Legendary cannabis strain hunter Franco Loja passed away on January 2, 2017. This past week there have been tributes from all across the cannabis world.
The 42-year-old Italian was the Steve Irwin of cannabis and, like the famous Crocodile Hunter, Franco died on an adventure doing what he loved most – hunting for rare cannabis strains. Although there is no official post mortem released yet, a comment (in Spanish) from Greenhouse Seeds on their Facebook page says he died from malaria.
The cannabis adventurer was in the Central Republic of Congo filming an upcoming documentary for Vice.
Franco Loja’s Twitter bio reads: ”Breeding the best cannabis genetics @ Green House Seed Company & traveling the world searching for landraces with the Strain Hunters.” The popular Dutch cannabis news website, Rolling Stoned, described him as the “Indiana Jones” of cannabis.
Twenty years ago, Franco joined the team at Greenhouse Seed Company (which was established back in 1985). At the time of his passing, he was Manager, Master Cultivator, Head Breeder and Partner of the multiple cannabis cup winning outfit, which was founded by dutchman Arjan Roskam.
The pair travelled the globe in search of landrace strains for preservation, and to identify and reproduce unique characteristics into their cannabis breeding programs.
Their travels were presented in the hugely successful Strain Hunters documentary series which saw them head to India, Jamaica, Morocco, Africa and beyond. Strain Hunters, as a brand, released seeds alongside merchandise adorning their logo.
It was when Vice media launched their Kings of Cannabis documentary that Franco was elevated to a much larger audience beyond the dedicated cannabis crowd. The film documented Arjan, Franco and their crew of Strain Hunters searching Colombia for three of the country’s rarest types of landraces. It took the already hugely popular Strain Hunting concept and presented it with the high level of filmmaking that Vice produces.
Watching these films you can clearly see Franco’s level of dedication and appreciation of the cannabis plant.
The series was to continue with Franco filming in the Congo when he contracted the disease. His final post on Instagram showed the crew working to free their truck from muddy tracks. Two days later, he died.
Quoted in a High Times article covering the sad news, Senior Cultivation Editor Danny Danko said, “Franco was one of the most welcoming and kind individuals I’ve ever encountered. From the first time I met him in Amsterdam many years ago at the Cannabis Cup, to the last time I saw him, many Cannabis Cups later in Jamaica, he was always the same amazingly upbeat and giving person. Enthusiastic for cannabis in a way that made you want to smile proudly. And his proud smile is in every photo I see of him. My condolences go out to his family, the Green House Coffeeshop & Seed Company family and the Strain Hunters franchise. I cherish the time I got to spend with him, smoking huge joints and celebrating cannabis freedoms. He joins Jack, Old Ed, Eagle Bill, Brownie Mary, Dr. Mikuriya and so many countless others in the pantheon of marijuana legends we’ve lost to eternity. Our fight to free the flower and the green prisoners continues in their honor!”
For the past week, the Greenhouse Seed Company and Strain Hunters websites have been redirecting traffic to a photographic memorial in honour of their intrepid explorer. Above the images the text reads, ”Franco is an icon and helped change so many people’s lives. He will deeply be missed as a brother, father, son, friend and so much more.”
A series of five iconic images of Franco rotate across the screen with the following words:
“Cannabis is my passion, my bread, my home. I feel it is my duty to make sure this amazing plant is preserved and enjoyed. I am a smoker, a grower, a breeder, and a strain hunter. For life.”
Franco, the Strain Hunter
May 20th 1974 – January 2nd 2017
Franco inspired and touched many in the cannabis community; a testament to that was the outpouring of grief and respect from not only colleagues, but the cannabis community as a whole.
Joa, a colleague from Greenhouse, tweeted “Franco we love you and we will miss you so much!!!! I hope that whereever you are they have the best strains ever!! #FullGas #RIP”.
Many see the cannabis industry as a whole, with each individual company being a separate division of the cannabis organisation. As Dutch cannabis activist and veteran cannabis journalist Derrick Bergman often says, “we’re all working for the plant.” Franco’s untimely death displayed the purity of this image with “competitors” showing their respect via their social media channels, thus displaying how strong the bond is within the cannabis community and demonstrating the fact that each of us are all working for the same team.
DNA Genetics – run by the American duo Don and Aaron – compiled and uploaded a one minute tribute video to Franco to their YouTube channel. The text below the short film reads simply, “In memory of Franco Loja R.I.P (Greenhouse Seeds)”.
Spanish seed company Dinafem Seeds tweeted “R.I.P. #FrancoLoja. A father, a friend, a true Cannabis pioneer, a leader, an inspiration to all…”
The Amsterdam-based Bulldog Coffeeshop tweeted “We are stunned by the news of Franco’s passing. Our deepest condolences go out to his family. He will be truly missed, but never forgotten!”
The Dutch seed company, Royal Queen Seeds, paid tribute via Twitter with “Bad news for the Cannabis Community 😔😔 @royalqueenseeds Team will never forget what @Franco_GHSC did for the #Cannabis World.”
Greenhouse Seed Company has set up an official condolence board. His funeral was on January 7, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain – where their exclusive Strain Hunters Cannabis Social Club is located.