6th May, 2019: This article was edited to correct a few inaccuracies. The original growers and their photographs have been properly credited in this version.
Mullumbimby Madness was like a myth when we were kids. Everyone knew someone who knew someone that had smoked it or had the strain, but you could never really get your hands on it.
For years, Aussie stoners have typically taken the legendary strain to be nothing more than a product of folklore. Many have claimed that the genetics live on in their own local operations. So, Mullumbimby Madness – is it still being cultivated somewhere out there? Was it ever really a thing?
Madness in the North
It wasn’t long ago that Australia was experiencing a cannabis renaissance. A number of extremely potent strains had been cultivated by the new arrivals of the sixties and seventies. A cultural upheaval brought these alternative types away from the metropolis, with many choosing to settle deep in the lush forests and idyllic countryside of Northern NSW. This movement reached its peak during the 1973 Nimbin Aquarius Festival, where thousands of hippies made the region their home.
These hippies were basically the pioneers of the North Coast cannabis culture. With their tender love and care, Mullumbimby Madness (otherwise known as mull, madness or M.M.) entered the world. The strain was supposedly unparalleled — a particularly strong sativa that delivered a clean, long-lasting high.
Early on, the specimens associated with ‘Mullumbimby Madness’ were generally of a very high quality. The bud was everywhere, and quickly became known as the best outdoor sativa smoke that Australia had to offer. The strain’s notoriety lives on in etymologically in the word ‘mull’, which is Australian slang for cannabis.
Down by Main Arm
What most folks consider ‘true’ Mullumbimby Madness initially arrived in Northern NSW during 1971/72, only to blow unassuming hippie heads off. It was a strain from around the border of Laos and the Isan region of Thailand, grown in Main Arm, just outside of Mullumbimby. MM was a bush weighing in at about 20 or 30 pounds, growing up to 25 feet in height and generally yielding about 10 pounds of bud.
The plant would spread out dramatically and quickly grow into a wildly untamed tree. The weed’s headiness was incomparable at the time. Its potency and distinct dark bluish-greenish-purple colour quickly transformed the strain into a regional legend.
Without adequate genetic management in the 1970’s, MM’s cultivation amounted to a flash in the pan. After only a few years, the plant’s genetics began to destabilise. By the end of its short run of mass popularity, the majority of bud being sold off as ‘Mullumbimby Madness’ had deteriorated considerably in quality.
The Colchicine Treatment
It is rumoured that a few of these hippie breeders played around with Colchicine: a toxic plant extract commonly used to treat Gout symptoms. When applied to seeds, colchicine produces polyploidy, which increases the size of the cell walls, along with subtly promoting THC levels.
Funnily enough, ‘Mullumbimby Madness’ may have just been a product of cooked stoners doing some early genetic modification experiments on their grows. The only catch? These experiments required a substance five times deadlier than cyanide to work effectively.
This colchicine treatment may have left the plants infertile for breeding. Many of the MM seeds would simply not germinate; the ones that did would turn out to be horrific mutants. Reproducing the genetics proved to be difficult under these conditions, with efforts to ‘stabilise’ the strain ultimately ending in failure.
These days, the regions surrounding Mullumbimby are once again going mad. There are Mullum locals out there who claim to cultivate weed with the mythological strain’s genetics; however, from the outside, it’s hard to know what to believe. If you’re looking to get your hands on some, best to be careful; some of the claims out there are dubious at best.
Growers such as ‘Yantra‘ have been known to use other breeders’ photos to make a buck. Another Main Arm grower known as ‘Shantibaba‘ claims to possess MM genetics. He brought a series of his own strains, which many believed were the predecessors of Mullum Madness, from Australia to Amsterdam in the 1980’s. These were known as the ‘La Niña‘ hybrids. However, evidence indicates that the La Niña plants were of an altogether different strain. Shantibaba’s growing operation emerged over a decade after Mullum Madness first hit the scene. Therefore, it’s likely that his ‘Mullum Madness’ genetics are really from an old polyhybrid strain, given to him by another grower named ‘Mullum Madman‘.
The most purported breeders according to the information available online are Kangativa and Bushweed. Both can be found on the International Cannagraphic forum. They have contributed immensely to online threads concerning MM, which were used to write most of this article. In open pollinating it every year and using seeds from the best females, they have managed to keep the strain tidy. The link between their strain (which they also sell as ‘Super Laos’) and the original MM is perhaps the least tenuous.
Kangativa also put his 30-year-old strain up against the world’s best. The late Nevil Schoenmakers (a legend in the Australian cannabis breeding community) tried this strain, claiming it was the closest in quality to his beloved ‘Nevil’s Haze’. Schoenmakers then bred MM, selling patents of the hybrids to medicinal cannabis corporations for over $1 million USD per strain.
Finally, some claim that the equally mythical ‘Old Mother Sativa’ is a predecessor to Mullum Madness. However, it’s likely that what people have called ‘Old Mother Sativa’ is just another mishmash of inbred Thai genetics, cultivated around the Kyogle area. It generally doesn’t have the kick of the real deal.
Regardless of who *really* grows the stuff, ‘Mullumbimby Madness’ is a strain that primarily lives on in myth. In the 70’s and 80’s, its properties were talked about all across the nation. Every pretender in Queensland and Northern New South Wales claimed they had access to the plant. As the years rolled on, however, the term ended up as more of a marketing ploy. ‘Mullumbimby Madness’ was not a term restricted to the genetics of the 70’s MM, but for any sizeable outdoor bushy sativa with a purple colouring and origins in South East Asia. This is largely because such cannabis continued to grow in abundance throughout the region as the authentic Mullum Madness became evermore obscure. What is passed off as Mullum Madness today is often of a noticeably variable quality and genetic composition.
If you want to hunt down some *real* Mullum Madness these days, you may find it a tad difficult. Your best bet would be to reach out to Bushweed and/or Kangativa on the ICmag forums.
With that said, the large bushy plants that grow in the fertile land of the Northern Rivers often stand up to the best dope in the world. The sativas still growing in this region are often three times taller than your average human being!
Best of luck, and happy searching!