Who is Subcool? The legendary cannabis breeder, explained.

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Though personal setbacks and deteriorating health afflicted the legendary cannabis breeder Subcool, he maintained a passion for cannabis throughout his life, committing his time to grow acclaimed strains and giving back to medical cannabis patients. In death, he’s remembered for his relentless dedication to the plant, along with his desire to bring relief and hope to growers and patients alike.

Subcool’s story is one of positive devotion, despite the misfortunes that plagued him. His tenacity and passion still rings throughout the industry and truly shows how a wholehearted and thoughtful grower can make beneficial and community-oriented strides in an increasingly cold industry. 

Subcool’s cannabis legacy 

At the end of September 2019, High Times published an interview with legendary cannabis breeder and cultivator Subcool. In the piece, he expressed enthusiasm and optimism about the future, despite some challenging setbacks in previous years and a serious medical condition called Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, a progressive lung disease and genetic type of emphysema that he’d been battling since 2013. Sadly, fewer than six months later, Subcool succumbed to the disease on February 1, 2020, leaving behind a legacy matched by few in the cannabis industry. 

Born Montgomery Ball, he was also called Dave Bowman and is known to the cannabis world as Subcool. An unparalleled grower and breeder, he was the founder of Team Green Avenger seeds (TGA Subcool Seeds/TGA Genetics/The Dank) and is the genius behind cultivars like Jack the Ripper and Space Queen

Subcool’s passion for cannabis dates back to the 1970s when he began growing and selling cannabis, an activity that landed him in jail in the illegality of that time. Undeterred upon his release, Subcool went straight back to growing and found himself once again in custody, which subsequently led to a stint in prison. Far from being “rehabilitated,” Subcool emerged passionate and determined to change cannabis laws for the better. 

Industry celebrations and personal setbacks

Among his many accolades, Subcool was inducted into the High Times Seed Bank Hall of Fame in 2009, won the High Times San Francisco Medical Cannabis Cup with his sativa cultivar Vortex in 2010, and later received the High Times Dr. Lester Grinspoon Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017. He also authored the books Dank: The Quest for the Very Best Marijuana: A Breeders Tale, and Dank 2.0: The Quest for the Very Best Marijuana Continues, and demonstrated to the world his love for growing and breeding on his YouTube channel in a show called Weed Nerd

Subcool’s High Times interview also revealed that his lung disease diagnosis in 2013 was only the first in a series of consequential setbacks to unfold in the coming years. Both his health and his relationship with his wife and business partner, MzJill, had been deteriorating, though they continued to work together on TGA Genetics (The Green Avengers). 

But it was the Tubbs Fire — at the time the most destructive wildfire in California history — that ripped through Santa Rosa, California on October 8, 2017, and catalyzed the events that would shape Subcool’s life in his last years. MzJill and Subcool were personally unharmed by the fire, but their home was burned to the ground and they lost everything, including physical business assets such as nearly four million cannabis seeds and male and female breeding plants. The couple parted soon after. 

Now homeless and ill, Subcool began to pick up the pieces. Shortly after the fire, he formed a business partnership with William Rouland and managed to recreate and distribute “44 Dank” strains worldwide. They were able to eventually rebuild Subcool’s core strains, such as Jack the Ripper, Vortex, and Querkle, while he continued to experiment and create new strains. 

He also collaborated with Kyle Kushman in a partnership nicknamed “the Dank Brothers,” where he traded his strawberry Daiquiri strain (Strawberry Cough x Space Queen) to reacquire Strawberry Cough. The Dank Brothers also partnered on the fruity Strelka strain, a cross of Subcool’s Space Queen and Kushman’s Stardawg. 

Remembering Subcool and paying it forward

Even as he managed to rebuild some of the heritage lost in the fire, he surrendered the TGA Genetics IP in mediation during an acrimonious and public divorce with MzJill. He also surrendered the rights to the strains Ace of Spades, Agent Orange, Black Dahlia, Brian Berry Cough, Jillybean, Orange Velvet, Plushberry, and Timewreck. Despite more setbacks, he pushed on, vowing to continue the work with his 44 Dank strains. 

Subcool moved to Arizona where he became a medical cannabis patient and began a state-approved 60-plant grow in a pool he had drained. Companies like Solis Tek, Smart Pot, and Dragonfly Earth Medicine donated supplies, and in a continuing effort to pay it forward, Subcool gave the cannabis from his grow to medical cannabis patients for free. 

Toward the end of his life, Subcool teamed up with William Rouland and Eli Harding to work on a new grow facility in an old bowling alley. He told High Times contributor Danny Danko, “We will grow in my Super Soil using my methods and grow as close to organically as possible, even though it isn’t required in Arizona. The Dank will set new standards for packaging, testing, and distribution.” 

After his passing, his industry peers remembered him as a pioneer who inspired a new generation of younger growers to creatively experiment and plant the seed for good. 

Featured image by Damien Robertson/Weedmaps