Swerve, the Seed King of Cali, Talks OG Kush and a Cookies Controversy
Weed's seeds of destiny are in Edward 'Swerve' Clarizio's hands.
The rising popularity of medicinal marijuana brought with it a migration of players only interested in the wrong kind of green: Money. You can expect all stops on the Weed Train's journey—seed production, farmers, recommendation providers, and sellers—to become infected. Ironically, greed-for-green is one of the diseases even weed can't treat.
One champion of cannabis commerce who wants to never be accused of a profit-over-product agenda is Swerve. As the second oldest supplier of seeds in America—and the oldest in California—Swerve's Cali Connection claims to provide product and comfort to more American growers, seed banks, and ultimately patients than any other breeder of seeds. There are also those 50-plus High Times Cannabis Cup wins using Swerve genetics.
Born Edward Clarizio, growing up in Los Angeles County's sprawling suburban San Fernando Valley, young Swerve watched his mother battle multiple sclerosis. "She needed to be injected with this very dangerous medicine to help fight her MS," Swerve tells KINDLAND."It really angered me that there wasn't any safer treatment for her condition. No kid should ever have to go through watching their mother in such pain."
Turns out, his mother wasn't the only one. At 9 years old, Swerve recalls, he was diagnosed with five different eye diseases. "Okay, let's see: I got macular degeneration, uveitis, glaucoma, macular edema, and pars planitis. Living with these conditions sucks, but not nearly as much as the toxic prescription potions I was being pushed. Being comatose while dying slowly from the poisons inside me was not a life I was willing to have. So I began researching cannabis as a course of treatment for side-effects from both the disease and the drugs available for fighting it."
With seeds, I was able to generate thousands of seeds from one plant in the shortest amount of time with zero quality lost.
That research expanded to breeding strains to provide maximum efficacy. Years were spent mastering his craft and providing rare clones, branded "Swerve's Cuts." Pay-off came in 2003 when one Swerve clone, an OG Kush phenotype dubbed SFV OG, became a hot ticket in the San Fernando Valley. "I was swamped with orders, overwhelmed with keeping up with that demand, and to top it off dealing with my health issues. These concerns resulted in my decision to switch from clones to seed production. With seeds, I was able to generate thousands of seeds from one plant in the shortest amount of time with zero quality lost. And with stable and preserved genetics now offered in seed form, fellow farmers and personal-use growers have the ability to create their own strains. That's a really cool perk to my job."
In league with one other seed company operating in America at the time—the grower Subcool's TGA Genetics—Swerve's fledgling company, Cali Connection, provided high-quality seeds to California's emerging medical-marijuana market without subjecting it to overseas suppliers. "People didn't want to send money to a different country for many reasons," Swerve tells KINDLAND. "They got ripped off, received crappy strains, and sometimes their order was confiscated. As enticing as the strains available in Europe were, a new domestic seed source catering to those wanting true breeds not only helped shrink America's dependence on foreign product, it also gave us tools to do what we do best here: Improve on great things."
Many of the go-to strains produced today in the good ol' U.S. of A. weren't born here. Swerve's cadre of motivated growers banded together under Cali Connection's statewide umbrella—and other domestic trailblazers—plucked the best of the world's most prestigious strains and Americanized the shit of them. "Today, just ten years deep into our serious growing passion, it can be argued that U.S. bud ranks near the top, if not is the top, marijuana in the world. But, of course, everyone has their own opinion."
One such opinion, shared by a few on weed message boards, is that Swerve and Cali Connection have fraudulently claimed a bogus Girl Scout Cookies strain using incorrect lineage. "That's complete bullshit," counters Swerve. "None of those people posting shit about me know anything about genetics, let alone the truth. I used a cut from the original Cookie Family's strain from San Francisco, and then turned it into seeds. They weren't too happy about it 'cause they're very protective of their strains (they've started putting a hologram sticker on their GSC jars certifying it as the real deal); so a lot of that drama came from them denouncing my GSC as fake. But now it's in every shop across the world, and I helped make that happen."
Nowhere on this journey has Swerve lost sight of his original vision: Offering high-grade strains. Even with an over-saturated market, a crop of highly talented growers nipping at his heels, Internet trolls taking every opportunity to crap on his legacy, and himself being diagnosed with MS, his primary concern is still quality and volume of Cali Connection's output. "No matter what anyone says or writes about me and the legitimacy of my genetics, at the end of day, all I care about is bringing comfort to those who need it. I mean, with thousands of medicinal users finding some form of comfort from my art, millions of smokers worldwide enjoying my strains, and a roomful of Cannabis Cup trophies, how can I possibly focus on all that negative shit?"