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Introduction

Cannabis has been used as medical marijuana and for recreational purposes for thousands of years. However, the sale of marijuana has been regulated into illegality in America since the 1900’s. As such, the black market has evolved with a plethora of unique cannabis terms that can leave the average consumer’s head spinning. Take the plant itself; cannabis has a million different names including marijuana, merry jane, pot, weed, bud, nuggets, grass, reefer, kush, herb, stinkweed, and, my personal favorite, the devil’s lettuce. The origin of these terms has been lost in the corridors of time or has mutated into several explanations, leaving cannabis world novices to struggle.

This is the case with the term “kief”, which was originally used to designate the mixture of tobacco and hash smoked by Moroccans in the form of “kif”. Today it is commonly synonymous with “pollen,” or dust that remains under the grinder’s sieve after processing marijuana flower. The linguistic evolution is attributed to Frenchy Cannoli, Ed Rosenthal and other young Americans who, after returning from a “hippie” trip to Morocco in the 1970s, incorrectly used the term in Amsterdam. The “mistake” persists to this day, but that is also how a language evolves.

This rich and storied marijuana vocabulary does not stop with creatively naming weed or mixing up the intended meaning of words like kief. Different varieties of cannabis plants (known as cannabis strains) have their own names as well. However, these names are often riddled with so many similar terms that navigating a grower’s inventory can be hectic. The cannabis industry often promotes strain names with popular keywords to entice consumers into purchasing products by virtue of some kind of name recognition. You may have seen marijuana strains with the term “OG” or “OG Kush.” But what does OG stand for?

The truth is that not all terms have such a clear-cut story as kief.

Depending on who you talk to, OG stands for Original Kush, Ocean Grown, Original Gangster, or OverGrown. There are a million stories about the origin of OG but there are some more popular stories than others. Each potential explanation comes with its’ own lore and all of them stem from California.

Original (Kush)

LA Growers

In this version of the story, OG means original or original kush and may have been meant as a title for a specific strain. In 1992, Matt “Bubba” Berger received a random bag of marijuana flower from a friend. While all marijuana has trichomes (small, crystal-like structures that contain the cannabinoids like THC/CBD, terpenes, and flavonoids that give marijuana its flavor, aroma, and potency), this weed was absolutely coated in these shiny and sticky crystals. This weed was also purported to have a higher THC content than other strains. When Berger showed it to a friend, they remarked that the buds resembled “kushberries” – an incredibly well-known legacy strain of cannabis. Kushberries was then shortened to “kush.” Stories conflict as to whether this strain was Sativa dominant, Indica dominant, or a hybrid (mix) of the two.

In 1996, Berger returned to his LA home and showed his roommate, Josh Del Rosso (aka Josh D) the incredible strain. The two planted these seeds in the crawl space of a rental house they shared and the strain became wildly popular under the name “kush”. However, with this success, came other growers attempting to pass their own product off as a kush strain of Josh D and Berger’s kush. The roommates then changed their brand name to “OG Kush” to distinguish it from all the others. Unfortunately, the imitation marijuana farmers quickly started marketing OG strains of their own.

So what does OG kush stand for? In this story, OG Kush stands for original to represent the origin of the product.

Netflix Documentary

Another theory purporting OG as meaning original kush was popularized by the 2018 Netflix documentary series, Murder Mountain. For this legend, an early California grower flew to Afghanistan for the purpose of smuggling back weed seeds with prime “kush” (exemplar) genetics. These seeds were planted in the Emerald Triangle (in Northern California) which is known for its temperate Mediterranean climate that favors the cultivation of weed. The resulting harvests were dubbed OG Kush to indicate they had been cultivated by the strain’s original growers.

Ocean Grown

The easiest explanation for what OG stands for is “ocean grown.” The urban legend stems from a specific strain of weed grown on the coast of California. The story is that a Northern California coastal cannabis grower met another marijuana enthusiast one day and the two started discussing their favorite topic: weed. The marijuana enthusiast started raving about some amazing weed he had and pulled out a bag to show the original grower. Much to the cultivator’s surprise, the marijuana was from his own crop! The owner of the bag, not knowing who he was dealing with, started “educating” the incognito grower about the origin of the harvest and claimed its strong properties came from a mountain grown environment. The farmer corrected his new friend by telling him the strain was actually ocean grown. And thus the term was born! Ocean grown remains a popular description for weed among west coast California growers and smokers.

Original Gangster

The next meaning for OG is “original gangster” or “original gangsta.” This meaning originated in the 1970s with the LA-based gang, the Crips. Initially, the term original gangster was used to simply mean the first (e.g. OG Eastside Crip); it encompassed the idea of being “old school.” However, it eventually evolved to refer to someone who showed extreme loyalty to the gang or as an honorific from younger members to elder gang members as a sign of respect. 

As the Los Angeles hip-hop culture of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s was sensationally popularized, the term OG began to shift once again. A number of MCs in the hip-hop scene used OG to refer to exceptionally badass aspects of gang culture. And, in 1991, when rapper and actor Ice-T published his album and single entitled “O.G. Original Gangster,” the term took on new life in a mainstream audience. This could be what inspired Del Rosso and Berger, but it is impossible to certainly know. The term was then (somehow) specifically linked to a Kush variety grown by farmers in the San Fernando Valley (southern California) by the group Cypress Hill. This version was corroborated by DNA Genetics; the first company to market seeds of OG Kush that were previously only available as a clone of Berger’s and Rosso’s kush. DNA Genetics still offers a strain known as “OG Kush” available for purchase today.

Over time, the term has evolved further into establishment culture. Today, OG as “original gangster” or “original gangsta” is used to refer to something or someone that has exceptionally impressive skills, exemplifies a particular quality, or is the first of its kind.

OverGrown

This legend of OG is less popular than the others but still has some traction in the cannabis world. Some people believe that OG references OverGrow.com, a discussion forum that allowed users to share images and stories about cultivating cannabis. OverGrow.com also advocated for an “overgrow” of the government – the idea that if enough individuals sporadically planted marijuana seeds on public grounds the government would not have the resources to eradicate them all. Thus the public would become acclimated to cannabis sightings and, in turn, become more accepting of weed. OverGrow.com launched in 1999 and was one of the earliest online forums for growers. However, Canadian police seized the platform’s servers and arrested several of its operators in 2006. The website is back up and live today. This theory holds less weight than the others, but its’ advocates are especially vocal.

Conclusion

So what does OG mean? Luckily, the experience of enjoying any marijuana strains or products is completely removed from understanding the background weed terms! OG may refer to a specific strain, an urban legend, or a pop culture movement. So, what does OG mean to you?

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Amanda Pennings Administrator
CBD Content Strategist

Content Strategist Amanda Pennings holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Florida, and is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Anatomy. Her scientific background allows her to transform convoluted clinical journal articles into digestible content for the average CBD consumer. Fascinated by the medicinal benefits stemmed from the complex interaction between cannabinoids and the human body, Amanda joined CannaServe in 2019, and today, is the mind and writer behind many of the company’s most engaging content. Currently, she is passionately working towards creating an overhaul of the (currently lacking) safety regulations for CBD in America through consumer education and outreach.

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