Following a series of interviews with some of the worlds leading cannabis breeders, it was about time Soft Secrets pulled their fingers out of the Rizla papers and arranged an interview with cannabis cultures most prolific breeder to date, Shantibaba. With a professional career spanning over two decades, as a writer and traveler, the founding geneticist of the worlds most famous seed bank, the overall winner of Cannabis’s highest and most prestigious accolades, and the man that now works with Howard Marks, borrowing 10mins from this elusive breeder’s busy schedule was never going to be easy. Eventually, we finally managed to catch up with Shantibaba to ask him some questions about his work with and love for cannabis plants.
Where does the name Shantibaba come from?
While I was in India in the early 80’s an Indian friend and I established a gem cutting business in Jaipur called Shantibaba Enterprises… and considering it means peaceful person it somehow stuck to me.
When did you first discover cannabis and why did you start cultivating marijuana for yourself?
I tried cannabis with a few mates around 13yr old, found myself and a mate of mine on all fours following a white line on a grassy strip that was not there…laughed like there was no tomorrow, immediately felt akin with this plant.
It was the mid seventies when I first grew from seed, motivated out of the insatiable appetite to consume this plant, and never being able to find a constant product on the black market. So it was easier to learn to do it myself and not rely on anyone’s b/s . I made a lot of mistakes but finally went into growing indoor with lamps in Australia around 1978…or there about, which changed my life forever.
What are your most memorable ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ during your 2G years traveling across Asia?
Big question! I expect the highs would be not loosing my freedom and carefree nature and my time in India on my Royal Enfield. Looking for seed was my mission and having my own means to go anywhere at anytime where no road was the wrong road…that was a big HIGH.
The low time was rare in Asia…a lot more of those moments when I went to the so called Developed world of Europe.
Where else have you traveled in pursuit of landrace cannabis genetics?
That is a long list…but pretty much 4 out of 5 continents to date…only Africa eludes me for now, but I feel when my daughter is a little older we will do that continent together.
Probably south east Asia was the place I did most thoroughly since the 1980s and still doing. Was just in Irian Jaya (the Indonesian part of Papua New Guinea) and that was the hardest place I trekked in my life…after 12 days deep into tribal area doing 8-10 hours walk each day…I was ready to become a tree!
Please tell us about your favorite varieties of cannabis to grow.
I do not have a favorite, as anything I grow becomes a part of me during its life cycle. I get as passionate about growing fruits or veggies too! I expect Mother Nature’s world does it for me big time.
How did you become a Cannabis Geneticist?
Accidentally, if you want the truth! That sort of work was never viewed, and in certain places in the world still is not viewed as a job. So it was hard as a boy to aspire to a job that was not even in existence to the visible world…I expect it is a bit like the work my children will be doing in 20 years; not imaginable from where we stand with our current knowledge.
But generally I was partial to plants and my favorite three things are grapes, olives and Cannabis. Since Cannabis grew relatively quickly compared to fruit trees or nuts, it seemed to be something I could have an effect on in my life span.