to ensure that the seeds Sub sends to them hit the spot; if a strain doesn’t perform it doesn’t make the cut. No cutting corners allowed.
His dedication to the development of his strains and, subsequently, the seeds he sells carries over into all aspects of his life. Sub is the kind of guy who does things to the maximum and doesn’t believe in half measures. When I spoke to him recently he was talking about how he was always toying with new ways to process his buds to increase the available number of options for consumption. Sub has always been a pretty heavy weed smoker and he used to pride himself on being the guy with the biggest spliffs, the fullest bongs and the strongest strains at any gathering. He has always been hugely active on the scene and always makes an effort to get out and mingle but, sadly, he now finds that this is not as straightforward as it used to be.
Not one to sit around on his behind, Sub has always been an avid fan of fitness and always makes time to get to the gym. One day he found that his breathing was more difficult and he felt like he wasn’t feeling one hundred percent. The first thing that sprung to mind was the million bong hits he had ripped over the past half century: had they done some lasting damage? Understandably worried by the symptoms, he went to see his physician and they decided to conduct some tests. The first thing they did was listened to his breathing and heart rate and then hooked him up to a spirometer. Sub told me that he saw this as a chance to show how impressive his lung capacity was and took a deep breath. Blowing out as hard as he could, he was shocked to hear the doctor say that he hadn’t blown hard or long enough to get a reading. He tried again with the same result.
Unperturbed, Sub decided to make another appointment for the next day and prepared for the spirometer by going to the gym in the morning and skipping his usual morning smoke. Feeling confident as he walked back into the doctor’s office, he soon found himself stunned by his failure to hit the required marker again. His doctor sat him down and explained that it was possible that he had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or emphysema, both of which cause shortness of breath and progressively greater issues with respiration. Sub’s first thoughts were that his years of smoking joints and hitting bongs was the root cause of his condition, but this was not the case.
Following further tests the doctor discovered that he was actually suffering from these symptoms because of a rare genetic condition known as Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency. Alpha-1 is believed to have originally developed in Vikings as their genetic make-up evolved in response to the Black Plague. Scientists believe that the change in their genes allowed new generations of Vikings to survive and prosper, but in the long term it led to issues later in life. In our modern world, being an Alpha-1 patient means that your lungs and liver are at risk because your body does not produce a protein known as APA1 protein 1. The protein usually acts as a protective substance but its absence means that the white blood cells in our body attack our liver and lungs instead of helping to protect them. This manifests in breathing difficulties which can great progressively worse and can result in sufferers dying from phlegm suffocation. In Sub’s own words: “It’s pretty cool to know that it’s not because of smoking weed and it’s also pretty great to find out you’re descended from Vikings. But it sucks to know that this is a condition which can’t be stopped and will ultimately be fatal.”
When I had a chance to speak with him recently, I was taken aback by his openness and honesty but also, perhaps even more so, by the way that he is coping with this daunting condition. Sub told me that he tries to eat his cannabis more regularly as it’s the healthiest option and the best method for him, although he went on to explain that he still likes to smoke ‘clean’ hash. For him the biggest impact is that he really feels the effects of being in a smoke-filled environment for any length of time. “I love going to all the expos,” Sub explained, “but whereas I used to be the guy that was still there at the very end of a smoke out, I now have to consider how I might feel the next day. I can still be a part of the party and enjoy myself but I can really struggle to breathe afterwards. It certainly affects me, but I’m still in the game. It was nice to see people at the last event I went to and some people who have always seen themselves as my competitors were coming up to me and expressing how they felt after knowing about my condition. They were like – ‘you’ve paid your dues to the industry, man, and this sucks that you have to go through this.’ That sense of community is great and I think it just shows how much we all really have that shared connection deep down. In spite of our differences.”
We went on to talk about his process of developing strains and if his condition got in the way of business and he was quick to dismiss the idea. “The way I see it is that this is just something that I have to deal with. I can’t change it, but it doesn’t have to change me. TGA is stronger than ever now and we have a huge amount going on behind the scenes. I refuse to sacrifice quality and we will never drop our standards just to get a strain to market. If it’s not good enough for the Weed Nerds then it’s not good enough for the people that want to buy it. It’s that simple. In all honesty, the hardest thing about the strains we are working on now is finding good names for them. You used to be able to just come up with a name you wanted and it would be fine – now it’s almost impossible to come up with unique names that are good. It’s like, type a name into a search engine and put ‘cannabis’, ‘strain’ or ‘weed’ next to it and bang, someone has already done it. There’s like 9,000 strains now. We can keep coming up with great combinations that meet the needs of our consumers, but naming them is probably the hardest part.”
By using his team of Weed Nerds as his invisible army, Sub and his team have been tirelessly working on their latest strain and it is almost ready to be unleashed upon the world. “We have 42 strains on the testing scale right now. That’s a lot of strains, but they won’t be released until they are ready. Some people are happy to buy seeds in bulk with no idea of what they are and then slap them in a bag and sell them to the public. I’m not naming names but there are people who only care about the money they can make. That’s not us. Our latest strain is ready to go, having spent 6 months in testing and giving great results, and I’m looking forward to people getting their hands on it. We’ve called it Darklights and it’s a cross between Pennywise (I like the idea of the dark and evil clown from It) and AC/DC which has been getting impressive results. Once the nerds are happy then we are happy. We have never really moved from the small company mentality – we are just a small company that does things well. Our sales footprint it bigger than our business footprint and we take pride in what we do.”
As we ended our conversation it was clear that Sub is very much alive and kicking. He has stuck to his guns and carried on working on the things he loves, and that’s pretty inspirational. His dedication to helping medicinal cannabis users is phenomenal and it’s clear that TGA have a lot more goodness to bring to the market…when it’s ready. My time talking to Sub was hugely positive and it was great to see him dealing with the problems he is facing in such a positive light. As the old saying goes: ‘You can’t control what will happen to you, but you can control the way that you respond to it.’