Cannabis flowers that were not pollinated during cultivation and do not contain seeds. May also refer to the cultivation technique to create seedless cannabis. The term sinsemilla originates from the combination of two Spanish words: “sin” (without) and “semilla” (seed). Cannabis flowers that mature without pollination have higher levels of essential oils and are notable for being more psychoactive than seeded cannabis. Sinsemilla may also be spelled and pronounced “sensimilla” or “sensimilia,” or abbreviated as “sensi.”
A brief history of sinsemilla cannabis
Before and during the 1970s, cannabis in the United States came in primarily two forms: as hashish and cannabis buds. Dried cannabis flowers imported to the United States from Mexico, Jamaica, Colombia, Panama, and Thailand, among other places, were wild-grown and minimally processed. Primarily known as marijuana by authorities and regulatory bodies, and referred to as grass, pot, and reefer, among many nicknames for the plant by everyone else, this cannabis had copious amounts of seeds. As domestic cannabis production in the United States began to take off in the 1970s, it was discovered that culling male plants before maturation so as to avoid any pollination would result in seedless buds after harvest.
It is not known who first coined the term sinsemilla, but it is theorized that both the cultivation method and the name originated in the southwestern United States. Due to the inherently higher THC content of seedless cannabis than seeded, this product was popularized as a new and potent type of cannabis. The misconception spread that sinsemilla and marijuana were completely different varieties of cannabis, and not the reality that they refer to the same plant simply grown with different cultivation techniques. This dichotomy between the two was used in anti-cannabis propaganda to spread the notion that cannabis was getting stronger, and therefore would allegedly begin to represent an even greater mental health concern to youths, thus needing to be eradicated.
Sinsemilla refers to the cannabis flowers that were not pollinated during cultivation, and do not contain seeds. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
As cannabis consumers realized the advantages that seedless cannabis had to offer (ease of smoking, increased potency, etc.), cultivators increasingly produced more and more sinsemilla. Breeding techniques were developed that allowed growers to grow seedless cannabis for distribution, while selectively pollinating particular branches of the healthiest females) in the crop with pollen from a separate crop of selected male breeding stock. Seeds secured from a few pollinated branches, if carefully germinated to assure a high success rate, can sow a crop for the following year. Advances in greenhouse technology led to the popularization of indoor cannabis cultivation, which further facilitated the production of seedless cannabis, as male and female cannabis plants could be grown adjacently, but in airtight containment to prevent unwanted pollination. The advent of feminized seeds facilitated hobbyist growing by allowing a grower to directly plant a crop of all-female plants sown from purchased, “feminized” seeds, without the need for complex breeding programs.
As seedless cannabis became the norm, the term sinsemilla fell into disuse.
The biology of sinsemilla: why is it more potent?
The development of the sinsemilla growing technique sparked an increase in potency of market cannabis for two reasons. Not only does seedless cannabis contain more THC, but its advent and spread also were the first time selective breeding was used to choose specimens for their increased potency.
The exact biological mechanism describing the increased potency of seedless cannabis from seeded has not been properly studied in a rigorous, scientific manner. However, an understanding of the descriptive botany of cannabis has provided a sound explanation for this phenomenon.
Female cannabis plants begin to flower when the days get shorter in the late summer. The amount of time it takes from the first sign of showing flowers to when they are fully ripe and ready to harvest in the fall is commonly referred to as its flowering period. Wild-grown, fertilized cannabis plants produce seeds during this time, and eventually drop them and die as temperatures cool in the fall. However, unfertilized cannabis lives longer and continues to produce flowers for up to a month longer than if it were fertilized. Vegetative growth of the stem and leaves would have ceased at the beginning of the flowering cycle, so all further growth happens in the buds, which become larger and more developed.
In addition to the extra lifetime of unfertilized female cannabis, the extra available metabolic energy that would have otherwise been dedicated to seed production is also thought to be a factor for the increase in potency. Cannabinoids are a component of the sticky oleoresin that forms on the outside of the bracts, the part of the anatomy which holds the seeds. It has been postulated that a lack of hormone-directed metabolism for the production of lipids and proteins in the seed will cause an amplification of the other, existing metabolic pathways: cannabinoid, terpene, and flavonoid biosynthesis.
The increased cannabinoid production in sinsemilla is very clear when looking at available data that tracks cannabis potency from the last 20-30 years. According to an Archival Report from the Society of Biological Psychiatry, the main factor driving the increase in potency of cannabis in the United States is the increase in the proportion of high potency seedless relative to seeded cannabis.
Edible, nutrient-dense cannabis seeds are sought by small, foraging animals.
In the wild, cannabis has adopted the survival strategy of producing the maximum amount of seeds it can before death in the hopes that enough remain to sow the next generation the following spring. The seeds can make up to 50% of the mass of a dried, seeded cannabis bud, which represents a significant hardship for distribution and consumption of seeded cannabis.
For consumers, seeds are a nuisance that require users to meticulously pick through the buds by hand. Smoked seeds create an unpleasant flavor reminiscent of a coal-fired stove.
Cervantes, J. (2015). The Cannabis Encyclopedia. Van Patten Publishing .
Clarke, R. C. (1981). Marijuana Botany. Ronin Publishing .
Danko, D. (2010). The Official High Times Field Guide to Marijuana Strains. High Times Books .
Elsohly, M. A.; Mehmedic, Z.; Foster, S.; Gon, C.; Chandra, S.; Church, J. C. (2016). Changes in Cannabis Potency Over the Last 2 Decades (1995-2014): Analysis of Current Data in the United States. Biological Psychiatry, 79, 613-619.
Mehmedic, Z.; Chandra, S.; Slade, D.; Denham, H.; Foster, S.; Patel, A. S.; Ross, S. A.; Khan, I. A.; ElSohly, M. A. (2010). Potency Trends of Δ 9 -THC and Other Cannabinoids in Confiscated Cannabis Preparations from 1993 to 2008. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 55 (5) , 1209-1217.
Slade D.; Mehmedic Z.; Chandra S.; ElSohly M. A. (2012). Is cannabis becoming more potent? In: Castle D.; Murray R. M.; D’Souza D. C.; editors. Marijuana and Madness, 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press , 35–54.
Cannabis Basics: What Is Sinsemilla Weed?
Modern marijuana consumers in America are a fortunate breed. Those who live in a state where marijuana is legal for recreational use now have the access that eluded previous generations.
In the great “Is cannabis stronger today than before?” debate, we revealed that the answer is both yes and no. Yes, today, there are strains with THC contents up to 30% that weren’t available ‘back in the day.’ However, it was more a case of strong weed not being available, rather than such marijuana didn’texist.
Various studies, including one by Cascini, Aiello, and Di Tanna, published in Current Drug Abuse Reviews in 2012, show that the THC content of cannabis has increased over time. Samples tested at the University of Mississippi found that older weed was at least 57% less potent than today’s marijuana.
When we discuss potency, we are talking about the level of THC in the plant. One possible reason for this increase could be that people didn’t know how to store cannabis well years ago. When the herb is improperly stored, its THC degrades.
Even so, the old-school Mexican brick, filled with seeds, has been replaced by the high-quality marijuana we call ‘sinsemilla.’
What Is Sinsemilla?
Surprisingly few people seem to know what sinsemilla actually is. One school of thought suggests it relates to high-quality seedless marijuana tended to with extreme levels of care. Other people believe sinsemillas are potent strains from the Southwest of the U.S. or Amsterdam in the Netherlands.
In reality, sinsemilla is not a specific strain of cannabis. The word comes from a combination of Spanish words: ‘sin’ (without) and ‘semilla’ (seed).
When Did We First Gain Access to Sinsemilla?
Marijuana has been grown for at least 12,000 years. It was legal for most of its history before its prohibition in the Western world during the 20th century.
As a result, very few people risked growing weed in North America and Europe until the 1960s. At that time, breeders walked the famous ‘hippy trail’ and began taking seeds back from Asia.
In the past, weed was full of seeds making for a harsh smoking experience and relatively low THC.
Most of the marijuana smuggled into Europe and North America came from India, Pakistan, Mexico, Thailand, Colombia, and Jamaica. The vast majority of this weed was full of seeds making for a harsh smoking experience and relatively low THC.
It was only in the 1970s that seedless marijuana became better known. Breeders soon realized that this ‘sinsemilla’ weed was of significantly better quality, and it soon became the ‘gold standard.’
At this time, sinsemilla came to mean more than weed that was high in THC. In the 1970s, sinsemilla was described as a method of growing marijuana. Growers prevented the female plant’s flowers from coming into contact with pollen from a male plant. Doing so removed the possibility of fertilization and the development of seeds in the female plants.
The rationale behind this was that unfertilized female flowers would remain high in resin and develop larger branched flower clusters. Breeders were delighted to find that sinsemilla cannabis had at least twice the THC of fertilized weed. Also, depending on the strain, the THC level could be up to ten times higher.
Hydroponically grown weed using the sinsemilla technique usually has a higher THC level than cannabis grown in soil. Hardly anyone tries to grow sinsemilla weed outside due to the high risk of pollination by male plants.
Sinsemilla in the Modern Era
Today, marijuana users are spoiled by a combination of easy access and extremely high-quality bud. Past generations relied on low-grade schwag illegally smuggled into the country. Today’s cannabis consumers can walk into a dispensary and buy the best weed they can afford.
The increase in the quality of weed is mainly down to legality and availability. However, cannabis cultivators have also learned more effective and efficient growing techniques.
Popular strains such as Kush and Skunk have been around since the 1980s. Neville’s Haze was around in the 1970s and is just a single step removed from a landrace. Most experts now agree that there was premium weed 40+ years ago, but hardly anyone was fortunate enough to use it.
Nowadays, high THC strains are common, so it is now a question of finding weed with the right aroma and taste.
It is now so easy to grow high-quality marijuana that users are becoming picky. High THC strains are common, so it is now a question of finding weed with the right aroma and taste. It is marijuana’s aromatic terpene compounds that are mainly responsible for their flavors and scents.
It is interesting to see how our love for sugar makes us gravitate towards cannabis strains with a sweet taste. Today, there are many popular sweet marijuana strains, such as Gelato, Cherry Limeade, and Girl Scout Cookies.
A lot of people don’t seem to realize that terpenes don’t make sinsemilla taste sweet. What happens is that the aromatic compounds act as a trigger for association with sweet items we previously experienced.
One expert likened the process to the creation of ice cream. There are lots of flavors, but ultimately, ice cream is just sugar and frozen milk. Our association with sweet items guides the selection and breeding of modern-day growers.
Final Thoughts on Sinsemilla Weed
Those who lived through the dark days of the 1960s were lucky to get their hands on low-grade Mexican brick weed. However, today, high-quality sinsemilla cannabis is the norm.
As explained, in simple terms, sinsemilla is marijuana without seeds. It is far more potent than cannabis with seeds and offers a far smoother smoking experience. Sinsemilla weed was first made available to Europe and North America in the 1970s. Breeders soon realized that they could grow as much sinsemilla weed as they wished by preventing the female plants from being fertilized by male cannabis plants.
Fast forward to today, and practically every breeder creates sinsemilla cannabis if they are growing indoors. There hasn’t been an issue with ‘seed and stalk’ marijuana for most growers in about 25 years. Today’s breeders grow sinsemilla indoors every single time. Advances in growing technology mean they can enjoy several harvests per annum – a pipe dream for most a generation ago.
This is a very strong form of marijuana which, like skunk, contains high levels of ‘tetrahydrocannabinols’ (THC’s). These are responsible for a range of effects such as euphoria, talkativeness, increased sociability, hunger pangs (also known as ‘the munchies’) and hallucinations.
What is sinsemilla?
This refers to a female cannabis plant which does not have any seeds. This word can be split into two: ‘sin’ (without) and ‘semilla’ (seeds).
So, ‘sinsemilla’means ‘no seeds’.
If a female marijuana plant is not fertilised then it will produce large amounts of resin which was designed to trigger fertilisation. However, cannabis resin contains high levels of THC’s.
Female cannabis plants which have not been fertilised will contain ‘fake’seed pods with high percentages of THC’s which is the desired goal for some growers.
These pods contain ‘pistils’ –the seed bearing part of the plant which change colour during growth before withdrawing into the pods.
Once they have done so the plant is ready to be harvested.
So, if a female cannabis plant has not been fertilised by a male plant and is allowed to mature then it will not produce any seeds. If there is no sign of these throughout its growth then it is said to be a sinsemilla plant.
Sinsemilla plants have some of the highest levels of THC’s.
How is sinsemilla grown?
This is usually grown indoors, under greenhouse conditions, and using hydroponic techniques.
One reason for this is that it is relatively easy for a male cannabis plant to fertilise a female cannabis plant if grown outdoors. So, growing sinsemilla indoors reduces the risk of this happening.
A sinsemilla plant contains a high percentage of THC’s, often around 10% or more. This figure increases to 20, 25 or even 30% if grown using hydroponic techniques.
This can be added to tobacco and smoked as a ‘spliff’ or smoked on its own. Another option is to smoke sinsemilla using a ‘bong’ (a water pipe).
Effects of sinsemilla
This causes similar effects to those of skunk. People who smoke sinsemilla find that they experience a state of elation, heightened awareness of colour, sound and textures and an increased appetite.