On Feb. 1, the legendary cannabis breeder Dave Bowman, better known as Subcool, died after a long fight with the rare condition Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, as well as COPD.
As the news spread and sent shockwaves throughout the cannabis community, post after post from the world’s leading cannabis figures on social media memorialized Subcool. A recurring theme: Many now-successful members of the cannabis community said they had been inspired to get started by Subcool’s activism in the 2000s, when publicly identifying yourself as a cannabis genetics enthusiast was an act of civil disobedience in itself.
Subcool first made his name leading The Green Avengers, which bred strains like Jack the Ripper, Jack’s Cleaner 2 and Vortex, which were able to stand out at the height of OG’s reign at the top. These strains found their way to the podium at the first official Cannabis Cup in the United States, where the Vortex (labeled as something else) took top sativa honors in the 2010 High Times San Francisco Medical Cannabis Cup. The TGA catalog went on to collect various other accolades over the years.
Three years ago, I got to chat with Subcool about his earliest days participating in the cannabis community, back in the early 1990s. At the time, Subcool was hanging out on some of the earliest pot-growing internet forums, where he connected with fellow old school breeder Skoosk, who gave 200 seeds to Subcool. Skoosh had wild genetics that included Lamb’s Bread, Purple Haze, Northern Lights and a Pluton bred by the legendary Nevil Schoenmakers.
Subcool worked those seeds for a year before finding the original Jack’s Cleaner. In 1997, he and The 77, a group of underground growers, met and showed their wares to each other. Subcool’s offerings were among the top of the pack. Twenty years later, that same excitement carried Subcool on to the stage at the Southern California High Times Cannabis Cup where he received the 2017 Lester Grinspoon Lifetime Achievement Award.
Not long after receiving that award, Subcool lost his home and everything in it during the wildfires that devastated the Northern California community in the fall of 2017. The incident showed his resolve to continue to help the community, as he teamed up with The Soil King Garden Center owner Patrick King to help his fellow farmers that still had a chance at beating back the flames and saving their crops.
“What we do with the money is give it to Patrick, the Soil King, and he’s on the ground,” Subcool told Cannabis Now in 2017. “What this allows us to do — instead of bothering with forms, the Red Cross and bureaucracy — is if you need a generator, you drive to the Soil King and say ‘Pat, I need a generator.’ Then you can go to Home Depot and you buy it.”
At the same time as he launched this fundraising effort, Subcool was driving to The Soil King to get a blood infusion as the fires raged around him.
“So he’s providing me a bed and a place to get my medication because everything is burnt down,” Subcool said in 2017, “and then we’re going to continue on raising money for food, supplies and water to get to the growers.”
King spoke with Cannabis Now this week about Subcool’s efforts to help the community during the fire disaster that killed 40 people.
“I can tell you this about this man: After the fires, everybody was donating money, seeds, items and he took none of it!” said King. “He gave it all the way, raised money for other fire victims in need. Sub was not a selfish man, he was cut from a cloth not many have ever seen. He cared about everybody else and put them in front of him caring about himself every time. He was a one-off, last of a dime breed. My best friend.”
Johnny Green was one of the original cannabis bloggers who started writing during the explosion of cannabis reform in the 2000s. He told Cannabis Now about the first time he met Subcool.
“The first time that our paths crossed was in the early 2000s. We both lived in the same part of Oregon at the time, had mutual friends, and he was infamous in cannabis community circles, like a mysterious cannabis folk hero,” Green said.
After a mutual friend hyped Subcool for a long time, Green agreed to pitch in on a bag of flower but remained skeptical that it would live up to the hype.
“Within seconds of Subcool entering the living room, it smelled so skunky that I knew he was the real deal,” Green said. “The aroma that filled the room was like nothing I had ever smelled before.”
Like many, Green had dozens of online conversations with Subcool, such as one conversation he remembers about using a pen name out of necessity due to cannabis prohibition.
“Sub contributed a ton of knowledge to the cannabis world, and he will be greatly missed. Some of his strains are my all-time favorites,” Green said. “Sub may be gone, but his legacy will live on forever.”
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