Medically Reviewed by
Jason Crawford

Article Last Updated on January 13, 2023

Marijuana isn’t called “weed” for nothing – it can literally grow and survive in a variety of conditions, as long as the temperatures aren’t freezing. Many ancient civilizations used cannabis for a variety of purposes, but their cultivation practices weren’t nearly as perfected as they are today – today’s weed is much more sophisticated! Yet, cannabis still grows in nature, albeit not as refined as the one you see in dispensaries.

If you’ve been wondering where in nature cannabis plants can be found today, this article is for you, and we’ll start with the origin of the cannabis species.

The Origin of the Cannabis Species Before Human Intervention

The cannabis plant has a very long history and a somewhat mysterious origin, but experts agree that it has probably originated around 2.3 million years ago in Central and South Asia, or the Hindu Kush region of Afghanistan and the Nepalese Himalayas, to be more specific. 

Over the course of many centuries, seeds of the plant have found their way in different regions where the plant evolved in different species (or types) in an attempt to survive.

Today, three main types of cannabis have been officially recognized: Cannabis Indica, Cannabis Sativa, and Cannabis Ruderalis, as well as the hemp plant, which is a variety of Cannabis Sativa. These different types are thought to have evolved in different regions of the world and developed their own characteristics.

Over time, cannabis seeds found their way to other parts of the world, and after a while, humans took over. Many ancient civilizations cultivated and used weed for medicinal, industrial, and religious practices.

Where Do Wild Cannabis Plants Grow Naturally Today?

Cannabis plants that grow in the wild on their own without any human intervention are commonly called “ditch weed” or “feral cannabis” because they have not been intentionally planted or tended by humans. 

In North America, ditch weed is, in fact, remnants of industrial hemp plants that used to be cultivated in the 19th and 20th centuries. Hemp was especially abundantly grown in the American Midwest (Oklahoma, Missouri, Minnesota, Nebraska, Indiana, and Iowa) during the Second World War. However, in other parts of the world, other types of cannabis can be found, such as Cannabis Ruderalis and some landrace marijuana strains.

Since cannabis is an incredibly resilient plant, it has survived centuries in the wild and still grows in all parts of the world where the outside conditions allow, including North America and South America. It can adapt to most conditions, as long as the climate isn’t too harsh, which explains why it has managed to survive for so long. 

Cannabis seeds are dispersed by the wind, birds, and animals, and in this way, they can travel for miles. The seeds can stay dormant for many years before finally blooming when the conditions are right.

Let’s see how cannabis grows in each type of climate and which landrace strains evolved in these regions.

Tropical Climate Regions

The good thing about tropical climate regions is that they have a lot of sunlight throughout the whole year. Some tropical climate regions have intermittent wet and dry seasons, but cannabis thrives most in tropical climate regions that have moderate temperatures and annual rainfall which creates humidity. Malawi, a pure Sativa from Southeast Africa, and Lamb’s Breath, Jamaica’s most famous strain (and Bob Marley’s favorite) are two examples.

Dry Climate Regions

Even though cannabis normally thrives in humid conditions, many cannabis types have adapted to dry climates. Some examples of this are the Indica strains that have naturally developed in some dry climate regions, such as the Middle East and Northern Africa. The climate here is dry and windy, and the wind disperses the marijuana seeds in the wild. Some examples of landrace strains found in this region are the Sinai strain native to Egypt and the Afghani strain native to Afghanistan.

Subtropical Climate Regions

Cannabis thrives well in a subtropical climate as it provides the optimal conditions for its survival, especially when it’s humid. Many cannabis strains have adapted to this type of climate and if exposed to harsher living conditions, they would suffer. Well-known landrace strains that have emerged in these regions are Lebanese Red, a rare strain mostly used for the production of hash, and Swazi Gold, an African Sativa landrace strain. The southeastern part of South America also provides good climate conditions for wild cannabis to grow.

Continental Climate Regions

The continental climate is also very good for cannabis and many strains have adapted and survived well in some of these regions because there is ample humidity during the summer months when there is also moderate rainfall. The Swiss Sativa and Nepalese strains are some of the most well-known landrace strains that grow in these regions.

Can You Consume Wild Marijuana Plants?

As you can see, cannabis is a pretty adaptable species. This adaptability has enabled it to evolve into different strains and survive in this way in so many parts of the world. But when humans intervened and started cultivating it and perfecting their growing methods, the game was changed.

The cannabis you’ll find nowadays in nature is definitely not the same as the one you buy at dispensaries. If you’re wondering whether you can consume wild marijuana should you stumble upon it, you sure can, but it’s not going to be an enjoyable experience and as some users have reported, you’ll probably get a headache.

Wild marijuana plants found in nature today simply don’t have any psychoactive properties because their THC and CBD content is low. One reason for this is that in the absence of human care, the plants are left to their own devices and are basically at nature’s mercy. More importantly, the female plants will be pollinated because that’s how nature works. 

Modern cannabis growing involves sexing of the plants, which means that the growers remove the male plants from the garden to prevent pollination. This way, the female plants produce more cannabinoids instead of cannabis seeds, which is why seedless cannabis buds are prized so much.

The Takeaway

The long history of cannabis is impressive, especially how it adapted and evolved to survive in many different climates. This survival “method” has brought us many exciting landrace strains without which our beloved hybrids wouldn’t exist.

Nowadays, you can find wild cannabis plants all over the world, but smoking wild weed wouldn’t be quite as exciting as it sounds because it’s just not refined enough. Chances are that you’ll stumble upon pollinated cannabis plants with low THC and CBD content so the high won’t be nearly as satisfactory as the high produced by seedless buds sold at dispensaries.

A passionate advocate for the benefits of cannabis. Fraser Horton, who has a background in botany and a strong love of nature, has spent years researching how cannabis affects the body and mind. He established Leaf Nation in 2020, where he has devoted himself to educating people about the legalisation of marijuana and its safe and responsible use. Fraser is committed to highlighting cannabis’ potential for improving wellness and working to dispel the stigma associated with its use.


The information presented on this page is provided as a public service to aid in education and is derived from sources believed to be reliable. Readers are responsible for making their own assessment of the topics discussed here. In no event shall Leaf Nation be held reliable for any injury, loss or damage that could happen if using or abusing drugs.