Marijuana strains are a lot like sex tapes.
If you share a really hot strain with one person, the whole world will know about it tomorrow. Which makes Gorilla Glue #4 the Kim Kardashian sex tape of marijuana strains. Like adolescent boys and the Kim Kardashian video, nearly all cannabis growers claim they have Gorilla Glue #4 (GG#4) in their arsenals. In the Glue’s mere four years of existence, many have grown this strain, even more have profited from this strain, and almost everyone has smoked this strain.
Yet few cannabis consumers know the truth about “the glue, and fewer consumers know its origin story: GG #4 was born from an inadvertent sexual encounter among cannabis plants. And even fewer know that strain recently became the first known type of cannabis to receive statewide trademarks.
The Birth of Gorilla Glue #4
In 2012, Las Vegas growers with a combined 90 years of experience, “Joesie Wales” and “Lone Watty,” accidentally created the strain when the “Chem Sister” (a female plant) hermaphrodited (went male) over to the Sour Dubb before being crossed with Chocolate Diesel. That convoluted romance unintentionally produced seeds which gave birth to new strains of cannabis. (Also see: the Sour Diesel legend). Seven seeds were produced in total, and Wales and Watty deemed the fourth seed the keeper. The resulting plant was basically the Blue Ivy Carter of the marijuana world: superior genetics created an even more superior strain.
Shortly after the strain’s genesis, Wales received a phone call while trimming the new plant. When he answered, the phone stuck to his hands. Wales told the caller that his hands were so sticky it felt like he had Gorilla Glue on them. Thus, Gorilla Glue #4 was born and named.
In 2014, GG#4 won multiple first place Cannabis Cup awards, and by the end of that year, the glue was seemingly growing everywhere. The Glue becoming a commonplace plant in home gardens was intentional for some and unintentional for others. Wanting to test out the strain’s stability, the strain was gifted to private growers and 100 cuts (clone variations) were sold at a Cannabis Cup. Unfortunately, a former friend of Joesie also played a more nefarious role in the strain’s perforation into cannabis lore, giving the strain to anyone and everyone–which is why consumers see GG#4 in more dispensaries than not.
When I asked if he wishes the strain had never leaked at all, Joesie Wales responded with a poignant answer:
My first thought is yes, as the person whom I thought was a friend, turned out to be in it for himself, and I am a man of my word, but then I think, well If the Kim Kardashian video was never leaked and handed out, she wouldn’t be where she is today.
Perhaps if Gorilla Glue #4 wasn’t given to an unsavory ex-friend or sold at Cannabis Cups (by its owners), the strain never would have received the accolades and celebrity status it has now earned.
But like any celebrity, fame comes with legal complications. Colorado dispensaries have (according to a tip) been served cease and desist letters for selling the Gorilla Glue #4 strain, just like an outfit did in Washington last summer. That cease and desist, as previously reported by Marijuana.com, targeted TKO Reserve and actually came from the Gorilla Glue “GLUE” company regarding its own trademark.
Our glue guys are safe, however. “A year ago, we kinda changed the name to GG#4 everywhere,” Wales told me. Their company now goes by GG Strains LLC to steer clear of the traditional glue industry.
But the GG #4 marijuana strain’s creators also have a trademark of their own — with far different intentions. While a legal, protective play, this innovative trademark is all about ownership, branding and legitimacy in the nation’s fastest growing, once rogue industry.
GGStrains has successfully completed the first known cannabis trademark by registering their Gorilla Glue #4 strain name and medical cannabis plant in in Colorado, Nevada and Washington with other pending trademarks. Marijuana.com’s legal team confirmed that GG Strains LLC has a trademark in Colorado for “Gorilla Glue #4” and a trademark in Nevada for “GG Strains”.
Joesie and Lone may be the first growers to trademark their strain, but their lawyer hasn’t sent a single cease and desist letter on that strain’s behalf. Wales and Watty aren’t trying to put anyone out of business or prevent anyone from growing their magical strain. Instead, they are clarifying what the ideal expression of Gorilla Glue looks like, smokes like, and who created the real deal GG #4.
According to New York-based cannabis consultant Jason Pinsky, “The cannabis industry will eventually turn into a commodity market. And the two things that differentiate your product in that kind of market are quality and branding. It’s more about having a name and a logo and a brand identity — but that also has to be paired with having a quality product. At the end of the day, you’re not protecting the weed. You’re really protecting the brand and brand identity.”
Pinsky’s comments make sense when you know that Wales and Watty are just a couple of old-school growers trying to protect their work, or as they say in their mission statement, to “ensure all consumers and medical cannabis/marijuana card holders receive the same GG#4 each and every time they go to purchase.”
While the Glue Gang has state trademarks in place, those might not enjoy federal recognition. Pinsky tells me “You can protect the strain name on a state level but still the US Patent Office is on a national level, the only thing you really have national protection on is your name and logo.”
This problem facing these growers is not a new problem — it’s just a magnified problem. If you walk into any dispensary in Colorado, odds are high there’s a strain mislabeled “OG Kush” or “Sour Diesel” for simple brand recognition and sales. GG#4’s high yields and unmatched potency make this strain a corporate dispensary’s dream. The strain can be sold at a high price, makes customers happy, and still rakes in a pretty penny per pound. A snake could (and there’s plenty of these laying in the industry’s weeds) simply grow a high yielding strain, throw GG #4 on a jar, and sell it to unsuspecting consumers who in turn won’t get the full effect of the real deal. Without quality control, uniform brands or the ability for brands to cross state lines, strains become inconsistent and vary from location to location.
As Watty tells me, “If you buy Patron, and get a generic tequila knock-off, how are you going to feel? Obviously not the same buzz.”
But in this industry, quality control has long been virtually impossible, just like finding everyone who grows such a desirable strain is virtually impossible. When a strain becomes branded and gets a verified logo, a lot more becomes possible.
The previously underground cannabis world shared news on message boards and forums. There were no brands selling legal products and there were no serious marketing efforts. There was no proof of ownership. People hooked up friends and tossed around strains without considering the brand repercussions of identity theft in a future legal industry. Breeders and growers not getting the credit and financial benefit from their strains’ creation is no new trend. Just ask AJ (Sour Diesel) and Bubba (Bubba Kush) if they’ve been paid back every time someone has planted a Sour Diesel or Bubba Kush clone.
That’s why GG #4’s founders sound at peace with the current situation. Their response has been simply to build a brand, which includes a very landmark trademark that could alter how this industry functions.
The Gorilla Glue Company’s trademark fight carries little significance. It’s a very bland corporation’s lawyers sending cease and desist letters that likely function as a way of keeping that brand’s trademark alive.
From Tyson OG to Manning OG to Bieber Kush (really), a fair share of celebrities have filed complaints over the years when dispensaries attempted to cash in on their celebrity status. But rarely have those trademark concerns actually concerned the legitimate industry and its burgeoning future.
Wales and Watty think that future includes many people growing their strain. What it doesn’t include is people damaging their strain’s reputation. The one-time renegades of the industry just want to go legit. Their goal is trying to clarify what constitutes as their strain and what doesn’t. And of course, they’re also aiming to cash in. “We think the Gorilla Glue #4 / GG Strains brand is a billion-dollar product,” Watty tells me. “We just want a tiny percentage of that. People have said we’re trying to be Monsanto. We’re trying to keep Monsanto out.”
And they’re doing exactly that by creating a model brand for other growers and breeders to follow. They’ve become a real company with a real website, marketing team, a lawyer and a full staff. They have two other versions of the strain that go by Gorilla Glue #1 and Gorilla Glue #5 that have not leaked like the #4 has. They even have licensing deals in place in multiple states, and appear poised to spread the real glue and perhaps become the biggest strain-specific brand in the game.
Of course, the question remains: will this actually prevent dispensaries from growing or selling fake Gorilla Glue #4? Or calling a different something close to Gorilla Glue #4 and trying to pass it off as the real deal? Thanks to the original strain’s high yields, potency, and availability, probably not. But at least consumers in the know will be able to look for a seal of approval from authorized distributors.
There are plenty of other name-brand superstar strains in the game. From the Cookies brand to California’s renowned Hardcore OG by behemoth hash makers West Coast Cure to Zkittlez, these strains are more sought after than Kanye’s latest album. The question lingers for all these brands, too: can a cannabis trademark actually accomplish anything?
This wild, wild west ethos of the marijuana game is a forceful tide that even the government can’t slow down. Most growers, up until now, haven’t cared much about their “brand” or legal issues — they care about making money.
But as the industry shifts out of the closet and into legitimacy, Wales and Watty’s historic move could begin a trend of attaching strains to the people behind them. Anyone can grow a strain, and anyone can sell a strain. Few can say they created one of the best strains around.