As part of our Women in Weed campaign, we honour the female trailblazers in the cannabis space. One woman that absolutely deserves our attention is MZJill, the first publicly known female breeder in the US, co-founder of the first American seed company, TGA Genetics, head breeder of her own cannabis seed company MZJill Genetics, and tireless cannabis advocate.
As a breeder, Jill is committed to developing strains that will help medical cannabis users find relief from their physical and mental health conditions to better go about their day. She is well known for strains such as Jilly Bean and Agent Orange (a strain named after her father who developed cancer due to his exposure to the herbicide in Vietnam), both of which are extremely popular among medical users worldwide.
MZJill – How her Cannabis Journey Began
Jill began growing cannabis over twenty years ago, having discovered the pain-relieving benefits of the herb for her life-long scoliosis. As a single mom of three kids with limited financial resources, she could only ensure a reliable medicinal supply by home-growing. She had a few plants growing hydroponically in her garage, which meant no lugging of heavy soil around, and she could dispose of the water out the back, enabling her to keep the operation as discreet as possible. Even though she had a medical card and was legally allowed to grow, she didn’t want the neighbours or other school moms knowing about it, as there was still considerable stigma attached to cannabis use.
Having been raised on a small farm with a father who shared his love of science and horticulture with her, cultivating cannabis came naturally to Jill. She soon developed a real passion for it, and both the growing and smoking of the plant provided her with a sense of calm that was otherwise hard to find in the chaos of raising kids on her own.
After joining an online cannabis growers community, she met her ex-spouse Subcool. With his help and encouragement, she started experimenting with breeding. Together they set up TGA Genetics and brought together a team of breeders, developing a large library of cannabis strains. Their team were all strong advocates for the plant and were passionate about unleashing the therapeutic potential of cannabis.
Challenges along the Road
In 2017, Jill experienced the greatest challenge of her career and personal life yet. Amid the process of separating from her husband, a wildfire ripped through their property in Santa Rosa, Northern California, destroying their home and most of their genetics. After the separation, Jill kept TGA Genetics, whilst Sub went on to set up Subcool’s The Dank (but he later passed away). Luckily, friends and family members had kept some of the mother plants and seeds, and through her new business MZJill Genetics, Jill has been able to reproduce many of the TGA original strains and go on to create new hybrids from these.
What MZJill is up to Now
MZJill is in the process of creating a variety of new hybrids as well as re-establishing the original TGA Genetics stock that got lost in the fire. She’s revived the Jilly Bean line (in regular and feminised) and is creating several Jilly Bean hybrids. She has a new phenotype of Purple Urkle, gifted to her by her good friend CSI Humboldt, which she has used to revive the Querkle strain. She is particularly excited about reviving Agent Orange and remaking the popular Vortex (Apollo 13 x Space Queen) and Dairy Queen (Cheese x Space Queen). She is also looking to bring back a Space Queen line and is in the process of seeking out an appropriate Space Queen female.
Being a Woman in the Cannabis Industry
Being a woman in the cannabis industry has “been a long road”, Jill said. “It took a long while for me to have my voice heard and for people to take notice and give me credit for my work. For many years, my ex-partner was given all the credit for our work, even though I was down there getting my hands dirty behind the scenes. But over the years, staying true to myself, and steady, and keeping on track with my goals, people started taking note”.
The hardest bit of Jill’s gendered experience with cannabis was growing the plant whilst raising her children. She didn’t want them to feel ashamed or excluded from certain social settings because of people’s perceptions about cannabis users, so she didn’t want other kids and families knowing who might judge her parenting and the kids themselves. She explained to her kids that she was growing legally for medicinal uses and sharing with other medicinal users and that some people might judge them for this. Obviously, as the plant became increasingly de-stigmatised, things got easier for them all.
MZ Jill’s Breeding Focus and Favourite Strains
Jill’s focus is on creating strains that improve the quality of life of people afflicted with long-term medical conditions. So therapeutic effects come first in her priorities for breeding. This is followed by flavour, and after that, aesthetics. It’s not about getting the largest yield for Jill, but rather a medium to large yield with the characteristics aforementioned and a plant that’s easy to trim.
As a medical user herself, Jilly Bean is the strain she turns to time and again for anxiety, depression and relaxation. She has an Afghani hybrid called Purple Turban (Headband x Purple Afghani Kush) which she uses to relax her muscles, keep her body calm and improve her mood. Dog Walker is another favourite of hers on account of its funky taste and pain-relieving properties, and she loves T1000, made by her close friend CSI Humboldt, for its fabulous perfume, taste and potent effects. Time Wreck she recommends for pain and sleep.
MZJill’s Advice to Those Starting out as Breeders
‘Growing takes a lot of time and patience. Relax and enjoy the ride! Slow down, do the work….test your product really well and don’t get in a big hurry and release something that isn’t tested. Stay focused, and don’t step on other people’s toes, stay in your own lane….’